Tag Archives: wet shaving

A Damn Good Shave – Part 2 Lathering Technique

In my last [post] I told you about the process of wet shaving.  This time I’ll be going over the details of lathering.

As I mentioned, you begin with a hot soak or a shower to soften the hairs and prep the underlying skin.

Manly men use real shaving soap!The next step is to build the lather.  Now if you’re new to the process, I’d recommend spending a good amount of time just trying to build lather and get that part down, before you begin to attempt shaving.  As you might imagine, having good product is a key to this, but if you’re new – how do you know what’s good or not?

Easy.  Ask around.  There are plenty of [forums] with reviews and descriptions of commonly used items that can get you started.  Don’t get hung up on picking a particular scent, just take a sniff and if it is pleasant enough – go for it.  Depending on your location and proximity to various stores, you should have a few choice product options.  Every mall has a Body Shop store, so I usually recommend a tub or tube of their [Maca Root cream.]

I’ll talk about creating lather in a bowl here, though many users lather up on their face.  The process is pretty much the same for either, as well as for soaps or creams.  I’ll talk about the types of bowls in another post.

The brush should be moist, and I normally do so by filling the bowl up with hot water and letting the brush soak in it for a minute or so to absorb some of the liquid and soften the badger hair much as we do for the facial hairs.  The water should be dumped, and the brush gently wrung out to remove excess water.  You “load” the brush by constricting the brush hairs into a clump using your thumb and forefingers, and then continue either by swishing this in small circles on the product to get it to stick to the brush, or spooning out a small dollup (typically half a teaspoon) into the bowl and then begin.After a beating

The goal here is to create a lather that is thick, like cool whip with formed peaks, but not too thin, airy, or runny that collapses back into soapy liquid shortly after being whipped into being.  Sometimes, between the soap on the brush, and the water absorption in the badger hair, you hit that sweet spot right away.  Other times you might need to whisk the brush ’round and around in the bowl, pumping it a bit to impart some air into the mix to fluff it.  And yet other times it might be too dry with not enough liquid, making the swishing and lather creation stiff and difficult to swirl up.  In those cases I’ll typically dip just the very tips of the loaded brush into water, or just add a few drops in to liven things up.  You can always add more water, but once you’ve got too much it can be difficult to compensate, so start small.  Frankly, it can be difficult to build a good lather, or even recognize when you’ve got it just right, until you have some experience under your belt doing so.  Here’s a [video] that can help.

The last step in lathering is applying it to the face.  Simply take this out of the bowl using the brush, and swirl this in small concentric circles.  I usually begin just below the ear in the side burns area, and move across the face, then down the neck.   Feel free to gather more lather from the bowl as needed.  You may find other online tips mentioning “painting” the face, as though you have a paint brush, rather than a shaving brush.  I also do this, but usually after having swirled the lather into place, to help even it out.  You’ll know at this point if you’ve formed your lather correctly, if it seems to expand a bit after it rests on your face a few moments, softening the edges.  If you’re face lathering, the only difference is that instead of building lather in the bowl, you’re doing so directly on the face after having loaded the brush.

One last reminder for lathering.  Make sure to practice as a beginner.  Set aside a half hour or so, and practice loading the brush, then whipping it up just in the cup of your opposite hand.  Get a feel for the water to product ratio, and intentionally use too much of one or the other to see the results.  Once you feel you’re a pro, move onto doing so in the bowl, and repeat.  You may find yourself going through a bit of product, but most of the time your initial purchase can last for a year, so a few practice batches at the start can be well worth it, and get you up and running quickly.

I hope you’re taking these posts to heart.  Feel free to comment and let me know if I’m not telling the whole story, or skipping over the details.  I’ll next describe how to handle the razor and efficiently remove the hairs from your chinny chin chin and more.  (Part 3)

See you next time.

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A Damn Good Shave – Part 1 The Basics

My Shaving GearAn old friend recently reached out to me, because he had had enough of the newer, better, greater claims of Gillette and Shick, and their ever rising costs with lackluster results.  The disposables are poor quality at best, and even some of the alternatives from Merkur and Parker have been said to be prone to pitting and breakage.  He had heard, and I confirmed, that old style double edge razors, from the likes of Gillette and others from a half century ago or more, are far superior in results, comfort and closeness than any of the modern day equipment.  I can’t speak much of the failure of the modern variants from Merkur, and would only add I myself have not experienced this myself.

I thought to lay out the recommended steps of traditional wet shaving in a series of posts, both for his benefit, and yours. :)

So I’ll begin with a description of what wet shaving is all about.  Whether it is referred to as classic shaving, wet shaving, barbershop style, DE (double edge) shaving, traditional shaving, or straight edge shaving, it is all the same process.

You begin by moistening the face, either by use of hot towels or taking a warm shower to open the pores and soften the facial hairs.  Sometimes if I don’t feel like taking a shower, I’ll just splash water as hot as I can take it, on my face and neck continuously for 2-3 minutes.

This is followed by using a shaving brush, usually made of badger hair of varying degrees, and a specialized shaving soap or cream to whip up lather.  Canned creams are known to dry out the skin, and contrary to popular belief facilitate the shave, but leave the face in worse shape than before it began.  Sometimes this lathering is done directly on the face, and other times in a bowl, scuttle or mug.

This lather is applied to the face, usually with the brush itself, and then is shaved off with the razor in a series of angled swipes.  If done correctly, it will minimize razor burn and cuts, while removing the facial hair and lather one stroke at a time, and progressing from spot on the face to another.  The remains are splashed off with warm water, the razor briefly rinsed, and the steps repeated, with a different direction used for the swipes to achieve an even closer shave.  Each cycle is also called a shaving pass.  This is usually repeated for a total of 3-4 passes, depending on beard thickness and desired closeness, with an ideal of “baby butt smooth” (BBS.)

After the final splash removes the lather and cut stubble remnants, a topical astringent is applied to the face and allowed to dry, usually Witch Hazel, and sometimes in conjunction with a block of alum for accidental shaving cuts.  After it dries, a cold water rinse is next to close the pores, and followed by applying aftershave or balm to soothe and care for the skin.

While the steps may seem a lot, in practice this can take perhaps 20 minutes on average for an experienced shaver.

Shaving in this manner is typically more cost effective, more comfortable and with better shaving results, and can turn what many see as a dreaded chore, into a luxurious time of enjoyment for a regular manly ritual.

My plan is to follow this post with the details of lathering and razor techniques, the aftershave, and suggested gear.

Check back soon!

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Born Again Shaving – Week 4 update

So here we are.  4 weeks into spring, and 4 weeks into my latest hobby.

I’ve got some experience under my plate now, and a better handle on what I’m doing wrong, and what I’m doing right.

Probably the best thing I could recommend, is get some help!  There is a lot of resources out there, and I’m really starting to like the people at Badger & Blade the best.

One of the posts I came across was one of those time machine ones.  You know – the one where if you knew what you know now and could start over again – what would you do different?

Lots of good answers on this one here.  Check it out for yourself.

Along with those posts I also stopped by the only area shaving shop for some advice.  Gentlemans Best over in Southington CT.

After some talking with Ray (hell of a guy by the way,) I’ve decided to try a few things to make life better.

First tip – stop changing things around so much.  I’m hopping around from one soap to the next before I’ve gotten a handle on how to manuver the razor around my face.  Plus I’m still figuring out how to best gauge and build up the lather.  Best bet is to stick to the same soap for at least a week before I switch out.  I’m going to work my way through one whole sample to the next from now on, rather than one bit here and there.

Second tip – after shaving, splash a hot water rinse on and pat dry, apply Witch Hazel, then splash cold and pat dry again, then balm or aftershave.  The warmth helps sooth, the hazel tightens things up, and the cold makes it all close back up nice.  So far so good on that point.

Third tip – change up the razor blade once a week or every other week.  Not just to keep things sharp, but also change out the brand after 2-3 weeks.  After similar soaps at that point, you can get a better gauge on whether a new blade brand is working out or not.  So far my jump from the Merkur to Derby’s is one I should have done earlier.  Remember different blades work better or worse for different people.

Fourth tip – Lots o’ soap!  When you’re using shaving soap (as I’m leaning towards), let a tablespoon or so of water soak on top before you dip the brush.  It makes it much easier to load the brush, and easier in turn to lather it up.  You can always add water back in.

I think I’m ready to up my brush to a better quality one, and I’m working my way through the many samples.  I have to agree that Mama Bears Soaps are still pretty darn good, and my favorite brand thus far.  A nice smell, good lather if you soap the brush enough, and my face seems to like it too.

I’ll keep you posted as I learn more.  Know any good tips you’ve come across?  Share yours as well!

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Shaving Soaps And Creams – Ask And Ye Shall Receive

Samples Baby!

So now, at the 3 week mark since I’ve begun using a Double Edge Razor, its time to figure out what kind of soaps I should use.

It all comes down to personal preference in the end.  Some soaps and creams are easy to whip into a lather, while others have a great scent.  Some let the blade glide  on your face easily, and still more have quality oils and moisturizers to minimize razor burn and make your face feel as good as it looks.  Depending on what you really want, you’ve got lots of choices.

I’ve been reviewing some forums and sites including the comments at Amazon products, The Shave Den, Badger & Blade, Shave My Face, and The Shaving Room. There are your high end products, mid range, and inexpensive ones.  Now to be fair, you can get a great soap and lather with an inexpensive brand just as much as the expensive one.  Sometimes marketing plays a big role.   There are a number of fans of Mama Bears Soaps, yet her handmade soap pucks are just under $8 for 5oz.  On the other hand people also say that G.F.Trumpers Lime Cream is the best, yet that runs $17 for a 2oz tube.

Much as different people have different preferences, no brand can really fit everyone to a tee.  In a nutshell, use what you like.

I like a good strong scent.  But more importantly I need to have a lather that can glide over my face of coarser and thicker hair than most.  I’ve seen some people alluding that certain soaps work best with more pre-shave preparation such as using a facial oil or moisturizing cream just before applying the lather.  Or even mixing it in with the lather, but after having used a hot towel.   In my mind, the more you have to do in advance, the poorer the product.  By all accounts all that should be needed is a hot shower, or wrapping a hot towel around the face, and splashing additional water on just before you lather up.

So this was my perspective.  I had purchased my razor with some soap from Col Conks at Amazon right from the start, and later looked over the counter at the CVS and found some VanDerHagen Select soap as well.  A few reads later, and I’m over at the Crabtree & Evelyn at the mall, and find they sell out frequently.

Then, on the way out the door, the saleswoman hits me with inspiration – samples!

Why spend $8, $18, or $28 on soap you won’t like, or that won’t get it done the way you want it to?  I set my mind to it to get samples for $2 or less wherever I could (most were free.)  Crabtree & Evelyn couldn’t give me the hard soap sample, but I was able to get some of their shaving cream and some aftershave balm to boot.  Bath & Body Works?  No samples, but they did have a small tube of the C.O.Bigelow for $5, and they offer a money back guarantee that lets you try it at home and return the unused portion for a full refund.

In a mad rush I began emailing and visiting sites of all the brands I’ve read about.  Col Conks said ‘Sure!  Just send us your address!’  G.F.Trumpers said they don’t give away samples, but offer a whole pack including after shaves for about $5 shipped from the UK.  Mama Bears Soaps offers samples, but as she has so many scents, she charges a nominal dollar for a good sized soap chunk of the preferred type, enough for perhaps 2-3 shaves.  I heard back from Taylor of Old Bond St, but they don’t do samples at all.  ”Too much effort for such as small amount,” is what they said.  Well, that’s about all the effort I’m putting into getting some of their soaps then.  Paid, sample, full size or otherwise.Manly men use real shaving soap!

So now that I’ve begun receiving a few of these, I’ll be sure to let you know the results.  Hopefully I can better judge the quality and what works for me better, as my technique and experience improves.  If nothing else, the variety of scents has me more excited than ever, to grab that brush and shave away.

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