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9 Newbie Wet Shaving Mistakes You Can Avoid, Plus A Bonus Tip

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Mistakes You Can Avoid

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:

Avoidable Mistakes

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!

Related Posts:
The Best Purchase You Can Make For A Great Shave
How To Buy A Shaving Brush (w/Video)
11 Great Ways To Treat Shaving Nicks And Cuts (w/Video)


Shave tutor and co-founder of sharpologist. Also check out my content on Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest!View Author posts

37 thoughts on “9 Newbie Wet Shaving Mistakes You Can Avoid, Plus A Bonus Tip”

  1. I normally do 4 passes.
    with the grain on face and neck
    across the grain on my face and with the grain on my neck
    against the grain on my face and across the grain on my neck
    Against the grain on my face and against the grain on my neck.
    Sometimes I do a 5th cleanup pass where I take the leftover lather on the brush in my hand and work it over my face to feel if there are any rough spots and clean them up.
    There is no smoother shave than that. But my face isn’t very sensitive though, just my neck.
    Currently using proraso and loving it. Their shaving soap sucks but their creams are good. Their preshave cream is the absolute best.
    I’ll try other creams and soaps, but will stick with prorasso preshave cream.
    TIP #10: Always use a post shave balm.
    I use Nivea Post shave balm and after that is done and dry I use any usual after shave. Currently using gillette aftershave.
    One more thing to those interested in wet shaving. It might look cheaper, but it isn’t. Perhaps if you look at it in the long run, like over 20 years. A good DE razor and shaving brush isn’t cheap, but at least the blades are. But after that you will go on a shopping spree of note in order to find blades that work with your razor and face, soap or cream that works for you etc etc.
    But after you got what works for you then it is absolute bliss, and quite cheap.
    I’ve never experienced a closer shave than with a Double Edge Razor.
    Some say Straight is even closer, but i’m not that confident that I won’t decapitate myself.

  2. I have a heretical question. When I finish shaving there is still a substantial amount of soap left in my brush. Why can’t I not rinse it and then on the next shave, just wet the brush, now still loaded with lather and recycle the old soap?

    1. I’m not sure I follow you.
      You want to rinse your brush, but doing so would remove any lather you had on it. Than you want to just wet the brush, now still loaded with lather. How did that happen? What magical brush are you using and where can I buy one?
      If you are asking whether you can use the lather you have already made again next time, I suppose you could but there simply isn’t any real reason to do so.
      Regardless of whether you use a soap puck or cream from a tube, you use so little anyway that it isn’t worth it.
      That lather is mostly water and if you keep it till the next day or whenever it would be quite dry, you should be able to wet it and get it going again, but it is pointless in my opinion.
      Don’t leave it on the brush as it would damage it severely, unless you use a synthetic brush, then feel free to do so as it is already crap.
      What I would rather recommend is use just a little bit less next time. I use proraso cream about the size of a peanut, and its good for 4 passes. At the end I still have some lather left, but not so much that I would want to keep it.
      Hope that helps

  3. Shaving over unlathered skin: THIS!
    One of the biggest (rookie) mistakes I made when learning how to shave was using lather on the first pass, but foregoing lather on the second.
    As a result, I went through years of irritation for no good reason. Now I just spread any excess around, or lather back up.

  4. Pingback: Wet Shaving Versus Shaving with an Electric Razor: Is There a Right and a Wrong Way?

  5. What about those of us that shave IN the shower? I don’t use a bowl and can’t really use a brush in there. I use the shave butter from DSC and love it, but getting it smeared around is still a little bit of a mystery. You can’t see it very well and I don’t know if I have complete coverage.

  6. I had C.O. Bigelow which is supposedly Proraso in a different tube and I liked it and the cooling effect, but I didn’t think it offered so great of protection!

  7. Leo D.,
    I tried the Gillette 5 Blade Fusion and was not satisfied. It gave a most unpleasant and ineffective shave. So I decided to test it against my Wilkinson 2 edge cartridge blade, which was subsequently ruined by Schick trying to improve it. However, it is still available as the Schick Silk Effects cartridge blade. It does not rust.
    I had always used an aerosol foam lather.
    For 1 week I shaved 1 side of my face with the Fusion and the other side with the Silk Effects. The next week I switched sides. I continued this regimen for four weeks.
    No contest at all. The Silk Effects gave a far, far more comfortable and superior shave at an indecently lower price and lasted longer.
    With the Fusion I never knew exactly where it was cutting. There was no question about that with the Schick.
    Shaving was always a chore for me and the W/S made it fast and haemorrhage free.
    I used the Wilkinson/Schick for many years, occasionally trying double edge and others. I always came back to the W/S.
    Now I am retired and have the time to make shaving a pleasurable start to my day. I have switched to an old Rolls Razor and brush but do not recommend this for you as the occasional minor cut may happen.
    I am a diabetic and I do take an 81 mg aspirin every day.

  8. Good lord, people. It’s SHAVING. Not some holy ritual, or sex (or holy ritualistic sex). Yeah, there’re good ways and bad ways to shave, and it can be satisfying — same can be said for how to best (ahem) wipe. (Probably a blog for that, too.)
    Look: wet yer face with hot water, use ‘good’ (vs. ‘bad’?) cream, blah blah blah grain, bumps, yadda yadda pre-/post- products — *whatever*. You can get all ritualistically ecstatic about it as a 20something metrosexual — but after shave #8,000 in your 40s you won’t be doing tantric depilatory rituals at the Temple of Body Worship and Overpriced ‘Product’, each and every morning. Hot water, any-damn-foam/gel, and a fresh blade will do just fine. (And stop buying GQ and Cigar Aficionado. You ain’t that guy, really: if you were, you wouldn’t bother; if you aren’t, a magazine is *not* going to do it. Think: gym membership, good hygiene, a few nice outfits, self-improvement/education. Learn to cook, maybe? (Not how to shave better… >;-)

  9. Thanks for pointing out this mistakes, especially the one about using the brush
    I just started with DE razors a few weeks ago, but somehow I always had problems with my lather. At first I used soap, then creme, but still, 9 out of 10 times, I had small bleeding nicks. Also, I replaced my cheap boar brush with a badger brush (also cheap, but still about 4 times the price of the boar brush). But I guess my problem was, that I handled the badger brush with kid’s glove (or, to say it in my mother tongue – like a raw egg). I only put the lather on my face, I never worked it in, out of fear to damage the brush.
    Too bad I just finished an hour ago, so I have to wait 1 or 2 days, before I can see if working it in really helps me … but I am pretty sure it will.
    Thanks again.

  10. I still get a good laugh when I see a person with shaving cuts,scrapes and abrasions all over their face and neck. How people do this to themselves when shaving is beyond me. Shaving isn’t rocket science.

  11. I have been interested in wet shaving for a long time… I used to wet shave as a teenager using my Dad’s razors and stuff.
    I want to try again I actually have a badger brush and I bought some nice cream from the Art of shaving. My question is this….
    Is is worth the risk for me to wet shave as opposed to using a 5 blade fusion keeping in mind that I am on Plavix (Anti-Clotting Meds). What do you veterans think about this dilemma?

  12. Re: Always shave with Lather: For years I shaved with no lather whatsoever; just in the shower with my razor and hot water. With cartridge style razors this produced the closest, most comfortable shave I could hope for (including fewer cuts).
    This hasn’t worked for me with DE razors, so I’m back to lathering in order to get the absolute best shave possible. But I will still go back and clean up spots with the DE without lather so long as the skin is not dry.
    I don’t have tough skin on my face and parts of my beard were prone to shaving irritation with the cartridge razor regardless of technique. So, in my experience, this “rule” doesn’t apply to everyone.

  13. I’ve always used this type of safety razer with the double edged blade.
    A facecloth/towel soaked in hot water, rung out and placed on the face will soften the hair.
    Otherwise just get on with it.
    Wait until you’ve shaved in cold water with no soap/lather, that’s fun.
    I’ve never used the old fashioned cut-throat. Now that would be something to worry about.

  14. The point in the preamble is the same as the final point – don’t get cocky. I really wish I had read this earlier in the week when I let myself get too complacent with technique (or lack of), poor lather, no preshave oil, and shoddy after-shave maintenance.
    I suffered most of the week with several patches of razor burn, a few ingrowns, and red blotchy neck scrapes. Not much broken skin in the way of nicks, but at least the styptic will stop the bleeding as opposed to painful neck burn.

  15. I actually use the Van Der Hagen soap and bowl, and I’ve never had any problems making lather in the bowl on top of the soap. The key to remember is to just wet your brush and start slowly swirling. The Van Der Hagen Deluxe soap I’m a big fan of, because it’s pretty cheap and extremely slick, but it also moisturizes your face due to the aloe and shea butter ingredients

  16. As a newcomer to DE and traditional wet shaving, the most valuable rule for me on Mark’s list is #8. I often shave my head along with my face, and when I recently made the transition I was first skeptical about applying a single blade to my scalp. When I finally gave in and tried it I learned a valuable lesson about using all our senses. When we can’t see the area we’re applying a razor I feel we’re naturally forced to heighten our awareness to the senses of touch and hearing to gauge our progress. Obviously, this still requires patience and discipline
    Additionally, there is a huge advantage with the scalp, because your skin is essentially flushed against your skull, you “feel” the angle of the blade much better here. As a visual artist I tend to rely heavily on my sense of sight, so naturally I take a visual approach to shaving my face, but I’m slowly expanding my awareness. So while initially I thought I would butcher my head, the transition from multi-blade to single DE razor resulted in the best head shave I’ve ever had. I also found that I understood the concepts of traditional shaving a lot better on my head rather than on my face. Perhaps a lot of people already do this, but I implore anyone who has no reservations about shaving their scalp to try this if they’re skeptical like I was.
    I’m grateful to Mark (Mantic59) for your generous tutorials and advice on the web, and to the greater shaving community out there who’ve made my transition a warm welcome experience weather intended or not.
    Thank for reading my two cents

      1. George Lucas will someday have Carrie Fisher as Luke, and delete Peter Cushing entirely.
        That guy slays me — he has near-perfect romp, and is treating it like the Mona Lisa. . . .

  17. Maybe I’m a shaving challenged, but I am two years into wet shaving and I still get razor bumps and ingrowns. My face has blemishes from my jawline all the way down my neck. Is it possible to still be a newbie after two years?

    1. You’re not a newbie, but perhaps you haven’t found the right combination of technique and products? Several factors could be affecting your results. Do you shave every day? How many passes do you perform? What razor and blade combination are you using? (My brother-in-law gets acne from shaving with a particular brand of blades). What cream or soap are you using? Do you properly prepare your face before shaving? Do you use antiseptic or alum after shaving? …lots of variables for you to consider.

      1. 1. I usually shave every other day….b/c of my issues w/ shaving it is a chore to do daily.
        2. Passes: WTG on cheeks & neck. Then XTG on cheeks.
        3. EJ razor used w/ art of shaving scentless soap. In the past I have used my grandfathers Krona and other creams I’ve used were CO Bigelow and Aveeno shave gel.
        4. Blades: Gillette 7 o clock (yellow)
        5. During the week I shave in the evenings.I place a hot towel on my face before I lather. On the weekends, I usually shave after a shower.
        6. I use Bump Patrol after I shave then use either aloe or shea butter after the bump patrol dries.
        My main problem now are the dark blemishes I spoke about. I’m African American and have always had problems w/ shaving but they have really increased this past year.

        1. Have you tried cold water instead of hot? I’m Irish-American, so I have sensitive skin and a dense beard. Cold water helped me irritation, and so does Van Der Hagen Deluxe shave soap. The soap you can pick up at Wal-Mart for pretty cheap. It has aloe and shea butter in it, making it extremely slick. Also, give Derby Extra blades a try. You can get 35 for $5 on Amazon, and they tend to work more smoothly.

    2. Try this Jason, use Proraso cream or your favorite. Build a quality lather. Wash area to be shaved and dry leaving very slightly moist. Put a bean size drop of cream on your palm and spread all over shave area. Then apply lather. I repeat this for 3 passes with touchups and I end up bbs even around the neck and adams apple. I used to always have mild irritation on my neck and moustache area until I came up with this method. The lather on your face will be so cushiony and dense you could run a weedeather over it!

    3. Try a open comb razor. I had the same problem, the hair on my neck lays flat against the skin and only a open comb will shave my neck without burn, ingrown hairs, or irritation. I’m sure this will help you if you have the same problems I have.

  18. I don’t know about you gents, but when I started wet shaving I made a pact with myself to keep my technique as consistent as possible throughout my experience. It’s done well so for me so far.

  19. The way I see it, is that if you set out to get a BBS, you might end of over-doing it. I say, practice your technique, don’t strive for a BBS on any given morning. As you get better, your shaves will get better and before long, you’ll be hitting that “BBS” mark. My own goal, is close AND comfortable (ie, not walking aound all day with a sore neck because I tried to shave “too close”).

    1. I agree, personally, the BBS for me isn’t worth it. I do a with the grain, and 2 across the grain, and that’s it. Its a very close comfortable shave. Any more passes and I start running into irritation city, not where I want to go.

  20. Having just switched to a DE razor, hearing what you’re doing is every bit as important as seeing what you’re doing. I look to see that my passes are clean and where to put the blade next. I listen to the blade as it cuts to make sure my angle is correct.
    As a relative newbie to all this (someone whose technique is still being worked on but has had a few successes), perhaps some comments by more experienced wet shavers (including our esteemed host) about how often to go for the BBS shave would be helpful as well. For me, part of the reason I made the switch was to try to get the BBS shave every day.

    1. I’ve been wet shaving since 2006 and am confident in my razor technique. I’ve found the combination of razor, blade, and cream(s)* that consistently deliver irritation free BBS results (wtg, xtg, atg); I have also found that I need to rest my skin for 36-48 hrs before shaving again. If I need to shave daily, I perform only 2 passes (wtg, xtg) instead of 3.
      *Jack Black Supreme Cream, RazoRock XXX, J.M. Fraser Original, Acca Kappa 1869, Eshu Skin Assist Cream, and Queen Charlotte Soaps Queen Charlotte Cream

  21. I agree with the comment about the brush. Every time I read a post by a newbie having lathering / consistency / coverage issues, from how they describe their technique, they are being way too careful with their brush. You really have to work it, no matter if you’re building on the puck, in a bowl or on your face. A few light “swirls” aren’t going to get you anything except for a soupy mix. And I know that after years of using canned products, guys are gung-ho to get those “baby butt smooth” shaves the vets talk about, but it does take time to learn how to do this. I started back when I was a teenager, going by memories of how my dad used his brush and mug, and even then it took me a long time (months, at least) to get the hang of it. I’m still learning new tips today, 20 years later. Of course, we didn’t have the internet then…

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