A Guide to wet shaving
Preparing for Your Journey: What You Will Need
You have decided to up your game and get into traditional wet shaving - welcome aboard! But with the variety of products out there it can all start to feel like a bit much. It is easy to find yourself wondering, “Where do I even begin?”
Shaving Cream or Soap
The purpose of both the shaving cream and soap is to generate a rich lather so the razor glides across your face for that remarkably close shave. Shaving cream has a softer consistency and is ideal for travel, while shaving soap is firmer and is just as popular among wet shavers. Both deliver a reliable, lubricating lather—but which to choose? If in doubt, try a soap and then try a cream to determine your favorite.
Not all brushes are created equal. The three main categories of brushes are badger, boar and synthetic. In general, boar and synthetic can be had for $30.00 or less. Badger brushes, on the other hand, start at about $50.00 and range up to $200.00 or more. Why such a wide price range for badger brushes? (See FAQs for more information.)
Lather bowls come in various styles, colors, and sizes—there is one for everybody! The most popular ones provide some form of texture in the bottom to help generate lather and are often ceramic to help retain heat for the lather. Google is your friend here.
With so many makes and models of razors available, you are bound to find the one that is just right for you. They all fall into one of these three basic categories:
- The Cartridge Razor is an appropriate choice for those just starting out. This disposable razor boasts multiple blades and a pivoting head. Typically, men lather up once and then shave with the multiple blades for a passable job. The gentleman in pursuit of the closest shave, however, is soon ready to graduate to one of the next two types of razors.
- The Double Edge Safety Razor will prove to be a nice upgrade. Unlike the multiple blades in a cartridge razor, the safety razor’s single, sharp blade can provide a closer shave and does so after multiple passes from different directions.
- The Straight Razor is for the shaving aficionados. When used properly, the straight razor is the tool renowned for delivering unbelievable results. More than just a shave, it is the ultimate experience in personal care.
Aftershave serves as a topical moisturizer while also tightening your pores. Typically alcohol-based, it is available in a wide variety of scents such as bay rum, menthol, sandalwood and others. With the hundreds if not thousands of aftershaves on the market, you can be sure to find a favorite - eventually! A few considerations: Beyond the scent itself there is how long you prefer the scent to last as well as how your skin feels post application.
An alternative that delivers deep, all-day moisturizing is shave balm (i.e. a lotion-based aftershave.) More than just a topical application, it will typically be formulated to soak into the skin for deeper moisturizing.
Setting Sail: A Step-by-Step Shaving Guide
Preparing Your Skin
Hydrating your face and whiskers is the first step to a great shave. This sets you up for success—it is the most important step and also the one most easily overlooked. Try shaving as soon as you step out of the shower and experience the difference! With softened whiskers, your shave will be more comfortable and you will end up with better results.
Note: While you are in the shower, allow your brush to soak in your lather bowl.
Take your pre-soaked brush and gently tap it to remove excess water. Swirl the wet brush in the tub of soap or cream, loading the bristles. At this point you have a choice to make. You can either face lather or bowl lather. The first involves lathering directly onto the face with the loaded brush. If you decide to bowl lather instead, simply move the brush to the lather bowl and create your lather.
(World class lather bowl tip: Put the bowl into a partially filled sink of hot water to keep the lather warm between passes. You can't beat it!)
You may need to add small amounts of water to the product as needed. Continue swirling the brush in quick circular motions until your lather achieves a yogurt-like consistency.
Apply the lather to your face, working it back and forth and in circles. This process both lifts the softened facial hairs and exfoliates the skin at the same time.
Using Your Razor
If using a Cartridge Razor, the multiple blades eliminate the need for several passes, and the pivoting head maintains the proper angle of the blade to the whiskers. Since the cartridge is lightweight pressure does need to be applied during the shave.
The Double Edge Safety Razor has just a single blade. To enjoy an unbelievably close shave, multiple passes are made from different angles with this single blade, reapplying warm lather between each pass. Typically there are three passes:
- With the grain, or downward
- Across the grain
- Against the grain, or upward
The head of these razors is heavier, so let the weight of the razor do the work; no pressure is necessary on your part. Rather than the pivoting head of the cartridge razor, the head of a double edge razor is fixed. To maintain the correct angle of the blade to the whiskers you simply maneuver the razor across the contours of your face. This becomes second nature after a few shaves.
The Straight Razor is without equal in the annals of shaving. You will be making the same multiple passes as is done with the double edge safety razor. YouTube tutorials are a terrific resource for learning this exciting dimension of shaving. It is necessary to strop the blade before and after each shave, and there is a steeper learning curve to become proficient, but those who use a straight razor just rave about it. And let’s not forget, it gives you bragging rights with the guys - right?
Once the razor has done its job, rinse your face and pat dry with your hand towel. Now dispense some of your favorite aftershave into your palm, rub your hands together, and apply to your freshly shaven face. Rinse your brush thoroughly, squeeze out the excess water and then hang it upside down to dry. Then wipe down your razor, brush, and lather bowl.
Now step out your front door and embrace the day with the confidence that only a great shave can deliver. It will be a most excellent day indeed!