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Get A Shaving Set As A Holiday Gift? Here Is How To Use It

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shaving set with razor brush stand

Did you get a shaving set as a gift but you’re not sure how to use it?  You’ve come to the right place–Sharpologist is all about getting a great shave!

So What Did You Get With Your Shaving Set?

Odds are some kind of shaving brush, a razor, maybe a stand, and if you’re lucky a bowl and a cream or soap.  Let’s look at how each element of the set works.

The Brush

The shave brush in the shaving set is probably where most gift recipients get that “deer in the headlights” look.  That’s totally understandable.

There are several different types of hair material in brushes, each with their own differences, but the basics are pretty much the same. Check out this video for more details.

(NOTE: The first few times you use an animal hair shave brush you may get a weird wet animal smell (often referred to as “The Funk” by shaving aficionados). This is normal and should go away after a week or so of use.  If you want to knock it down more quickly try wetting the brush and using some pet shampoo on it.  Rinse thoroughly and dry completely before using it with shave lather. Synthetic fiber brushes won’t have this problem.)

Making shaving lather the “classic” way starts with soaking both the brush in water.  Fill a sink with warm-to-hot water and place the shaving brush in the sink and let it soak there for a minute.

After soaking let the water drain from the brush and gently squeeze the brush to get rid of the excess.  Check out this video for a visual explanation.

“Load” the brush:

  • If you have a shave soap puck or a jar of shave cream, swirl the brush onto it, pressing down slightly, to coat the brush’s bristles with product (an alternative for the jar is to scoop some out with a small utensil and place it directly into the center of the brush).  You are looking for more than just a light foam on the bristles–you want a relatively thick coating.
  • If you are using a tube of shave cream, squeeze out an almond-size amount directly into the center of the brush.

Generating lather can be done in an empty bowl of some kind (maybe your kit has one?) or directly onto the face.  An advantage of using a bowl is that you can get a better idea of how the brush is “building” the lather.  Pro tip: if you gently heat the bowl beforehand (by soaking it in the sink’s warm water too) you can get a warmed lather than can feel great.

On the other hand building lather directly to the face can save some time and help with shave preparation if you have skimped on it.

Massage the brush into the bowl or on the face using circular motions and pressing the brush down slightly.  Some advocate using a painting motion vs. a circular motion but let’s start off with circular.  Massage for about 30 seconds then dip the tips of the brush in water and repeat.

Whether you’re building in a bowl or to the face, you are looking for a shiny, somewhat “loose” consistency (runnier than what might come out of a pressurized can or a brushless tube) with soft “peaks” (like cake batter or yogurt) without any bubbles.  Take your time and enjoy the scent and feel of the shaving lather: it may take a a couple minutes for the lather to build on the brush to the right consistency (depending on the type of brush, the type of product used, and the mineral content of the water).

The Razor

merkur 34c

Your shaving set also probably included a nice razor of some type: a modern cartridge razor with a nice handle, an old-school safety razor, or maybe even a straight razor.  No matter what you received keep in some near-universal truths about using a razor:

  • The most comfortable and safe way to shave is to reduce the beard in stages or “passes,” don’t try to get rid of it all at once.
  • Don’t try to catch every little spot or shave the same spot over and over again.  That’s a prescription for irritation.

If you got a safety razor, bear in mind that if a blade came with it the blade might have dulled in the shipping process (rattling around in the box). Better to use a new blade if you can. By the way, all safety razors may look alike but may have very different specifications (metallurgy, grind, coating, etc.). You may have to experiment with different brands to find the one(s) best for you.

Click here for a simple guide on how to install or change a double edge razor blade.

The first pass should be in the direction the hair grows in (the “grain”). If you don’t know it you can use your hand to stroke an area from different directions–one direction will feel smoother than the others. That’s the grain. Your first pass should almost feel leisurely–don’t worry about getting every last hair.

After that first pass, briefly rinse (just to keep the skin wet), relather, and then shave “across” the grain (the direction 90 degrees away from the grain).

As you get more comfortable with your shaving kit for men you may want to try for an against-grain pass for that “baby’s butt” feel, but be careful–some people’s skin just can’t handle that.

If you received a double edge razor but have never used one before you should know that they require a slightly different technique.  Be sure to take it slow, find the right angle for the blade (start with the top of the razor head against the skin, then rock the razor down until the blade edge just comes in contact with your skin), lock your wrist, and use short strokes.

Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get a great shave on the first try (or several tries)!  You’re learning a new skill, like riding a bike or playing a musical instrument: some practice may be necessary.

After The Shave

After you have shaved you will want to rinse with clean, warm water to remove any lather residue that may have been left behind.  Then apply a good aftershave balm to help restore your skin.

Those are the basics of using your new shaving set.  Be sure to read through Sharpologist for more information on how to get a great shave!


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

1 thought on “Get A Shaving Set As A Holiday Gift? Here Is How To Use It”

  1. Chris Scheer, San Antonio

    Thanks to your great site, I bought my own set! The wifey gave me a $100 shopping spree for Christmas, and I couldn’t be more excited. Dad gave me a Vikings Blade long handle Emperor he didn’t care for, so I’ve been practicing with that. So far I’ve started using Vanderhagen soap and Creemo cream, omega’s boar brush, and the emperor. But for Christmas I received the Augustus adjustable, and with my $100 spree I got Heritage Hill’s Washington Soap, PAA Amber synth brush, a razor blade sampler kit, and a stand. Still waiting on the brush, then I’m gonna try it all out. Can’t wait! (on a side note, I got three Pinaud aftershaves – Whiskey Woods, Bay Rum, and the regular – and I hated all of them. Amazon very kindly refunded me so I got a chiseled face soap sampler kit that’s on its way).

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