I’ll preface this post by stating that, until recently, no one ever taught me how to shave. This is in no way a reflection on my father, as he was always around and teaching my brothers and I how to do things. No, I blame my previous lack of shaving knowledge on one entity, and one entity alone: Gillette.
Right around my 15th birthday, Gillette sent me a free razor. It was a genius marketing ploy, as in an act of “rebellion” I decided that I was old enough to use it, even though I had no idea what I was doing. Unfortunately, I’ve been “winging it” ever since.
Turns out, in addition to doing damage to my face, I was also throwing tons of money away. Recently I was discussing the topic with my barber, and thankfully he set me straight.
The real secret to a quality, enjoyable shave (no joke), is not to use the latest razors with 4, 5, or 6 blades, but instead to go back to the tried-and-true single, double edged blades of the olden days.
You don’t need everything that’s pictured above in order to get a good shave, but I’m going to show you how to use them all anyway.
Razor and blades
I use a standard safety razor like the one pictured above. By untwisting the bottom of the handle, you cause the top to detach, revealing the replaceable blade…
Inserting a new blade is an exhilarating process, knowing that at any moment you could slip and slice your finger wide open. But really that’s part of the fun.
The blades you want are “double edge” or “DE” blades. Each comes individually wrapped in regular and wax paper for additional protection.
Unwrap the blade and be careful NOT to touch the long sides (those are the edges that you use for shaving). Instead, hold the blade by the short ends.
Simply drop the blade into the head of the razor and put everything back together.
If you have an old razor that you need to dispose of DO NOT THROW IT IN THE TRASH. The razors are sharp and can slice through garbage bags, seriously injuring anyone who comes in contact with them. Instead, you should get something like the safety razor disposal that is shown below (Feather makes one for $4 that you can find pretty much anywhere). Simply drop the used razor into the disposal and throw the entire unit in the trash once it’s full.
Now you could use one of the many gels or creams that are currently on the market, or you could go old-school and whip up your own cream.
When I originally switched, I didn’t have a brush or a mug, so I would just put a dollop of cream in my hands, mix it with some water, and rub it into my face. That process works just fine.
I use a cream from a company called Proraso. They have a variety of different options, each represented by a different color. So far I’ve used both red and green, and they both work great.
If you’re going to use a brush then you need something to whip your cream in. My barber uses an old wooden salad bowl, I’ve opted for a mug with a broken handle, but really you could use whatever you’d like. Make it personal.
You should always shave AFTER you shower. Why? Because the hot water helps to soften the hairs and opens your pores, both of which add to a smoother shave.
Prior to getting a shower, add some hot water to your mug. Not a lot, just so it’s roughly an eighth of the way full. Then drop in your shaving brush so it has time to soak up some water.
Shaving brushes come in all shapes and sizes, and range from inexpensive to VERY expensive. I recommend starting at whatever price point you feel comfortable with, and then you can always get something more expensive later if you’d like.
The reason why you soak the brush instead of rinsing it, is that the brushes tend to repel water if you just stick them under a faucet. By allowing them to soak, they tend to collect just the right amount of water that you’ll need to make a good lather.
Once you’re finished showering, dump the excess water out of your mug so that only the water that’s in your brush remains. Then add a dollop of shaving cream…
… and use your brush to whip it up.
Now simply take your brush and rub it over the areas that you intend to shave.
All that’s left is to put steel to skin and rid your face of those rascally little whiskers.
The most important thing is that you shave WITH the grain of your hairs and not against them. This typically means shaving DOWN for most of your face, and then UP on your neck or chin, but this can differ from person to person.
Simply place the razor against your skin and draw it in the direction it should go. You’ll know almost immediately if you’re pressing too hard or too soft, and you can make adjustments as you go.
Rinse your razor with hot water whenever it gets coated with too much “gunk”, and keep going until your face is nice and clean
Once you’re done, splash cold water on your face to rinse away any remaining cream or hairs. Just as the hot water helped to open your pores, cold water will help to close them, extending the time it takes for the hairs to grow back.
Dry your face, and then apply a moisturizing balm to help to keep your skip from drying out.
There are a TON of different lotions on the market, also ranging from cheap to REALLY expensive. I use a simple lotion from Trader Joe’s and it works just fine. Just rub a little all over your face and neck, and you’re done.
And that’s it! Now you know how to shave just like the men of old.
I personally find the entire process to be very relaxing, almost therapeutic. I’d HIGHLY recommend any man to make the switch to a method like this, both from a satisfaction standpoint, and a monetary standpoint.
- Always shave AFTER a shower. I used to shave before showering, thinking that was the easiest way to clean the loose hairs and shaving cream from my face. Turns out it was actually making it harder to remove the hairs and causing more irritation than necessary.
- Always shave WITH the grain.
- Be careful when handling the blades.
- NEVER dispose of old blades in the trash.
- If you nick your face when shaving (and you will), simply put a torn piece of toilet paper on the cut and let it dry. The paper helps the cut to clot, which stops the bleeding quicker than other methods.
Have some shaving tips of your own? Share them in the comments below.