How to Upgrade Your Shaving Game

We’re already one week into April, and what a glorious, life-changing week it has been… But, more on that Monday.

I want to wrap up this week with a post about shaving. Not your typical Schick Quattro Titanium Alloy Terminator shave — I’m talking about real shaving:

Wet shaving.

I first learned about the art of wet shaving via this excellent article on The Art of Manliness. I’d like to offer my own experience and demonstrate how — much like running — sometimes, the old way is the better way.

Why Wet Shave?

  1. Cost. The most practical reason to start wet shaving is that it’s far less costly than modern shaving methods. Cartridge razors are stupid expensive, and you constantly need to purchase refill packs. A wet shaving kit, on the other hand, is a great investment. Safety razor blades are only a fraction of the cost, and while shaving soaps might be more expensive upfront, they last longer and give you a better shave than the cheap gels at CVS. Likewise, a quality safety razor and brush will cost more in the short term, but they’ll probably last for the rest of your life.

  2. Higher quality shaves. Dragging four blades across your face is not good for your skin, and razor burn is painful and unsightly. Safety razors use a single blade that shaves smoothly and efficiently, and the proper technique goes a long way.

  3. It’s fun and bad ass. Like a cold shower. The manliest of men have been wet shaving for hundreds of years, so you’ll be in classy company.

What You’ll Need

  • A safety razor. I own the Merkur Model 178 Classic. Remember, this is a one-time purchase. Pay for quality, and you won’t have to replace it every six months. Also see the Model 180 Long Handled version if you have particularly big hands.

  • Blades. Cheap and available at drugstores. 100 blades for $24 on Amazon.

  • Shaving cream/soap. Natural ingredients, smells great, and lathers up splendidly. I use Taylor of Old Bond Street Sandalwood Shaving Cream.

  • A brush. The better the brush, the better the lather. There are boar bristles and badger bristles. Badger brushes are a bit more expensive, but they’re higher quality. I have this one by Omega.

  • A mug. Any will do. I bought this one.

See The Art of Manliness for other recommendations.

The Shave

Warm water is best, as it softens your facial hair, although some prefer cold water. Lather up with your soap, mug, and brush.

The shaving technique itself is the trickiest part. I’m going to quote AoM here:

The four keys to a successful shave with a safety razor are 1) use as little pressure as possible; 2) angle the blade as far away from your face as possible; 3) shave with the grain; and 4) go for beard reduction, not beard removal.

A couple of tips:

You do not need to press down as you would with a modern cartridge razor. The weight of the razor will shave your hair just fine.

Shaving with the grain is crucial to avoid razor burn and ingrown hairs. For a while I just assumed that “with the grain” meant “down”, which is not true. The hair under my chin and on my neck especially seems to grow to the right, which is weird, but it’s important to be aware so you avoid irritation. A cool rinse will close up your pores and leave you feeling fresh.

Once you get the hang of it, I think you’ll find the wet shaving experience to be a highly enjoyable one. It turns shaving into a mindful, pleasant act, unlike hacking up your face on your way out the door. The safety razor is a beautiful piece of machinery, and it feels good to put time and care into your shaving routine. A wet shaving kit also makes a fantastic gift. They’re available on Amazon.

Like cold showers and going barefoot, sometimes modern “conveniences” aren’t actually what’s best for us. The wet shave is a timeless ritual, and one I think you’ll really enjoy.

For more on the art of wet shaving, check the following, in addition to the Art of Manliness article above:

  1. The Zen of Shaving | Zen Habits
  3. Badger & Blade forum

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