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Shaving 101 – Common Mistakes That New Wet Shavers Make

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For men who finally make the switch from cartridge razors to Double Edge Razors, there can sometimes be a learning curve before you get the hang of it. Plastic razors and canned shaving gel are a little bit different than the traditional wet shaving method.

If you have made the switch, there likely was a good reason for it, so I want to ensure that you have the best transition possible. Shaving is often seen as a chore, but if you have the right equipment, technique, and products, then you will be better off. But, as I said, there may be a learning curve, so hopefully, some of my actionable tips will help steer you in the right direction.

The Most Common Mistakes And How To Avoid Them

Using The Wrong Products

[Ed. note: Amazon links are Sharpologist affiliate.]

There are many wet shaving kits at big box stores or pharmacies, and this is where a lot of beginners start their wet shaving journey. They come with a brush, a soap, a bowl, and a razor. This is everything you need to get started, but it will likely turn you away and back towards cartridge razors shortly. Here is the reason why: most of those kits are terrible, and I know this from personal experience.

If you are a new wet shaver, it is vital that you have the right products. You need a quality DE razor, a quality shave soap or shaving cream, and you need a great shaving brush. One of the worst things that you can do is use a cheaply made shaving brush to start with. It will feel like you are scraping a Brillo pad across your face, and the whole process is not enjoyable. I went from a drugstore brush to a Plisson from L’Occitane, and the difference was night and day. Imagine eating a 3 day old low quality steak out of the refrigerator, and the next day eating a filet mignon from American Cut in New York City. The difference was astonishing.

However, if you grab the right products to start with, the process can be very enjoyable, and you will be on your way to understanding what all the hype is about.

For new wet shavers, I can recommend a few products to start out with. Here is a list of  beginner DE razors that Sharpologist recommends. A great soap to start with is Mitchell’s Wool Fat, or if you prefer a cream, you can’t go wrong with Speick.  And last, but certainly not least, is a great shaving brush.

Some specialty vendors and artisans also have beginner kits.

Poor Preparation

The lack of preparation before shaving can make it more difficult and painful. One of the most important things that you can do when starting your journey in wet shaving is having a proper pre-shave ritual. That may sound fancy, but all we mean is that you need to prep your face in order to get it ready for shaving. If you are used to just covering your face in canned aerosol shaving foam and whacking away with a 4 blade razor, you are not going to get the best results with a DE Razor.

A proper pre-shave consists of getting your face ready by using warm water on your face to soften your bristles up, and this also helps to open your pores a little bit. A nice long warm shower is best, but if you don’t have time for that, a warm soak on your face will suffice. Hairs will become softer and they will be a little easier to cut. This can help reduce drag on your razor, making the process much easier. This can also help minimize the risk for razor burn and ingrown hairs.

Another method to soften your facial hair is to leave your lather on your stubble for a brief amount of time. This will help to soften the hairs up, but make sure not to do it too long as the lather will dissipate and eventually break down.

Poor Technique

Another common mistake that new wet shavers make is using poor technique. There are a few things to understand that will help you have better technique. A DE razor is a lot heavier than a cartridge razor. For example, the Merkur 34c is a popular razor and it weighs 77 grams or 2.72 ounces. This is much heavier than your average plastic razor. It is common for new wet shavers to use too much pressure when switching to a DE razor, and this will definitely cause some serious razor burn. To counter that, you need to let the weight of the razor do the work. If you have done your pre-shave routine, and if you are using a quality soap, the weight of the razor alone should be able to cut through your stubble.

Also, you should be shaving with the grain of your beard and not against it. You are now only shaving with one blade instead of multiple. While shaving, it is also important to rinse your razor under water because soap and hair can clog up the blade which means you are not getting a clean and close cut.

Just doing these two things should help out your technique to get you on your way to a more enjoyable shave.

Not Understanding Your Blades


It is vital to understand when your blade is worn out, and when it needs to be rotated or swapped out. Once you get accustomed to using a DE razor, you will start to learn when a blade is going bad. You will feel it tug on your hairs, and it can be painful. Another thing to consider is that there are a lot of different blade manufacturers out there, and they can all shave differently. It is a good idea to get several starter packs to learn what you like and what you don’t like. You may hate Feather blades and love Gillette blades, but the only way to know that is by trying several different brands.

Poor Post Shave Routine

Not having a good post shave routine can make your wet shaving experience worse. If you think about the act of shaving, you are taking a very sharp metal blade across the skin on your face, and you are removing the outer layer of skin along with your facial hair. This is a lot of trauma to your skin. Remember, the skin on your face is more delicate, and it needs proper care after shaving.

There are several different types of products on the market including witch hazel, balms, alcohol splashes, toners, etc., so it can be confusing as to which product to use. A good starting point for a new wet shaver is water, witch hazel, and a soothing after shave balm.

Once your shave is over, you should rinse your face with warm water to help remove any dead skin, shaving cream, and hair left that is on your face. You can then splash some witch hazel on your face. It’s not the best smelling stuff, but it serves a purpose. Witch hazel is an astringent, an anti-inflammatory agent, and it is a free radical scavenger. This may help reduce the chance of getting razor burn and ingrown hairs. After applying the witch hazel, you should pat your face dry with a towel and then apply a nice soothing after shave balm. This will help calm your skin, and it will help restore moisture back into your skin that was stripped out while shaving.


Wet shaving has so many benefits, but some men may experience a learning curve when switching over. Hopefully, some of our actionable tips will get you on your way to having more success. Wet shavers love the hobby, and we are always happy to add more people to the hobby.

If you are looking for some additional tips, check out this Ultimate List Of Shaving Tips.

About The Author: James Woods is the founder and Senior Editor at Beardedblade which is a site dedicated to men’s lifestyle and grooming. James is an avid wet shaver, and he also has experience in the beard care industry.

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8 thoughts on “Shaving 101 – Common Mistakes That New Wet Shavers Make”

  1. I keep seeing the same myth about hot/warm water opening pores. Pores do not and can not open or close. We use warm water because it cleans the “stuff” around the pores and the stubble. Also, warm water feels good in the Winter. My barber says he uses a hot towel before he shaves someone because it opens the pores. NO! Anyone can verify this with a dermatologist. Anyway, I just wanted to clear the air about this.

  2. Could I just say, I do not believe Mitchell’s Wool Fat is a good recommendation for beginners. It is a very fine soap indeed, but even Manticores had to put together a teaching video for its use. There are literally hundreds of fine soaps and creams, such as Proraso, Arko, Palmolive stick, D R Harris, Taylor’s of Old Bond Street, and loads more, all of whom lend themselves to a starter’s usage. But MWF is a little more difficult.

      1. I saw “Manticore” and thought, cool…someone’s a fan of Robertson Davies.
        Mitchell’s Wool Fat is a terrific soap, especially in winter, but it does take a bit of work to get it going. Something that will annoy an impatient first-timer. An Arko stick is not only easy to use it’s also cheap. During my apprenticeship in wetshaving I went whole hog, buying everything and anything that was praised on various wetshaving forums (one of my first purchases was a lavender scented soap…all fine and dandy until I realized I didn’t actually like lavender).
        Start simple, especially with software like soaps and creams. Get the hang of it and then expand into others…maybe even, ughhh, lavender if you must.🤨

    1. Brian Fiori (AKA The Dean)

      I’m with you. MWF isn’t the easiest to lather in hard water and contains lanolin. Many people (including me) have lanolin sensitivity.

  3. I have been a traditional shaver for close to 60 years. I have taught my two sons and a nephew how to shave. I am also a cold or cool water shaver and have always shaved before I shower. That’s what works for me. The things I see newbies do that cause problems are as follows:
    1. They are used to cartridge razors and apply too much pressure on a DE razor resulting in razor burn, cuts, and nicks.
    2. They don’t sufficiently hydrate their face before applying lather on their first and subsequent passes.
    3. They don’t use the correct angle when using a razor. They are used to the floppy cart razors and don’t realize it is up to them to set the angle of the blade.
    4. They have not mapped the grain of their beard and think with the grain is always North to South.
    5. They don’t keep in mind that your are using ONE blade and you are not going to get a good shave with just one pass.
    6. They are used to canned lather and don’t realize a good, slick lather needs sufficient water in it.

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