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The Compass  /  Grooming  /  Guide to a Better Shave: Wet Shaving

Guide to a Better Shave: Wet Shaving

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Like most guys, you probably shave 4 or 5 times a week. You do it because you need to and because the Geico caveman look hasn’t been “in” for the better part of two centuries. It’s routine and things done in routine are often done complacently, without much care. So why should you deviate from what works? We answer with a question. Why fly economy when you can fly first class? Both will get you from Point A to Point B. So what’s the difference? Of course, this is a no-brainer. First class is A LOT better – more comfortable and a better experience.

Well unfortunately, most of us are stuck in the economy class of shaving. Symbolized by the ubiquity of cheap, disposable blades, the practice of a proper shave has become a lost art. In this article, we’re going to show you that a luxurious first class shave – the wet shave – is not out of your reach. When you’re done reading, a once uninspired morning routine will become an anticipated ritual of masculinity that will help you start your work day right.

What is the Traditional Wet Shave?

So what exactly is wet shaving? To put it simply, wet shaving is a shave whereby your face remains wet throughout the entire process and you use a single blade razor, a shaving brush and a glycerin-based shaving cream to execute the shave.

It takes a little longer than your normal shave, so use the time to get your mind going and set goals for the day. After all, your grandpa probably shaved this way and your grandpa was a wise man.

Why Should I Incorporate a Wet Shave into My Daily Routine?

  1. It’ll be the best and closest shave you’ll ever have. In the opinion of many shave enthusiasts, the classic double-edge (DE) safety razor runs circles around a disposable. Why? In essence, a disposable uses densely packed inferior blades and relies on pushing hard against the skin to remove hairs, damaging skin along the way. A proper DE on the other hand, relies on the weight of the razor and the preciseness of a single, quality blade to cut more efficiently.
  2. You’ll save some money in the long-term. While the razor itself isn’t cheap (probably the most you’ll spend on a manual razor), replacing blades can cost as little as $20 a year vs. up to $100 a year for cartridges. So as far as investments go, a quality razor is a good one.

What Will I Need for a Wet Shave?


Razors

Razor Option A: The Double-Edge Safety Razor

The double-edge safety razor consists of a metal handle and two metal headpieces that hold a single blade in-between. A quality, metal double-edge safety razor will not only deliver a closer shave than some battery-powered vibrating gimmick, but save you money in the long run. If you’re just starting off, we strongly recommend a double-edge safety razor.

We Recommend:

Merkur Heavy Duty Safety Razor

// UPDATE: Since we published this article, a new shaving brand has emerged that focuses on men with coarse, curly hair. If that sounds like you check out The Bevel Safety Razor.//

 

Razor Option B: The Straight Razor

Mr. Bond’s shaving tool of choice, the straight razor is used by barbershops and shaving enthusiasts alike – basically, dudes who really know how to cut whiskers. Also called open razors or cut-throat razors, these razors provide some of the closest shaves but at the cost of a higher learning curve. If you’re just starting off, the double-edge safety razor is an aptly named safer bet (for your face). But not to worry, we’ll risk our necks and master the straight razor shave so we can throw together a step-by-step guide for you in a future post.

Until Then, We Recommend:

Dovo “Astrale” Straight Razor

Razor Option C: A Machete

We kid!


Shaving Brushes

Brush + face = female? Most of the time, yes. This time, no. A shaving brush is used to pick up and hydrate the shaving cream so that it forms into a thicker, richer and more emollient lather than you would get with just your fingers. A shaving brush also gently exfoliates your skin, removing dead skin and debris and raising the hairs on your face in preparation for the shave. For this reason, many shave enthusiasts claim that using the proper shaving brush is the single most important element of an effective shave. And the bonus? It feels really nice.

There are a few types of shaving brush hairs you can use. The best kinds are badger hair brushes followed by boar hair brushes. If the idea of using animal hair rubs you the wrong way, synthetic hair brushes are also available.

Within the badger brushes themselves, you’ll get different grades. In general the grades are categorized as “pure” (being the lowest grade), “best,” “super” and “silver tip.” The “super” or “silver tip “badger brushes are going to be the softest, highest quality brushes you can find, and will have a white color instead of the usual black / brown. However, if the idea of dropping $100 on a brush isn’t in your plans, a high-quality, “pure” badger brush will serve you just fine.

We Recommend:


Shaving Soaps / Creams & After Shave Products

There’s nothing wrong with a cheap can of Barbasol except when high school kids use it to decorate your car with phallic symbols on Halloween. So if you’re looking for something that’s a touch classier, all you have to do is spend a few extra bucks for a high quality, glycerin-based European shaving cream that will revamp your shave experience. In tandem with a shave brush, it will not only result in one of the closest and most comfortable shaves ever, the feel and scent of an English shaving cream can give your morning a much-needed freshening.

And don’t forget after shave care. For most guys, the “after shave” is probably choosing what tie to wear that day. But making sure you address any nicks, razor burns and irritations with the proper products is an integral part of the process. Using the proper after-shave products is the icing on the cake – it will leave your face feeling healthy, moisturized and smoother than ever.

 

We Recommend these Shaving Creams:

We Recommend these After-Shave Products:


The Technique

When is it not about technique? Now that you’re stocked on the tools of the trade, here are the 4 steps for a proper wet shave.

Feeling manlier already? We thought so. But more importantly, your facial skin and hair will be healthier too. Sure, it takes a little extra effort and care, but so do all the fine things in life— like that perfectly dry-aged rib-eye steak with a great bottle of cabernet-sauvignon and of course, a well-tailored custom suit. A complete gentleman knows how to shave like one, so go forth and add the traditional wet shave to your list of gentlemanly skills.


Got questions or comments on wet shaving? Share with us in the comments below! 

Image Credits: Jean-Baptiste Mondino / NYTimes 

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130 thoughts on “Guide to a Better Shave: Wet Shaving”

  1. Love the article. Have always been a major fan of wet-shaving – the whole ritual is plain awesome!

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Plan awesome and rewarding! Thanks for the love.

  2. naturally like your web site however you have to take a look
    at the spelling on quite a few of your posts. Many of them are
    rife with spelling issues and I in finding it very troublesome to inform the truth
    however I will certainly come back again.

    1. Thanks for taking note—we appreciate an editor’s eye. That being said, we’re always trying to improve and will use your feedback to go onwards and upwards :)

  3. Great post, thanks for all the info – my husband has been wet shaving for years and he would agree with pretty much everything in this post. He started using a badger brush recently has seen a big difference in his shaves (for the better of course). As for the blade, he’s shaved with a DE for years but may try out a single edge at some point…

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Thanks for representing the ladies. We know you love a smooth face.

  4. Ive recently started shaving with a gillette tech ball DE safety razor…badger brush and shaving cream…what a pleasure..the difference in results is remarkable…savings on blades and shaving cream is a plus…regards…naeem

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Once you start you wonder, “why didn’t I do this sooner?”

      Welcome to the club, Naeem.

  5. beard trimmer | shaveacademy says:

    Chris ,, Thanks you for the great article presented on your site ! great value !

  6. I’m almost 60, and just recently began taking my shaving routine seriously (although I’ve been using a 1965 Gillette Slim adjustable for the past 10 years or more, a round cake of “shaving soap” in a Homer Laughlin coffee mug, and a brush). Previously, I’ve used a myriad of disposables, electrics (they don’t *cut* whiskers, they rip them out of your face), and even women’s razors. I’ve used canned foam & jell, shaving soaps like Williams, Ivory bar soap (not really recommended, but worked in a pinch), and even dry shaving in the field (a *real* last resort). I always saw shaving as a *chore*. But last week, it was time to give my Slim a good cleaning. The only blades available at the grocery store were van der Hagen (some guy on another site said they were worse than shaving with a piece of broken oyster shell). My lather was always too runny, and I had the “let’s get this over with” attitude.

    After I gave Slim a good cleaning, I took the time to really *look* at it. I noticed the heft, something sorely lacking in those fancy space-age do-hickies that cost an arm & a leg nowadays. I opened & closed the doors, listened to the adjustment ring click, and just *admired* the thing. Then, with two days’ growth on my face, I actually took time and *shaved*. Slim is always set on “3” so’s not to be too aggressive, I firmed up my lather, and marveled at the feel of it. Best of all, no nicks. In the past, my blades were good for three, four sessions, tops. With my first van der Hagen blade, my next shave will be the fifth, and I expect it to perform as well as the first four. I promptly ordered some Gillette Silver Blue blades (and plan on trying several other brands), as well as a nice vintage ’51 Gillette Milord razor. I’ve also broken down & ordered a brush/razor stand & lather bowl.

    Any recommendations for a good soap?

    1. This is a great story, Dave! Glad to hear you’ve gotten back to basics.

      As for soaps, that Proraso soap we referenced above is legit. We’re big fans.

  7. anthonyscott says:

    Thanks for sharing! I love beards.Having a different styling of beard is in trend. It is supposed to be cool for this generation to have an exceptionally classy as well as creative tricks for developing the beard with a exclusive products. Its fun growing beard to what it makes a trademark for the individual. Along with many beard vitamins and supplements, I like Beardilizer the most.
    http://www.beard-growth.com/

    1. Love the enthusiasm, Anthony! That Beardalizer site is some serious beardy goodness.

      As you can tell from our selection of models, we like a good beard too.

  8. I’m an older guy who always used a DE razor in my younger days, with only the occasional nick. Then I had a beard for twenty years. Then electric shave (adequate shave, absolutely no cuts!) Recently, I went on a trip and forgot my razor, so I bought a really cheap (Supermax £1.00 !!) razor with triple blade cartridges and found I could have a pretty decent shave with very rare cuts. I then bought a Muehle R89. Beautiful razor! I have used this (with Derby blades) for several weeks, but usually end up making a mess of my face! I have tried following the tips about using just the weight of the razor etc. I don’t remember shaving with a DE requiring so much skill/being so dangerous in my younger days.

    So far, I much prefer the cheap Supermax, as it is quick, gives a decent shave and doesn’t make my face look like a battlefield! Is one method of preparation better than the others at avoiding bloodshed, or would I be better using a different razor and/or blade?

    1. Black Lapel says:

      The best defense is offense, Brian. Prep your face with piping hot water and some pre-shave oil. With a sharp single blade and a heavy handle, you shouldn’t need to put any pressure on your face. Close shaves are good but trying to look like you’ve never had any hair on your face is a fool’s errand and it leads a lot of men to push down on their blades causing nicks and cuts. To get a smooth face, think smooth strokes. If you miss a few hairs on the first pass, re-apply cream and get it on the next go-round. Two passes ought to do the trick.

  9. The Art of Shaving says:

    What a beautiful article about the art of the wet shave. It truly is a great throwback to an almost-forgotten tradition and a great revival for a ritual that helped define men. We would also like to stress the 4 steps you presented in having a proper wet shave. You have touched upon it perfectly, and following these steps guarantees an experience that will completely change the way you view shaving. The time you have with yourself and the razor is your time – embrace it. Whether you are young or old – but young in heart – treat yourself to an experience that your face will thank you for.

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Well said. Here here.

  10. John Shaughnessy says:

    I literally just got done trying this and the results are amazing. My “rookie” caution kept me from going as close to the corners of my mouth as I should have but that will be easily fixed with increasing comfort level. The shave itself is without question the closest I’ve ever had. I bought a kit form Merkur that included a badger hair brush, razor and bowl. I used Taylor of Old Bond Street pre-shave oil and shaving cream. I took the advice form here and used the Niva post-shave balm and couldn’t feel better about the whole experience. Why we ever traded this shave for the expense and lesser results of cartridge shaves is beyond me…

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Fine work, John. Like clothes that are made to your measurements, a good shave is addictive and you’ll never go back to the old way.

  11. O.K., I want to give this a try, and was very curious if it’s possible to shave your head in this manner? Bald guy here, and I do my head and face all in the same shot. PS- thanks for the great tips.

    1. Black Lapel says:

      It is possible to use the wet shaving method to shave your head, but it would take some serious skills. We wouldn’t recommend it for anything but your face.

  12. Terry Kidd says:

    You think I’ve left here for good. Just would like to tell you I’ve been stopping off in here to see what’s going on. I’m just keeping my mouth shut.
    Terry

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Glad to hear from you again, Terry! You know you’re always welcome at The Compass.

  13. Ray Braun-Peters says:

    I am now 51, and my shaving routine has evolved. I have one good brand of straight razor and my shaving lather comes from natural dove soap. That’s it! I have very smooth skin and no razor burns. My lifestyle might have something to do with the smooth skin, as I don’t smoke nor drink (for at least 12 years now).

    The article has many merits, but people should conduct their own shaving experiment to find what works for their skin type. My good friend hates using a straight razor, and prefers the power of a double edge razor for his shaving needs. He also prefers scented shaving creams and aftershave lotions. His skin looks cool, so to each his own.

    1. Black Lapel says:

      True enough. As a custom clothier, we can definitely get behind the concept of everyone being different. That’s why we created the follow up to this story, Upgrade to Your Best Shave. There we give some more specific advice on shaving for different types of guys.

  14. First, I’d like to start by saying thank you for all of these outstanding write-ups. I have read each and every one from the suit lapels, to the suit buttons, and even this post. Being in the military, I ahve to shave daily. Unfortunately, I have some horrible skin irritation when I shave two days in a row. I have tried nearly every cartridge razor on the market, the DE safety razor, and even have several cut-throat razors. Shaving against the grain is a necessity for me to ensure the closest shave possible. Unfortunately, the type of razor hasn’t really made a difference in the closeness of the shave. So, I’m on to shaving cream. I’ve tried off-the-shelf foams such as gillette; I’ve tried sensitive skin foams and gels, like nivea, but I haven’t tried the classic creams that you suggest in this post. does it really make that much of a difference? I have used a synthetic brush, but also didn’t feel like that did much for me either. any suggestions?

    1. It’s always good to hear that we’ve provided a service with this publication, Stephen. We appreciate the kudos.

      As for the skin irritation, we’ll start by stating that while we know a thing or two about shaving, when it comes to irritation, that’s something a dermatologist is best suited to advise you about. A couple of things to consider when you shave, though:

      1. A clean shave won’t make your face look like it did when you were 10 years old. Especially if your hair is dark, you’ll never get that baby-faced, never-shaved look back. Dark hair follicles will almost always show up even seconds after you shave and you may have to adjust your expectations.
      2. A lot of shaving is about technique. If your barber offers shaves, give him a try. If you’re happy with the results, ask him for a little tutorial. We can tell you things like shave with the grain first and then against the grain on the second pass, but which way is the grain? That can be different from one guy to the next. Your barber can customize his instructions for you.
      3. The classic creams will help you get a clean shave, as will a bit of pre-shave oil, because your hair will stand up a little better for shaving. But here’s where the dermatologist will come into play. Our advice is to go see one before you purchase any shaving supplies and get a recommendation. Why? A dermatologist may prescribe you an after shave with an active ingredient and then you’ll have wasted your money on other products.

      We hope this helps, Stephen. Stay sharp!

  15. Hi there, great article – my question is if we can use the same creams, soaps and brushes used in wet shaving with a gillete fusion blade for example? It’s obviously not wet shaving but I’m wondering how it will differ. Thank you.

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Yes, you can. The lather works with the new-fangled blades just fine.

  16. Great article and great questions and answers. I think wet shaving is on a big come back and more guys are shaving like grandpa did. I started with a safety razor then went to the multi blades and for the past few years have been back to the safety razors. The first time I tried a silver tip badger brush the smell was so bad I was gagging. That smell stayed with me all day. I now make copper and brass handles and buy silver tipped badger hair knots to go in them. I tell my customers the way to get the stink out of a brush is to suds it up with a high fragrant body wash like Axe or Old Spice body wash and let them sit overnight. It might take a couple nights but it usually does the trick.

    1. There’s a great bit of copy on Classic Old Spice deodorant sticks. It reads: “If your grandfather hadn’t use it, you wouldn’t exist.” You could say the same thing about safety razors. These days men are realizing how stylish the old man was and reclaiming some of his grooming habits and we’re all for that.

      Great tip, about de-funking badger brushes! Ridding a brush of its stink is a big deal since you’re putting that bad boy right up under your nose to shave everyday.

  17. So am new to this wet shaving and I have to say am a huge fan. But I do have a question. I was told that on the first shave you just go down, lather up then go sideways and lather up again then go against the grain. But I thought you should never go against the grain. So yes against the grain or no?

    1. We’ll give you a firm “maybe,” Ramon. The truth is going against the grain has so much to do with how your individual skin takes it and your personal shaving style (the amount of pressure you put on the blade, etc.), we couldn’t possibly answer that question.

      The best person to answer that would be your dermatologist. But if you’re like most guys, you probably don’t have a dermatologist, so the second best person would be your barber. If your barber gives shaves, ask for one and don’t be afraid to ask questions. If your barber doesn’t offer shaves, it might be time to look for another barber, but that’s a whole different ball of wax.

  18. is the shavers you have good for black men. i get razor bumps very bad and i use a electric razor trimmer now. i heard that maybe straight edge is the way to go. my hair is curly and i gert ingrowns so is your product good for a black man like me. thanks

    1. Black Lapel says:

      You have been pointed in the right direction, Price, a single good blade will reduce irritation and reduce razor bumps. That’s why brands like Bevel make safety razors with the black men’s market in mind.

      Using a single blade and following the wet shaving technique above you’ll be surprised and how well your shave will come out.

      Oh, and to be clear, none of the products you see above are ours. The only thing Black Lapel cuts is fabric to make our stylish custom suits, blazers, shirts and accessories.

  19. thank for a great post. This open my eye, 10 years ago, I started to shave, I just used the Double-Edge Safety Razor to shave, I never used any shaving cream and aftershave balm. Then after a year or 2, I changed to electronics shaving device with a mix cartridge razor sometimes. But the problem is, I mostly never have a clean/close shave which make me old for my age.

    Now, I am trying to change back to my old double-edge safety razor shaving to have a clean and fresh shaving, and this post give me a properly shaving way. Thank you so much for the effort of this.

    Could you please suggest me a natural ingredient shaving cream? Or a light/unscented shaving scream? The one you have there, Taylor of Old Bond Street Sandalwood Shaving Cream Bowl, I think it was too scented after reading some review on amazon. I’m in the 20s, those scented possibly too much for me.

    For the step 4 (after shave), do you mean, if I have nicks while shave, then I should use Alum Block, and then I use another aftershave balm after that? so, 2 product after shave. And In the case, I don’t have nicks or cut, then I just skip use Alum Block, and just use aftershave balm, so just 1 product for aftershave. Do I understand this correctly?

    so for example, if I have nicks while shaving, then I could use Bloc Osma Natural Alum Block, then use Nivea for Men Sensitive Post Shave Balm after that right?

    Also
    Does the following use natural ingredient?
    -Nivea for Men Sensitive Post Shave Balm
    -Proraso Liquid Cream After-Shave
    -Bloc Osma Natural Alum Block

    I’m sorry for the cautious, but I like the natural ingredient, and I don’t like much of perfume, a very light perfume is ok for me.

    Thanks a lot. I really love your post.

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Glad we could inspire you, John. You’re on the road to a great shave.

      Now for some recommendations. We’ll start by suggesting that you give our Upgrade to Your Best Shave story a read. In that story you’ll see that we recommended Ursa Major’s Stellar Shave Cream. That’s a good option for a guy looking for natural ingredients.

      You’ll also note that we recommended Nivea for Men Sensitive Post Shave Balm. We’ll be the first to tell you that we’re not in the business of testing products to see if claims of natural ingredients are legit, so we can’t answer your questions about ingredients, but we can tell you that we’ve used that Nivea stuff and it works for us without irritating our skin.

      As for the alum block, you got it right. If you don’t have any nicks or cuts, you can skip the alum block. It’s mainly just a way to kill off any germs. If you do nick yourself, a quick pass with the alum block has been known to help nicks close up and heal quickly and cleanly. Than a bit of post-shave balm is the way to go.

      Happy shaving!

  20. One other thing to consider is the new breed of Synthetic brushes… I have the Edwin Jaegger Synthetic Silvertip brush, and it outperforms my old best badger brush by a country mile (not to mention I had some neck irritation with the old brush, probably reacting to the badger hair, since I am allergic to most animal hairs…).

    Also for whomever it was that was suggesting pushing harder with a Merkur Futur, only ever do that if you want the real zombie look for halloween… The Futur has great weight to it, firstly if you need a closer shave, re-lather and go for another pass, secondly, if you feel like you’re not grabbing enough hair, check your grip… You should be holding it near the end of the handle (which gives more leverage and naturally weights the head of the razor… whenever I feel it’s not grabbing enough stubble, without fail, it’s that my grip has migrated up an inch…), I typically grip it like a dart when going north/south (or east/west) and like a soup spoon when going south/north…

    As for flat head brushes, they are designed for lathering certain soaps, since they give you greater surface area, so they typically can generate lather faster and more abundantly… (although for some creams, they don’t load quite as well, so if you do a lot of passes, you may need to go back to the tub/bowl for a 3rd pass).

    In the cream department, make sure to check out Geo F. Trumper’s line (over a century old, British apothecary, multiple royal warrants), the Coconut Oil cream is my personal favorite.

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Excellent recommendations, Adam. Keep your friends close and your shaves closer.

  21. I finally abandoned my electric razors and went back to the future. I now exclusively use manual classic razors for my wet shave. Yes, it does take a bit longer to prepare for the shave but the results and the feeling that one cares make the extra effort all worthwhile.

    1. Black Lapel says:

      We couldn’t agree more with your lifestyle change. A quality shave is worth every extra second, and leaves you feeling every extra bit manlier.

  22. Terry Kidd says:

    If there are any more lathe users out there I found those flat brush’s a lot cheaper. Virginia Shaving & Beauty Store’s got them.

    By the way, I really enjoy this room.

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Thanks for another good find!

      Guys, if you’re in the market, for a low-cost brush to get your beard ready to be sharply shorn, may want to consider the flat brushes Terry’s talking about.

  23. Terry Kidd says:

    Does shaving a beard that haven’t been shaven for a several days dull your razor fastor then if you shave everyday.

    1. Black Lapel says:

      If you’re talking about a day or two’s growth, your blade can’t tell the difference in the length of your hair.

      With a longer beard, you’ll get a better shave by trimming it down first with clippers and then lathering and shaving with a razor to go from short to a close shave.

  24. Terry Kidd says:

    Thanks, Black Lapel. Just got home yesterday from the Mt. of KY. Didn’t shave for a week. Down where I go it’s hard to do anything. They have bad water. This morning I shaved with that double edge razor and enjoyed every minute of it. Didn’t have to change razors once. Thanks for talking me into switching back to what I use back in the 70’s?. Felt so nice not fighting the hair in the safter razors. Not one nick. Make it you’r normal talk with these people about the saftey razor gets stopped up but with a double edge they are easy to clean out. You don’t waste blades till they get dull.

    1. Black Lapel says:

      So glad to hear you’ve taken your shave back in time. Sounds like you took your whole life back in time in the mountains! Good to have you back.

  25. I’m going to give the wet shave a try and give bevel a shot. Having sensitive skin myself I suffer from razor bumps and have stuck to clippers mostly the method you guys lay out I believe will only benefit me and bevel seem to offer the type of shave that I need to maintain a clean cut look at my job daily.

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Smart move, Kurt. Wet shaving (once you get the technique down) should help. If you’re still getting razor bumps after the change, see your dermatologist, but even if that’s the case, shaving with a quality safety razor should lead to improvement.

  26. Terry Kidd says:

    Black Lapel, thought I’d give that flat headed brush a try because when you are lathering up with a pointed brush, you mainly feel the center point of the brush. But with it being flat it might be different. Now, I only saw this on the knot brush, not the whole thing with the handle. I was hunting for stuff to play with and ran across that one. It’s hard to find, If anybody wants to look at those brushes I was talking about, I found them on a place called, SHAVEMAC.

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Thanks for hunting out all this stuff, Terry. It’s like we’re all shaving vicariously through you!

  27. Just curious guys have you used the bevel set and if so how does it compare to the other safety razors you used currently.

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Bevel is still pretty new on the scene so we haven’t gotten a chance to try them out yet. Still, after hearing about them we were so happy to hear about this new player on the scene we had to include them here. We’ll update again when we’ve had a chance to try out the razors.

  28. Terry Kidd says:

    They say you learn something new everyday. I just saw a flat headed shaving brush. It looked so odd I had to order one. I’m 64 and this is the first for me.

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Hmmm…we’ve never seen that either, Terry. Could be effective (like sweeping your face). Let us know how you like it when it arrives.

  29. Terry Kidd says:

    People think you have to have a large brush to get a soapy face to shave with. Tell me if I’m wrong. When you get the brush wet and then soapy then start putting it on your face it makes more soap suds or soap. Like washing your hands, when you get your hands soapy you keeping washing hands and they keep getting soapeyer. Just keep brushing your face with the brush and you will get the soap. I ran across some walnut dowel rods and had to buy some small knot brushs. I don’t trust glue but don’t have any choice. JB weld, if it will seal a gas tank while gas is flowing out it will hold a brush knot.

    1. Black Lapel says:

      You’re absolutely right, Terry. The lather comes from the friction of the brush on your face.

      Did you hear that guys? You don’t need tons of shaving soap, just enough to get a thin layer of lather started.

  30. Terry Kidd says:

    Black lapel,
    I’d tease you but you don’t know me and I don’t know you. If you did know me I’d say joking around, I hate you. You talked me into it. For the first time in over 30-40 years I shaved with a double sided razor this morning, 4-11. When you said the hair is easer to get out, I thought I’d give it a try. Then I orded a Merkur. I’m going to stay with this, mainly when I don’t shave for a few days. Hope you didn’t mind me saying that to you. Then I orded a few from china for my lathe. Trying to make a handle that I like. Hope you don’t kick me off of here. It didn’t take getting use to cause this is what I started with, and you don’t forget.

    1. Black Lapel says:

      We can take a good teasing, Terry. And we are happy to hear that shaving with a double-edge razor is like riding a bike. Here’s to another 30 or 40 years of good shaves!

  31. Hi there.
    I am new to DE safety razor shaving. I recently purchaced a Merkur 39 C and a sample pack of blades.I am using an old synthetic brush and same Williams Shaving Soap. I have ordered a badger hair brush. On my first attempt,I butchered myself; nicks everywhere. The second time it went a little better but I have some significant razor burn on my neck. Aside from technique I expect will improve, does the skin have to adjust to a new methos of shaving?
    Great website BTW, very informative.

    1. Black Lapel says:

      It’ll probably seem like your skin adjusts (actually it’s just your shaving technique getting better causing less irritation). The key is not to press down, but let the razor handle’s weight do the work.

      You can also get some after shave that won’t irritate your skin, like the Sensitive Balm from Nivea.

      A smooth steady stroke with the razor and a good after shave will have you razor burn free in no time.

  32. I did three passes ( with, side & against ), proraso soap, futur, pre shave oil. I just could not get a clean shave, mayb it’s the angles or not pressing enough?

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Shaving with a safety razor like the Merkur Futur takes a little practice, George. The angle is important. Experiment (with caution) with different angles on a smooth flat area, like your cheek.

      Don’t press on your face. Let the weight of the razor do the work and shave down on the first pass. Then for the second pass, you can go against the grain and stretch your skin a bit for a closer shave. Then it’s just a matter of practice and sticking with it.

  33. Terry Kidd says:

    Black Lapel, is there a brush made to clean out your razor blade. I use the atra. I shouldn’t say this, but when you live alone you don’t shave as often as you should. And that shops the groves between the blades in the razor blades. Or do you know how to get the hair out of the blades.

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Getting hair out of those Atras can be difficult, Terry. We’ve only be able to do it with high pressure water at just the right angle. That’s another reason we like the safety razor, they’re super easy to keep clean, all you have to do is take them apart.

  34. Terry Kidd says:

    Dear Lapel, I have a question for you. I have two friends. One is a X tool and die maker and another friend that was a welder. They don’t know each other but they both said this. After you get done shaving, wipe off your razor, because when water hangs on the very edge of the sharpe blade it leaves a build up of what is in the water and dulls it. So, what they said is to shake your razor to and wipe it off before putting it in the holder if you have one. What do you think of this. If it makes a difference they use atra blades. Do you think this is possobile.
    Terry

    1. Black Lapel says:

      We’ll start by saying that we’re experts in looking sharp, not keeping razors sharp but your friends are telling the truth. Dampness and water can cause a razor to rust and make it dull. You can air dry your razor with a stand that let’s it hang upside down. Some say you should hand dry your razor, or even blow dry it, after every shave. We say that’s a little excessive, but who are we to talk? We once spent an hour discussing the pros and cons of metal collar stays. Everybody’s got their obsessions.

  35. Terry kidd says:

    Thanks Black Lapel

  36. Terry Kidd says:

    Another hint,if you order a brush holder from aceshaving, they have some that the platting didn’t take to good and they are offered at a third the cost. Stay away from them. I got one of them and it leaves rusty spots on my bathroom sink top, but the good one that I paid full price don’t.

  37. In the process of hunting for brushes with a 3/8 stud I found these links. Thought you might like them: westcoastshaving.com, classicshaving.com and
    don’t forget the Ace Shaving.

    1. Black Lapel says:

      More great finds, Terry!

  38. Here’s another tip. One of the badger brushes I bought had a paper in it saying to soak it in borax. Make a water and borax mix and soak your brush in it, it said not often, once a month, to kill the mold and mildew. Then it says this will help prevent mildew attacking the hairs and give long life to the brush.

    Care of your shaving brush
    1. The brush is sterilized. It should not be boiled.
    2. Lather lightly without pressure.
    3. After use. Rinse. Thoroughly and remove all excesses moisture.
    4. Leave in open air to dry out. Never enclose a damp brush.
    5. Rinse out the brush in a mild borax solution periodically. This will help prevent mildew attacking the hairs and give long life to the brush
    Sorry for the typing, but this is what that small paper said how to care for your brush.

    Also, someone else asked about the badger brush smelling. Yes they do. But it will leave. Sooner the more you use it.

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Great point, Terry. Keeping a brush clean can make it go a long way.

      For those who don’t want to make their own solution, there’s always shaving brush cleaner. Either way, keep those brushes clean, fellas.

  39. Thanks Black Lapel. I’ll check out those links and see what they have. I’m retired and going nuts without nothing to do. I just hate having to put my name and email in this everytime I use this. But I know there is some young kid that would spoil a good thing. And Thanks again.
    Terry

  40. I was wrong. Type in your search engine aceshaving. I get it on AOL.

  41. If you would like holder for a brush try Ace Shaving. I’s in China. Takes a while to get it. I’ve gotton a few of them. like them. Some hold the brush and razor both. Different kinds .
    Am I allowed to get in here and jabber to. Terry Kidd

    1. Good eye, Terry.

      As for your question, yes, we love it when our readers share knowledge!

  42. I’m back again. This is a shorty. Do anyone of you know where you can buy bager shaving knots with 3/8 threaded stud sticking out of them. I play around with a wood lathe and don’t trust glue. I found some with the stud but he wonts 20 dollars for them . Do you know of any cheaper ones out there. Send me the link to them. Thanks so much.
    Terry
    I know this will not get threw because it will be taking business away from them.

    1. The pickings are pretty slim out there, Terry. We weren’t able to come up with anything for you, but it probably makes sense to keep your eye on the forums at sites like Straight Razor Palace where you’ll find others who are looking for knots and willing to share where the best deals can be found.

  43. I’m back. I have a question. Have you all ever heard of shaving with out taking a hot wash rag and making your beard soaft to shave. I do that. I watched my dad do that and you know how that goes, like father like son. I was 13 and would sneak around and shave. That’s how I got started with a mug and brush. But I have a friend that says you don’t have to moisten your beard to shave. And he’s 73. I’d hate to try that. You would hear me scream where ever you guys are at. He’s to bull headed to even try it.

    1. Prepping your face is an important first step. Aside from feeling good, prepping your face with some hot water, or a wet cloth, softens your beard and helps stand it up so you can mow it down. The result: a closer shave.

      All that said, we can’t exactly argue with someone who’s 73 and has been shaving dry his whole life. If it’s worked for him to date, we’d say “it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

  44. I’m 64 and been shaving with a mug and brush scense I was 13. I have one thing to add to this list. You noticed all your brushes are flat on bottom so you store them on it. That’s wrong. The water and soap stay at the root of the brush knot and fourms mold and mildew and then it starts eating at the root of the brush. That’ s why they make them like that so they go bad faster and you have to buy more. Look at the brush holder, it stores them with the brush down so the water can run off of it. Hope you didn’t mind this letter. Thanks guys.

    1. This is a great point, Terry! Brush stands are a simple way to preserve your brushes and keep your bathroom clean too. They can be sturdy and stylish (and pricey), like this one from Pils, or, if you’re not ready to drop three figures on a brush stand, you can get a plastic one for under ten bucks from Art of Shaving that works just fine. Either way, it’s a smart way to preserve your brush investment.

  45. Hi gentlemen,

    I’m quite surprised to hear how many men think that the wet shaving can be expensive. I used to use the Gillette Mach (10 or whatever they’re up to now) and pay 40 dollars up here in Canada for 5 cartridges. I bought a beautiful Muhle razor for 60 dollars (the key is that it has to have a nice weight to it) and the cartridges (DE blades) I bought from ebay for 30$ for 200. Now remember that, that’s not necessarily 200 uses. It has two sides and one blade lasts me at least 4 shaves very comfortably.
    I use Taylor of Bonds and Proraso shaving cream. Works beautifully.

    The person who recommended the ice cube idea…thank you.

    So all in all, DE (weshaving) is most certainly not expensive at all and the investment will pay off very quickly.

    Thanks Black Lapel for the article. Wet shaving is definitely back.

    1. All great points, CB! Aside from the cost savings, you also get a great shave. Yours, for instance, sounds like one seriously luxe shave!

  46. great piece, i’m so glad i found you and you’r bounty of advice, i myself am new to wet shaving and need all the advice i can get after my first wet shave it looked like i had tangled with a wild cat, mainly due to the fact that i used my new parker like a gillette,i have changed my heavy handed way’s and now my sink no longer look’s like a crime scene, and i can’t believe how close of a shave i am getting compared to the so-so close shave i was getting with my old expensive multi- blade cartridges, and as for expensive i purchased a high quality parker90 and twenty blades of various brand’s for under forty buck’s including shipping at west coast shaving, my next purchase will be a badger brush and mug. thank’s for the sound advice i will check back for more

    1. “My sink no longer looks like a crime scene.” Stellar comment, Marcus.

      Welcome to the wet shaving club! That badger brush and mug will be another giant leap forward for you. You’ll wonder how you shaved so long without them.

      Stay sharp.

  47. To close up small cuts after shaving you can also use just regular chap stick.

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Nice tip, Samad. Over time, as you get used to wet shaving, you won’t get those nicks anyway.

      Our advice to guys is to keep wet shaving everyday and you’ll improve your technique quickly.

      Stay sharp!

  48. This constantly amazes me just how blog owners such as your self can find the time as well as the dedication to keep on crafting superb blog posts. Your website is good and one of my personal must read weblogs. I just had to thank you.

    1. Thank you, Mark. Just trying to make men look and feel like a boss.

  49. John McClung says:

    Still very, very new to wet shaving. A little frustrating, but will keep trying. Took note to many of the other replies for their own tips. I guess it takes time not only to master the technique but getting the facial skin adjusted to this type of shave. Thanks

    1. Black Lapel says:

      It does take a little getting used to at first, John. While you get the hang of it, be sure to use a smooth, slow motion when you slide the blade over your face. Don’t push down on your skin, just let the weight of the razor do the work. Finally, err on the side of a not-so-close shave. You can always re-lather and give your face another pass to get any stray stubble, but once you cut into your face, the damage is done.

      Hang in there, John.

  50. Allen Trevethan says:

    Just started wet-shaving, and loving it. It’s the small things in life, eh gents? Oh, and I was also amused to compare the comments on this “internet” site, with comments found on say, “YouTube”… Gentlemen, indeed. :) Good company here.

    1. Glad to hear you’ve found the joys of wet shaving, Allen!

      Recently, Old Spice has been putting the line “If your grandfather hadn’t used it, you wouldn’t be here.” We feel the same way about wet shaving.

  51. William Marshall says:

    Just wanted to say you don’t have to spend the big bucks to get a great shave. I’m new to the wet shave outher than when I first started shaving. I found an old DE razor left behind and gave it a try one time with a lot of nick’s and gave up.
    Well my soninlaw gave me a cheep straight razor as a gift had to hone the blade to get it shave ready but it was worth it. I use creeam out of the can for now till I get a set put together. I alos ordered a cheep DE that will be here soon. It,s web sites like this one that have helped me make the switch and fill more comfertable with the wet shave.

    1. As we pointed out, wet shaving is inherently cheaper than restocking “cheap” cartridges in the long run. The same can be said for shaving soap, a bar of which can last you over a year. Over time there, wet shaving is the clear winner in the cost category.

  52. Quick question,
    How does one properly apply shave soap? I’ve created a lather in my hands and applied. Should I be using my boar bristle brush?

    Thanks!

    1. As we said above, there are some good reasons to use the brush to work up a lather and apply shave soap. For the best results follow these steps:

      1. Submerge the bristles in hot water before you jump in the shower.
      2. After your shower, swirl the brush in the soap for about a minute. A good lather will have coated the bristles.
      3. Twirl the brush on your face and apply a little pressure and you’ll create a thin layer of cream all over your beard. Then it’s time to shave.
      For a second pass you probably won’t need any more soap, just repeat steps 2 and 3.

      Hope this helps. Happy shaving!

  53. I used to loathe the prospect of having to pick up the gillette, dispense some fluorescent, chemically scented ‘foam’ (and I use the term lightly) and begin my thrice weekly shaving routine. Then I read this guide, the reviews from fellow gents and decided it was time I started shaving properly. I purchased a middle of the road Merkur DE razor, a decent badger hair brush & some proper Taylors of Bond Street shaving soap. What a revelation!! I used to spent 5 minutes shaving with my old routine, now, i take a good 30 minutes and do things properly. A nice hot shower, an exfoliating face scrub, a hot towel, shave and then cleanse & tone. If anything, it’s 30 minutes I get to myself, no distractions, just a bit of me time.
    Thanks very much for changing my outlook! Finally, I enjoy having a shave!

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Welcome to the club, Steve. That 30 minutes of man-meditation is priceless!

      Next up, go get a hot lather straight razor shave!

  54. The more I read the more I realize I could be doing so much more to take better care of myself. As a married man with a 17 month old I’ve learned that it’s the little pampering you are allowed in your day that makes each day easier. I thank you for this. My wallet? Not so much, but he’ll come around.

    1. Black Lapel says:

      It certainly is tough to make time for yourself when you’ve got a baby. Mothers are often advised to make sure they’re taking care of themselves, not just the baby. The same applies to new dads.

      A little ritual like wet shaving can be a great time to do a little man-meditation and reconnect with the guy you were before you became the Chief Diaper Officer…then after a good shave, seriously, go change a diaper.

  55. Gerry Longshanks says:

    For true cost cutting / time efficiency & a bit of fun:

    (1) Safety DE Razor-from ebay.
    (2) DE razor blades – many places online.
    (3) Canned shaving cream – preferably Gillette ‘Foamy’ or Barbasol.

    If you go that route, you’ll save money for sure.

    If you go the route of making your own lather, then you’re potentially getting into pricey territory with brushes, creams, hard soaps. It can be addictive trying out new shaving products. Mind you, most of these creams/shaving soaps feel and smell great.
    I consider this form of shaving more a luxury than of cost saving, which is fine and we’re all due for a little pampering now and then.

    ***Keep in mind, you can stretch the life of a cartridge blade to the order of a few months with a little care, including rubbing alcohol and stroping the blade. It’s not a big deal.
    I really dislike the argument that many people are throwing out their cartridge razors after a week or so. It’s simply not true. You can get a satisfying shave for a very long time with a cartridge razor. Just not as close a shave.

    1. This is a nice, wallet-friendly, routine, Gerry. The hard soaps will outlast multiple cans of shaving cream so they aren’t much more expensive in the long run and, as you said, most of them feel and smell great.

      You’re right about the cartridge blades too. Many guys do keep them for a long time (often without the added care you referred to so the result is a lot of crappy shaves). That’s too bad because, as you said, it’s not a big deal.

  56. Great article! I recently shocked myself with the purchase of a Muhle double-edge safety razor with stand. This, a pack of Merkur Super Platinum razors and a basic starter kit of cream, brush etc. set me back about $180 USD. I got home looked in the mirror and thought; I must be a crazy person to spend that kind of money on a razor! After researching my insanity online and reading the tips above I immediately tested it out on my five day beard. Normally I use a Mach 3 disposable. With a five day beard the Mach 3 would pull and get clogged making this a long and uncomfortable process requiring many passes. To start, I set the rounded top of the Muhle double-edge razor against my sideburn. I slowly rolled it down until it seemed to be at the proper angle (as advised my the sales rep at The Art of Shaving). I let the weight of the razor slowly slide down my cheek and it slide through my five day beard effortlessly! The final product was an amazingly close shave with hardly any irritation. Far less irritation than I would normally have with the Mach 3. I smiled at myself and re-declared my sanity.

    1. Black Lapel says:

      You are not crazy, Mike. You’re crazy like a fox, a fox with a particularly well shaven face! Actually, that would be kind of creepy looking. Suffice it to say, we agree with your decision to dispose of the disposable for good.

  57. I am fairly new to double edge shaving so I have a few questions, if you could help a rookie out please?

    What is the significance of the numbers and letters for the actual razor itself (34C, 40C, etc)?
    The razors are VERY expensive. If I want a quality shave, is it a must have over the ones in the average drugstore that are very inexpensive?

    Are the Merkur blades the best ones to use and if so why?

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Paul, no sweat! we were all rookies once (and we’re still learning)! The numbers and letters represent the model of the Merkur razor. The main differences in the models will be the length of the handle, as well as the overall weight of the razor. As for the cost, we do agree that it is a bit steep for a handle compared to a disposable razor, but if you factor in the blades and quality of shave, it turns out to be a much better value in the long term. The Merkur razor, for example, is the razor that men the world over have learned to shave with for nearly one hundred years. It’s recognized for its quality of construction and durability–with proper care, a Merkur has been known to last an entire lifetime). Also, take a look at our “Ask a Black Lapel Stylist” article on the cost breakdown of using a disposable vs. a DE safety razor. It should give you a better picture as to the cost savings over the long term. Stay sharp!

  58. I shave in the shower. I have ultra-sensitive skin so I had to purchase expensive sensitive skin products. Even applying those occasionally made my skin itch and burn all day. Then I started a regimen of ice cold water after hot water in the shower that opened and then closed the pores. That seemed to do the job but I hated showering in a frigid stream; reminded me too much of my Army days :)

    Then I read an article that suggested running an ice cube over the face after showering. It worked great! I ditched the pricey skin care products. I can use any moisturizer on my face now and my skin doesn’t get irritated. Best part: no more ice baths.

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Hooah! We loved this story Chris. Glad you found something that works for you. We’re going to give this a try (the ice cube not the ice bath). :)

  59. Anshumali Srivastava says:

    I’m first time visiting this site… But I love this..

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Glad you love it Anshumali. Browse around and enjoy our guides and tutorials on all things style!

  60. This great shaving advice. However for Africn-American skin I would not and do not shave against the grain because of in-grown hairs that cause bumps. I do have a small area that appears scarred for pulling ingrown hairs. Any alive on that would be appreciated. Also found The Art of Shaving store to be helpful with supplies.

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Glad you enjoyed the post! And you bring up a great point about ingrown hairs. The first line of defense for ingrown hairs is a good lather, a proper shaving technique, a ONE blade razor (i.e., double-edge safety razor), and thoroughly rinsing the lather to prevent clogging. The moment you start seeing an ingrown hair, using a plain toothbrush to gently brush over the ingrown hair can help. The last resort is using a tweezer to gently bring the hair into the open air (don’t pluck it out or it may cause an infection and make it worse).

  61. Would you be able to say what brand razor and brush stand and shaving bowl is displayed in the photos? Thanks!

    1. Hey Aman, the razor is a Merkur Futur Adjustable Razor and the shave stand is also from Merkur. As for the shaving bowl, here’s a lather bowl that’s very similar. Hope that helps!

  62. Awesome article. Always love reading your stuff!

    1. Glad you enjoy reading The Compass David! Share the love and tell your friends about it! 😉

  63. This guy’s youtube channel has the best video guides to learning how to wet shave. He taught me and countless others the joys of wet shaving.

    http://www.youtube.com/user/mantic59

    1. Agreed! He’s a great teacher! Highly recommended.

  64. Don’t go against the grain til you’re comfortable shaving with one. Just keep your disposable handy at the beginning. And do across the grain once you feel comfortable. Against the grain, wait til you’re comfortable with across the grain.

    When you’re shaving with the grain, never press… the razors are heavy for a reason — just let them rest against your skin and let the weight do the work of pressing for you. And when you start going across and against, use as little pressure as possible… it’s not the pressure that’s going to cut the hair, it’s the very sharp blade. You can’t treat a DE razor like a modern cartridge that has springs inside it and a blade that flexes with the curves and imperfections of your face. It will just cut them if you press too hard.

    And you don’t need to drop a bunch of money on a safety razor. There are tons of old ones available on ebay and you can probably pick one up at a local junk shop or vintage store for a couple bucks.

    Brushes — you can get cheap reasonably good quality ones on amazon. It’s not really that badger is best, and boar is next — Badger is best for softer soaps (love the sandalwood taylor of old bond street), boar is best for harder soaps (like the organic handmade bars the lady at my local farmer’s market sells). There’s also horsehair, which is somewhere between the two in stiffness and water retension, but they’re not as widely available (mostly vintage US ones from the world wars, when it was hard to get badger and boar since they’re mostly imported). The only synthetic brush I tried wasn’t very good at soft or hard soaps, but there may be some good ones out there… but if you’re really worried about cruelty from brushes, get a horsehair one, since those were just from haircuts, not an animal getting shaved bare or killed.

    1. Thanks for this epic write-up Joshua! You’re absolutely correct regarding avoiding going against the grain until your comfortable. As for horsehair, those are a bit tougher to come across like you mentioned, but we’ll have to look into it now that you’ve mentioned it! It’s rare for us to come across people as passionate and knowledgable about shaving as you are. Thanks again for the input!

  65. A lot of guys probably won’t be able to go from ‘with the grain’ to ‘against the grain’ without a bit of irritation. If you have an extra minute or two, it’s usually more comfortable to throw a third step in, and go ‘across the grain’ before going against. Imagine rotating the razor ninety degrees instead of one-eighty, and then shaving from your ear toward your mouth, instead of up or down. This will make the third pass (against the grain) much smoother and leave no irritation on the face.

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Great advice Chris!

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