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Shaving 101 – 3 Bafflingly Counterintuitive Aspects Of Wet Shaving

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No matter how long shaving has been around, there are a few techniques that seem “natural” or “right” that are actually counter-intuitive.  Here are three of them.

Turning A Straight Razor While Stropping

It seems like every shaver who wants to learn straight razor technique makes their first mistake while stropping.  While stropping back and forth, they will inevitably roll the razor on it’s edge instead of it’s spine.  The correct way is to roll the razor on it’s back (spine) to avoid damage to both the razor’s edge and the strop.

Stropping GIF
Image courtesy of and

Widely Available Products Aren’t As Good As Niche’ Products

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Another common misconception is that good shaving products for the “old school” shaver can only be found in specialty stores and on the internet.  The fact is, while that may have been the case several years ago, that there are quite a few solid products that are reasonably widely available.  Some include Nivea For Men Sensitive aftershave balm,* Cremo Cream* (though brushless, still a good product), Pacific Shaving products* (particularly their Caffeinated line), and even Van Der Hagen’s “Luxury”* line of shave soaps. Body Shop* shaving products are a little less widely known but are in many shopping malls in the US.  All these products, while perhaps not known as a “luxury” product, have solid reputations.

Razor Pressure

The big one.  It seems that from time immemorial the shaver tends to press down on the razor.  Completely counter-intuitive: the absence of pressure will create a more efficient cut with a razor’s edge.  Over the years there have been engineering improvements to at least partly compensate for too much pressure, with the razor pivot being the primary innovation.  But engineering only gets you so far.  To truly improve the cut of a razor it must gently rest on the skin.  There is no substitute.

What other common shaving processes are counter-intuitive?  Leave a comment below!


Shave tutor and co-founder of sharpologist. I have been advocating old-school shaving for over 20 years and have been featured in major media outlets including The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and Lifehacker. Also check out my content on Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest!View Author posts

6 thoughts on “Shaving 101 – 3 Bafflingly Counterintuitive Aspects Of Wet Shaving”

  1. The counter-intuitive aspects most trap novices, of course: old hands know it so well that they don’t think about it. I mention a few in the book, and one that comes to mind is related to the pressure: on rinsing after the first, with-the-grain pass, the novice will feel a lot of stubble and (often) think, “Uh-oh. It’s not cutting right. I need to use more pressure.” It takes a (relatively short) while to learn that having palpable stubble remaining after the first pass is normal, and that’s why there’s a second pass and a third.
    Those who come to DE shaving after a fair amount of experience with cartridge shaving have the pressure problem (since it seems common for cartridge shavers to bear down hard to try to get another shave from the (expensive) cartridge) and also an angle problem, since it’s become a habit to hold the razor with the handle close to the face. Initially, it feels wrong to have the hand so far from the face, but that’s what produces a good angle, at least for most DE razors.

  2. I second the Pacific Shaving products. Also, if you’re lucky enough to find it in a store, the Nivea Sensitive shave cream- in the metal tube (not the pressurized can) is awesome stuff. I’ve only seen it at one store in my area, and it’s a bit of a hike. But it’s a great cream!

  3. Great advice. The Body Shop closed it’s US brick and mortar stores but still has a presence on line.

    1. Body Shops are still alive in the US. Was in one a few hours ago. They seem to be opening more stores than closing, but hard to say what their future is. Sales were down 5% last year and the chain has been sold. Maca Root shave cream, love it or hate it, has been farmed out to TJ Maxx and Marshall’s. Hopefully, this is because of repackaging and not discontinuing.

      1. Brian Fiori (AKA The Dean)

        Thanks for the heads-up. The Maca Root cream is one of my very favorites. I may have to stock up.

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