I know what you’re thinking. Shave with cold water? WTF? Yes, cold water. It sounds extremely uncomfortable, but it isn’t. This particular method of shaving dates back to the Victorian Era, when getting hot water was a chore. Benjamin Franklin once wrote that: “The act of shaving with cold water is much easier; it allows the whiskers to be stiff; the razor to slice the hair; and obtaining hot water much less of a bother.”
Now, yes, back in those days you had to chop the wood, start a fire, gather water, and boil it for some time (as an avid camper, I’ve done this from time to time). And now, all we have to do is turn a knob, which can still take a little bit of time for the water to heat up. But what if you don’t have time to let the water get warm? Shave cold. It actually has some very good benefits, such as less irritation, pores staying closed, whiskers being stiff. From a young age, let’s say puberty, our father’s typically teach us to use hot water whilst shaving. The reasons for this is that the hot water makes your beard soft, allowing it to be cut. I was taught this method as well.
The reason I switched to cold water was because of the extreme skin irritation I would have after a hot water shave. I have sensitive skin, so cold water was a much better alternative. Now, since several of us are proponents of the Traditional Wet Shave, we typically use that water, combined with a brush and soap, to whip up a lather. And you may be thinking, It lathers because we use hot water. It also lathers with cold water just as easily. For a cold water shave, just do your normal prep, but when you wet your face to ready it for the lather, use cold water.
This method has several benefits, not just for you, but for your gear as well. Take your razor. Nice, shiny, sturdy piece of metal. Feels nice when it’s warm. So does the blade. But get this. The hot water used to rinse the blade causes the tiny metal molecules in the blade to expand, making the razor dull after only five shaves. Cold water, on the other hand, causes the molecules to contract, giving the blade a better edge and longer life. Just by using cold water, my current Wilkinson Sword blade is on it’s eighth shave.
Your brush benefits too. While it will make the bristles a tad stiffer than normal, you don’t have to worry about any bristles slipping out of the handle and sticking to your face mid-lather. But, if you’re using a badger brush this should be no problem, as the badger hair remains soft regardless.
Now, for your face. With cold water, your beard will stiffen as opposed to being soft. When you make your first cut, there will be a slight tug, but is to be expected. Instead of the razor gliding over your whiskers, this tugging motion is the razor cutting the whisker at it’s closest. Your face will thank you, as you won’t have razor burn or bumps, your equipment will last longer, and you’ll stay quite the cool customer during the summer months.
P.S. There is also a chap in England who has a video on YouTube where he is shaving with ice water. You can check this out as well, although I would rather drink the ice water: