More on Learning to Love to Shave

When I wrote my first post on shaving, I never thought I would get so much feedback from it. I’m currently getting as many questions about shaving as I do church leadership topics. One guy even called me the “Pastor of Shaving” which isn’t a title I’m sure I want.

All of feedback and questions have prompted this post. I want to share with all you potential “joy of shaving” shavers how I shave and what I’ve learned. Of course, every face is different so your mileage may vary but perhaps sharing my method with you will help you in some way so let’s go.

By the way, I realize this could possibly be the most boring blog post ever written for those that don’t care about shaving. If that’s you, I suggest you move on to some other post ASAP.

EQUIPMENT

CS-GE-2bYou’re going to need a good razor, a good razor blade, a good brush, and some shaving cream or shaving soap.

All of this is obvious, of course, but you’ll also need a good hand towel. You don’t need anything fancy. In fact, you want to avoid any hand towel that’s too thick to be workable but you’ll find a good hand towel to be indispensable while shaving.

You can buy a standard barber’s towel here.

PREP YOUR GEAR

The first thing you’ll need to do is put your brush in the sink with your razor on top of it (forming an X). The razor keeps the brush from floating. Then, fill the sink with the hottest water you can stand.

The hot water heats your razor up and gets your brush wet and hot as well.

This is all going to feel so great on your face.

 

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PREP YOUR FACE

This is a good time to prep your face. You should shave soon after you shower so that your whiskers are soft.

Ideally, you want your face and whiskers to be slightly damp. You may need to apply a little more water before you start shaving.

If you like you can also apply a pre-shave cream at this point. I love the Proraso Pre-Shave Cream. This isn’t absolutely necessary but It’s a nice touch. Think of this as acting as a lubricating strip on your razor. It just adds a little more protection to your face.

RATHER UP

Take your brush out of the hot water and shake out some of the water. You’re just going to have to get a feel for this over time. I’ve found that nine shakes leaves the right amount of water in my brush. (Yes, I counted.)

This is where having a badger hair brush makes all the difference. The badger hair holds water very well. That’s why they started making shaving brushes from this type of hair specifically.

Next, take your shaving soap and start working your brush around.

There are a lot of methods here but if you’re using the Proraso tub that I recommend you’re basically just trying to get a lot of soap on the tip of the brush. You’re not trying to work up a rather, Just get a lot of soap on the brush. Try twirling the tip of the brush against the shaving soap in the tub.

If you press your brush too hard it’s going to release all of it’s water and you’re going to have a big mess.

WHEN TRAVELING

When traveling, I take a tube of Proraso shaving cream and my travel brush. I usually just use a coffee cup or a water cup that the hotel provides and squirt some shaving cream in the bottom of the cup; about the size of a nickel. Then, I use the brush to mix the shaving cream in the cup until I get a good lather.

APPLYING TO YOUR FACE

Now that the tip of the brush is soaped up, put the brush to your face and start working in a circular motion.  This motion loosens the beard but also, in this case, starts to rather up the soap. Basically, I’m lathering the soap on my face instead of in a bowl or mug. (Some people prefer to lather up on their hand until it’s ready to be applied.)

How-to-use-Shaving-brush

Regardless of your lathering method, be sure to apply the lather with circular motions. Don’t “paint” the lather on with your brush which would only push your whiskers down closer to your face. You want the soap to lift the whiskers.

Also, be sure to hold your brush with the entire handle in the palm of your hand. Your fingers should be touching the bristles of the brush to help give you more control. The prevents the brush from flopping around so much.

TIP:  When lathering under your nose, you can use your fingers to flatten the bristles to make the brush strokes narrower so you’re not covering so much of your lips or nose with shaving cream.

REMEMBER: Applying hot lather to your face is one of the greatest feelings in the world. It’s like a mini-vacation. Enjoy it.

THE RIGHT LATHER

Cool-WhipYou basically want your rather to be the consistency of Cool Whip.

If it’s too runny, you’ll find yourself slinging the stuff everywhere when you’re putting it on your face. It will also feel very thin of your face too. It may even start to drip off your face. All of these things are signs that you either have too much water in your brush or you didn’t get enough soap on your brush.

If it’s too thick, you’ll feel like you’re putting plaster on your face. It will start to sort of crack and it’ll feel like it’s drying your face out.

The good news is that you can actually add more water to the mix while you’re shaving by not shaking off your razor as much between strokes. This will effectively thin it out a bit so it’s better to mix it thicker than thinner because you can always thin it but you can’t really thicken it once it’s on your face. (If your’e mixing in mug then you can just keep adding shaving cream or water until you get it right.)

SHAVING WITH A D.E. RAZOR IS DIFFERENT

If you’re coming from the disposable razor world, you’ll find that shaving with a D.E. (Double Edge) razor feels very different. You’re basically learning how to shave all over again.

The two biggest differences are…

1.  The Hold:  You’ll find that you need to hold your razor differently. You’re shooting for a 30° angle against your skin. It feels strange at first but you’ll so get used to it.

2. The Strokes: When shaving with a disposable razor you tend to shave with longer strokes. You sort of learn that if you’re going to cut yourself it’s usually happens when you start a stroke so you end up making long strokes across your face. You’re not really aware of it but that’s what you’re doing. With a DE razor, you need to think about shaving with lots of short strokes.

Between each stroke, rinse your razor in the hot water and twist the handle in your hand as you’re coming back up. You should be using the other side of the razor now. This will balance your usage of the blade evenly.

WHICH DIRECTION?

Some people say to shave with the grain. Others say you should shave against the grain. Still others say to shave across the grain.

I butchered my face trying all sorts of crazy shaving patterns and I’ve found what works best for me, which is to shave in two passes. This way you’re going with the grain once, against the grain once, and across the grain (probably) some of the time.

TIP:  Most guys really don’t know much about the grain of their beard runs across their face. I recommend you shave with no music or other distractions going while you are learning. You’ll actually hear how the razor is interacting with the grain of your beard and learn a lot about your beard in the process.

FIRST PASS

On the first pass, shave down. Start at your sideburns and work your way down your cheeks. Shave under your nose and your chin next. Then, lastly, shave your neck.

TIP:  To shave the troublesome jaw line, fully open your mouth and lower your jaw to shave past your jaw line while shaving you cheeks and jaw. Then, close your mouth when shaving your neck. This will cover the entire area easily.

SECOND PASS

A second pass is necessary to get the quality shave you want. It may seem time consuming at first to lather up again but I’ve now got this down and the whole process is just as quick as shaving with a disposable razor.

When you finish lathering up your face for the first time, don’t put your brush in the water. Instead, stand it up by your sink. There should be plenty of soap on it for a second lathering.  Just dip only the tip of your brush back in the water again to moisten it a bit and lather up again. This will also heat up the cold brush a bit. (Enjoy lathering up yet again!)

On the second pass, you’ll want to shave with only up strokes.  Start at the base of your neck and work your way up.

Again, you’ll feel (and hear) areas of your beard that react differently to that shaving direction and you’ll understand the grain of your beard better in the process.

CLEANING UP

When you’re done shaving, put your razor and brush back in the hot water.

Rub your hands around your face to discover any problem areas you have.  You may have missed something or the grain of your beard my be working against you in certain areas. It’s not necessary to tackle those spots again at this point but it will help you learn what to concentrate on during your next shave.

Start to drain your sink. Swish your brush around to release excess soap.

Run the water again and clean your brush and razor with clean water now.

TIP:  I like to slightly loosen the head of my razor and run water over the blade to remove any remaining whiskers. Don’t forget to tighten the razor head again.

POST SHAVE

Set your brush and your razor to the side and start splashing water on your face to clean the soap off.

They say you should use cold water to do this to close your pores. I don’t like splashing my face with really cold water, however, so I just use tepid water.

Grab you hand towel and pat your face dry. Never rub your face dry. That will irritate your skin. Just pat it dry.

Now, use your towel to clean any soap scum off your razor and put your razor and brush up.

TIP:  Shaving brushes should always stored with the bristles facing down to dry. Get a stand to prolong the life of your shaving brush.

While you’re putting everything away, your face should be drying natural.

bergamot-after-shaveAFTERSHAVE

I’ve always thought as aftershave as something rather useless and unnecessary. I guess I’ve confused cologne and aftershave. Cologne is perfume and, as such, it’s not necessary at all. Aftershave, however, helps your skin heal.

Your skin was designed to have certain oils on it and when you shave you’re removing all those protective oils. As far as your skin is concerned, every time you shave you just had massive surgery.

Now, most aftershaves have a scent but their purpose is supposed to help your skin.

You can basically spend as much money as you want on aftershave but it’s not necessary to spend a ton of money to get a good quality aftershave.

Not surprisingly, I love the Proraso Aftershave. I also love this aftershave from Imperial Barbers.

AFTERSHAVE vs SHAVING BALMS

During the warmer months, you’re going to want a straight up aftershave.  These typically contain alcohol in them and dry your face out a bit bit that’s okay because your sweat and moisture in the air will replenish your skin as you go through your day.

During the colder months, you’re going to want an aftershave with no alcohol in it. These are basically lotions and they’re typically called shaving balms or shaving lotions.

The Art of Shaving makes the best shaving balm. It’s expensive but it lasts a long time.

If you’re skin is naturally oil, go with an aftershave the majority of the time. If your skin is naturally dry, go with a balm most of the time.

It’s probably best to have one aftershave and one balm on hand. Then you can make adjustments with the weather and your skin.

Again, don’t get suckered into thinking that you need to spend a lot of money on aftershaves or lotions.

ANY QUESTIONS?

This whole article seems ridiculously detailed to me but I wanted to be sure to cover everything. This may seem like a lot to take in but you’ll be doing it without thinking in no time.

I assume this is my last post on shaving but if I’ve missed something please let me know below. I’ll do my best to answer any questions.

Happy shaving!


 

9 Comments

  1. Great follow-up to the original post, Tony!

    If I can add to your excellent description…

    I know “they say” shave after your shower. I’ve tried it after and before. I generally shave before showering, simply because if I happen to nick my face, the shower usually takes care of that so I don’t bleed all over my shirt collar, etc. I find I just have to use a bit more hot water on the front end to prep my face and beard.

    I use the Proraso in the tube, and I just squirt a little into my hand and lather up the brush.

    I shave with the grain first, and I start with my neck, saving my chin for last (tougher whiskers there). The second pass is against and/or across the grain. I found that not shaving for a couple of days shows me the exact pattern of the grain – it’s different for different guys.

    I like the cold water splash between shaving and getting in the shower.

    It is a superior experience to the high-tech cartridge and foam. Thanks for helping guys all over shave better – and live better!

    • Thanks, Charlie. I think that is probably the last post I’ll ever write about shaving. :)

  2. Gentlemen, how often do you swap out the blade? Do you use a fresh blade every time, once a week, or do you just kind of feel it out?

    • Davis, I change my blade once a week but I could probably go much longer. I think two weeks would be the max for me but I’m shaving my entire face. Since you’re only doing your neck I would imagine you could stretch that time frame quite a bit. Basically, you’ll want to switch the blade when it becomes dull. You’ll know it’s dull if you sense it “dragging” on your face a lot or if it’s nicking you a lot.

  3. Great posts, Tony; thank you. I too have been using expensive, disposable razors and am excited to make the switch to a higher quality razor. I’m curious, are you also using the D. E. Razor to shave your head?

    • Hi Brad. I’m glad you enjoyed the posts. I don’t really shave my head at all. I find that too time consuming. I use buzz clippers at the lowest setting and trim the hair on my head.

  4. I just shaved for probably the 10th time with shaving soap and my de razor, and I just wanted to thank you for being the original inspiration. Never going back to the new way of shaving! Grandpa did things right!

    • I’m so glad to hear you’re enjoying it, Brad! Thanks for updating me. Like you, I’m never going back.

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