Given the high costs of modern cartridge-based shaving, increasing numbers of men around the world are looking for alternatives and are asking: what is wet shaving? Since you are here, you are no doubt asking the same question. Whether you are looking to save money, improve your shave, or just try something new, this article will tell you how to get started with wet-shaving.
What Exactly Is (Traditional) Wet Shaving?
The simplest definition of wet shaving is: any form of shaving that involves water applied directly to the face.
If you shave with a mechanical razor, like this one, that is dry-shaving.
If, on the other hand, you use water to wet your hair and perhaps then apply some sort of oil, gel, foam, or soap, then that is wet-shaving.
By this definition, if you use mass-market cartridge razors and gels and so on, you are performing a wet shave every morning.
Equipment and technique therefore separate “traditional” and “modern” wet shaving.
This post is about how traditional wet-shaving works. If you want to know why you should take up traditional wet-shaving, read this first. Once you have done so, let’s look at how to get the best shave of your life with a simple safety razor, a proper shaving brush, and some shaving soap.
Step 1: Acquire the Necessary Equipment
The quality of your results depends on how much effort and investment you put into your task. That is true in life, and it is true in shaving. Fortunately, traditional wet-shaving requires a relatively small initial investment. You can get everything that you need for an entire year of shaving for an initial outlay of about $150. If that sounds like a lot, divide it by 365 to get your daily cost of shaving. You will quickly see that the daily cost of shaving is very low.
To start with traditional wet-shaving, you need the following essential items:
You can also invest in the following optional items:
Step 2: Preparation
Your daily shave is a ritual that celebrates tradition, precision, and style. It should be treated as such. Do not regard your shave as a boring necessity. Think of it instead as a way to present your best face to the world.
Start your first shave with a fresh blade. Unscrew the comb of the safety razor. The comb is the container for the blade and in most open-comb razors consists of two separate metal parts that are held together by the handle. With a closed-comb razor, all you have to do is twist the handle around to open the blade housing. Place a fresh razor blade into the comb, and screw it all back together.
Be very careful when handling double-edged blades. They are extremely thin and REALLY sharp.
Do not over-tighten the comb. If you do this, you can force the blade to crack and warp. This will worsen your shave. Tighten it just enough to ensure that the comb is securely closed.
Now, start by applying warm water to your face – not cold. Take some warm water in your hands and rub it on your face. This will lubricate and soften the hair on your face before you apply shaving soap.
Step 3: Lather Up
The following video explains exactly how to create a lather of the right consistency and richness for your morning shave:
This is by far the most time-consuming, and yet important, stage of the entire shaving process. Take your time with it. Enjoy the ritual. Savour the experience. You absolutely should use a high-quality shaving soap for this step. I recommend soaps that have high concentrations of coconut oil, which is packed full of healthy fats. As a result, the skin on your face will feel fresh and supple after your shave.
Step 4: Use the Safety Razor
There are three keys to getting a great shave with a double-edged safety razor.
First, use short strokes. The safety razor is a precision instrument designed to be wielded with care. Because the blade is EXTREMELY sharp, long strokes are absolutely not advised, as you will inevitably end up running over something and cutting it. Use short and careful strokes along the contours of your face.
Second, let the weight of the razor do the work. Do not apply ANY additional pressure when shaving with a double-edged safety razor. If you do, you WILL cut yourself and you WILL tear off parts of your face. A high-quality safety razor is heavy, as it is supposed to be. It will feel substantial in your hand, as any quality product should.
Third, shave WITH the grain, never against. Every man’s face is a little different. The contours of stubble will therefore be different. Find out what pattern of shaving is most comfortable for you. Shaving against the grain will lead to tremendous irritation, friction, and razor burn. I advise very strongly against it.
Now, I warn you that the first two weeks or so of shaving with a safety razor will be pretty uncomfortable. You will feel a lot of itchiness and irritation. This is normal. Your skin will take some time to adjust to the extreme sharpness of the blade and the fact that you are using nourishing shaving soap or cream, rather than mass-market gel or foam.
Do not be disheartened. Persevere. The shaves will get much easier. Your skin will get stronger. As a result, you will feel better.
Step 5: Rinse Off and Apply Aftershave
If you have performed all of the steps above correctly, you will have a smooth, stubble-free, refreshed face. Apply a proper aftershave lotion to sooth and nourish your skin. You are now ready to face the world as a well-groomed, confident, masculine man.
Once you start with traditional wet-shaving, you will never, ever go back to your old multi-blade mass-market cartridge razor. Quite aside from the expense involved, you will recoil at the insubstantial, cheap, plastic feeling of a cartridge against your skin. Because of the multiple blades, you will feel the unpleasant sensation of tugging at each hair as the cartridge rasps over your skin, leaving you with razor burn.
Don’t do it unless you have absolutely no other choice. Invest in yourself, your grooming, and your skin’s health. Switch to traditional wet-shaving. Shave like your grandfathers did, and reap the same benefits that they did back in the day. They were likely strong, confident, capable, well-groomed men – be like them, not the scraggy neckbearded dishevelled soyboys of today.