Shaving doesn't have to suck.
In this article, we are going to show you our method of using higher end/traditional shaving products as well as the right way to shave.
Now there are many different ways to achieve the same goal, which is to have a great shave. Therefore, the intent of this article is to educate you on the basics of how to do just that as well as provide you with a few tips that may be helpful. If you haven’t purchased any of the traditional products or aren’t sure if you want to take the plunge, this article will still be beneficial, but you may want to check out our other article (Old Fashioned Shaving: Is it Better).
What you will need:
Razor (safety or straight)
Strop (straight razor only)
Shave soap (or cream)
Shave bowl (or mug)
Your ugly mug
How to Wet Shave:
1) Make sure you have enough time.
I can’t stress this one enough. If you are one of the guys that is running to formation just before reveille, or you start to sweat if you get caught at a red light because you will be late for work again, this style of wet shaving probably isn’t for you. Quickly shaving and skipping the steps below can lead to razor burn, increased irritation, and an otherwise unpleasant experience. Although it will still be better than the “can and cartridge” way of shaving admittedly.
2) Prepare your face.
My recommended procedure is to take a shower and wash your face with an exfoliation soap to remove dirt and oils then use a pre-shave lotion, oil, or cream. Although this is not required to shave, it will make it a much more enjoyable experience. The purpose of the pre shave is to provide an extra layer of protection, increase the “glide” as the razor passes over the skin, and to soften the hairs on your chinny-chin-chin so they can be cut easier.
3) Prepare your razor.
Preferably you have either a Straight Razor or a Safety Razor. Cartridge razors CAN work but they do not provide near the quality of the traditional blades.
· Safety Razors: the safer way to shave. The Safety razor uses disposable double edge razor blades and I personally change out the blade after each use.
· Straight Razors: require a bit more finesse and upkeep as they are literally a single edge razor. These blades provide the closest, cleanest shave you can get which is why professional barbers use them. You should strop your straight razor before use so it can do its job properly. A sharp blade should glide across your skin with just the weight of the razor and cut hair effortlessly.
4) Prepare your shave brush.
There are a few different types of brushes that have their own unique qualities such as synthetic, boar's hair, and our personal recommendation, Badger. The general rule of thumb is to get your brush wet by soaking it in a bowl with hot water. If you have a boar’s hair or synthetic brush run it under the faucet as they do not absorb water.
5) Use a quality shave soap or shaving cream. Using a quality bar or cream soap will make or break the shave experience. If it comes in a can, it isn’t intended for wet shaving as the cans contain alcohol and it will dry out your face. What you want is a glycerin soap which will ensure your skin stays moisturized.
6) Form your Lather.
Take the hot brush out of the bowl and drain the excess water held in the brush. Gently swirl the brush over the soap to form the lather.
· For hard bar soap: shave bowl or mug is typically used. If you start to swirl the brush and you get water running down in the bowl or mug, shake the brush out a little more and pour the excess water out and try again. If there is no excess water from the brush but you get large soapy bubbles, you still have too much water. To fix this you can either shake the brush out just a little more or keep swirling. Ideally you want a thick lather that you paint on the part of your body you want to shave that doesn’t have very many bubbles. It should not be a paste.
· For cream soaps: Add a quarter-inch dot to the brush if it is a tube type storage device or swipe a little bit onto the brush. A little goes a LONG ways. you can either swirl it in a shave bowl/shave mug or directly on your face to get the lather going. Same as the hard bar soaps, if you have large bubbles there is too much water.
7) Apply the shaving cream.
Applying in a circular motion does a few things; it exfoliates the skin as well as makes the hairs stand on end for a closer shave. Continue to do this until there is a light, opaque lather on all of the areas you want to shave.
8) Shave: First Pass.
The first pass is usually with the grain of the hair (the way the hair grows) which is typically from top to bottom for most areas.
· Straight Razor: If you are using a straight razor and you haven’t practiced with it, you are a brave SOB as it is the easiest device to cut yourself. As a general rule, you never apply pressure when using a straight razor as the sharpness of the blade should be doing the work for you. If it isn’t, strop your blade (or change the blade if you are using a shavette). The straight razor is generally held at about a 30 degree angle to your skin. The strokes should be short and even, without jerking or chopping. You should cover about one-quarter to one-half inch with each stroke. If at any point you feel the hair being pulled or you have to apply pressure in order to shave, stop and strop your blade. In addition to short strokes, you should also pull your skin to make it taut (stretch it so its tight) to assist cutting the hair. After a few swipes, rinse the blade under warm water to remove the built-up hair and excess shaving cream.
· Safety Razor: More “safe” than a straight razor with a comparable shave, the safety razor is built to not cut the crap out of you if your angle is too far off. Generally, the safety razor is used in the same fashion as the straight razor in which the blade is held at about a 30-degree angle. The procedures are the same as the straight razor as well (as seen above) with the only difference being that the safety razor requires a little more rinsing to remove gunk.
9) Shave again: The Second Pass
The second pass is accomplished by lathering again and this time, going against the grain (typically bottom up). Usually the brush is loaded enough that you don’t have to swirl the soap again. This is where you can tell the difference between a quality shave soap and …the other guys. The ideal quality of a good shave soap is that the lather shouldn’t have dried out by the second pass.
Rinse your face with cool water. The cool water closes the pores, so they can regenerate and is the leading method to prevent irritation.
11) Pat your face with a clean dry towel.
Do not rub your face! this WILL cause irritation.
12) Use aftershave or moisturizer.
After shave products do have a purpose; it just so happens that many of them smell fantastic. The purpose of an aftershave is to aid in healing and moisturizing the skin by providing a layer of protection. After all, you did just lose a bunch of hair and skin cells. It is highly recommended that one avoids the use of alcohol-based products. Alcohol based products dry out the skin and causes it to secrete oil which causes ingrown hairs and needless irritation.
13) Clean up.
Clean the excess lather out of your bowl or mug as well as the shave brush. Once you can swirl the brush on your hand and no more soap comes out, you can shake the excess water out. The brush should be stored in open air handle down so it can dry. This is especially important for non-synthetic brushes and they can decay.
14) Go be all that you can be.
Because you are done.