The New Synthetic Shave Brushes – A Summary

Artificial Badger?

A couple of weeks ago Sharpologist looked at the new generation of synthetic hair shave brushes (part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5).  Here’s a summary of those posts, plus a few extra comments from the team.

We looked the previous generation of brushes, including products from Men-U, Omega, Body Shop, and Muhle.  The general consensus is that this previous generation seemed to be either too stiff or too floppy, with nothing in between.  Water retention was acceptable but no where near the level of a badger brush.

The new generation of synthetic brushes from companies like Edwin Jagger, Beauty Strokes, and Muhle show dramatic improvement in performance.  Here are some final comments from a few of the researchers:

GDCarrington:

While reviewing reactions over the last few months concerning synthetics, I have found some interesting perspectives in the traditional shaving community.   Synthetics  brushes have changed and are in the form of changing and are rapidly getting better. Technology, in the future, will continue to create more refined fibers to either mimic badger, boar, or horse, or a combination of the three in one fiber.    In fact the reality is that the natural hairs have reached their limit based on the fact that the fiber technology of animals has been fixed and will not change over time.

Many users now place synthetics into their own class, just like badger, boar and horse, and understand the differences between brands, knots, and handle types within the class. They also seem to be willing to see the pros and cons of all brushes as fair game in the selection process. This is the group of people who will continue to determine the future of synthetic development from the user standpoint. They will be driving this particular sector to improve and grow.

Yes, the technology is in place for a variety of brush lofts, knot construction, and even a variety of price points for the user to choose from.  Synthetics will take a greater place in future discussions simply due to the fact that they can be improved with each with new chemical and manufacturing fiber discovery.   One area that still needs to be addressed is more variety is needed in terms of knot / loft sizes, both in finished brushes and stand alone knots for the restoration of old brushes from more production sources.

There is a reason why every traditional shaver should be actively seeking improvement in synthetics. If the traditional shaving user community continues grows at the pace that it has the past few years, demand for natural hairs will become an issue. Supply of natural fibers will more than likely not increase, and may likely decrease due to over harvesting in certain countries, disease, and political restrictions based on an active animal rights movement. In order to supply new traditional shavers, many of whom are adverse to using animal hair, but want a high quality shaving experience, the new generation of synthetics are now the way to achieve it, and will be in the future as well. The brush manufacturers who are active in developing strong synthetic lines of brushes and knots, not just one synthetic offering, will continue to grow and develop far into the future.  Those producers that do not make this move, but remain totally entrenched totally in production using natural fibers only, will most likely suffer the shocks of loss of market share in the future.

James SanSouci:

When I first became interested in new-generation synthetic brushes, my shaving brush experience was limited to about 15 badger and boar brushes. Most of my brushes were very serviceable and recommended in brush reviews. Then, I acquired my first synthetic brushes—Mühle Black Fiber and Silvertip Fiber—and was quite impressed.

I remembered reading about synthetic brushes when I took up wet shaving seriously several years ago and was frankly, not inclined to add one to my den. The reviews I read from 2009 were hardly encouraging.

When I started with this project, I had never used a synthetic brush from the generation talked about in those reviews. Recently, I acquired a Mühle synth produced from 2003-2008, and had the opportunity to test it thoroughly. I will not review it here, but I will say that it clearly reflects the shortcomings identified in early-generation synths.

Also, when I started the project, I had only a limited concept of brush density. I had never used a truly fine, dense, high-end brush. Over the last two months, I have had an opportunity to do that, giving me additional perspective on the current generation of synthetic brushes.

New-gen synths have come a l-o-n-g way from the previous generation. They are much closer in appearance, and especially in performance, to their natural counterparts—even offering improvements over naturals in the areas of drying time, cleaning, durability, affordability and economy of use. The new synths produced by Mühle, Edwin Jagger, H.I.S., Omega and others are highly regarded by those who have used them.

During my time with the project, I have seen interest in synths grow among shavers and manufacturers alike. User comments in forums like this are shaping further developments, innovations, and prototype testing.

When the team first approached this project, we tried to address two questions:

“Have synthetics come of age?”

“Do they have qualities that are as good, or better than their natural counterparts?”

I think we all agree that the advancements over the previous generation by leading manufacturers are significant. We have also noted some areas where synthetic brushes offer improvements over natural brushes. Synthetic brushes are now legitimate additions to a shave den of which you can be proud. The best are strong competition for natural brushes.

Now that synthetic fibers are receiving new recognition, and the technology is better understood, it is not difficult to imagine that synthetics may soon surpass natural brushes in every dimension of shave brush performance.

You Turn!

Want to try a synthetic brush?  Here is your chance!  Simply leave one comment below (no multiple entries) to this post by 12:01am (CENTRAL TIME in the US) on Saturday, August 11.  You must also be a registered user of sharpologist with a valid email address (for notification)–register HERE if you are not already.  After the deadline three comments will be randomly chosen for one of the following:

Good luck!

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Comments

  1. says

    Good luck gentleman! If I am chosen and receive the EJ, I’ll keep it; if I receive the H.I.S. I’ll pass it along to a friend, since I already bought one (based on these articles). I’m REALLY impressed with the H.I.S. so far; it’s phenomenal!

    • Funkyb says

      I think those synthetic-brushes are great. I’m a poor student and would be very happy, if i could test one by getting a free give away. Good luck for everyone

  2. GordonDym says

    Having now fully embraced the wetshaving lifestyle (use my dad’s old Merkur Progress and a Gillette Superspeed), I’m eager to try using some synthetic brushes. (Most of mine have been badger, and I’m actually keen on seeing whether synthetics measure up).

    Looking forward to reading more about synthetic brushes!

  3. Gummo the Goat says

    I recently bought and have been using two synthetic brushes. I am quite impressed with the Muhle Black Fiber and still impressed but not as much so with the new Omega one. I also tried the HIS brush, but found it too large and unweildy, so I gave it to my partner who likes using it to shave her legs.

    The only drawback I have experienced is heat retention, which is not a big factor for me. I agree with the excellent remarks by the experts above that synthetics are the wave of the future, and would not be surprised that within 10-15 years boars and badgers might have priced themselves out of existence or will no longer be in great demand because of the animal hair issue.

    I find both of my synthetics to be very good with the tallow soaps I use as well as creams.

  4. Jonukas says

    Thanks you all you guys for doing these reviews! I’ve been using a synthetic brush since I started wet shaving. I like the fact that it dries quickly, that it’s animal-friendly, and that it doesn’t take much product to make a great lather. These reviews have really helped me decide what to consider for my next brush. Hopefully I’ll win one!

  5. Dr. K says

    I enjoyed these reviews thoroughly, and they have prompted me to explore synthetic fiber brushes whereas I would not have been otherwise inclined to based on reviews of older generation products. It is good to see how far the technology has come.

  6. ayodh says

    Nice articles. I have only tried the Body Shop brush and just as you, the results were very poor. The newer generation brushes look much better.

  7. rjcantrell says

    I’ve only ever owned a Body Shop nylon brush and, as you say, it’s pretty stiff and doesn’t retain much water. This is without a natural one to compare it to, though. Interested to hear the new ones are better!

  8. Brian says

    I would love to give one of these synthetics a test drive. It sounds like it might just replace one of my lower level badgers, so I commit to sending that Tweezerman along in “pay-it-forward” fashion.

  9. sethleupagus says

    A lot of people tend to look down on synthetics as being inferior quality to others, but the new entries seem to be on par with quality badger brushes. The (relatively) cruelty-free factor appeals to me either way. I appreciate the opportunity to give one of these guys a whirl.

  10. JohnDoom says

    I’d love to try out a synthetic brush. I’ve got a decent silver but it’s trying to compete with my head on hair-loss and the hairs are a bit… ‘scritchy,’ which is a word I’m making up to describe the ‘less than soft’ feeling it gives my face.

    Either way, I’d love to try something new.

  11. Patman says

    Would love to give a synthetic a try – have given badger and horse bristle brushes a try, but not a synthetic yet.

  12. mcdidher says

    Synthetics are quite the curiosity to me and I would greatly appreciate the opportunity to try such a wonderful brush. Good luck, gents!

  13. Gary K says

    I have been following this series with great interest. I have had good luck with two natural brushes, but really interested in finding a synthetic that works.

  14. Chris says

    Don’t wet shave today but looking to take the plunge. This site has been a great resource. Hoping to get my first brush courtesy of this giveaway!

  15. Roger C. says

    These new brushes do look interesting. Currently I use an Omega 48.

    Though one thing I did do is glue one of those coin-shaped magnets to the bottom of it. This lets me hang it from the towel rack to let it dry nicely since I don’t have a brush stand.

  16. Tim McDonough says

    I have been seriously thinking about a synth for travel; as the quicker dry-time, antibacterial properties and recent demise of my Frank’s turnback brush have stirred my brush-acquisition-disorder once again.

  17. WalterW says

    Those synthetic brushes are the most exciting thing in shaving since a while. Thank you for the great coverage and for the contest.

  18. AlphaNoob says

    So I should stop planning my wild boar hunt?

    Given my relative inexperience with wets having in general the thought of a synthetic brush does sound rather more appealing than using animal hair for a brush, however I have yet to cycle through the myriad animal species on this planet to properly give an opinion on whether natural fibers are at their peak.

    Seriously though who wouldn’t try a lion hair brush? The only true limit that is encountered in fiber collection is the ease of procurement.

  19. djoser says

    Count me in, I’d like to try a synthetic. I would also like to try a lion hair brush as ‘AlphaNoob’ suggested but I don’t think those will be on the market anytime soon.

  20. Exapno says

    Congratulations to the team on an interesting, well researched and timely series of articles. I’ve been waiting over five years for synthetic brushes to come of age and I’m glad that they finally have. I also applaud the efforts of the various companies involved in the development of synthetic brushes. As I use synthetics exclusively it’s fantastic to now have so many more options as far as traditional wet shaving is concerned.

  21. astrocreep5000 says

    Just bought another badger brush because I haven’t been willing to spend the money on a synthetic brush, although I agree with the post in that synthetic brushes can only improve whereas the quality of badger/boar/horse hair is stagnant.

  22. shortymcsmalls says

    I’ll throw my hat in the ring, and you guys have definitely made me reconsider my stance on Synthetic brushes.

  23. tehace says

    Loving your work mantic and sharpologist gents! Any of these prizes would be quite the improvement from my $10 nylon brush!

  24. phoenix0_4 says

    I’m using a BodyShop synthetic and am satisfied, but perhaps I should try one of these new generation brushes…

  25. Jack45 says

    As usual, Mantic59 does a great job informing us of what’s new and good.

    Be glad to be one of the lucky ones to get a new synthetic.

    All the best!

  26. Pest says

    Thanks for the summary! Sounds like synthetics have come a long way. As a user of only boar brushes (so far!) it sounds like synthetics may have a lot to offer to me. Good luck everyone!

  27. jesseaknight says

    Thanks for updating us on the continuing developments of the industry. I think casual observers think of our wet-shaving culture as “old fashioned” or “nostalgic”… but it’s nice that the industry is continuing to develop

  28. beezerpuppy says

    Have used the Muhle black fibre and the Muhle silvertip fibre, and they are awesome brushes. Would love to try the H.I.S.

  29. DLP says

    GDCarrington has been talking about the fine synthetic brushes for several months now. Makes me wonder what I’m missing. I’ve Badgers, Boars and Horse Hair brushes. I guess the time has come to think about trying a Synthetic Brush.

  30. bruce says

    I’d love to try a synthetic. I’ve tried badger, board and mix.

    Thanks for the chance and keep up the Great work!

  31. syngent says

    These Posts have been great, definitely got me interested in trying a synthetic brush again,

    Count me in, and again great job by everyone

  32. Arnold Cohen says

    A couple of years ago I bought an inexpensive, small synthetic brush on EBay that the seller had made by a reputable English brush maker (I think it was Vulfix). The brushes were part of some promotion or venture that went south and were sold off cheap. While it lacks most of the aesthetics of a good badger or even boar brush, it sure can lather. Since it does not require particular care and feeding it is the perfect travel brush with a small tube of cream. It’s now time to step up to something better.

  33. tbberman says

    I’ve only tried badger brushes, my starter Tweezerman and my current Simpson Colonel. Would love to try a synthetic. Count me in!

  34. etoyoc says

    The synthetic brushes are certainly improving. The H.I.S. is a great brush. I also like the Omega Lucretia Borgia.

    Thanks for the opportunity and helping open some minds about this brush option!

  35. kentclark says

    Your work together and reviews are much appreciated. A synthetic belongs in every shave kit. Count me in!

  36. renmflo says

    These reviews have convinced me of the value of synthetics. I would really like to try one out. Thank you for this opportunity!

  37. PLANofMAN says

    Thanks for the opportunity, I’ve really enjoyed the articles, and thanks to the vendors for donating their brushes for this giveaway.

  38. darkwingdave says

    A brush is very important for not only a good shave but an enjoyable experience. I hope this quality brush will soon be helping me achieve both.

  39. PadreTex says

    Please include me! My Vulfix Super lost about 10 hairs this morning. I’mconcerning about its longevity now.

  40. quevalin says

    That was a great read, very in depth and interesting :)

    Would love to try one of these newfangled synthetics :D

  41. says

    As always, a very in depth review of products. I was debating getting a synthentic when i started using a brush, but at the time ( a little over 2 years ago now ) the reviews weren’t very good. I am glad to see they have improved.

    I would love to get my hands on one.

  42. Bill says

    These articles have provided great information and been a great read. I do not have a synthetic brush in my small stable but I would really like to try one.

  43. Cstaylorod says

    I tried an early synthetic and was not impresses. I am very intrested in the study you have done and am seriously thinking about trying a synthetic again, win or loose.
    Craig

  44. Bradley A Harris says

    A great series on the next generation of shave brushes. I would consider a synthetic brush before buying another badger.

  45. AcousticRanger says

    This is a comment left to comment on the fact that I’d enjoy a new brush should I win one by leaving this comment.

  46. Miatapaul says

    Wow What an offer! I do love my badger, can’t imagine synthetic being better, but I am game to try.

  47. brieeatertheeaterofbrie says

    ever since i began shaving with a straight razor, i’ve reconciled with my father, chopped down a tree with an axe, rescue an old lady from falling down the stairs, gave a man a strictly platonic kiss and organized my vinyl collection. thanks sharpologist.

  48. mcardoza says

    I Just recently got a badger brush I would be very interested in trying a good synthetic. This article definitely makes it easier to know what to expect.

    Cheers!

  49. Steveareno says

    I really enjoyed this series and would love to try a synthetic brush. For all the reasons cited, I think they represent the future of shaving brushes, especially if the number of wet shavers continues to increase (as I hope it will).

  50. Edward Wickham says

    I approach learning shaving with an ‘all of the above’ strategy, so it’s only natural that I’m intrigued by the improvements in a class of brush I don’t have yet – but hope to win! Count me in!

  51. Padre Dana says

    I just found your website today, and it’s great! I’d love to try one of the synthetic brushes, so in the words of the smart kid in class, “oh pick me, pick me, oh, oh, pick me!”

  52. PolieCat says

    I have a synthetic brush by Edwin Jagger, and I’ve been much happier with it than the old Men-u synthetic brush I had.

  53. mb6 says

    I bought an Omega 643174 for travel a few months ago and liked it enough to work it into my regular rotation. I was shocked at how well it lathered and I would definitely recommend good synthetic brushes to anyone.

  54. NathMan says

    I’d love to compare the new technology of a high quality synthetic to badger!

    Great Idea for a contest!

  55. says

    I love the black handle H.I.S. brush. The synthetics are my most consistent brushes. I’ve never lost “hair” from them. They feel great and produce and hold a lot of lather.

  56. Eddie says

    Based upon the previous articles I purchased a Muhle MJM Black Fiber shaving brush. A Trumper/Vulfix brush I had gave out after about 10 years. The two brushes I replaced it with have not been satisfactory. This afforded me an opportunity to try something new.
    The new brush is better than the two I have been using. I have only used it a few times, and I feel it only will get better as I learn how to use it to its maximum potential. The rubber like grip allows the shaver to create lather easily. My shaves have been closer with the new brush.
    Thank you for your articles on this topic.

  57. GrinningJackal says

    When I first looked at brushes I did not hear good things about synthetic. I think it is time to take a new look.

  58. Malcolm says

    Thank you for the opportunity to participate and (who knows, even) win a new generation synthetic brush. The expert comment you quote seems sound and compelling; I am interested in trying them for myself.

  59. almightywhacko says

    Nice series of reviews! It is very interesting how much effort has been put into the creation of synthetics. I look forward to the day when synthetics stop trying to replicate the look and feel natural fibers and start really pushing the limits of technology by becoming their own completely different category, with the strengths found in natural fiber but also with new strengths those natural fibers lack.

  60. Sammy says

    What a wonderful series of articles! I’m really learning a lot about the fine craft of shaving. Thanks!

    Sammy

  61. Joel says

    Synthetics could have a lot to offer. I suspect someday we will see synthetic brushes specially made for particular applications. A brush made for applying soaps, one for creams, one for people with extra-sensitive skin and another for those people having beards of wire. I also suspect a “won” synthetic brush is even more pleasant than a paid for brush. With luck, I will let you know.

  62. devtholt says

    As a member of the military, shaving is usually a luxury. These synthetic brushes look like a great alternative to boar/badger hair brushes. The articles covering them are a quality write up. I would love to be able to add these to my nightly routine.

  63. Jcon96 says

    I would love to try one of the new synthetic brushes. I have tried previous generations, and found them lacking. This would be a great opportunity to try one of the new breed.

  64. Pick says

    I currently have the Frank Shaving synthetic and Muhle Black Fiber, which I highly prefer. This brush is very good, although a little floppy in my opinion.
    I would love to use another of these new generation brushes. Please count me in.

  65. David Lawrence says

    Intriguing articles. I tried a syn brush and didn’t care for it (wasn’t one reviewed in this series). I’ll investigate these.

  66. Eddie says

    Congratulations
    Last week this H.I.S. shaving brush was available on Amazon. Both brushes are no longer available. I can only attribute this to your articles.

  67. Btosolt says

    Thanks for the review! I need a new brush and am bothered by the fact that if I oppose the fur industry, I must also oppose badger for use in brushes. I am a vegan now but have been shaving with badger brushes (mostly vintage) for 20+ years. I would love to try a new synthetic bristle brush.

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