How to Shave with a Double Edge Safety Razor
Shaving is something most men learn from watching their father (or some other male figure) or from simply trying it on their own. There are no formal “how to” shaving classes offered during Freshmen year in high school, for example, so how’s a man supposed to learn the fine art of removing hair (or shaving with a double edge safety razor) from a surface that has all sort of grooves and oblong areas and bleeds very easily?
There is a process of getting a close, cut free, shave and it begins with the preparation:
- Wash your face with a gentle face wash. I like Nivea’s Sensitive face wash given price and availability. Your face needs to be clean in order to achieve the right result.
- Take a shower! Yes, I know your body doesn’t need to be clean in order get a good shave, but in order to achieve an optimal shave your face needs to be both hydrated and hot. A hot layer of water on your face allows the razor to skim across the skin as opposed to dragging on it, which is the cause of irritation. The hot water also softens the whiskers on your face, as well as relaxes facial muscles. If you don’t have the time to shower before your shave, then wet your face with hot water for 2-3 minutes prior to shaving
- Keep your face hydrated. This is the number one tip that will yield a great shave, regardless of equipment. Splashing plenty of hot water on your face during the shaving process will greatly improve the end result.
Your face is now ready to meet your shaving equipment (which should include a single blade, safety, razor, a badger brush, and a glycerin based shaving cream). Note: I’m not advocating you quickly dump your plastic, Mach3, razor and aerosol shaving cream, but if you put the time into learning how to shave properly, you’ll want to buy the best equipment on the market (which doesn’t include any of the overpriced and poorly contstructed Gillette or Mennen products). In turn, here are some recommendations on equipment:
- A single blade safety razor - I use a Edwin Jagger De89lbl Double Edge Safety Razor as it presents the best value in a single blade safety razor. I wish I could recommend Merkur from Germany, but after 2 months of using one of their razors the shaving head came loose from the handle and Merkur wouldn’t replace the unit.
- A high quality badger (and NOT Boar) shaving brush – I like the price of the Crabtree and Evelyn travel badger brush or have a look at the many badger brushes available at Amazon.
- Glycerin based shaving paste – I like the Art of Shaving lavender paste or Bond Street shaving paste.
- Double edged blades – I like the Feather high stainless platinum double edged blades, but you can purchase a sample pack and experiment.
After you’ve prepped your face and assembled your equipment, it’s time to whip up a batch of shaving cream. I like to take a dab of shaving cream paste and apply it to my badger brush and work up a good lather (you can purchase a shaving bowl and work up the lather in the bowl as well). Next, apply the lather with your brush making sure to work the lather in circular motions. Now it’s time to shave! You’re going to want to make three passes and all require that you re-lather your face (no one said wet shaving doesn’t require time and patience). Your first pass should go with the grain and basically comprise of north-south motions (this can be done quickly and don’t worry about removing too much stubble). Note you’ll want to let the weight of the razor do the work, do not push the razor! Your second pass is a diagonal motion (again going with the grain); remember your goal is to slowly eliminate stubble and not to reduce your beard all in one motion (like you’re accustomed to with a plastic razor). Your third pass encompasses an upward motion against the grain. At this point you’ll probably have some areas that you’ve missed so you’ll want to apply a bit more lather and finish off your shave with a final downward pass. Blade angle is important during all three passes so make sure to experiment with what feels right from a razor positioning perspective. After you’ve completed the 3-4 passes you can rinse off your face and apply either an after shave balm (Nomad balm from Crabtree and Evelyn is nice) or wet shave conditioner (Hydrolast after shave conditioner is great). Regardless of what you purchase, make sure the product does not contain alcohol (this will dry your skin).
You’re probably asking yourself at this point why on earth would I spend that much time shaving? Well, a wet shave will provide a superior end result and, in my view, the prep and shaving process is a very soothing and Zen-like experience.
Also, a couple of things to note before you rush into wet shaving:
- It will take time for you to become an expert and you’ll probably be disappointed with the end result during the first 2-3 weeks of wet shaving. Cartridge razors found at drugstores are designed to remove as much hair as possible with one pass, this is not the case with a wet shave.
- Wet shaving requires an upfront investment in terms of equipment and time. The superior equipment you purchase should last a long period of time and the extra time you put into your shave will yield superior results. Over the long run, it’s much cheaper to invest in quality wet shave gear versus buying expensive and poorly engineered plastic blades.
Here are some great shaving resources on the web: