A post on Reddit’s Wicked_Edge subreddit described one new shaver’s initial experiences and mistakes he could have avoided. He says “My first two shaves were incredible. No irritation, no nothing. So I thought ‘hey, maybe my face isnt as much of a sissy as I thought!’ So for my third shave, I went against everything I listed here (not showering first, pasty and thin lather etc) and boy did i destroy my face. It and that I’d lucky not to have both physical and emotional scars from it for the rest of my life. Confidence should be based on a LONG history of good shaves, which, two shaves, does not qualify as. Pay as much attention on every shave as you did for your best, and most careful shave.”
Here’s a summary of avoidable mistakes, with some extra comments from me:
1.) Not showering first before a shave when starting out.
“I never was used to showering before a shave and I can tell you that for ANY beginner, you must do this. This may not be necessary for some or many later on, but until you have your technique down, don’t give your face more reasons to be torn up.”
I agree, this will make your job much easier in the beginning. It may not be necessary after you learn what your face needs but it is better to over-prep than under-prep! See also THIS POST about 5 pre-shave soaps that really work.
2.) Washing off pre shave soap before lathering.
“The pre shave soap has work to do on your face during the shave so washing it off defeats the purpose. I now think of it as an ingredient like in a baking recipe, it’s supposed to be in the mix.”
I don’t know if I can agree with this. There are some variables with the type of pre-shave cleansing product used and how dirty the skin is in the first place. In the case of Musgo Real Glycerin Lime Oil (MR GLO) soap, for example, there’s some alcohol in the ingredient list that is useful for cleaning but I’m not sure I would want it under shaving lather. But give it a try and if it works, great!
3.) Using a bowl that is too small to lather in.
“I got a Van Der Hagen Premium Shave Set (Soap, Bowl, Brush) and just put the puck in the bowl. Well the lather would build between the puck and bowl at the bottom and getting it out of there was a pain. The reason is that the bowl was meant to not have the puck in it, and was meant to just be the place you swirl the brush after you brushed it over the puck.”
Actually you can use a puck in a small bowl to load a brush, then face lather. But if you want to lather in a bowl a large container with high, straight sides will make the job much easier.
4.) Not rinsing the razor thoroughly enough between passes.
“Flick your razor over the water after you rinse between passes. I was just dipping it in the water, then water on the razor would drip off the razor and kind of wash the lather down my face.”
For myself I give my razor a pretty good “swoosh” in my sink of water then give it a moment to drain.
5.) Not correcting too-dry lather.
If the lather feels pasty, or thick like toothpaste, dip the tip of your brush in water and run it over your whole face.
Could not agree more here! If lather is getting dry it is not too difficult to bring it back to life again with just a bit of water and re-lathering.
6.) Not understanding lather.
“Lathering is messy! I was used to can shaving cream that came out basically the same every time and I’d apply it as needed. With a brush, and with low experience, your lathering won’t be uniform every time, and using a brush on your face isn’t as mess free as a little canned shaving cream on your hand.”
Well…lathering can be messy, yes. I think the most important thing to take away from this “mistake” is that lather may be a little inconsistent until you get the hang of it.
7.) Shaving over unlathered skin.
“Do NOT make a pass over unlathered skin! Did you do a terrible pass just now compared to your other passes, because you weren’t putting enough pressure or angle? Good, get it on the next lathered pass. You suck right now and it’s OK. Do NOT get the same spot again on that pass where there’s now no lather because it was taken away by your crappy pass.”
This is an important point! No lather, no blade!
8.) Not listening to your razor.
“Listen to your razor, the sound it’s making will tell you when beard direction has changed (specifically on the neck). My beard grows upwards on either side of my throat until it suddenly changes to the opposite direction. For me this is literally an abrupt change on my neck. With lather on my face, I can’t see the beard be beneath and therefore have to rely on memory from studying my beard before, but mostly have to listen to the razor. It’ll make a very different noise when cutting with as opposed to against or even across the grain.”
Audio cue’s can be a real help as this comment says. Pay attention to all the sensations of your shave–touch, smell, sound, sight–and you will avoid all sorts of problems.
9.) Gingerly trying to paint or wipe the lather onto your face.
“This might be because of my improper load and lather technique, but I was scooping lather onto the tip of the brush, and just sort of painting or globbling it on. I figured that’s how you do it, because the pros I’d seen were moving so fast it looked like they were slapping it on and boom, good lather. After watching closely I noticed they were doing swirls with their wrist and more than the tip of the brush was in contract with their skin: they were actually BRUSHING the lather onto their face. This was the case with those who I watched face lather or bowl lather. Only with this last shave did I finally understand the way the brush worked and that it’s not about simply getting shaving cream on your face, but actually working it in.”
Some of the shaving Illuminati seem to think a shaving brush must be a treasured possession, treated with kid gloves. A shaving brush is a tool and probably won’t last forever–shouldn’t last forever. Thoroughly work the lather in, using massaging or painting motions.
Bonus Tip: Don’t Get Cocky!
“As Han Solo says to Luke when he successfully shoots down a TIE fighter, so too do I say to fellow new shavers who have had a good couple shaves: Great, kid, don’t get cocky.”
Ahhh, truer words were never uttered. And remember, Han shoots first!