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Wet shaving has a lot of history behind it. Take for example Alexander the Great. He was forcing his soldiers to shave every time before any battle. No, it’s not that he preferred men this way. He knew that the enemy can pull their beards in a battle at his advantage. Needless to say, this would consist a deadly mistake.
Well, I don’t think that the soldiers were using a safety razor and shaving cream in front of a mirror. From my understanding, they probably used a sharp knife or equal. Anyway, we’re missing the point here.
Today we’re going back to basics. talking about wet shaving. Certainly, the definition is not something complicated for someone to understand.
There are yet, a few more things that a wet shaving beginner needs to know before starting his adventure. This is a manly journey, where you have to go alone and you need to stand brave. There will be times that you’ll want to go back. But at the same time, you’ll understand that there’s no turning back.
We’re getting off track once again, aren’t we?
What is wet shaving really? And what does someone need to wet shave? How do you wet shave?
Sooner or later, these are the types of questions all men will answer by themselves. If not, their fathers or grandfathers will help.
So, what are you going to learn here today?
- What is wet shaving.
- How to wet shave properly.
- Wet shaving tools to get you started.
- Differences between traditional wet shaving and modern wet shaving.
- What is the difference between wet shaving and dry shaving.
- Costs of wet shaving.
Lesson 1: What is wet shaving?
If my grandfather was alive and could actually read this, I wouldn’t be able to look at him in the eyes anymore.
Wet shaving for my grandfather wasn’t even a question. It was his routine. Waking up every morning, getting his safety razor in his hands, his very best shaving soap, his shaving brush and water -no matter the temperature. That’s all he needed. Wet shaving wasn’t even a definition for him. There was only shaving. And there was only one way to shave. The Manly way…
What I remember from him was the shaving speed. From the moment he installed the blade until he finished shaving, took maximum 5 minutes. It was like watching John Rambo dismantling his machine gun.
Let’s get back on track again, shall we?
Wet shaving, as you can guess from the name, is shaving your face with (warm) water.
Now that you found out, you can close this tab on your browser.
I guess the definition wet shaving came into existence when “dry shaving” made its appearance. Until then, there wasn’t something that differentiated regular shaving from wet shaving.
Traditionally, the meaning of the term wet shaving used to also encompass the use of a shaving brush together with a glycerin-based shaving soap or cream. All these tools help in keeping your face wet and hence the term wet shaving (or wetshaving as one word) came to l.
What set up do you need to wet shave?
In order for someone to wet shave, 3 things required.
A wet face, a razor and lathering.
I would also include after shave lotion/balsam, as one of the necessary components of wet shaving. Though, not all men have it in their wet shaving set and routine.
Before you start anything, first thing you have to do is keep your face wet.
You’ll find out that shaving gets much easier when preparing your face with warm water.
A wet face doesn’t only help with the lathering but also makes shaving smoother. Your facial hair gets softer, the pores of your face open up and lather builds up easily. Unless you build up the lather in a shaving bowl.
Besides warm water, you might find it useful to get your face prepared for a wet shave with pre shave products. More specifically…
Pre shave Products
Pre shave products are again not necessary and there are many men out there that they’ve never used them. These products help with the lubrication of skin and facial hair. They also prepare your face for a smooth and pleasant shave and the razor will slide nicely.
Such kind of products are highly recommended for guys with have thick facial hair. This is also the case with men that experience razors burns and/or have sensitive skin.
There are different kind of great pre shave products such as lotions, oil, cream and soaps. All used to make wet shaving a lifechanging (!!!) experience.
Here you’ll have to choose between modern and old school razors. Modern razors are usually the ones that have replaceable heads, namely cartridge razors. Now, the old school razors are the ones that have replaceable blades -unless you shave with a “cut throat” straight razor.
We can divide the old school razors in two categories. The safety razors and straight razors.
You’ve seen them and you’ve used them. For most of us, cartridge razors were the first razors we’ve started shaving with. Tennis and football players holding a Gillette or Wilkinson, shaving with them with a smile on their faces. Or at least that’s what you see on advertisements.
Cartridge razors are the most common razors to shave with. Wet shaving with cartridge razors is fast and safe and it’s fast because it’s safe. Still here?
The reasons that are so popular are straightforward.
Easy to clean. All you have to do is rinse it with water. That’s it!
Safe of use. You just grab it and start shaving. No need to be very careful while you’re shaving. You can shave with it, in all directions, with or against the grain
The blades of a cartridge razor are built in such way that face cuts are a problem of the past. That said, accidents do happen when you’re in a hurry. But, if you are careful enough while you shave with a cartridge razor, there are low chances that you experience any cuts.
Disposable and replaceable. This is also part of how easy it is to use a cartridge razor. It’s called cartridge for a reason. Once you see that the razor head needs to be changed, all you have to do is change the head with a new one and you keep the rest of razor’s body.
Availability. You can find these razors literally everywhere. From the large chain supermarket until your local shop that sells chewing gums,,, and razors.
These are usually the razors that wet shaving enthusiasts -like me, are using. It’s called safety because the cover of the blade, located at the head of the razor, protects the skin from the blade.
The safety razor, uses a disposable blade to shave. This usually lasts for 2 to 4 shaves depending on the user. These razors offer the ultimate wet shaving experience and offer you the deepest shave you can get. Unless you use a straight razor or go to your barber.
Safety razors bring the shaving experience at a whole new level. You discover emotions you didn’t know existed. You begin to understand your purpose in life. What love is.
I’m losing my focus once again…
Most popular safety razors are the single and double edge. The single or double refers to the sides on which the actual blade is exposed. As you may understand, with the double edge safety razor, you can use both sides to shave with.
There are also the adjustable safety razors, that allow you to adjust the exposure of the blade.
Even though the shaving experience is great, you need to pay attention with these blades. It’s highly advisable to take your time when you shave with them and make only one shaving pass at a time. Otherwise, you might either irritate or cut yourself or both. Face cuts is something common, no matter if you are new or experienced wet shaver. As indicated, the blade is both sharp and exposed compared to the cartridge razors.
Pay extra attention when shaving with a safety razor and you’ll enjoy every single shaving moment.
Even if you haven’t used one yourself, you must have seen straight razors at a barber shop.
Just like the safety razor, the straight razor gives you a great wet shaving experience with the deepest shave of your life.
You can divide straight razors in two main categories. The shavettes and the cut throats.
Shavettes boast a disposable blade, while the cut throat razors have the blade as an integral part of their body.
There are many type of cut throat straight razors. Each one of them differ from each other depending on several factors. These can be blade material and width, grinding method and type of handle. Others are stability and balance and lastly, required maintenance.
You need to do your homework before deciding buying one of these beauties.
For lathering, you have a few options available. Again this depends on the wet shaving set up you’d like to have as well as the amount of time and money you’re happy to invest. You can choose anything from the most premium shaving cream until a regular soap.
Type of lather
The most common way to lather your face is to apply shaving foam or gel on your face. This is the fastest way to create lather and start shaving. This also comprises the modern way of lathering.
The traditional way, is to build up lather using shaving cream or shaving soap. This has to be combined with a shaving brush to produce the lather in a shaving bowl or on the face directly. Speaking of which…
There are essentially four types of shaving brushes. Synthetic, boar, horse and badger hair brush -Let me know if I’m missing any. The first one as the name suggests is synthetic and the other three are natural hair brushes.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that natural ones are better than others. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by some synthetic shaving brushes. Do your homework so you’ll be able identify good brands with quality shaving brushes.
Normally, a good shaving brush, needs to have the following characteristics:
- Creates great lather either on face or shaving bowl
- The hair brush is soft to the face
- Retains moisture and doesn’t dry fast. Otherwise, the lather will dry as well.
What is the best shaving brush? There’s always one way to find out. Get your hands dirty!
After shaves can be different types such as balms, lotions, creams with or without alcohol. If you have a sensitive skin, it would be a good idea to avoid alcohol based after shave products.
How to wet shave properly
In principal, everything helps to enjoy a great wet shave. From the preparation to the shaving kit and after shave care.
1. Prepare your skin for shaving
To begin with wet shaving, you need to prepare the skin on your face. There are 2 ways to prepare it.
The most common way is to take a shower with warm water before you shave. This way the pores of your skin open up, your facial hair softens and shaving becomes easier and more pleasant.
You don’t necessarily need to take a shower but make sure you splash plenty of warm water on your face before you start shaving. This way, you’ll avoid skin irritation, especially if you have a sensitive skin.
The other way to prepare your face for wet shaving is by soaking a towel in warm water and then put it on your face. You’ll achieve the exact same thing with taking a shower before you start shaving. That said, your pores on your face will open and lather will reach the roots of your facial hair. As a result, your skin and facial hair becomes softer and more lubricated.
That’s what the barbers do as well before they wet shave you. If they don’t know, then who does?
Both ways are equally effective. I highly suggest that you follow this shaving preparation if your skin is prone to irritation. If you’re not doing this already, you’ll see huge difference in you face sensitive skin once you start with this routine. Been there, done that…
2. Time for lathering
Either you’re using shaving soap or cream, lathering is similar.
If you use shaving soap, first pour some warm water on the soap. Once you do that, swirl the shaving brush on the soap for a few seconds until you see foam producing. Then you either build up the lather in a shaving bowl or directly on your face.
Same thing with shaving cream. You put some cream inside a shaving bowl with a few drops of water and start building up the lather. Want to build the lather directly on your face? No problem! Put a little bit of cream on your wet face and start swirling the shaving brush.
Simple, isn’t it?
3. Shaving time
Now comes the shaving part. If you use a cartridge razor, you will be tempted to shave the same area multiple times even when the lather goes away. For some people this is not necessarily a problem. But for some others, including myself, this can cause skin irritation due to sensitive skin.
For smoother face, you can shave your facial hair against the grain. Again, if you have sensitive skin, it’s better to avoid that. Just lather again and repeat shaving until you get the desired result.
If you’re shaving with a safety or straight razor, you’ll have to be more careful when you shave.
First you lather your face and at each spot, try to make only one pass with the razor. Due to the sharpness and exposure of the blade, shaving your face when there’s no lather, increases the chances to get your face cut. This happens because the lubricity of the shaved area goes away. On top of that, safety razors compared to cartridge razors, have no lubricated stripe. That said, make only one pass at a time with the razor and repeat lathering and shaving as many times as required.
Smooth face is the goal here gentlemen!
Shaving against the grain with safety or straight razor is not recommended if you’re not an experienced wet shaver. There is a great chance that you’ll hurt yourself, literally.
4. After shave
Once you’re done shaving, time to apply after shave.
Make sure you dry your face well before you apply any. Otherwise, it will go wasted since your skin will not be able to absorb both the water and after shave fast enough. On top of that, the water dilutes the after shave and the after shave loses its purpose.
Traditional wet shaving compared to modern wet shaving.
Traditional shaving is wet shaving but not necessarily the other way around.
What the heck am I talking about?
The modern way requires a shaving gel or foam and a razor. Easy peasy!
However, if you want to shave your face in the wet shaving traditional way, first you’ll need a shaving soap or shaving cream. Then you’ll have to build up the lather and for this reason you’ll need to have shaving brush. In case you want to go even more traditional, you’ll want to get a shaving bowl to build up the lather from the shaving cream or soap. Lastly, you’ll use a safety or a straight razor to complete your traditional wet shaving kit.
The similarities between modern and traditional shaving, are that both require a wet face, lathering and razors. Nothing else.
Even though the modern way is faster, easier, safer and simpler, this doesn’t mean that it’s more pleasant. Wet shavers, don’t shave just to shave their faces. This is a morning ritual that wet shavers cherish. We find happiness and make us feel more accomplished, more manly. Just like the prehistoric man using his bat and bringing food in the cave for cooking, that’s how a wet shaver feels when he shaves.
Well I was mostly referring to the manly part, not the hunger… Wet shaving doesn’t bring you any food,,, yet…
If there’s wet shaving there must be dry shaving as well
Dry shaving is shaving your face without the use of water. Unless you’re the most adventurous person I’ve ever met, this means that you’ll use an electric shaver to dry shave your face.
Wet shaving or dry shaving comes down to personal preference.
I’m not a big fan of electric razors but there are certainly some really good ones out there. I’ve use few of them already and I can understand why many people like them.
No matter where you are, you get a smooth face with an electric shaver in a minute. Want a quick shave while watching TV at home? Here you go. Driving to work? No problem! It’s convenient, simple and fast.
To me, wet shaving is a more pleasant experience. The most important thing is that you get a deeper shave compared to any electric razor. No matter how great the electric razors have become, they still haven’t reach the quality of shave with razors. Not to mention, the close shave you get with safety or straight razors.
Moreover, if you skin is sensitive, electric razors are not the best solution. Even dermatologists suggest that the best way to shave a sensitive face is with a good wet shaving set up. Who can argue with them?
Costs of wet shaving
Depending on your wet shaving set up you choose to begin with, costs may vary.
As initial investment, modern wet shaving is cheaper than traditional shaving. That said, it will cost you less to buy a cartridge razor than a safety razor. Moreover, lathering is cheaper with foam or gel rather than with shaving brush and shaving soap or cream.
As for ongoing costs, you’ll be better off with traditional shaving set up. Once you built your shaving kit in the beginning, it gets much cheaper later on.
Starting with the blades. The disposable blades of safety and straight razors , are way cheaper than cartridge razors. The disposable blades cost literally a small fraction of modern cartridge razor blades. As for the lathering? Shaving soaps and creams are very affordable. But the real cost savings are long term. Both soaps and cream can sometimes last for months before they run out compared to a shaving gel which may last less than a month. This of course depends on the frequency you shave.
What about dry shaving?
Good electric shavers may seem expensive at first, but you save a lot of money over the course of year(s) you use it. Before/if they stop working or need to replace the blades, they’ll give you a few hundreds of good shaves. A good thing to remember though, is that a good electric shaver costs a few hundreds of dollars. Don’t go cheap in this.
Nevertheless, it’s your face we’re talking about and I guess, a small investment is a small price to pay.
There you have it with this wet shaving introduction. Hopefully you got a first good taste of what wet shaving is and how to get started.
The fun part about wet shaving is experimenting. There are so many great safety razors, creams, soaps and brushes to choose from. You’ll find out that the while you spend so much time searching for the perfect set up, you’ll be getting more and more confused. And guess what? That’s the fun part.
The more you delve deeper in the “secret society” of wet shaving, the more you realize the size of the wet shaving community. You’ll get the chance to understand the enthusiasm and dedication of wet shavers. This is not only a morning routine, but their hobby as well. What’s best, many of them (including me) are happy to share their experiences and their knowledge. Take advantage of it and enjoy your wet shaving journey.
Let me know your thoughts!
I include one of my favorite wet shaving videos from robbDV so you can get started right away.
Image Courtesy: bigstock.com/WarrenPrice