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Fundamentals – 6 Classic Shaving Blunders

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playful little young boy shaving face over white background
[This is a guest post by Jack Prenter of] Most of us have been shaving since we were 16-years old, but we never got any real instruction and most of us didn’t grow up with the internet! Without any proper instruction, it’s not surprising that many of us aren’t getting the quality of shave that we desire. In this post we’ll be looking at some of the most common shaving mistakes that men make and what you can do to improve your shaving routine.

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1. Not Preparing Properly

One of the biggest mistakes I see is people failing to prepare their skin and hair to be shaved. A lot of men seem to believe that using a good quality soap or cream is enough to ensure a comfortable shave, but it’s just not true.

Proper preparation is important to getting a close shave without excess irritation. Your hair is really quite strong, some say that it’s as strong as copper wire of the same diameter, so it’s important that you do what you can to soften with hair. You can do this by washing your face and neck with warm water for a few minutes. Many men just splash their face a few times with water but it’s important to fully hydrate your hair until it can’t hold any more water.

This warm water helps to soften the hair but also the relax the pores on your face which reveals slightly more of the hair follicle and produces oils that will help to lubricate. At this stage you might choose to use a pre-shave oil, this just adds extra lubrication to mimic a natural oil in the hair.

2. Not Using a Quality Lather

Almost everyone who reads Sharpologist regularly knows that it’s important to use a lather, but if you’re new here you might not realize just how important it is.

A good lather is the difference between an uncomfortable shave that results in cuts and a shave which feels smooth and effortless. The lather acts as a lubricant for the blade, it softens the hair and it provides a barrier to prevent excess friction between the blade and the skin.

Commercial gels from a can don’t perform anywhere near as well as a traditional soap or cream applied with a brush as a rich lather that is far superior to can foam.

3. Shaving with an Inferior Blade

If you’re using anything other than a DE safety razor or a straight razor, I’ve got news for you, there’s a whole new world out there. Commercial disposable, cartridge and electric razors don’t cut it. You’re getting a less close shave, with more irritation and for a higher price. Switching to a safety or straight razor will make the biggest difference of any change you can make.

Safety razors use DE blades that are made of a much higher quality steel than the blades you find in commercial cartridge razors, so, even though there are fewer blades, it is able to cut the hair much easier. This leads to a better shave because there is less tugging of the hair and fewer blades in contact with the skin, therefore, there is less friction which would cause irritation and a ‘burn’ feeling.

As well as offering a far superior shave, safety razors are also much cheaper than cartridge, disposable and electric shavers. A single blade can last up to a week and cost less than $0.10, in contrast, cartridges may last a few weeks but cost up to $3.00 each.

4. Shaving Against the Grain

This is a tip that can save you from all the irritation and razor burn that you’re accustomed to getting, shaving with the grain helps to prevent tugging of the hair which can be painful and irritates the pores of your skin. When I say “with the grain”, what I mean it the shave in the direction the hair is growing. Each of us has slightly different growth patterns, but you can easily tell the direction by gently running your fingers over the hair and feel which way has the least prickle and least resistance. This is the direction in which you should shave.

5. Showing Off Your Strength

Modern blades are extremely sharp, there is no need to apply any significant pressure to your skin. Many of us have become used to doing this because cartridge shavers are very mild and so you can get away with applying too much pressure. However, when these men change to use DE blades they find they’re cutting themselves regularly. This is because they continue to apply the same pressure that they did with a cartridge razor. Using a lighter touch will ensure a more comfortable shave and also one that is even.

6. Neglecting Your Skin After Shaving

Like it or not, dragging a piece of sharp metal across your skin isn’t great for your skin. Even if you use excellent technique and a thick lather, you’ll find that your skin can often feel delicate and so it’s crucial that you care for it after shaving.

We’ve all seen men throwing alcohol onto their face after shaving and feeling the burning feeling, right? Well, it’s actually the opposite of what you should be doing. Alcohol in aftershave would have served a purpose when shaving with blades in the field where you couldn’t guarantee hygiene, but in modern time we know that our blades are relatively clean.

Instead of throwing alcohol on our skin which dries your skin, you should be using an aftershave or post-shave balm that contains soothing ingredients like mint and others such as shea butter that will lock-in moisture.

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26 thoughts on “Fundamentals – 6 Classic Shaving Blunders”

  1. I agree with everything stated except this:
    “Safety razors use DE blades that are made of a much higher quality steel than the blades you find in commercial cartridge razors”
    If anything, Gillette puts all their R&D into their disposable blades as it’s their bread & butter. I think any modern improvements for DE blades nowadays are merely “trickle down” from that. In all likelihood, DE blades sales are probably plummeting yearly as the Third World is switching over to disposables. The miniscule DE shaving market in the Western World is just that, extremely small so as to be a blip in the overall market and I am sure Gillette has about as much interest in reviving it as does GM for the horse & buggy.
    That said, it’s a better era to be a DE shaver today than years ago as blades are overall far better & cheaper (relative to inflation), fantastic synthetic brushes and a veritable cornucopia of superb artisan soaps/creams that borders on mind numbing. You are IN the “Golden Age”.

  2. Those are good tips; thank you. I have to disagree with the “shaving against the grain” one, however. By following the other tips, notably good lubrication, you can obtain a BBS shave when shaving against the grain. I do it all the time as well as others.

  3. Christopher, I suggest you make an appointment with your therapist. It clearly has been too long since you have seen him/her.

  4. While I do enjoy wet shaving with my DE on the weekend, I prefer the quickness of my electric on weekdays. And I do really have to disagree with the author that an electrics don’t cut it. I have a very inexpensive electric by Braun that allows me to shave my entire face in less than 3 minutes, including cleanup. And the shave I get with it is multitudes closer than a single with-the-grain pass with my DE. I have yet to get as close with my DE even after a couple of passes (shaving in the shower with really good shave cream), not mention the irritation that I get with the DE that I don’t get with my electric.
    Once I retire and don’t have to shave everyday, my days with an electric may be over.

    1. Jon…
      I use a Braun electric in conjunction with my cartridge (Harry’s ) shaves. The Brauns are fantastic shavers, but I must say I cannot get a BBS shave with any of them I have tried. I use them to knock down the “big” stuff and go for detail with Harry’s and a decent shave cream. When I finish I will run my hand over my aging, scarred face and am not satisfied until I cannot feel any hint of errant hair.
      Perhaps we here get a mite anal about this BBS business, but regarding myself I simply like having my face feel perfectly smooth after I finish the task of whisker whomping. On a side note, I know some ladies that seem to like it as well. I consider that to be incentive to continue my efforts.

    2. If you’re going to do just one pass with a DE, I suggest a pass XTG. Try it for a few shaves, then return to one pass WTG and see which works better for you.
      My morning three-pass DE shave takes 5 minutes, and not in haste but at a comfortable speed. (I’m retired, so I don’t have to be anywhere, so no rush.) While I spend 4 more minutes in the shave than you, I do get considerable pleasure and satisfaction from it and never recall getting any from my electric razor when I used one. And I couldn’t help but notice you mention nothing about the pleasure of the shave.

  5. Perhaps “Hans Gruber” is Mantic in disguise just drumming up controversy for an otherwise unremarkable piece of copy…

  6. I have to disagree with the idea that shaving ATG is a blunder. If someone shaves only WTG, he’s not going to get a very good result. In fact, men who shave use a variety of shaving patterns, and by far the most popular is the three-pass shave: WTG, XTG, ATG (lathering prior to each pass).
    The idea is to reduce the stubble as much as possible before shaving ATG, and the three-pass generally does that. Some might prefer a four pass shave (WTG, XTG, XTG the opposite direction), ATG, particularly if their stubble is quite thick and tough.
    One exception: those who tend to get in-growns in some areas should avoid shaving ATG in those areas. For the best result, they can do a three-pass shave of WTG, XTG, XTG the opposite direction.
    I do recommend that novices avoid ATG initially, shaving only a two-pass shave (WTG, XTG). After several shaves, they then introduce ATG gradually, at first shaving ATG only on cheeks and sideburn area, and then gradually extending the area shaved in the ATG pass (with the exception noted above).
    The chart at the link above shows that very few shave a single pass WTG.
    It might also be noted that some have a grain pattern that requires shaving against the grain in some areas: when the stubble grows in a whorl, or chaotically. I certainly would not say that such patterns mean that one should not shave at all.

  7. A great refresher article! When I started DE shaving 3 years ago. I had to look through archives of sites to find newbie stuff. I think a basics course every now and then is great!!

  8. Hans Gruber,
    No one is forcing you to hang around.
    There must be a programme somewhere
    that would delight you.
    Best of luck.

  9. Not much information in this article that was useful. Hope we don’t see more of these uninteresting articles

  10. Any dermatologist will tell you that mint also dries your skin, even if the initial cooling sensation feels good. I avoid products with mint.

  11. Respectfully disagree on two items. I have used various DE razors and all the major cartridges. I’ll never give up my 5-bladder from the Big Guy. It may be a tad more costly. I calculate my cost per shave at under 15 cents. I figure I can splurge for what to me is a better shaving experience. What do I miss about DE shaving? Only the bleeding. It was so colorful.
    I disagree about only shaving WTG. You will never get a close shave unless you go CG or ATG. I’m talking a baby bottom that will last all day and through thr night.
    Anyway, that’s my 3 cents.

    1. Christopher Kavanaugh

      Two British farmers started the whole crop circle frenzy as a joke. There have been recorded circles caused by wind phenomenon , but nothing so elaborate as theirs.
      The irony is even after coming clean the WOOWOO community insists sophisticated
      chemical analysis in laboratories shows significant chemical changes in flattened grain VS unflattened and reports of UFOs, Lizard people and Elvis sightings in association.
      A new shaver should shave with the grain until attaining greater skill and any dermatologist will agree in the reduced irritation. How many furniture makers plane a fine piece of mahogany smooth in 4 passes?
      Everyone needs to, and by human nature will break any rules or suggestions. We may get away with it and actually achieve good results, or, climbing that safety fence fall off a cliff.

    2. @ Saul Nathanson – Sorry to read of your bad experience with DE razors (i.e., lots of cuts and nicks). I have found that some razors are quite prone to nicking and others essentially never nick. For example, I shaved this morning with the RazoRock Stealth slant, no longer made, and got a perfect BBS result with no nicks, and in fact I can’t recall ever having had a nick with that razor. The Maggard slant, OTOH, inevitably nicks (though some find it works well).
      If you’re up for it, I recommend that you try the Dorco PL602, a very inexpensive (<$5, including shipping) razor that is both extremely comfortable and not inclined to nick and also extremely efficient, easily providing a BBS result. (You should try 3-4 different brands of blades in it to find the brand that works best for you.)
      I think that what makes this razor work so well is the extreme curvature of the blade. The RazoRock Baby Smooth has the same feel and performance and it also curves the blade a lot.
      I can understand that once burned, twice shy, but if you would like to spend less on blades and get a better shave, the Dorco PL602 would be worth a try. There are more expensive razors with similar feel and performance (which I list in this post, but the Dorco PL602 is as good as any while costing much less.
      Just a thought. And I totally agree with you about the shave pattern. Shaving only WTG will never get the job done.

  12. Christopher Kavanaugh

    OH DEAR! what can the matter be?
    A sudden need to all use the lavatory?
    To much beer, we all got the bends
    A common mistake when among friends.
    Last one in was Mantic.
    The toilets all full, so in a panic
    Mark pissed in the basin.
    And that was the water Hans
    Shaved his face in.

  13. Realizing your mission is popularizing DE blades, I’m a bit of a fumblefingers and have not fared well with trying DE blade shaving. So of the cartridge products available, which does the Sharpologist prefer ?

    1. Mal…
      I’m not the Sharpologist, but I get quite good results from Harry’s at a per-shave price significantly less than the Big Brand cartridge manufacturers.

  14. Utter drivel with clickbait title and janky stock photography. Sharpologist content has really taken a turn for the worse. Lots of “guest” posts by digital marketeers. There is literally nothing worth reading on this site anymore. Not that there really ever was much. With such a lack of authenticity, Sharpologist has joined the ranks of Internet filth, peddling vacuous content with regularity in hopes of making a quick buck by luring unsuspecting new wet shavers to the click farm. Such a shame. YOU, Sharpologist, is what is wrong with the Internet. Adding Sharpologist to the “Fake News” category now…

    1. Take a chill pill, Graber. There are so many problems with Internet content, but it is certainly not Sharpologist. This site offer tons of great information for men.
      As well, the Internet lives because of advertising. The Internet is an advertising medium. Come on, Graber, you have more important things to do than posting foolishness.

    2. I shaved for most of my adult life without understanding the basics which I learned here several years ago. True that once one knows good basic technique there will be some diminishing returns from reading here, but that doesn’t make the info provided fake or merely click bait. I’ll bet there are still literally millions of men who could get a much better shave after spending some time on this site. Your comments are not justified.

    3. Mantic 59 is one of the two internet tutors who taught me how to fully enjoy Traditional/Wet shaving almost five years ago. I am 84 now and can’t wait for my morning shave.
      I still relish what they have to say although I admittedly do deviate a trifle from the (especially the straight) and narrow.
      I am now a confirmed ancient single edger.
      Rolls Razor. GEM. Schick Cartridge and its incredible Instamatic Band Razor.

    4. Hans…
      I politely suggest you go back on your meds. The ugly, tedious side of you is burgeoning forth again.

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