Shaving blogs, including Sharpologist, abound with top ten lists of dos and don’ts. Upon inspection, these lists usually boil down to about two suggestions. One, face prep is important! You are about to launch a brutal assault on your face with metal that is by definition, razor sharp. The second suggestion is don’t press down (unless you are using a cartridge razor, in which case you must press down otherwise the “rubber will never meet the road.”) Upon reflection, the idea of actually pressing the razor sharp metal into your skin, and then dragging it across your face sounds like something Torquemada could have devised. So there you have it: prepare for the torture to come, and minimize the severity of the facial assault. See, shaving is fun – you should play appropriate military music in the background while you shave. The Flight of Valkyries is one excellent suggestion.
This list is not about what is important (prep – don’t press), but about “unimportant” details that will smooth out the edges of your shave – yes, pun intended. Read, enjoy, and hopefully you’ll pick up an idea or two or decide your silly suggestion is at least as silly as mine and therefore worth sharing in the comments.
In no particular order:
In a 15+ year ago study funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), it was determined that those who have difficulty making excellent lather with either shaving cream by itself or shaving soap by itself will not have twice as much trouble making excellent lather when superlathering, but less than a quarter of the trouble. Ok, I’m making this up; kinda. A little over 15 years ago while living in Italy on a sabbatical (working on an NSF funded project), the idea of superlathering (using both a shaving cream and a shaving soap together) came to me. I did not know this had a name, or that other more seasoned shavers had long ago thought of this. I just saw an amazing aisle of Italian shaving products and wanted to try them all! Since anything worth doing, is worth doing in excess, I went from one cream or soap per shave, to one of each! As a professional mathematician, I am compelled to point out that the number of combinations grows exponentially. So if you are one who likes to experiment with different soaps and creams – this is for you. What I did discover is that any difficulty I experienced making lather with any individual soap or cream disappeared whenever I superlathered. No matter what the combination, even using a difficult to lather cream with a difficult to lather soap, I ended up with an easy to lather combination. My current personal favorite is Italian Barber’s Mudder Focker soap with Neumann’s Old-Fashioned Soda scented shaving cream.
Load your shaving cream upside down
When doing your swirl, loading shaving cream onto your brush, hold the shaving cream upside down and your brush pointed up. I realize this is the opposite of what you see in the videos. The purpose of this is to preserve your shaving cream. When you load your brush with the brush facing down, water collects in the soap tin. This water can build up and eventually ruin your nice expensive soap. Doing your swirl upside down prevents this. Your soap will remain dry and the water that would have dripped into your soap remains in the brush.
Save the baby bottom smooth shave for wedding picture day: I discussed this in a previous post. Interested readers should check it out.
Use a washcloth to rinse
Your shave is done, your razor is proudly hanging back in its stand and its time to both remove any remaining lather and give your face its first hint of relief – the post shave cold water rinse. Its beyond the scope of this post to discuss the advantages of water temperature for this first rinse (pores are not gates that open and close!), suffice it to say, I prefer the cold (but not too cold) rinse. For years, I cupped my hands under the running water or in the newly refilled sink and splashed water onto my face. Not only is this ineffectual, but rather messy as well. This is because, as anyone who has ever tried to hold sand in their hands while at the beach will know, cupped hands are rather leaky. Most of the water you are trying to ferry to your face has already leaked out before you reach your face. USE A WASHCLOTH. Take a washcloth (folded in half) and cup your hands underneath. Now use your washcloth lined hands to do the rinsing. Instead of ineffectually splashing water on your face, you are immersing your face in cold calming water…ahhhhh. Less mess, better rinse!
How to tell when you achieved rock stardom as a wet shaver? Use a white washcloth for the rinse and not need to bleach it when you wash it!
Use a post-shave oil
I learned a lot living in Italy; mainly about food and wine, but also about shaving. Yes, Proraso makes a really nice aftershave balm, but “real” Italian men just use some Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO). One gets the distinct impression that EVOO is to Italians as Windex was to the father from My Big Fat Greek Wedding. They use it literally for everything; including cooking. No witch hazel or alum block for me, just a large drop of oil spread over my face after my rinse. Squeeze out the washcloth and use it to pat dry your face, then apply your drop of oil. For those who prefer a shave product over a food product, Beta Naturals makes a great argan-based post-shave oil. Like a witch hazel or alum block, a post-shave oil also stops the weepers from weeping.
In the summer time this is all I use post-shave. In the drier months, I follow up the oil treatment with a very small dollop of a quality aftershave balm. Current personal favorite is the Village Barber Shaving Balm. Don’t over use aftershave product: less is more.
Clean up after your shave
Sadly, I must admit that this one took me a while. For many years, I shaved in the shower – the gold standard for doing prep right! When I migrated to the sink, post shower, and before I figured out the washcloth trick, I would evidently leave the bathroom, clean but rather wet. Do your spouse, roommate, yourself a favor; wipe down the sink and leave it as clean (or cleaner) than when you started your shave.
Finally do your teeth and razor a favor together: Dentists (or maybe its the toothbrush lobby) tell us that we should replace our toothbrushes about every three months. One should also periodically clean one’s shaving equipment; its a match made in consumer heaven. Clean your razor with your old toothbrush before discarding it.
There you have it, my less meaningful suggestions to improve your daily shave. Don’t forget: Prep, Don’t Press, and if you start yearning for the smell of Napalm in the morning I suggest listening to different music while shaving.
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