A gentleman’s shave for the not typical gentleman!!

I decided to change it up a bit.  I’m going to discuss shaving.  The reason I am going to discuss shaving is because for the better part of my life I have had a beard.  Facial hair and I have gone through many transitions ranging from the full beard, to a goatee, a mustache and goatee, a fu man chu, or a super long beard.  But more than often than not my face has been adorned with hair in one form or another. and rarely freshly shorn.  There is a reason for that which, I am now just realizing, that I didn’t have the right instructions, nor did I have the right tools to perform an adequate job of shaving.

Don’t get me wrong after realizing that having a full beard at age 16 had fringe benefits,  and wearing a beard for the better part of the last 3 decades, I enjoy a well groomed beard.  Unfortunately I also think pop culture has really turned the beard into a cliche, which in some regard is really what brought me back to the search for great quality shave.  That and an old romanticism I remember from when I was a young boy watching the movies, usually Westerns or Gangster movies, with the rugged guy sitting in the Barber’s chair with a towel over his face while the barber prepared his blade on the leather strap.  There was something awesome about that to me.  I couldn’t wait to get old enough to start shaving.

And then I did, and I hated shaving. If you know me you know I grow a thick course beard. Trying to shave that every day, with less than adequate education and tools is an irritating (figuratively and literally) endeavor.  And in turn the only time I’ve ever really had a great quality shave, up until recently,  was when I paid someone to give me one.  A good straight razor shave in the capable hands of a quality barber in itself is an experience I truly appreciate, but I can’t go to a barber every couple days, it’s too expensive.  So for years I have been going about this shaving thing wrong; I just didn’t know what I didn’t know.

Lets start at the beginning.  My step dad, as well as I can remember,  shaved with an electric razor.  So I believe when I came to the age of sprouting some hairs on my chinny chin chin I was given an electric razor and some stuff in a bottle that looked like mouthwash which I think was called Lectric Shave.  Not sure on that.  Anyways, he gave me the run down on using an electric razor the best he could, the problem however was no matter what I did, the electric razor hurt.  Not only did it hurt, but when I could take no more and thought I was finished shaving, there was patches of hair all over that it didn’t cut at all.  I just thought that was what shaving was about.  Frustrating and painful.  EThere was a contraption they were pushing on women; the Epilady, a device that systematically seeks out individual hair follicles and rips them out at the root before moving on to the next hair.  Sounds delightful.  That is exactly what an electric razor felt like to me.  I stuck with it for quite awhile because someone had told me that your face and skin would get used to it after awhile.  They lied!

Eventually I bought some cheap razors at a store and tried the wet shave.  Not a good idea without some instruction.  I went to the store and got a bag of cheap disposable razors and some spray foam in a can and a bottle of Brut aftershave because it had that packaging that just seemed to say “You need to smell like me!”.  I went back to the house and lathered up my face and went to town.  I shredded my face; in part because the cheap disposable razors won’t actually make it through my stubble more than a couple of strokes before the blade dulls.  I didn’t know they were dull, I just knew that after a couple of passes across my day or two worth of growth, it burned…and it wasn’t actually cutting the hair close enough.  So after many botched attempts at shaving my own face, I did eventually figure out that a better razor cuts hair a little smoother.  But in a shorter matter of time I just realized that shaving sucked and I should just not do it.  But I still wanted that Barber shop experience.

I believe there are a lot of guys (and maybe some ladies) out there who can get a great shave with the cheapest products available.  Their skin is more forgiving and their hair is just easier to cut.  Awesome for them!  I also believe that the dry electric shave probably is an ideal and time saving great shave for a lot of people.  I actually knew a bloke back in the day that stored his Norelco in the car and frequently was giving himself a quick touch up while sitting in traffic.  Neither of these options work for me.  So, I’m going to talk about my experiences now trying to find the ideal wet shave for a guy like me.

I’m going to loosely cover this in stages;

-Pre-Shave

-The Shave

-Post-Shave

I am going to try to discuss some techniques, but probably a lot more about different products I have tried. I will also try to link as much stuff as I can for you to find easily or understand what I’m talking about.   So if you want to learn a little, or talk a little about a good wet shave, throw me a note, otherwise read on.

The Pre-Shave

Theres one great solution to the pre shave.  Don’t ever just throw some canned foam on a dry face and start hacking at the stubble.  I didn’t know that, and this is why I’m telling you.  My shaves of days gone by were so retched that, if after work I was going out, I would stop home and do exactly that.  It’s terrible for the skin and hellooooo razor burn!!

If you’re in a hurry and need to get a quick shave in, run some nice warm water (I prefer hot) on a wash cloth and then lay that wash cloth over your face and neck for a couple minutes.  If you’re in a hurry, you could probably use the few minutes to just slow down and breathe anyways.  It really feels nice.  It also helps to prep the face and neck for a shave by cleaning the skin and opening the pores.  Did I mention that it just feels really nice??

However the best time to shave is always right after a shower.  Don’t even bother to dry your face off.

I’m not a guy who shaves in the shower so if that is your thing, awesome!  I have never tried that and I don’t have a mirror that won’t steam.

So you have either just relaxed with a warm wash cloth on your face, or jumped out of the shower…. now what?

Oil Scarecrow!!

As soon as I done with either the shower, or the hot towel (no reason you can’t do both)  first thing I do is use a drop of pre shave oil!  I have used Somersets Shave Oil, but more recently I have found Wonderland Bath and Beauty on Etsy, who make an amazing Wonderland Pre Shave oil.  It’s awesome!  It’s also small industry, and I love to support small business.  I use a drop or two in the palm, rub my hands together and then I like to gently work it onto the part of the face I am shaving while it is still somewhat damp from the washcloth or shower.  The pre-shave oil just does something amazing to the skin and gives the razor a little extra lube to prevent unwanted drag or burn.  Here is a link if you want to know more about pre-shave oils on Badger & Blade.  I love this stuff and I’ve only just started using Wonderland’s product.  So, step one, a little pre shave oil on wet skin. After I oil up, I just hang loose for a few minutes and let the oil do it’s thing.  That is when the ritual begins for me.  While I’m letting the oil work it’s magic I start preparing my soap and filling the basin with a nice warm rinse water.

The Shave

Here’s where some may differ.  There are so many gels, foams, creams, butters, and soaps out there that its no wonder I had no idea what to use.  I can tell you this, after trying all of the above, nothing has come close to the Badger Brush and soap.  In part there is something about mixing up the soap with the brush.  There is a ritualistic part of me that loves it.  I recently spent a few days trying a different product.  Dr. Carvers Butter.  Theres some things I didn’t like and some I did.  While I did seem to get a decent shave with the butter, I didn’t like how greasy it felt.   I like to maintain firm control of my razor and with the butter everything seemed pretty slick. In fact I had a hard time holding onto the razor and dropped it once.  That didn’t negate the quality of the shave I got. It is a pretty good product, and I liked it much better than any of the gels and foams in the cans.  However in all reality, I personally get a much better shave using Van Der Hagen soap than I do with any of the other products.  I truly believe that is because of the brush.  The badger brush when used properly, lifts the hair and prepares it for cutting.  Also, I really enjoy the ritual of mixing up the soap in my special shave bowl.  While I was using the butter, I realized how much that part of the shave has become part of the ritual and experience of a great shave for me.  So, for a good start throw away the foams and creams and gels and all that chemically enhanced lubricants, and get yourself a really nice shave soap, bowl and brush.

HINT: Wegmans and Rite Aid now sell Van Der Hagen kits which come with a bowl, a puck of nice soap, a brush and a stand for the brush.  I believe it is around $40 and well worth every penny.  Some Badger brushes can get really pricey, but anything more than $20 for a brush is not worth it if you don’t know if you’re going to like it.  You will though I guarantee it. There is also the Art of Shaving at East View Mall

Okay, so we’ve gotten our faces wet, oil and lathered.  What kind of razor is in your hand?  I’ve used a lot of them and there are only a few that I will use.  Two of them are Gillete.  The Mach 3 and The Fusion.  Both of these razors get top notch marks for me.  They have been my go to razors for quite a few years, more so The Fusion.  I can actually get about 5 shaves out of one blade and that is a lot compared to any other disposable out there.  However they are costly, in fact it’s almost cheaper now to buy a new handle with a couple blades than to buy the 4 pack of replacement cartridges.  Also, I really am a little concerned about how much plastic we use, and discard.  So I have recently found a 1957 Gillete DE Safety Razor. I’ve done some research on this and I would not recommend to anyone to just pick one up and start scraping at your face like you would with a disposable.  It’s a bit of different beasty, and I like it.  So there it is. #1 pick, get a decent DE safety razor, or use the Gillettes that I mentioned.  I have recently tried the Dollar Shave Club razors. Seemed like a no brainer at what they were charging for replacement cartridges.  They have three razor options with a subscription that delivers at a really low cost new cartridges in the mail at an interval you can specify for the most part.  They have the Humble Twin, the 4X, and The Executive which is a 6 blade option.  I ordered the 4x which seemed most comparable to the Fusion I had been using.  Though slightly different the shave was on par with the Fusion, the catch being the replacement cartridges were a bunch cheaper.  However around the same time I discovered the wonders of a DE and I’m not so sure I’ll be looking back.  In fact I think I may be looking forward to an even greater challenge, the straight razor!  But that hasn’t happened yet and will be another article altogether.

Here’s a secret I am finding out… I always thought that multi blade razors with 2,3,4 or 5 blades in each cartridge would give me a better shave and faster.  Well yes and no.  The more blades I am dragging across my skin the more irritation I seem to get.  With a DE razor, all steel by the way, it is one very sharp blade.  One blade = less irritation and a closer shave.

Important Tip:  If you have have just gotten yourself a new DE razor, try it out in different area at first to get the feel for how it cuts.  I first tried it on the flat of my hand and yup, I cut myself immediately!!

I’m not going to tell you how to run the blade.  I figure if you’ve been shaving your own face you probably have figured out which way to pull the blade across different parts of it.  You can go with, against, or across the direction of hair growth.  They all work, just some leads to much higher abrasion and or nicks!  If you’re bleeding a lot you should stop doing whatever you did to cause it!  Also get yourself a styptic pencil!!!  Shaving with the direction the hair grows is less abrasive to the skin.  However I have to shave my neck in the opposite direction, so the oil and extra lather of soap is more critical in that area than say on my cheeks.  This part is really up to you on how to get a close shave.

The trick I found to the DE safety razor is to start in an easier part of the face and start to shave at an exaggerated angle.  i mean get the handle out almost parallel to the floor to start and while gently (without pressure) slowly bring the handle down until you start to feel the blade cutting the hair as you move it down the face. This should be somewhere around a 45 degree angle but can be different for everyone and for each razor.  You’ll quickly figure out the right cutting angle for you.  Also you’ll realize the the pressure you applied to your old disposable razors can be discarded with that razor.  You won’t need it with a good quality DE safety razor.  Its supplies it’s own!!  I will say that because of the single blade, I actually cut myself less with the DE than I did with the disposables, primarily because the skin would get so aggravated from over working it with a bad razor that it caused a lot of the bleeds from razor burn and the razor dragging over the bumps caused by poor shaves etc….   A really good sharp edge blade, I’ve only nicked myself once on the neck.  Styptic Pencil to the rescue!!

Okay, so I’ve talked about the pre shave and a couple of products I like and the ritual of it I love.  I’ve talked about the shave portion a bit and a few different razors.

There is a lot more that I can say about this, and perhaps I will break these up into more posts.  We’ll see.

For now post shave

I’m still pretty confused on the right thing here.  Here is what I have found works for me so far.

I like a good lotion.  Every Man Jack makes a great post shave lotion.  However I cannot use a lotion on my face every day, and definitely not in the summer.  In the winter it is fine.  I also have a Nivea post shave balm.  Same thing, both of these are made to calm and nourish the skin however I can’t use a heavier lotion once the weather starts to get hot and humid.  So when that happens this summer this may all become a bit updated.

So I rinse the razor out the last time, give my face and neck a quick check to see if I missed any spots, and then I have found that I rinse my face first with nice warm water and then I give a quick rinse with cold water.  They say it closes the pores and cools the skin.  I know it definitely cools the skin, but with the DE razor, I don’t have any of the burn anymore so I do it just because it helps to wake me up a bit extra too!  While the skin is still wet I use a Witch Hazel splash.  Witch Hazel has some pretty awesome qualities.  It’s a natural astringent for those of us who need a little extra help with oil build ups, its a natural anti-inflammatory so reduces or eliminates razor burn, it helps to stop bleeding for those nicks and bleeds. A small amount in the palm and I ust splash it on.  I have noticed a remarkable difference on how my skin feels after I use this product vs. when I don’t use it.  Hence I use it almost every time I shave now!  After the witch hazel, the skin will dry pretty quickly with out use of towels.  Once it has dried I will either just use the Nivea post shave balm, or my favorite the Every Man Jack post shave lotion.  It smells good and the skin feels good after using it too.  I am trying a little of the old school after shaves to prepare for summer,  I can’t stand the smell of Brut or Old Spice but I have found that I do rather like Pinaud-Clubman After Shave Lotion.  It’s not really a lotion in that sense.  It has a nice scent, but I’ve never been a scent wearing kind of guy so we’ll just call this an awkward phase!!  If you have an after shave product you like, please let me know.

So in wrapping this up, I’ve tried several products, and you can see which one’s I truly like.

Pre shave

Wonderland Pre Shave Oil

Van Der Hagen Shave Soap with Badger Brush

Old Gillette DE Safety Razor

Witch Hazel

Lotion / Balm / or Aftershave depending on weather.

Shaving has become an enjoyable experience for me.  I look forward to it.  I look forward to trying different products when I can to see what works better or what doesn’t, Part of this is that I’m still learning how to shave after 40+ years of trying to avoid it because I didn’t know how.   There are so many resource on the internet now that information is out there and I enjoy learning as much as I can.  I’m a bit nervous now, and I’m not ready to make the financial jump, but at some point I would very much like to learn the artistry of the Straight Razor shave.  Thats where all of the romanticism started and that is where it one day should culminate!

Here are a few other resources and stores i found really, well…. resourceful!!

Badger and Blade

Art of Shaving

The Art of Manliness – Learn how to shave like your Grandpa

Black Lapel

Wet Shave Club

Every Man Jack

Wonderlands Bath & Beauty 

Van Der Hagen Shave Sets

I hope some of this actually helps somebody out there who has been struggling with poor shaving, and maybe someone out there has some more tips for me!

Shave on!!!!

Here is me before the art of shaving. Hater of the shave because he didn’t know how!!

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Me after learning some of the art of shaving!  Some morning stubble with a cup of joe!  Loving the shave ritual!

This is a Van Der Hagen set up you can pick up pretty cheap as I mentioned.  It’s a great set and I’m really happy with the products.  Razor not included!   However that is the new to me 1957 Gillette DE safety razor.  All metal and steel blades that area  fraction of the cost of disposable cartridges and have no plastic to pollute our environment.  Not to bad of a deal for a cleaner closer shave!

That’s the Every Man Jack lotion so you can see the packaging.  It’s great stuff  I am really looking forward to see some more of their products come to the area.  Domestically made stuff.  Also is the Nivea Shave Balm and the Pinaud Clubman After Shave.  It’s all good stuffAnd here is the Pre Shave oils.  Wonderland is wonderful stuff!!! as is the Somersets!

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