How to Care for Your Shaving Brush

If you’ve ever had a relative pass down a vintage shaving brush, then you know that with proper care, a shaving brush can last a lifetime – if not longer. For a brush that gives you years of great shaves, regular cleaning and periodic deep cleaning are fundamental.

Here’s how to keep your shaving brush performing optimally:

Basic care and cleaning

Prior to a shave:

If you soak your brush in water before a shave, do so with warm water rather than boiling hot water, which can ruin your bristles.

During a shave:

Only apply light pressure, since using too much pressure (especially in a circular motion) can twist the bristles and cause them to break. Don’t push down so far that the handle is close to the skin. Lighter pressure will also allow you to use the entire brush loft rather than just the inner, longer bristles.

The ideal way to prolong the life of the brush is to use back and forth motions, but if you prefer lathering in circular motions, just remember to do so with a light touch.

After a shave:

Shaving cream and soap are slightly acidic, so be sure to rinse all product out of the brush. If some product is still left, the acidity will condense as the water evaporates. Over time, the acidity will eat away at the bristles. So make a habit of rinsing your brush thoroughly with warm water, followed by cold water. The warm water allows the bristles to absorb water more readily, while the cold water seals the bristles’ cuticles for strength.

Tip: Don’t use hot water, as hot water will open up the cuticles of the boar bristles, leaving them exposed and weak.

When you’re done rinsing, shake the brush dry and place it facing downward in a brush holder. Look for one that doesn’t grip the brush at the base of the bristles, as this damages the knot. Try MÜHLE brush stands, which typically grip the brush at a groove on the handle.

Storing your brush upside down not only removes the bristles of water, but also, more importantly, prevents water from loosening the glue that holds the bristles together. Place the brush in an area with good air flow, as confining a wet brush to a small space encourages mildew growth.

Deep cleaning

Even with a flawless technique, shaving brushes are subject to wear and tear from hard water, certain soaps and creams, and improper storage. You’ll know you need to deep clean when you notice crooked, stiff hairs or soap scum. Or you may find that your brush doesn’t produce lather as well as before.

It’s important to remember that shaving brushes are made of hair, similar to our own. And like our own hair, they need to be cleaned to stay soft and strong.

You should only need to deep clean your brushes once every couple of months. Select the method most convenient to you:

Method 1: Shampoo & conditioner

Start with a gentle, pH neutral shampoo, like Johnson’s Baby Shampoo. Avoid any shampoo with silicones, as silicones cover the hair with a thin, waterproof coating that builds up over time. This can reduce the bristles’ ability to absorb water. Dimethicone, in particular, is a silicone that is water insoluble and very hard to remove.

Work a small dab of shampoo into the brush, then rinse with warm water. To make your bristles feel extra soft, follow with a dab of gentle conditioner, allowing the conditioner to sit for a few minutes before rinsing out with warm water. Finish with a cold water rinse.

Method 2: Vinegar and water

Mix a solution of 9 parts warm water, 1 part vinegar. Soak the shaving brush in the solution for a few minutes, swirling it around every now and then. Rinse the brush with warm water, followed by cold water. The vinegar should dissolve any calcium deposits, removing the coating from bristles.

Method 3: Borax

Mix a tablespoon of borax in a cup of water. Soak the shaving brush in the solution for a few minutes and then rinse in warm water, followed by cold water.

9 Easy Razor Burn Solutions

No matter how masterful a wet shaver you are, you’ve experienced razor burn at some point. As a shaving connoisseur, you already know that switching to a DE razor or straight razor eliminates most of the threat. But there are plenty of other solutions, too, that might not occur to you right away. Making moisturizing a daily routine, for instance, instead of only after you shave, or shaving at night so you’re not stressing your skin with a full day of activities and environmental toxins.

If you have a tip not mentioned on this list, share it with us – and your fellow wet shavers – by leaving a comment below, or connecting with us on Facebook or Instagram.

1. Exfoliate before you shave

If you’re not exfoliating, you’re missing a crucial step to preventing razor burn. Exfoliating removes dead skin, oil, and other debris that can clog your razor blade and lead to razor burn. Exfoliating can also unearth ingrown hairs.

Choose an exfoliator based on your skin type: if you have normal/oily skin, try an exfoliator with glycolic acid, which dissolves the outermost layer of skin to encourage cell repair and healing. Pick one that comes with physical exfoliators (like beads or pumice) to get a deeper clean. Billy Jealousy Assassin is an intense exfoliator with walnut shell powder and sweet almond meal for physical exfoliation, as well as natural exfoliating enzymes. It’s so effective you can reduce the appearance of discoloration and scars over time!

If you have sensitive skin, a chemical exfoliator with beta hydroxy acids is gentler. We’re a big fan of Triumph & Disaster Rock & Roll Suicide Face Scrub, which exfoliates with salicylic acid, volcanic ash, and green clay.

2. Make moisturizing a routine

Good skincare, plain and simple, is the basis of strong, healthy skin.

Dragging a piece of metal across your face is highly irritating. Keep your skin hydrated and irritation-free with a gentle aftershave balm, followed by a fragrance-free moisturizer. Avoid products containing alcohol, which is drying.

But don’t just limit moisturizing to after your shaves; apply moisturizer every morning and at night before you go to sleep.

3. Rinse your face with cold water after shaving

Warm water feels better, but at the end of a shave, splashing your face with cold water closes pores and cuts. It can even prevent ingrown hairs from forming.

4. Clean your blade between strokes

Each stroke you make collects a fresh batch of bacteria, shaving cream, and whiskers. If you don’t rinse your blade before the next stroke, you’re using a blade that’s filled with goop. Because the razor is now dull, you’ll get an uneven cut and may end up pressing down harder to compensate, irritating the skin. Not only that, but the dirty razor will also distribute pore-clogging bacteria. The solution? Simply rinse your blade with water between each stroke.

5. Disinfect the blade with alcohol

Over time, blades dull as mineral crystals from the water form microscopic “teeth” on the edge. These teeth drag across the skin, producing razor burn and cuts. Prevent this process by dipping the blade in rubbing alcohol at the end of your shave. Dip the blade in rubbing alcohol again right before you start your next shave.

6. Natural remedies

Aloe vera – Aloe vera is nature’s gift to irritated skin. It’s a painkiller that reduces swelling while forming a moisturizing barrier to encourage healing. Plus, it naturally contains salicylic acid to destroy bacteria.

Aloe vera cools on contact to sooth razor burn. Apply aloe vera gel on your face and allow to set for 5 – 10 minutes before rinsing off with cool water.

Tea bags – White, green, and black tea contain tannic acid, which is an anti-bacterial, astringent, and antioxidant. Once you’re finished with your morning tea, place the tea bag in the fridge for 10 minutes. Then rub the tea bag over the inflamed skin to calm redness.

Honey – Honey is an antibacterial that reduces swelling and inflammation while moisturizing the skin. Apply honey to skin and leave on for 10 – 15 minutes before rinsing.

Aspirin – Make use of aspirin’s excellent anti-inflammatory properties by creating an aspirin paste. Crush two aspirins in a teaspoon of water, then rub the paste on affected skin. Rinse off after 10 minutes.

7. Use an antibiotic face wash or ointment

Razor burn is caused by bacteria, so eliminate the source with either an antibacterial face wash or ointment.

8. Shave at night

Think about your morning routine. Let’s say you shave, apply aftershave, lotion, and sunscreen before heading out the door. Then you spend a full day out and about, during which time you’re likely to sweat. The sweat, in combination with using multiple products, can make your skin more prone to razor burn.

You are also more likely to come into contact with bacteria and toxins during the day.

Switch to shaving at night so you’re not stressing your skin out right after a shave. Instead, your skin will have a full night to focus on nothing but repair.

9. Remember your environment

If you live in a cold, dry climate, consider using a richer aftershave and moisturizer. If it’s hot and humid, you can get away with using a lighter product. Even if you live somewhere with moderate weather – like California – you may still want to switch up your products depending on the season.

Our Favorite Posts of 2016

As we head into the end of the year, we wanted to look back on some of the highlights of 2016 on The Grooming Artist.

We brought you behind the scenes of two of the most respected names in wet shaving: Truefitt & Hill and Edwin Jagger. We also gave due coverage to the ever-expanding group of wet shavers who have taken their craft to Instagram, inspiring us with their beautifully composed #SOTD (Shave of the Day) setups, reviews, and tips. The traditional shaving community on Instagram is strong, and we plan to explore this scene further in the upcoming year.

From our archives, we also pulled out a couple of our favorite “how to” posts, from How to Clean Your DE Razor to How to Use the 3 Razor Shaving Method.

Give these posts a gander if you’re looking for some reading material during your holiday break.

All of us at RoyalShave hope you have a season filled with warmth, comfort, and good cheer!

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Our interviews with…

Truefitt & Hill

Edwin Jagger

Captain’s Choice

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Tips on how to…

Avoid 5 common wet shaving mistakes

Clean your DE razor

Use the 3-Razor shaving method for a close shave that’s gentle on sensitive skin

Care for a leather strop

Get lather from Geo. F. Trumper Hard Shaving Soap

honemeister

Our favorite Instagram accounts for…

#SOTD (Shave of the Day) inspiration

Wet shaving tips and tricks

Young barber applying a hot towel on a client's face before giving him a shave

Some miscellaneous…

How to DIY a barbershop hot towel at home

The long, royal history of Truefitt & Hill

Is a synthetic fiber brush worth your time?

Wedge straight razors vs. hollow straight razors: a comparison

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The RoyalShave Guide to Pre-Shave Treatments

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As with everything in wet shaving, there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to pre-shave treatments. Some men can’t live without them, others notice no difference, and some even find their shaves to be better without a pre-shave. The best way to determine if you should be using a pre-shave treatment is to try shaving 1 – 2 weeks with, then 1 – 2 weeks without, then with again. You can also experiment with applying the treatment only before your shave, or applying before each pass.

There are a couple pre-shave options available: pre-shave oil, gel, and cream. Here, we break down the benefits of each option.

Pre-shave oil

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What is it?

A pre-shave oil makes your skin softer and more supple for a shave, which means you won’t experience as much irritation. Oils penetrate the skin better than creams or gels, so they are able to retain water in your skin and keep it strong during a shave. As noted on Badger and blade, “when a blade drags across the well-moisturized skin, the skin ‘gives’ to the blade and will bend or conform significantly to the shape of the blade BEFORE it will be torn or cut by the blade…on the other hand, if the skin is dry…the skin will not give or conform to the blade but will instantly tear.”

Who should use a pre-shave oil?

We recommend pre-shave oils for any man with sensitive skin, as it will protect you from razor burn and razor bumps.

How do I use pre-shave oil?

It must first be noted that a pre-shave oil is not effective without water. This is because the stratum corneum (the outermost layer of skin) absorbs water with ease, but does not keep it in well. Thus, an oily substance – a pre-shave oil – is needed to trap the water in the skin.

To optimize a pre-shave oil’s benefits, apply it in the shower, where the steam will open up pores for deeper penetration. Or apply it right before a hot towel treatment to similar effect. Wait until your skin feels ultra soft, then commence lathering.

What are some good pre-shave oils to try?

Highly absorptive oils include jojoba oil, coconut oil, grapeseed oil, hempseed oil, castor oil, and sunflower oil. You can simply use a few drops of any of these oils (or a blend) for a pre-shave.

In the realm of commercially prepared oils, St. James of London Pre-Shave Oil has excellent reviews. It contains sunflower oil and jojoba oil to leave your skin feeling smooth as silk.

SHOP: St. James of London Pre-Shave Oil

Pre-shave cream/Gel

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What is it?

Whereas pre-shave oil makes the skin itself softer, thereby preventing nicks and cuts, pre-shave creams and gels create a cushion between your skin and the blade. This cushion allows the blade to slide more easily across the surface. Pre-shave creams and gels simultaneously soften the beard, making your hair more pliable and easy to cut.

Who should use a pre-shave cream or gel?

The best way to determine if a pre-shave cream or gel will make your shave better is to try one out for yourself (see method in first paragraph).

How do I use a pre-shave cream or gel?

Apply to damp skin prior to shaving. We suggest applying the cream or gel right before you start building lather. By the time your lather is ready to go, your skin should be thoroughly lubricated.

If you shower before you shave, apply the pre-shave cream or gel right before you shower.

What are some good pre-shave oils or gels to try?

Proraso Pre-Shave Cream – Green, Refreshing and Toning has been said to not only improve shaves, but also to reduce acne and razor burn. It has the added benefit of refreshing your skin with a minty, tingling sensation as you shave.

If you have reactive skin, The Art of Shaving Ocean Kelp Pre-Shave Gel is highly effective for men with sensitive skin and thick beards. Glycerin coats the skin for enhanced glide, and the alcohol-free formula reduces irritation.

SHOP: Proraso Pre-Shave Cream – Green, Refreshing and Toning and The Art of Shaving Ocean Kelp Pre-Shave Gel

A note on Geo. F. Trumper Skin Food

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If you find yourself short on time or just looking for a multitasking product, Geo. F. Trumper Skin Food makes a good pre-shave and aftershave balm. Its glycerin base protects the skin. You can also place a few drops onto your puck or brush to combat lathering issues with hard-to-lather soaps like Geo. F. Trumper Hard Shaving Soap.

Tip: For a step-by-step guide to producing lather with the Geo. F. Trumper Hard Shaving Soap, see our blog post here.

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