Everything your grandfather would have wanted you to know about the age old tradition of wet shaving.
We all start somewhere, right?
When I first picked up the razor, my shave was anything but relaxing and self-indulgent.
From lather soup to countless nicks and cuts, I’ve put my face through a lot over the years trying to master the art of wet shaving.
However, even nowadays I’m still discovering great tips and tricks along the way.
With that said, I’d like to share with you everything I know to help make your wet shaving journey easier and your shave all the better.
From creating the perfect lather to mastering your shaving technique, these valuable shaving tips for men will teach you a lot!
Even if you’re an expert who knows how to use a straight razor or safety razor, chances are you’ll be surprised by a few of these tips.
Regardless of your skill, one thing is for certain: Your shave will get better, and your face will be glad you read them.
Prep before shaving
Before you even consider picking up the razor, take the time to prep your face first. The process is without question, one of the most important things any man can do. Know the joys and benefits of a pre-shave oil and hot towel.
Reduce the pressure
When shaving you must use incredibly light pressure. Remember to let the razor’s weight do all of the heavy lifting for you.
Listen to your razor
Most men tend to look at the blade; however they forget about one crucial thing: You can tell a great deal about your shave by simply taking the time to listen to your razor.
That means turn off the music, bathroom fan, shut the running water off, and pay close attention to the blade as it glides into each whisker. By doing so, you’ll start to notice the slight variation in sound every single time your angle is out of place. Over time, it will become almost an instinct to change your angle when that sound clicks into your brain.
More is often better than less
Remember you can always purchase more product should you need it. However, you can never take back a dreadful shave.
If you’re struggling to acquire the perfect lather, don’t worry, just add more product or water until you are satisfied.
Understand that you must never rush the process; shaving is simply not a race. Don’t be foolish about it. A lighting fast five-second lather, or burst of swipes with the brush may appear impressive; however it serves no purpose. The truth is, those claims are often attributed back to popular marketing tactics that sold men the benefit of time over a finer experience.
Enjoy your shave, let it be your time to relax. There’s no need to practices for speed shaving competitions that don’t exist. Be patient and you’ll discover the perfect leather right before your eyes. Once achieved, load your brush up until it meets your reasonable belief it is enough. Now, ignore that opinion and load it up again.
Respect the blades
Change them well before they need to be replaced.
Double-edge razor blades aren’t going to drain your wallet. After a handful of shaves, usually three to five, replace them. Don’t cheap out and try to stay with the same blade as long as you can, you’ll often regret it.
It works. Use the process to extend the lifetime of your blades plus keep them gliding smoother.
On a double edged razor with quality blades, you can often get two more shaves.
On a straight edge razor, you can usually expect three more shaves. However, that’s assuming you make eight strokes, and strop four times on each side.
Face Lather First
Ready to try out a new shaving product? Don’t use the bowl right away, you’ll often just create a lather soup. Instead, face lather the product first to avoid a runny and flimsy lather. You’ll come to determine the consistency of the product quickly. Any brush that is overly wet will send water running down your face.
If you think face lathering is difficult, try it. Most of the time you’ll realize it’s far easier than you first thought. Some men claim it often will produce a better lather than the bowl too.
A word on water
Until you have mastered your soap or cream, know that less water is the best way to start out.
Wet your brush and give it a gentle squeeze at the knot to remove the bulk of the water. It will leave the ends and bristles damp but not soaked. Use your fingertips to add little drops of water as you go. Remember, you can comfortably add more water to a dry lather yet removing it from a wet lather is impossible.
Shaving with hard water
If your home has hard water, it will be more of a challenge to craft the perfect lather.
Too much water
Remember that certain creams and soaps don’t like water poured on them all at once. Regardless if the total amount of water is the same. Some will require you to add water in small amounts over a slower period. The same can be said about maintaining a lather while shaving. You may find yourself needing to continually add drops of hot water.
Water temperature matters
Know that certain creams and soaps will fall apart when exposed to high-temperature water. If you’ve ever wondered why some lathers seem to evaporate magically from your bowl or face, there’s your answer. The truth is, some products aren’t able to tolerate the heat while others can handle it effortlessly.
Start with room temperature water first, until you know for certain how your shaving products fare.
Get a grip
For maximum control of your razor keep your hands dry. You’ll not only up your grip strength but also help cut back on razor rust and pitting.
Also, understand that how you hold your razor has a significant impact on the quality of your shave. More pressure, more problems is one thing. However, a firm grip is quite another. Hold your razor like it is literally attached to the hand. Place a great deal of focus on keeping the spine flat while you shave. Adjust the angle in minuscule amounts; not much is needed.
Don’t worry about using only hand to shave. If you can’t get through the entire shave using the dominate hand, it’s perfectly acceptable to switch to the other. Sure, it will feel a tad awkward at first, but over time you’ll get the hang of it.
Never rest the razor upon your face. A freely roaming blade will teach any man the negative consequences.
Distractions are everywhere, be aware of them: Dogs, cats, children, or that crazy girlfriend, etc. Don’t be afraid to shut the door and spend some alone time shaving.
If you find yourself in a situation where the razor starts to catch onto the skin, always immediately stop.
If you’re looking for the ultimate combo of goods, you’ll eventually realize you’re chasing the impossible. You’ll keep buying new razors, soaps, brushes, blades, etc. Now, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to acquire the perfect razor, lather, and blade, but don’t switch products on a daily basis with overly high hopes.
However, why am I telling you this? Because when it comes to men who are learning how to shave, they often turn to buying and trying every product under the sun. The truth is it takes time and practice to master your technique, not products.
In other words, stay with what you have until you know what works and what doesn’t. Otherwise, you’re only adding to a bunch of variables that make things more complex and confusing than they need to be.
Shaving cream vs. shaving soap
Which should you use? Whichever shaving product you prefer the best. The truth is both will produce a lather that works well.
Cream are generally regarded as being easier to use than most shaving soaps.
Remember that shaving creams require less water than shaving soaps. If you think your cream requires the same amount of water as your soap, know that’s never the case.
Don’t just assume these are only for traveling. Give them a try them out at home.
Stretch your skin like the Romans
Put a few drop of water on your fingertips and rub them across an alum bloc or styptic pencil.
When applied to your face, the skin will tighten up, irritation and razor burn will disappear, and overall, you’ll notice a more toned and rejuvenated appearance. You can also use these two to treat minor nicks and cuts. Though, one of the greatest benefits of the alum block over the styptic pencil is that it doesn’t cause a stinging sensation.
Look for “Potassium Alum deodorant”, it’s the essentially same thing as shaving alum, just marketed towards a different purpose. Or you can also go with a brand like Razorock, and pick up an shaving alum stick.
Understand that either your technique is wrong, or your blade is merely dull and worn out.
The perfect lather
Before using your new shaving cream, give your brush a few shakes, usually four or five is enough. With the brush in hand, wipe a snurdle, an almond size dollop of cream, onto it.
Now, grab you bowl and whip around the lather for the a minimum of thirty to fifty seconds. Before you add any water, stop and take a moment to feel the lather between your thumb and index finger. Take note of the texture and appearance.
Start adding water to the cream, half a teaspoon at a time. Once you finish whipping the lather around, take a moment to stop and examine the texture and appearance. You’ll want to continue this process until you have clearly oversaturated the lather. You’ll know when that happens when the leather becomes thin, too weak to support itself and big bubbles start to form.
At this time, you should now possess a basic understanding of how much water to use with your shaving cream. However, in order to dial in on that ultimate lather, you’re going to need to repeat the process a couple more times.
After four or five bowls, you’ll know how to acquire that perfect lather accurately.
Lack of lather
Is your lather overly watery or runny? This problem happens quite often, but don’t worry, just double up on the amount of cream and give it another shot.
Lather that doesn’t look right
It doesn’t matter what you lather looks like if it works well for you. Often we get this grand idea that the perfect lather should like clouds of whipped cream. However, some ugly lathers can often shave better. In reality, the shaving experience is all that matters.
Once you have achieved a lather that is thick, abundant and ultra-lubricating, it’s time to administer it to your face. Now, there any many techniques to doing so, nevertheless one rule remains true for all of them: Apply more lather than you believe is necessary. The process is critical for ensuring everything is well-saturated, plus it will also assist your beard hairs in staying upright.
For applying, you can either wipe on your lather in a circular motion or paint it on as an artist. However, keep in mind that stiff brushes are often best for circular motions while softer brushes fair better with painting strokes.
Use the brush like an artist
That means don’t smash it into your face or into the bowl for that matter. If you’re not gentle, you’ll introduce brush burn into your shave, which, to say the least, is not pleasant. Start slowly with very light pressure using circular motions to apply the lather on your face. Then proceed to paint and get a little slap happy with your strokes to achieve the desired thickness of your lather.
If you notice your lather getting thin, apply more. Don’t be afraid to return for another pass.
Know that not all brushes are alike
Consider that most shaving brushes will be different from each other. Some do an exceptional job of absorbing water while others don’t fare so well. Aside from that, certain brushes can hold abundant lather while others simply won’t. Then, of course, there’s also the stiffness and softness of the brush too.
When it comes to shaving brushes, you can possess a few different options: Boar bristle, pure badger, best badger, super fine/silver tip badger, horse hair, and synthetic brushes. Understand that while Badger is often said to be the best, that’s not always the case. You don’t need an expensive badger brush to get the best shave ever. A lower priced boar brush can often outperform the pricier alternatives.
Boar bristle: A quality boar bristle will break in over time and begin to bloom with split ends. It results in less stiffness, and a softer, more attractive lather. A low-quality boar bristle brush will remain stiff, and refuse to break-in. It’s due in part to pre-cutting tips to form shapes.
Pure Badger: A well-made boar brush will often provide a better quality than a pure badger brush. These too can have the tips cut.
Best Badger: Pricier than a boards brush, at four times the cost, however, these will have soft tips and superior knot density. For soaps, they will be firm enough, and for face lathering they will be soft enough. If you are seeking out the best value or just starting out, this is a good option.
Super Fine/Silver Tip: Believe it or not, but these can have prices tags of up to $1,200. However, their benefits include the softest tips, phenomenal water retention, and by all means, the best choices for men who face lather.
Horse Hair: Generally reserved for men with allergies to certain animals.
Synthetic: Often made of imitation badger hair by using other animal hairs. These can also include stiffer nylon bristles or fibers.
Not all knots are either
When choosing the knot, there are four key things to know: Shape, loft, density, and size.
For first-timers, start with a fan or bulb-shaped top. Save the flat tops for when you have more experience and specific shaving needs.
An extended loft with a small knot makes for a softer brush. Horse hair and boar bristle are more than often, longer than the badger. If you go too short, the brush won’t hold lather, and it will feel quite rough on your face.
For shaving soaps, go with a densely packed knot. For creams, you can get away with a less packed knot. Regardless, if a knot is too flimsily, it won’t lather well with either.
The larger your face and hands, the larger your brush should be. To start out aim for a boars brush in the twenty mm range (20 -24mm). For badger brushes strive for right about twenty mm. (19-22mm will suit most men will)
Respect your brush
Clean and dry your brush after every single shave if you want to prevent shedding and bacteria growth.
Run water over your brush to remove the leftover lather. Then give it a gentle squeeze to remove whatever water is left. Go ahead and shake it a few times to ensure the last bits of water have been withdrawn.
Breaking a new one in
Some men can’t stand the scent of a brand new brush or let alone, the experience of using one. However, if you want to break in the bristles and remove the smell, here’s a good time to do so easily.
Soak the brush in dish soap and water for a few hours, and then rinse. Ensure the area where the knot meets the handle is above the water, not soaked in it. You can take it a step further and produce a lather and let it rest overnight till dry. However, truth be told, the method can be risky. It can often be harmful to the knot.
With that said, have some patience. After lathering a few times, you can more than often remove any odor.
Map your growth, it will greatly diminish irritation.
What this means is getting to know the changes in grain direction on your face. Most would assume it’s the same for all men, but that’s just not the case. For example, you might notice a rapid change in grain direction on your jaw line.
Mapping is simple, just give you beard a few days to grow. Then run your fingers through across your face in every direction possible. More resistance means’ that you’re going against the grain. Shave in the opposite direction.
Below the nostrils
Shave those pesky whiskers by taking your razor east to west, and west to east into the midpoint.
Hide it by swallowing first then holding in your breath. You’ll find it much easier to shave this area.
Forget the 30-degree angle rule
Your face isn’t flat, and your blade isn’t always going to be perpendicular to the handle with the diverse razors you use. Unless you want to measure every single time, all you have to do is open your ears and just listen. The sound your whiskers make when being cut will tell you a lot about the quality of your shave.
Double edged vs. straight edge razors
Know that a straight edge razor is more aggressive than a double edged razor. It will cause more irritation if you’re not careful, especially around your throat. When it comes to the shaving angle, that’s different too. With a straight edge razor, you’ll need to ensure the razor cap/hood is next to flat against your face. Aim the cutting edge just slightly downward into your face.
If you’re starting out with a double edged razor, then there’s a good chance your eventually going to give straight razors a shot in the future. Most first timers do.