Here are some shaving brushes that cost under $20.
First is the Burma Shave brush ($5). This little brush is widely available at drug stores and megamarts, and its cheap (bordering on the unusable IMHO). Its labeled as a pure bristle brush, meaning its made up of inexpensive boar hair.
Next is the Van Der Hagen natural bristle brush ($8). Also widely available and inexpensive but built a little better than the Burma Shave brush.
Our final natural bristle brush is the Omega, also known as the Proraso brush ($11). Much larger and better built than the other two natural bristle brushes, the Omega would probably beat them handily in a three way competition.
The Omega Syntex synthetic brush is small and difficult to find, this little brush has been a suprisingly resiliant performer (wide price range but available for much less than $20).
Another synthetic brush is the Body Shop brush ($11).
The 1st of two with badger hair, the Van Der Hagen badger brush is relatively unknown, as it is only available by calling or emailing Van Der Hagen ($20+p&h).
Finally we have the Tweezerman deluxe shave brush ($15). This is one of the better-known brushes with loyal fans.
Looking strictly at size, there’s no doubt that the Omega natural bristle and the Van Der Hagen badger brushes are the largest competitors here. They’re both about 4 1/2 inches in total height, with hair lengths of about 2 1/2 inches.
The body of several of the brushes (Tweezerman, VDH Badger, Body Shop) are made out of wood. Wood can be a fine material when properly selected and treated. But at this price point the wood is lightweight and inexpensively coated. That means they may perform well for a time but then start to deteriorate quickly.
The other brushes are made out of a plastic or resin. While there are different grades of resin, handles will generally hold up reasonably well.
While there are different hair types in these brushes, hair type alone is not the whole story. The length of the hair and the density of the hair knot are also important factors. For example, the Van Der Hagen badger brush with its longer hair and less dense knot tends to flop over, compared to the Tweezerman badger brush. The Van Der Hagen brush is softer on the skin but the Tweezerman brush might hold water a bit better and be better for lathering directly to the face.
And although boar hair brushes don’t hold water as well as badger hair, the larger Omega brush can partly compensate with its longer hair.