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5 Best Tips From The Guide To Gourmet Shaving

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leisureguy's guide to gourmet shaving tips
It’s no secret that I think the Leisureguy’s Guide to Gourmet Shaving book is very useful to the shaver, beginner and experienced alike.  It’s filled with tons of useful information and an easy, inexpensive recommendation.  Here are what I think are five of the best tips from the book:

1. Using A Hot Towel

“Wash and lather your beard, and then mold a moist hot towel over your lathered beard (including your neck), lean back, and meditate quietly for 1-3 minutes.  The moist heat of the towel combined with the lather softens the beard remarkably.  Then remove the towel, re-lather, and start the first pass.”

Proper preparation is an often-overlooked aspect of a great shave that I constantly stress, especially to beginners.  But this method provides something…more.  Sure, washing your face with a good, gentle facial soap will get the job done but there’s something relaxing, luxurious and evocative  about a warm, fragrant towel’s moist heat and scent.

2. Dealing With Hard Water

hard water
If you have “hard” water and you don’t have a water softener, “you can use the workaround: distilled (or ‘purified’) water heated ahead of time…”

You might be amazed at how much better the quality of your lather is if you try this.  If you’re used to thin, “wimpy” lather with high-mineral content water, prepare for an explosion from your brush!

3. Finding The Right Blade

“I suggest getting a large sampler pack, along with as many blades as you can find locally….  At first, try just one brand….  If that brand seems to work reasonably well, stick with it.”

Solid advice, with the book going into a fair amount of detail, though I differ from Leisurguy’s philosophy slightly.  Micheal suggests sticking with a blade that seems to work reasonably well for you and forget about the rest for a while.  I think you should go ahead and try a few shaves with each blade in the pack, making note of the ones that work the best for you.  Then select a favorite and stick with that until you nail down your technique.  There’s no right or wrong–as I said it’s philosophical.  Don’t get rid of the sampler pack though: revisit them after 6-12 months and you may discover that your technique has given you a new appreciation for a blade that you did not care for initially.

4. Holding The Razor

“…hold the razor at the point of balance”

Admittedly another possible disagreement in philosophy but certainly a usable tip!  Personally, I feel that many razors benefit from a lower grasp, depending on the razor’s design.  I get a much better grasp with shorter handle razors by holding it by my thumb and forefinger below the razor’s center of gravity (balance point) while resting the base of the handle on my pinky finger.
However I will be the first to acknowledge that some razor’s are designed to be held at the point of balance.  The Goodfella razor is a prime example: when I first got mine I read the documentation with it that said to hold it at the balance point (with helpful grooves at the spot on the handle).  “Bah,” I thought to myself, “I’ll just use my normal grasp.”  And got lousy shaves from it.  I finally tried holding it at the suggested grasp point and surprise!  Significantly improved shaves.  RTFM.

No matter how you hold the razor you should use little or no pressure on it!  It should be light as a feather….

5. The Polishing Pass

“Once you’re doing the ATG pass, you can finish the shave with a polishing pass to remove the last traces of roughness.”

Leisureguy suggests several different ways to get those last traces of roughness, including using water or oil instead of lather.   Personally I have never had much success with a touch-up with just water: there just isn’t enough protection for me.  Oils are somewhat dependent on the individual product’s ingredients–some work better than others (as michael mentions).  I have had the best luck with Village Barber Shave Oil and Pacific Shaving Oil, and the least success with Art of Shaving and Truefitt & Hill pre-shave oils.

Your “Leisureguy” Tips?

Have you tried any of these tips?  What do you think?  Any suggestions of your own?


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

9 thoughts on “5 Best Tips From The Guide To Gourmet Shaving”

  1. Hey Mantic,
    Awesome article! I just wanted to point out a little something!
    In regards to the first tip, I think you should add that after you lather, put the hot towel on and remove it, you are to wipe that “old” lather off and then re-lather. If I recall correctly, in your video where you received a shave by a master barber, you stressed the importance by flashing it on the screen when he said it, that you should not layer your lather, but this doesn’t really address that point and can be taken that you should just remove the towel and immediately re-lather, thus layering your lather.

  2. I only use the water touchup technique when straight razor shaving, when DE shaving, it just doesn’t work for me.

  3. Great article, couldn’t agree more, it’s amazing what distilled water has done with my lathers. Just letting you know though there is a spelling error in the Hot Towel section, “Most” instead of “Moist”, Happy Shaving!

  4. For my polishing pass, I re-wet my face then rub a translucent glycerin soap once or twice across the areas to be touched up. It’s super slick, and since only minute bits of stubble remain, the lack of cushion isn’t an issue. BBS every time!

  5. On trying different brands of blade at the start: Some sampler packs run to 65 brands. I in no way think it’s a good idea to try them all at the outset. I suggest trying just 2 or 3 and then selecting the best brand of the lot and sticking with that brand for two months minimum. (To stick to the same brand for two months, you will have to buy a couple of packs of that brand so that you can replace blades as they become dull in use.) By keeping the brand of blade constant, variation from shave to shave is (probably) due to prep and technique, so the novice can focus more on perfecting those by not changing the razor or brand of blade. Also, after two months, he’ll *really* know what that brand of blade feels like so when he tries a new brand the differences are highlighted.

    1. I did something similar, I bought packs of a few brands that I could get locally (not a sampler pack), tried a few blades from each, found the ones that worked best and gave them 50 or so shaves to get my head around technique/prep (error and trial), and then went back and re-tried the original 3 along with another 3 or 4 brands, to land on the best blades for me (which happen to be Feathers, which weren’t in the original 3, because I hadn’t found a local supplier for them initially).

  6. I use the polishing pass, but rarely just with water or oil (I’ve tried oil, and maybe it was just the product that I used, but I actually got more irritation than with water), I typically just re-lather my trouble areas, and use a spattering of techniques, depending on the region on my face (some areas it’s just and extra WTG or XTG pass, others I’ll blade buff, j-hook and roll-over as needed to clear those stubborn spots). The toughest spot for me always is the posterior 2/3rds under my chin, just before it goes into the neck… so far I get the best success blade buffing that area, and have to be careful to grip my razor (Merkur Futur) as close to the end of the handle as possible, to use some of the leverage from the handle’s length (not putting much pressure through the blade to my face, but using the leverage and the weight of the razor) to get those stubborn whiskers.
    The hotel towel trick does wonders, although I realistically only use it on weekends (timing wise/noise wise, since I usually nuke the dampened towel to warm-it up, and most mornings, I leave before m wife is even awake), otherwise I just take a hot shower before the shave…

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