The New “Breed” Of Synthetic Badger Hair Shave Brushes (Part 1)

Artificial Badger?

[Forward from Mantic59:] Back in March Jim SanSouci contacted me with an idea.  He wanted to examine how far synthetic hair shaving brushes have come.  Historically, synthetic hair shaving brushes seemed to be relegated to the forgotten end of the brush totem pole.  They were seen as an “adequate” alternative to animal hair brushes for those who had allergy or animal-cruelty concerns, and they dried very quickly which was good for a “travel” brush.  But the general consensus was that they just didn’t perform as well as animal  hair brushes.

For a long time there was not much activity in this area–there was the Men-U, a couple of Omega brushes, and every once in a while another brush would enter–then leave–the market.  Maybe two or three years ago a few more popped up including Body Shop, Parker and Taylor’s, among others.

Then something happened: suddenly a new batch of synthetic brushes appeared that performed significantly better than prior examples.  They were softer yet resilient, but more importantly they made a much better lather.  Within the last six-to-twelve months established names like Muhle and Edwin Jagger, and new names like H.I.S, have produced superior synthetic brushes.  And it appears this trend is continuing!

So Jim collected a few others to do some research, including GDCarrington, Wim Bouman, Teiste Brito, and myself.  In most cases we purchased the brushes we researched, sometimes packing them up and mailing them to each other.  We ended up testing 15 different brushes from nine manufacturers.  We also looked at a few pre-production prototypes…more on that later.  With Jim coordinating, we decided to asses:

  • Water retention: Does it hold water sufficiently enough?
  • Loading: Does it pick up soaps and creams easily?
  • Lather: Does it built and apply lather well?
  • Application/Backbone: Does it allow for a soft/smooth/effective application of lather to the skin.
  • Quality feel: Does the synthetic brush s have the “quality” feel against the skin? Would it pass a blindfold test against naturals?
  • Appearance: Is the look of the brush attractive?

Following our assessments, we each summarized them by answering the following questions:

  1. What synthetic brushes did you test for this project?
  2. Have you used synthetic brushes prior to 2011? What did you think of them? What strengths and shortcomings did you find?
  3. Do you find significant changes in the new generation of synthetic brushes? How would you describe the changes you found? What advancements did you find, if any.
  4. Are there brushes that stood out for you in your tests? Why?
  5. In what areas did you find new synthetic brushes most improved? Where do they need further improvement?
  6. In your opinion, are there areas where further testing is indicated? Please describe.
  7. Do you have any summary comments regarding your findings? Would you recommend them to others?

Over the course of the next few weeks each of us will share our experiences with these brushes.  Then we’ll finish up with a summary and a few extra comments about the next generation to come.

First up, Jim’s research.


1. What synthetic brushes did you test for this project?

Mühle Classic 19mm
Mühle Classic 21mm
Mühle Classic 23mm
Mühle Classic 25mm
Mühle HJM 21mm
New York Shaving Company Traditional Synthetic Brush 21mm

2. Have you used synthetic brushes prior to 2011? What did you think of them? What strengths and shortcomings did you find?

I did not use synths prior to 2011. I did read reviews of them starting in the summer of 2010, but was discouraged by what appeared to be their poor performance with regard to:

  • Water retention
  • Loading
  • Lather making
  • Lather application
  • Quality feel
  • Artificial and unattractive appearance

3. Do you find significant changes in the new generation of synthetic brushes? How would you describe the changes you found? What advancements did you find, if any.

  • Attractive design
  • Soft tips
  • Excellent performance
  • Very good density
  • Good backbone
  • Quick drying time
  • Economical use of soaps and creams

4. Are there brushes that stood out for you in your tests? Why?

I. Mühle HJM 21mm

I received this brush within a few days of its release by Mühle. It uses a new synthetic fiber/brush combination. I was very impressed with it. The fibers have features designed into them that dramatically improve issues reported with the former generations of synthetic brushes. This is truly a “new-gen synth!”.

My experience with it has been amazing. This is my first synthetic brush, and I didn’t know what to expect. I was surprised at the softness of the tips, its ability to hold water and the fast drying time (about three hours). I think its price makes it a great value.

There is no noticeable break-in period with the brush. It performed as well on Day 1 as it does months later. It has a number of notable characteristics that are immediately apparent:

  • ergonomic design
  • softness of the tips
  • performance
  • quick drying time
  • economical use of soaps/cream

It quickly became my favorite of the dozen or so brushes I own.

Price: Offers good value at $39 in the Mühle catalog.

Quality: Every detail is carried out with extraordinary attention to design, materials and manufacturing detail. The brush lost only one fiber during the months I’ve owned it.

Density: Medium to dense. Very effective to use with soaps and creams.

Softness of Tips: Very soft and luxurious. By comparison, it is noticeably softer than my EJ Best Badger (23mm).

Ergonomic: This brush is outstanding in this respect. The size and shape are perfect for my hands, and the hard-rubber grip inserts are so effective that other manufacturers will likely adopted variations, IMO. This brush is a delight to use daily. It dries completely in about three hours, even under cool, humid conditions.

Latherability: I’ve used it with a wide range of hard and soft soaps and creams, and it performs very well with all.

Recommendation: Highly recommended.

One of the advantages of this synthetic brush I found, that should be mentioned, is that you need less soap/cream than with natural hair brushes. Synthetic fibers are solid, rather then hollow, and do not absorb lather the way animal hairs do. This also makes them more hygienic, faster drying and easier to clean. My experience has been that it uses soap/cream at about half the rate of badger brushes.

HJM

This Mühle HJM brush contains a new black synthetic fiber that is laced with curly- and forked-strands (see photo), which adds to both softness and water retention. The new fiber was designed to compare in performance with good badger brushes. I think they did even better.

II. Mühle Classic 23mm

The new generation of synthetic brushes has come a long way in the past few years. Mühle Blasic 23mm Silvertip Fibre® brush is a prime example. It appeals to me as a silvertip lover and large-knot fan. I have heard it is a favorite with head shavers as well.

Synthetic brushes address animal-product issues for those who are concerned, and may one day surpass natural brushes in every dimension of performance. I saw characteristics in this brush that are as good, and possibly even better than natural brushes.

23mm Brush

To me, it seems to use half as much soap/cream to quickly produce billowing heaps of lush lather. It is easier to clean, much faster drying, more hygienic and does not needs to be broken-in or de-skunked. It holds its shape and does not shed. It’s darned good looking, too. It has an attractive and functional handle with substantial weight, good balance and that feels good to the touch. I find it difficult to tell it from natural hair silvertips in appearance and performance as well.

The lofts seemed higher than I expected, but that’s because synthetic fibers are solid and have different characteristics than naturals. They need more loft to emulate the backbone and feel of fine badger.

I was pleased at the softness of the tips, its ability to hold water and the fast drying time. I think its price makes it a very good value, especially when compared to natural-hair silvertips in a similar knot size. Mühle has found a winning balance of knot size and loft.
It has a number of notable positive characteristics that are quickly apparent:

  • Attractive design
  • Soft tips
  • Excellent Performance
  • Very good density
  • Good backbone
  • Quick drying time
  • Economical use of soaps and creams

Price: Offers good value at $109 in the Mühle catalog. It offers true silvertip feel and performance at a fraction of the cost of a quality natural silvertip

Quality: Every detail is carried out with extraordinary attention to design, materials, craftsmanship and manufacturing standards. The brush handle has substantial heft, nice balance and grip, and is highly polished with a very nice tactile feel.

Density: Dense and luxurious feeling and is very effective to use with soaps and creams of all types.

Softness of Tips: Very soft, with the feel of a premium silvertip. By comparison, it is notably softer than my EJ Best Badger or Frank Shaving silvertip, both of which have been favorites of mine for years.

Ergonomics: This brush is outstanding in this respect. The size, shape and weight are perfect for my hands. Even the ring at the base serves as a functional part if the design—helping me to maintain a sure grip. The handle has substantial weight and balances the brush very well. It is made of high-grade resin in a brown horn pattern.

Latherability: I’ve used it with a wide range of favorite hard and soft soaps and creams, and it performs better than any other brush I’ve ever used. The quality of the lather it produces is a delight to see and use. This is truly a lathering machine. It picks up enough hard soap in 15 seconds to last through my usual four-pass shave and beyond.

Recommendation: Highly recommended? YES

One of the advantages of this brush, I found, is that it needs less soap/cream than with natural hair brushes. Synthetic fibers are solid, rather then hollow, and do not absorb lather the way animal hairs do. This also makes the brush more hygienic, faster drying and easier to clean. My experience has been that it uses soap/cream at about half the rate of badger or boar brushes.

Prior issues with water retention in older synths from other manufacturers have been solved by features built into the Silvertip Fiber that aid water and heat retention.

In my opinion, Mühle has hit a home-run with its Silvertip Fibre® brushes. The new fiber was designed to compare in performance with high quality, natural silvertip badger brushes. I think they did even better with this brush.

III. New York Shaving Company Traditional Synthetic Brush 21mm

Although I never used a synthetic shaving brush prior to 2011, this brush clearly reflects what I read in my initial research into synths. It does not represent new-gen synths. It is unattractive and has an artificial look. Its fibers are heat treated and have micro-zig-zags with a truly artificial and unattractive appearance. The brush feels like the cheap, clipped-boar brushes that come with under-$20 starter kits. The NYSC brush is unlikely to soften or improve over time, and the worst example of post-2010 synths I came across in my testing. This is why synths have a bad reputation.

5. In what areas did you find new synthetic brushes most improved? Where do they need further improvement?

Improvements:

  • Attractive design
  • Soft tips
  • Excellent Performance
  • Very good density
  • Good backbone
  • Quick drying time
  • Economical use of soaps and creams

Areas for further improvement:
To provide the maximum levels of density preferred by shaving brush aficionados, new, finer fibers need development. If finer fibers become available, brush lofts will need to be re-engineered and tested.

6. In your opinion, are there areas where further testing is indicated? Please describe.

Since I started testing under the new-gen synth project, I’ve had a chance use a truly dense shaving brush. This is a new experience for me, and an eye-opener. I was concerned that I might not have the depth of experience that other team members had, but my latest acquisition gave me an education.

The brush I used is a Mühle prototype with a shape, loft and fiber that demonstrates continued forward-thinking and aggressive product development activity. I am encouraged that such a pioneer as Mühle continues to follow websites, listen to member comments and work aggressively on new synthetic brushes.

Also, see #5 above.

7. Do you have any summary comments regarding your findings? Would you recommend them to others?

When this project began, I asked two questions:

Have synthetics come of age?

The answer to this question is YES, at least with regard to Mühle, H.I.S and Omega. The new generation of synthetic brushes demonstrate big steps forward in the areas of water retention, attractiveness, softness of tips, performance, density, backbone, drying time and economical use of soaps and creams. These brushes have come a long way. They’re not your daddy’s synths.

Do they have qualities that are as good/better than their natural counterparts?

I would rank Mühle’s synthetic brushes with very good performing natural best badger and silvertip brushes. My reference brushes are Edwin Jagger 23mm Best Badger and Franks Shaving 23mm Silvertips, both of which have been favorites of mine. They have been replaced by the Mühle Classic 23mm Silvertip Fiber and Mühle HJM 21mm Black Fiber brushes, both of which I feel are improvements.

 

Jim Jim (6 Posts)

Jim S. has been active in social services for all his carrier. He has was involved with juvenile and adult justice programs for 20 years. As a member of the Apple Inner Circle throughout the 90s, he worked as an advisor to four Apple CEOs during that time. He also worked with Tom Clancy, Tom Selleck and other nationally-known figures as co-executive director of a national foundation serving families of seriously-ill children. He is now retired and an active contributor and reviewer on several shaving-related websites under the name "Codfish".


Comments

  1. Mickey Oberman says:

    Please, some photos.

  2. Wayne Creech says:

    Hi Mantic59 … I need some advice quickly. Later in October will be my inlaws wedding anniversary – 50 yrs. My mother in law would like me to help her find a decent Synthetic brush for my father in law (he currently has 8 -12 Boar and Badger brushes). She asked my opinion, and since I saw this article and review on synthetic brushes, I thought a good vegan brush might be in order (to complete the circle). I read this review with interest, and I see it’s from June, but is there a Part 2 or 3 for Vegan brush reviews? If there isn’t, can you direct me to a definitive review of Synthetic brushes? If that’s not possible, can you make some recommendations such as Omega (they have a pile of vegans), Parker (I see only two), Semogue or Edwin Jagger(?)?
    Thanks … my mother in law will be forever in your debt..!
    Wayne.

    • Wayne– Yes part 2 is HERE and part 3 is HERE. I think any of the new generation of synthetic brushes (Edwin Jagger, Muhle, HIS, etc.) would make a fine addition to a gift.

  3. Hello Jim,
    on additional question: Do you notice any difference between the
    Muhle “black fibre” (less expensive) and the Muehle “Silvertip Fibre”?
    Thanks!

    • They are both great fibers. One of the team members compared the two and did a much better job than I could. Teiste’s article is coming up soon.

      As a partial response to your question, I have used quite a few Mühle synthetic brushes, and I do have a favorite handle and fiber. I am asking them to make a custom brush combining the two. It will be a Kosmo 21mm Dark Oak handle with a Black Fiber knot.

  4. I have used my new Muhle 31K257 Synthetic Silver tip Brush on a few occassions now. It’s a pleasure to use, an ideal combination of softness, lathering ability and great whisker massage. This brush along with Proraso pre shave cream, Omega shave cream and my Muhle R89 Grande with Astra Blade I believe has given me the ultimate close smooth shave with no cuts.

    Much prefer this to other Muhle brushes that I have both Boar bristle (which I find too harsh on the skin) and Badger hair (which for me is too soft, having coarse whiskers)

    Highly recommend this Synthetic Brush. I paid around $43 AUD. Great value…

  5. Tim Barrow says:

    I have been using an Edwin Jagger synthetic bristle brush for around 6 months now. It is narrower at the base of the knot compared to most brushes, and this means less lather ends up in the middle. At first it can feel a bit aggressive, but after a few days it settles down. I find the brush retains lather well and has a mildly stiff feel to it, but I like using it.

    I have also the Omega Syntex 90065 plain bristle brush, and it can splay out easily. But despite the splaying it too lathers well, though does feel artificial.

    Both brushes dry out quickly after use.

    We use synthetic bristle toothbrushes, and no one bats an eyelid.

  6. Message from Artistbrushstrokes.com – Distributor for the Beauty Strokes H.I.S Shaving Brush

    Great article. Thanks for the mention of the H.I.S Shaving Brush. Artist Brushstrokes wanted to let those who are interested in the Beauty Strokes H.I.S Shaving brush that Artist Brushstrokes is in the process of moving its inventory for this product directly into the Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk warehouses in the coming weeks.

    By next week the black handle brush will be available for purchase again in the US. The clear handle will be available after July 4 as our manufacturer is currently on their annual vacation for the next two weeks. For our European Union customers the H.I.S brush will be available in mid-July through Amazon.co.uk.

    The overwhelming interest in the HIS Shaving brush has prompted us to allow Amazon to fulfill orders for this product which will provide customers with faster shipping options, 24 x 7 Amazon Customer Service and Free Shipping Offers for Amazon Prime members.

    For those who have already tried the H.I.S shaving brush we thank you for your patronage and reviews of the product. For those who have yet to experience the H.I.S Shaving brush we look forward to supplying your shaving brush needs in the near future.

    All the Best,
    Artist Brushstrokes

  7. I’ve been using the imitation badger brush from TOBS for three years now, and it is vastly superior in water retention than any silver tip badger brush I’ve tried. The quality of the materials is extraordinary; the handle is substantial and nicely weighted, and the tips of the narrow bulb are velvety soft. That being said, it is extremely floppy when fully wet and requires a significant adjustment in lathering technique. Such an adjustment would likely be a deal killer for die hard traditionalists, but for those that want a truly superior brush at a very reasonable price ($70) it’s worth the extra effort. I’m curious to see how the Mühle compares. Great piece…

  8. Excellent review. I first encountered the new “artificial badger” brushes with an Omega, and then TOBS, men-ü, Body Shop, and Mühle. Except for Mühle, the knots seemed identical to me, but Mühle’s knot was different—it struck me as “artificial horsehair” more than “artificial badger”. I’m intrigued by the continued improvement and development, and definitely will have to try the HJM. Thanks for this.

  9. Cool, I am very much looking forward to this series of articles. My favorite brush is the Men-U Premiere Synthetic; personally, it’s the best performing brush that I’ve used, but I have also never used a high end badger brush, so I don’t know how they compare. I definitely prefer it over my best badger hair brush (pure, best, super, silvertip).

    Synths I’ve tried: The Body Shop brush, Bluebird Syntex brush, Men-U Premiere Synthetic brush, and Omega 643167 Synthetic brush. My personal opinion is that they all used the same material-type bristle (just my guess), but the density of the knot is what affects the performance most… the TBS and Bluebird knots being loosely packed are the poorer performing. The Men-U is a re-branded Omega.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] The New Synthetic Hair Shaving Brushes (Part 1) | Sharpologist More informations about this knot. I don't like Muhle's badgers and i don/t know if this knot is something different from others like Omega-FS etc. [...]

  2. [...] synthetics over on Mantic59's site and thought I would share for those who are interested Part 1: The New Synthetic Hair Shaving Brushes (Part 1) | Sharpologist Part 2: The New "Breed" Of Synthetic Hair Shave Brushes (Part 2) | Sharpologist Thank [...]

  3. [...] synthetics over on Mantic59's site and thought I would share for those who are interested Part 1: The New Synthetic Hair Shaving Brushes (Part 1) | Sharpologist Part 2: The New "Breed" Of Synthetic Hair Shave Brushes (Part 2) | [...]

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