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30 Days To A More Enjoyable Shave – Preparation

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soap preparation
Welcome to the first week of the Sharpologist 30 day challenge to a more enjoyable shave!  This week we’re going to concentrate on shave preparation.  Last week you were given homework to find a cleansing soap or wash specifically made for the face. Lets put it into use. You do not want to use a “deodorant soap” or “body bar” because it will tend to strip off too much of the skin’s natural oil, drying the skin out and making shaving more difficult.

Pre Preparation?

Last week I asked you to set aside ten minutes per day for this challenge.  Luckily you probably won’t need that much for this assignment: I want you to spend about five minutes on preparation.
First things first: thoroughly wash your hands with whatever product you have selected and plenty of warm water before you do anything else!  If your hands are dirty–or worse, contaminated–you are just making it that much tougher to clean the area to be shaved.
The next step in preparation is to begin rinsing the area to be shaved with generous amounts of warm-to-hot water (hot but not uncomfortable to you).  If you are going to be shaving your face be sure to pay close attention to your neck area as well!  Doctors tell me it takes about three minutes to properly hydrate the skin for shaving.  Spend at least one minute just rinsing thoroughly before lathering up the area with your soap.

A Video To Illustrate

Cleansing and Rinsing

Spend the next two minutes (at least) to wash and rinse the area to be shaved.  If you want to integrate this preparation into your shower routine, feel free to do so!  If you are shaving with a manual shaver leave the skin you are going to shave wet; don’t bother drying it off.  If you are using an electric razor, dry completely (unless of course you are using one of those wet/dry electrics!).
After your preparation is complete, shave as you have been normally doing (you may be changing that next week though).  Be sure to apply these concepts all week then come back here and comment on your experience!

What About Pre-Shave Oils?

To tell the truth, I’m not a big fan of pre-shave oils as a part of preparation.  They do nothing for cleaning the skin, and although they may help with lubrication during the shave, I think that if you use good enough products you won’t need them anyway.  But if you do use a pre-shave oil as part of your shave prepartion, apply it after cleansing.

Homework For Next Week

Homework for next week’s challenge topic is a two part assignment.  First, determine what kinds of scents you enjoy.  Reviewing THIS Sharpologist article might help.  Then search for shaving products that meet that scent profile.  If you have taken to “old school” shaving, using a brush and lather cream or soap, this might be a no-brainer.  If you have been using the typical “goo in a can” a whole new world may be opening up for you!
If you still prefer to go “brushless” at least upgrade your product–nothing out of a pressurized can!  And it still may help to find a brushless product that is “brush friendly” so if you decide to make the transition later you will have some options open to you.  A couple relatively common “brush friendly” products to consider include Kiss My Face Moisture (KMF) Shave (such as Lavender and Shea or Patchouli. You might be surprised how downright masculine some of the scents can be. KMF is available at many health food stores and large groceries that have a “natural products” section) and Cremo Cream (with a kind of “pina colada” scent, now becoming more widely available in US drugstore chains and “mega-marts”).  Other “brush friendly” options include Billy Jealousy Hydroplane Shave Cream, Pacific Shaving All Natural Shaving Cream, and (especially) Truefitt & Hill No 10 Shaving Cream.  I have found that William Neumann’s shaving creams, though meant for use with a brush, work extremely well brushless too.
Search the various shaving blogs and forums for scent descriptions and product recommendations.
The key takeaway here is to find a product that performs well and that smells good to you.
Related Posts:
5 Pre-Shave Soaps That Really Work
Kiehl’s Facial Fuel
Jack Black Supreme
Five Shaving Soaps That Shaving Cream Guys Should Try
Five Shaving Creams That Shaving Soap Guys Should Try


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

15 thoughts on “30 Days To A More Enjoyable Shave – Preparation”

  1. Good Day!
    Can you make a video or write an article on your thoughts or even better with a tutorial on cold water shaving? So much is written on the “standard” use of hot/warm water in shaving but I can only find a very very very few articles and videos on the topic. I believe there are significant number of people who doesn’t have easy access to or any access at all to hot water so I think you could help.

  2. I really enjoy your site!! I have found Whole Foods 365 unscented glycerin soap using my wife’s Clarsonic Pro scrubber ( I do have my own brush) really does a good prep for shaving. I prefer Jack Black Beard Lube,I have used Jack Black Supreme Cream and didn’t particularly care for it. It’s just not nearly as slick or sticks to my skin like beard lube.

  3. Forgive me if this question is out of place here. I remember seeing a recipe for a homemade fave wash using Dr. Bronners & oil. I cant quite remember if I saw that here or in one of Mantic59’s YouTube videos. Does this ring a bell? If so could you let me know the proportions and ingredients in case I’m forgetting something? Thanks in advance.

    1. I found it in another thread here!
      one-quarter cup Dr. Bronner’s Liquid Soap (any fragrance–my personal preference is Hemp Lavender. However be aware that it contains lanolin, which some people are allergic to);
      2 tsp skin-friendly oil (such as Emu Oil, Jojoba Oil, Almond Oil–often used in therapeutic massage–or Grape Seed Oil). Even olive oil will do in a pinch).

  4. Great website and articles, guys. I’m new to DE shaving and have been using Proraso pre shave. I purchased some of the Whole Foods glycerin soap today after reading this article. Should I skip the Proraso if I use the glycerin soap before lathering or use both? Thanks so much.

    1. Unfortunately nobody can tell you what will work best for you. You have to experiment and see if the preshave product makes any real difference in your shave. For me, a preshave oil is absolutely essential–though I can get by, from time to time, with a preshave cream. I have tried cutting out the preshave oil on several occasions through the years, but got poor results every time.

  5. I got an artisinal all natural shave soap at a local farmer’s market, that does a great job for cleaning before the shave (I find it does a lousy job for the shave itself, since I find the lather it produces too loose (I feel like it is missing something to stabilize the mix), and can’t come close to my Trumper’s Coconut oil cream…). after washing the face in the shower, I still do a couple of splashes to warm/wet the face, and then a quick pre-shave treatment of Trumper’s Skin food (Using the Coral scented one for now, I’d like to try the Lime scent, but when ever I’m due for a new bottle, my local shop is always sold out), before lathering up and cutting…
    Anecdotally I’d say 3 min of washing is overkill (I get 3min of the hot towel treatment if you’re not showering pre-shave), I wet the face with warm water at the beginning of the shower, do the rest of the body, rinse the face again when i rinse out the shampoo, and then finish with 20s of lathering the soap on the face, giving it 30s, and then rinsing it off.

  6. Good point, Dr. K. I have to think Mantic was referring to the entire process (not just washing/scrubbing, but also rinsing and hydration) with his time-framework. But better to be safe and explicit, Since I wash my face (as well as shave) in the shower my face is getting far more than 3 minutes of hydration—but no more than 30 seconds or so of actual washing. OTOH, when I shaved at the sink (before my shower) it was hard to get my face hydrated enough for a good shave without spending 3 minutes or so.
    I’d add AOS to the brushless/brush-friendly creams. They may be a bit pricey, but they really do last quite awhile, in my experience. And with the expansion of AOS, they are fairly widely available. Also, while I think Cremo works great with a brush when mixed with another product (or even as a preshave cream) I’m not sure I would call it “brush friendly” by itself. Maybe “brush indifferent”? :#)

  7. I know there are interviews with dermatologists on blogs and websites recommending 2 minutes of face washing. However, as a dermatologist myself, I would never recommend that to a patient. Squeaky clean is good for your dishes but not for your skin. Excessive rubbing of your skin for a prolonged period of time, especially with hot water, will strip more than just dirt, sloughed skin cells, and debris. It will also begin to strip away at your stratum corneum, which serves to protect your epidermis. Keep in mind that the oils your body produces are designed to coat and protect your skin, and your goal should not be to remove every molecule of your lipid barrier. Overwashing (as well as harsh cleansers, and excessively hot water) will compromise your epidermal barrier, causing redness (erythema), irritation, blotchiness, inflammation, and other adverse effects. A compromised barrier and will also expose your immune system to some of the ingredients in your skin care and shaving regimen that could result in irritant or allergic contact dermatitis, making you unable to tolerate products that would otherwise have not been a problem for you. These two minute face washing recommendations may be more applicable to women wearing heavy coatings of makeup, but most men who aren’t dealing with an visibly dirty face will be fine with 30 seconds or less of gentle but thorough washing with warm but not hot water and a mild soap or facial cleanser. Especially with the cold, dry weather many of us are seeing across the country, face washing for 2 minutes each session would be “30 Days to a Red, Sore Face.” Be gentle to your skin. It’s the only skin you’ve got.

  8. Good read Mark, thanks. I use either Dr Bronners Peppermint or Lavender bar Castille sopa at the beginning of a hot shower. I find the soap very moisturizing and it smells great. Most importantly, the soap leaves my face feeling moist and my whiskers soft. I then complete my shower and proceed to shave!

  9. Nice series, Mark!
    For cleansing, my favorite Pre-Shave soap is RazoRock Artisan Lime Glycerine Soap; I liked it better than Musgo Real Glycerine Lime Oil Soap(which is also worth trying). I’ve also gotten excellent results with Johnson & Johnson Purpose Gentle Cleansing Wash and “glycerine soaps” such as: Kiss My Face C-Weed soap, Whole Foods 365 brand soap, and Clearly Natural soap.
    (After cleansing) I generally don’t use pre-shave oils; in my experience, they have had a negative impact on my shaves, but your results may be different (every Shaver’s beard and face are unique). The 1 pre-shave oil I did like was Pacific Shaving Company. Instead, if I decide to use an additional pre-shave product, I prefer Proraso Sensitive Skin Pre-Shave Cream(which also makes a great after shave cream). There are several pre-shave creams available from other brands too. While RazoRock Professional Shave Lube is intended to be a stand alone shave gel, it works best for me as a pre-shave before applying lather.

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