My Shaving History
I was taught to shave with a multi-blade razor and a can of shaving foam. I had a couple of aftershaves that came from the grocery store and I shaved this way for years; miserably I might add. Shaving was always a chore and led to my face feeling raw and dried out, and not looking much better either. About 10 years ago I gave up the razor altogether and just wore a short beard most of the time. My late grandfather used to joke with me and ask, "what are you doing with all that money you're saving by not buying razor blades?" Well, buying beer of course.
Only recently was I introduced to traditional shaving with a safety razor, a badger hair shaving brush, and a puck of soap. My life changed 15 minutes later. My first traditional shave was the best shave of my life, even with the few spots of blood on my face.
I contacted my father and asked him why he hadn't told me about proper shaving. As a kid I remember him shaving with a brush in a mug and a safety razor. He told me that the grocery stores had stopped selling safety razor blades so he had switched to a modern multi-blade cartridge razor. This was before the internet and sourcing safety razor blades would have been difficult for the average working man. Traditional shaving had just disappeared, at least in the United States. Safety razor blades are very cheap compared to razor cartridges. It was good business to make it go away.
The Safety Razor
There are many styles of safety razor but the most common, and the type that I manufacture, is referred to as a 3-piece safety razor. It consists of a top cap, a base plate, and a handle. The design of the top cap and base plate affect the closeness, or aggressiveness, of the shave. Heads vary widely among brands. The handles can be short or long, heavy or hollow. Handles from one brand will often work with the head from another.
There are over 20 different double edged razor blades available. They are easy to find now on the internet and are beginning to show up in specialty stores as well. Some companies even sell blade sampler packs so you can try out a few different brands. Each blade has different characteristics.
You should get 5-7 shaves out of a blade and most blades cost less then 50 cents. That's a pretty good deal and a reason that many switch to traditional shaving.
The most expensive blade isn't always the best blade for you. Try a bunch of different blades to see what works for your skin and your shaving style.
The Brush and The Soap
Muli-blade razors clog easily and don't work so well with a thick, luxurious lather. Gel foam in a can is pretty airy and doesn't clog up those blades. By comparison, badger hair shaving brushes and shaving soaps/creams go well with the safety razor. The single blade of the safety razor glides right over the thickest, and creamiest of lathers. To get a thick lather you need a nice soap and a quality brush. Many of us are increasingly concerned with the chemicals we put in or on our bodies. Traditional shaving soaps and creams often have natural ingredients and offer another reason to try traditional shaving.
I offer a variety of shaving brushes made with synthetic fibers. These newest generation of synthetic shaving knots feel very similar to natural animal fiber but are easier to care for and more ethical to own.
My shaving soap is both easy to lather and contains added moisturizers so it won't dry out your skin. You might also try some classic shaving soaps like Proraso, Speick, Tabac, and Mitchell's Wool Fat.
There are lots of great videos on YouTube that can show you how to lather your soap and operate your safety razor. I was bloody mess the first few times, but now I can whip my razor around like a little Ferrari without so much as a nick. It just takes a bit of finesse and practice. I also watched a lot of videos!
Here is a basic procedure that might work for you:
- If possible shave after you shower, this will help soften your beard. While you are in the shower soak your animal hair brush in the sink or a mug of warm water. A synthetic brush does not need to be soaked.
- After your shower apply a pre-shave to your skin. I think Proraso pre-shave is nice.
- Shake the water out of your brush and load the brush with soap. Apply it to your face like you are painting a house, back and forth. Don't mash down those nice badger hairs! Dip the brush in a bit of water and keep painting that face. After a few dips in soap and water you should have a nice lather built up. Alternatively, you can make your lather in a shave bowl, your hand, or an old coffee mug like my dad did. Every soap seems to lather a bit differently.
- Place the head of the razor against your face and hold the handle by it's tip. Slowly lower the handle until the blade has made contact with your skin. Get a feel for this angle. Move the razor in short strokes going with the grain of your beard. Let the weight of the razor do the work, don't apply additional pressure. Rinse the razor head out as needed to keep the blade clear.
- After your first pass you'll probably still have some stubble. Re-lather your face and do a second pass, this time across the grain. You can even do a third pass against the grain and your face will be smoother than a baby's bottom.
- Rinse your face with cold water and blot dry with a clean towel.
- Ok, so are you bleeding everywhere? Don't worry, wet your 'styptic pencil' and poke the bloody spot. It's going to burn, but it will stop bleeding instantly. You should have been more careful with that razor!
- Aftershave isn't just to make you smell good, it is supposed to protect and heal your face after you shave. Try Speick After Shave Lotion (splash). Or, get some witch hazel from the grocery store. Don't be afraid of high-quality aftershaves that contain alcohol. It is an antiseptic and a carrier for essential oils. It evaporates quickly leaving the healing oils behind.