Synthetic Fiber Shave Brush Trends

synthetic brushes jim

Two years ago, I was member of a group of wet shavers who wanted to look at the new crop of synthetic brushes entering the marketplace. We wanted to see if there were significant changes from the synths we had used in prior years.  This article will not recap our work, but rather look at the growth of interest in synthetic brushes. None of us claim that our work changed attitudes—only that changes have occurred since our project began.

The group decided to conduct a testing program during the Spring of 2012. We purchased brushes and swapped them back and forth amongst ourselves. In all, we tested 19 different synthetic brushes from nine manufacturers. We did not attempt an exhaustive testing program for every available synthetic brush since that was not necessary to meet our project objectives.

Members included me, Teiste Brito, Wim Bouman, Gary Carrington and Mark H (mantic59). At the end of the project we all agreed that the new generation of brushes was, in fact, different and improved from the brushes we had used in the past.

We published our findings on shaving websites starting in June of that year. Sharpologist led the way with over 20 feature articles on the topic. By the end of the project, Sharpologist had become the world’s leading web resource for information about synthetic shaving brushes.

The group published multi-part feature articles including “The New Breed of Synthetic…Shave Brushes” and Gary Carrington’s series “Synthetic Fibers—A Historical Perspective….” Gary’s work to categorize the “Generations” of synthetic brush fibers is so well known that it is now part of shaving lexicon worldwide.

When we began, I thought it would be interesting to look at attitudes toward synthetic brushes before and after the project’s testing program. I conducted a pre-survey on a large shaving forum in June 2012. I repeated the same survey on the forum a couple weeks ago. I wanted to see whether there were changes in attitudes or acceptance during the intervening two years. Both surveys are “snapshots” of the first 100 responses from each year.

chart

 Findings

  • Respondents indicating “Little or no interest” in synthetic brushes declined by 9%.
  • The percentage of those who indicated they were “Tempted” to buy a synthetic brush was down by 36%. I did not expect this. One possible explanation is that those who were tempted formerly had actual plans to buy, or had already purchased one (See below).
  • The number of respondents expressing “No opinion” was down a whopping 75%.
  • Those indicating that they will “Probably” buy a synthetic brush soon is up 22%.
  • The percentage of shavers who indicated that they “Already Own” a synthetic brush is up by 54%.

Conclusions

  •  Increase in the popularity of synthetic shaving brushes is undeniable.
  •  There has been significant increase in the number of shavers who will probably buy a synthetic brush in the near future.
  •  Fewer shavers report that they have little or no interest in synthetic brushes.
  • The percentage of shavers who report that they already own a synthetic brush is up by 54%. A detailed review of responses shows that many owned have more than one synth—usually 2-3.
  • The percent of shavers reporting they had no opinion is the most-changed category. It may be that shavers have more information and are better educated. As a result, they are more likely to have opinions one way or another.
  • More than one-third of those responding said they were less tempted to buy a synthetic brush than two years ago. Greater exposure and discussion about synthetic brushes may have served to reinforce their desire to use natural-hair brushes only, or they tried and didn’t like synthetic brushes.

Whether our team helped to increase the popularity of synthetic shaving brushes is for others to decide. I think I speak for the the team in saying that we recognized the possibility of change, and curiosity led to our involvement. We anticipated the coming wave and decided to ride it.

The project interested me personally because I believed that shavers would want to know about these new brushes. I was able to convince an articulate and experienced group of evaluators to join me. This increased my confidence that the end result would be a balance of opinion.

Whatever success we may have had is due in large part  to the leadership role taken by Sharpologist.  No other website provided such comprehensive coverage of this topic, or was more timely in reporting it.

Related Posts:

The Maturing Market

Generations

Historical Perspectives

The New Breed Of Synthetic Brushes (Summary)

 

 

Jim S. Jim S. (5 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 very Apple CEO 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. GD Carrington says:

    A well written review tracking the changes in user opinions over time. Well done Jim.

    It is apparent that in the past, when synthetics were mentioned, a large number of people who never used synthetic brushes or were dead set against them even existing, would crowd the discussion out hoping to drown out any positive discussion. This data now shows that the marketplace, over time and usage, has accepted synthetic brushes in a large enough quantities to render this drowning out tactic now as useless. Synthetic brushes are here to stay and have now taken their place in the traditional shaving world. Users have another legitimate choice in the marketplace which is very good for the user community as a whole.

  2. Thank you for the summation Jim. Well written as always and I completely agree with your assessments. I am seeing these trends on the boards myself. The synths have come a long way indeed and I enjoy them as part of my brush rotation also.

  3. I purchased a synthetic from TGN last year to put in a vintage handle I had laying around. I must say it’s the softest of all my brushes, tho I only have a boar and a badger to compare it with. But I hardly use it as it’s heat retention is minimal at best and it’s just not stiff enough for me and I end up using it more in a sweeping motion vs a swirl which doesn’t give me the desired affect when lathering either face or bowl. I may have to look into this again in the future as maybe I need to procure one in lieu of replacing a knot.

    • Not all synths lack backbone. The Kent Infinity Silvertex, for instance, is known for its backbone, density and scrubiness. At around $25, it is also a good buy.

      With synths, backbone is a function of loft and density. Density is related to the diameter of the fibers. Generation 4 knots are the best examples of the kind of characteristics you are looking for. Frank Shaving’s PUR-Tech line and Edwin Jagger’s current synthetics are examples. Muhle’s V2 Silvertip Fiber brushes are highly regarded.

      • The Dean says:

        While I agree the Kent Silvertex has backbone, my experience is similar to Bruce’s as I also “end up using it more in a sweeping motion vs a swirl”. I like the Silvertex just fine, but it doesn’t splay naturally like a good badger brush. Perhaps I just need to use it more often–but I like my 2-band badger brushes too much, I guess. I will say the synthetic brush lathers like crazy and dries quickly. making it ideal as a travel brush.

        I’d love to give one of the new Gen 4 brushes a try, but honestly I just don’t see myself moving away from using a good badger brush (I use a boar or synth on rare occasions). In fact, as I have two synth brushes, I will PIF the Kent sometime soon on the B&B.

        • Splay, that’s the perfect descriptive word for what mine is lacking, thank you sir. Thank you both for the info and input.

        • The Kent Infinity will splay but there’s a break in period. Use it for a week straight and it should splay out.

  4. I have one badger and one boar brush, and I like and use them. I own 3 synthetics, an Omega, Kent and Elite. The synthetics are like utility infielders, suitable for travel and home use. All of the synthetics lather differently from one another and the natural fibers, but they all lather prodigiously. There’s never an ahi,map odor, they dry rapidly. Great brushes!

  5. After reading through the posts here on modern synthetics, I took the leap and ordered an Edwin Jaegger synthetic silvertip, to see if it could curb some irritation that I attributed to a possible allergic reaction to my badger brush.
    Not only has it helped eliminate that irritation, I get much better performance from the brush that i was getting from my best badger brush that I used before…
    For anyone on the fence towards it, take the leap and give them a try, I for one won’t be going back to natural brushes…

    • Unlike natural brushes, the quality and performance of synthetic fibers and brushes are constantly improving. Generation 4 fibers and knots are the current state-of-the art, and manufacturers are producing a growing array of brushes with a variety of performance characteristics.

      Sharpologist’s series on “The New Breed of Synthetic…Shave Brushes” is a good starting point for additional information.

    • Bruce says: ” Splay, that’s the perfect descriptive word for what mine is lacking, thank you sir. Thank you both for the info and input.”

      This is a fair comment and one I hear often from badger and boar lovers. Synthetic brushes have their own characteristics and learning curves. One of our team members had problems initially with water dumping out of the breach, He needed to learn to squeeze the brush nearly dry before making a lather. When face lathering, he needed to start slowly to distribute the lather well.

      Synthetics require a take-charge attitude to learn to splay the brush. Once done, they work much like badgers. I use synths nine days out of ten, and actually find badgers and boars too mop like. Almost unpleasantly so.

      Some shavers prefer badger brushes and the survey shows they will always prefer them. Others prefer boars. Synths have their own following, and the survey indicates that the number of users is increasing. While I am a synth advocate, I do not claim that they are better. They are simply another alternative with a growing following.

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