Is there more stress in your life than usual? Feeling a little frustrated, helpless, or powerless? Maybe it’s time to take wet shaving to the next level to help combat those feelings.
The Benefits Of Making Wet Shaving A Routine/Ritual
The world can be a scary place, especially nowadays. But you can keep control of at least parts of it by taking steps to calm and focus your mind. One way to do that is to create a routine or a ritual.
Think of it as a form of mindfulness, meditation, or focus to train yourself into an emotionally calm, relaxed state. There are two main things to keep in mind to achieve this:
- The focus is on the moment. If your mind wanders you acknowledge it to yourself without judgement and refocus your attention.
- It takes about 20 minutes in the activity to get full benefit. When you do this activity is less important than doing the activity itself. See also When Is The Best Time To Shave Your Face?
A leisurely shave seems ripe for creating a routine or ritual.
A Shave Ritual
This is not a new idea. Leisureguy discussed a similar idea in 2006. He compared it to a Japanese Tea Ceremony:
“Special room – check
Special mode of dress – check
Contemplative, unrushed mindset – check
Cleanliness and order – check
Practice of technique requires focused attention (aka flow) – check
Use of special tools, often old – check
Tools both functional and aesthetically pleasing – check
Suspension of mind chatter, critical judgments – check
Senses—sight, hearing, touch, smell—fully engaged – check
Physical enjoyment of sources of warmth – check
Awareness and enjoyment of aromas arising from hot water – check
Definite sequence of steps – check
Specific structure for the entire experience, repeated each time – check”
We’re not going to do a “speed run” here, either–we need those 20 minutes. I am going to suggest doing an “old school” leisurely wet shave, with a razor with a single blade and lathering cream or soap with a brush (but if for some reason you do not want to go full-tilt boogie into it that’s OK too). Here is a breakdown of my proposed “mindful, relaxing shave.”
1. Assemble Shave Elements
Take a moment to collect all the things you’ll need for your shave. I’ll assume all these things are in your bathroom; just have them within easy, convenient reach.
- Hand Soap/Cleanser
- Face Soap/Cleanser
- Dry, Clean Towel (Optional: washcloth or cleansing brush)
- Shave Soap Or Cream
- Shave Brush (Optional: lather-building mug, scuttle, or bowl)
- Razor And Blade
- Aftershave (Optional: toner for cleansing)
2. Wash your hands
Spend 20-30 seconds thoroughly washing and rinsing your hands. A clean face is essential to a good shave. But to wash your face you need to use clean hands. If you want a lot more detail on the “why’s” and “how’s” read Wash Your Hands (Properly) For A Better Shave.
3. Wash And Rinse Your Face
Doctors say it can take up to three minutes to properly cleanse and hydrate the face for shaving. But the important point here is to use a cleansing product that is specifically made for the face (see What Is The Best Pre-Shave Face Wash? for some suggested products). Whether you use your hands, a washcloth, or a specialized face cleaning tool with it is up to you. Personally I get the best results using a powered cleaning brush. Read Face Cleaning Tools For A Better Pre-Shave And Fewer Ingrowns?
Put the stopper in your sink and fill it with warm water. Plop your brush in the water and let the water soak the brush hair. How long you soak partly depends on the type of hair your brush has: badger and synthetic may not need much time, while boar or horse hair may require a bit more. You’ll have to experiment a bit to find the time best for you and the brush you are using. Start with a one minute soak and adjust accordingly.
After soaking grab the brush by its handle and hold it with the hair down and handle up. With your other hand circle the hair with your thumb and forefinger like you’re signaling “that’s perfect,” and gently give it a squeeze. Where you do this on the brush depends on the type of brush: most brushes should be squeezed nearer the tips; badger brushes or other brushes with a relatively long “loft” may need to be squeezed a bit further down down toward the handle (but no more than the middle of the loft). I find one finger’s width down from the tips seems to be the sweet spot for many of my brushes.
After you squeeze the brush tips will be closed. Resist the temptation to shake the brush to “bloom” the hair. If you want a bit more information on this technique take a look at How To Keep The “Perfect” Amount Of Water In A Shave Brush Every Time – With Video.
If you’re loading the brush from a squeeze tube of shave cream, apply an almond-sized amount slightly into the brush hair. If you’re loading from a tub of shave soap or cream, spin the brush into the tub (pressing down slightly) to load the brush: it could take anywhere from five to 30 seconds depending on the mineral content of your water and the type of hair your shave brush uses. Spin the brush long enough to get some product onto the brush–go for more than just a soapy foam.
Now that the brush is loaded you have a choice whether to build lather directly on the face, or in a container like a mug or scuttle then applying it to the face.
Start 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. If the lather looks dry and dull then dip the tips of the brush in water and repeat.
It may take a several 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. 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 can or brushless tube) with soft “peaks” (like a cake batter) without any bubbles.
While you are doing this enjoy the scent of the shaving lather. Pay attention to it. Feel it on the skin.
5. The First Shave Pass
Assuming you are using a single blade without a cartridge (i.e. the classic double-edge razor or a single-edge razor like the “Injector” style), rest the razor head against the cheek and slowly rock the razor downward until the blade edge just makes contact with the skin, then go just a bit more. Then lock your wrist and shave straight downward, regardless of the “grain” of the stubble. The angle between the blade edge and the skin should be somewhere between 30 and 45 degrees: shaving should feel comfortable and hot harsh. If it feels uncomfortable shaving “North-to-South” then try shaving more towards the “grain.”
Segment the area to be shaved into its flattest parts. Take shorter strokes on curved areas (like the chin). Rinse the blade between segments so that you always have a “clean” blade on each part.
Don’t worry about getting every last strand of hair or go over the same spot again and again during the pass: your goal is to reduce the stubble, not eliminate it.
The main point here is to focus on what you are doing. Shave efficiently but not quickly and try not to get distracted. If your mind wanders don’t criticize yourself: just pause for a moment to “reset” your thoughts back to shave technique and continue.
6. The Second Pass
After you have finished your first pass rinse briefly to keep the skin hydrated (you can do this with the soapy water from the sink: don’t worry about needing “fresh” water) then re-lather for the second pass. You should not only have enough lather in the brush from the loading you’ve already done, but also since the lather has had time to “peculate” it will probably be more effective and hydrated, even though the lather coating on the skin may look a bit thinner.
This pass reduces the stubble further by shaving either “South-North” or “cross-grain” (depending on your preference).
But once again the key is to focus on what you are doing. Keep your mind on shave technique and your environment of the moment. If you get distracted, that’s OK! Just say to yourself “I got distracted” and refocus on your shave. Feel the temperature of the lather against the skin. Notice the scent of the lather. Listen to the sound the razor makes. Appreciate the track of the razor across the lather.
7. The Third Pass
If you wish the have a close shave rinse, relather, and perform a third pass: either “against the grain” or–if your skin cannot handle an against-grain shave–across the grain from the opposite direction as the previous pass.
Stay focused–now is not the time to let up on your shave ritual.
8. Rinse, Relather, And Touch Up (If Necessary)
After you are finished with your final pass briefly rinse then examine yourself to see if you have missed any spots. If you have, squeeze up a bit of lather from the brush, hand-apply to those spots, and shave with either a buffing or arcing action. Do this once: if you still feel you have missed a spot that’s OK, just let it go to the next shave. Repeated “touch and cut” actions will probably do more harm than good.
Focus for this part of your shave is essential.
9. Final Rinse (Optional Wipe-down)
OK, now drain the sink and run clean warm water: use your hands or a wet clean washcloth to generously rinse the shaved area. Pay attention to get those little areas (like under the nose or ears) that might hide a bit of lather.
I like to take this one step further by soaking a cotton cosmetic pad with a good toner and wiping down the area, too. You might be surprised with what the pad will pick up: if you’re predisposed to ingrown hairs or those tiny white pimples after shaving it could be a little lather residue clogging pores in the skin.
10. Aftershave Application
Now rinse with cool water: you don’t need to keep the skin dripping wet but do keep it moist. Now apply a bit of your favorite aftershave product. Keeping your skin wet will let you apply the aftershave more evenly (and you may not need as much).
11. Cleaning Up The Area
You may be finished with your shave but you are not finished with the ritual. “Police up the area” by rinsing out your razor and brush and cleaning up any remaining stubble or lather residue from the sink. Put things up or out of the way to dry and make room for the next person who wants to use the area.
You’re finished with your leisurely, mindful shave ritual. And you have probably spent about 20 minutes doing it, calming and steadying your mind in the process.
Other Things You Can Do With Your Mindful Shave
There may be a few other things you can do to enhance your mindful shave ritual. Some find background music helpful–though I would suggest using instrumental music instead of vocals to reduce the chance of distraction.
Another thing to keep in mind is to use your favorite scents with your shave products. Whether that is cologne-like, citrus, floral, or some other scent, using something you find pleasant is going to help.
The Effect Of Some Essential Oils
[Note: Amazon, OneBlade, PAA, and West Coast Shaving links are affiliate.]
Related to scent is the use of essential oils in shave products. Certain essential oils have reputed benefits you might find useful. For example some of the more common ones found in shave products include:
- Lavender has an excellent reputation for reducing stress and promoting relaxation. Check out:
- Rose also has calming qualities. Take a look at:
- Tea Tree Oil is known to inhibit bacteria and fight infections. There appears to be some evidence of anti-viral properties as well (though this needs more research. See What Is Tea Tree Oil And Why Is It In My Shaving Stuff?).
- Peppermint has anti-viral properties (there is some evidence to suggest Eucalyptus may too). Here are some peppermint shave products:
While the concentration of these oils in a shaving product may not help kill the latest “bug” it couldn’t hurt either. 🙂 By the way, viruses have a hard time living on soaps anyway.
Other Anti-Viral Strategies?
By the way, viruses have a hard time living on soaps.
Ultraviolet light (UV) can sanitize hardware like razors. One particular device, Blew, is specifically made to dry and sanitize razors so you might get some blade life-extending benefits in addition to killing off the bugs. I’ve actually been using a Blew unit for several months now and it seems to work well.
There is a lot more confusion, stress, and uncertainty in the world today. So it makes sense to take care of yourself and do everything you can to protect your health, both emotionally and physically. Sticking to a routine you have control over, and being mindful of the process, can help you deal with life these days.
What things do you do with your shave routine to help you focus and relax? Leave a comment so others may benefit!
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