There has been much debate over how to shave properly and what the right method for shaving is. There is even debate around whether or not to shave. There are Mach 3’s, safety razors, electric razors, disposable razors, straight razors, razor overkill. In this messed up world where you buy mach 3s out of a locked case at Walgreen’s, I hope to shed some light on the strange world of shaving.
You have 3 options
- Shave wet (with a razor of some kind)
- Shave dry (with an electric razor)
- Grow a beard
When deciding which method to use, you need to know one thing…we are all unique snowflakes. Well, we aren’t really, that is bull$hit, but we do all have different facial structures, skin, and hair. So what is the best shaving method for someone else, may not be the best shaving method for you. Because I have an issue with razor bumps and ingrown hairs (seems to happen when you have thick + curly hair), I have had the experience of trying just about every type of shave known to man to try to find what works for me.
This is what most people think of when they think about “shaving”. This actually lifts the skin and shaves the hair, so this is a closer shave than using electric. It has some combination of cream/foam/gel/paste, water, and razor.I subdivide this group into 2 more groups, quick shavers and experience shavers.
The quick shavers are all about speed. These men usually use a Mach3 or a disposable razor, they rinse their face quick, they spray on some new fangled shaving gel, and then it’s a race for the razor to cover the face.
The experience shaver displays a little more care in his approach. He likely has some higher-end soap, paste, or cream. He may have a badger hair brush to lather, and he likely has a safety razor (like a Merkur) or a well made regular razor (perhaps a razor from Harry’s or even just a fancy handle with a Mach III blade). This shaver takes a little extra time, or perhaps even spends too much time on their shave.
I understand the plight of both of these men. Time in the day is limited so you need to get out of the house, but you also don’t want to end up with razor burn, cuts, ingrown hairs, and irritated skin.
How to Shave – Wet Shave
Here is the general process you should follow when doing a wet shave.
Materials: High quality razor (with a sharp blade), Badger Hair Brush, Quality shaving cream or shaving soap, mug
Cost: $50 safety razor, $5-10 high quality cream/soap, $0.25 – $5 per blade (safety razor blades are very cheap, Mach 3 are expensive), $40 badger hair brush.
- Do not shave as soon as you get up. Give your face 15 minutes or so to wake up. Sounds silly, but the face is often a little swollen in the morning. This makes it a bit tougher to shave. The best time to shave is actually after having just finished showering (don’t try your face!)
- If you haven’t showered, rinse your face with warm (hot) water. Place a small amount of the shaving cream in your mug. Take your brush and saturate it completely with hot water. Do not shake off this water, just let it drip off. Once the brush is only slowly dripping water, swirl it in the mug gently to pick up the cream and build a lather.
- Take the brush and lather your face for about 2 minutes covering all the areas you need to shave.
- Rinse your razor, then begin shaving with the grain. Use light and short strokes, rinsing the blade frequently. If you have some hair that you can’t get going with the grain, try going sideways or very, very lightly against the grain as a last resort. Try to use the brush to relube any areas before shaving it a second time.
- Create your own method when you shave and do it every time. Whether it be neck first, then sides, chin, upper lip…whatever it is, have a method and stick to it. This is the best way to avoid missing spots.
- Rinse your face with cool water.
- Avoid alcohol based aftershave, but a lotion/moisturizer that does not clog your skin can be helpful.
This process should take 6-10 minutes, well worth a short part of your day.
Common Wet Shave Problems & Tips
Some people have issues with razor burn, ingrown hairs, or razor bumps. Here are a few ways to avoid this:
Be sure your razor is SHARP – This allows you to not put pressure on your face while you shave.
Shave WITH the grain – If you shave against the grain the hair is cut below the surface and often results in ingrown hairs or razor bumps.
Use a single blade or safety razor – The technology of double and triple blades actually lift the skin and shave under it, just like when shaving against the grain…this often results in ingrown hairs or razor bumps.
In this post I discuss shaving dry, but really I am referring to using an electric razor. Some of the new technology electric razors actually will work with a foam or gel, but historically these razors are meant for shaving dry skin. Electric shavers have small moving blades inside covered by metal heads or foils. These shavers basically shear the hair vs. removing the hair and the top level of skin when using a blade. there are two types of electric razors, rotary shavers and foil shavers. The rotary are the ones you see with 3 circular heads in a triangle formation and the foil shavers are a straight bar across. The rotary work how you might think, there is a blade inside that spins and cuts the hair. The foil shaver oscillates back and forth.
How to Shave – Dry Shave (Electric)
Materials: Electric Razor – Usually made by Philips/Norelco, Braun, Panasonic, or Remington
Cost: $40 – $200 for an electric razor. Usually they have a 1-2 year warranty, but will likely last 3-10 years.
Opposite of using a blade, you actually want your face dry when shaving electric. If you are using a foil shaver, it is generally best to go with the grain as you do when shaving with a blade. If you use a rotary shaver, it is suggested to use small circular motions. For both types of shaves you want to be sure you don’t press too hard. Light motions work best, if that isn’t working sufficiently that likely means the blades are too dull. When finished be sure to rinse your face with warm water, then again with cool water.
As with wet shaving, avoid alcohol based aftershave, but a lotion/moisturizer that does not clog your skin can be helpful.
One important note – Generally it takes the skin 1-3 weeks to adjust to an electric razor. You may have some irritation in this period, but it will go away. If you decide to make the switch be patient and persistent to get through the irritation period.
Common Shaving Problems & Tips
Be sure to complete the recommended maintenance on your electric razor. The quality of the shave is going to be proportional to the quality of the razor and the sharpness of the blades.
Empty the razor of the extra hair that collects in rotary razors, but be sure to not bang them off any surfaces as that can damage the heads/blades.
Do not press too hard on your skin and do not spend too much time shaving one area. These can cause irritation and other skin issues.
Follow the instructions of your individual model, some allow for cream/gel, some have different features. These are just some general guidelines.
How I Shave
I actually use two different methods.
For days where I have important things going on: meetings, an interview, a wedding, an event, or something along those lines I use a wet shave.
I have have a Markur Futur Double Edge Safety Razor that I use with Feather blades. I use a Badger Hair Brush and Proraso shaving cream from the tube for my lather. I am sure to always have a sharp blade, and I can NEVER go against the grain. I love the fresh feeling after a shave with this method. It is close and leaves you very refreshed (I think largely due to the Eucalyptus & Menthol in the Proraso).
Other days when I need to get going quickly I either don’t shave or I use a Norelco electric rotary razor. For whatever reason, I don’t have that 1-3 week “get used to it” period and I can alternate methods with no ill-effects.
Like I said at the beginning, there is no BEST way. Both sides have some very loyal supporters. I think it is fair to say that using a blade is a closer shave most of the time, and largely electric razors are less messy and slightly quicker.
The Best Shaving Equipment
A Philips electric rotary razor similar to the one I use (approx. $65)
Braun’s highest rated electric razor (foil) approx. $200
Panasonic’s highest rated electric razor (foil) approx.. $70
Markur Futur Double Edge Safety Razor approx. $80…will last a lifetime
Feather blades approx. $10 for 30 blades…MUCH cheaper than Mach3
Badger Hair Brush approx. $35
Proraso shaving cream approx. $10, but lasts a long time
Other Shaving Links:
I would also check out these great links:
Dollar Shave Club – Pay a MUCH lower cost for blades..just $1-$9 per month for 4-5 blades per month…Great deal compared to national brands