No matter how long you’ve been wet shaving, you may still suffer from the occasional poor shave. Perhaps you’re rushing that day or so short for time that you don’t get the chance to prep your skin properly.
Whatever the reason, the results will show on your face as dry, irritated skin – and maybe even a few nicks. And if you’re new to traditional wet shaving, this may be happening on more than an occasional basis.
If you’re looking for advice on the perfect shave, then you’ve come to the right place. Stay here for the best practices for shaving, and for your pre- and post-shave routines.
So, How Do You Wet Shave?
First soak your beard and cleanse your skin in a hot shower, then lather up your face with a premium shaving cream and brush. Start your shave with short, gentle strokes along the grain of the beard, and then finish off with a nourishing post-shave treatment.
The art of the perfect shave
Over the last few decades, mass production of shaving tools and products has stripped away much of the subtlety of the art of shaving. There’s a good chance that your grandfather had a more nuanced and sophisticated idea of how to shave properly. And much better technique to boot.
You can’t turn the clock back two generations, but you can learn about the techniques and tactics that you need to get the best shave time after time. For one thing, you need to stop thinking only about your shave and start thinking about the three phases of a good shave.
The 3 phases of the perfect shave
In this first stage, you’re getting your skin and hair ready for the shave itself. The products and methods you employ at this point soften the beard so that it’s easier to cut. You can also take steps to clean your skin and add moisture.
This is the part of the process that every man knows, but doesn’t always perfect. Here you’ll pick up the right tools for the job and practice the best technique to give you a close, comfortable shave with minimal irritation.
Here’s the step that most guys miss. And that’s a shame because a solid post-shave routine can do a lot to replace lost moisture and reduce the soreness or irritation that sometimes follows a shave.
Putting it all together
Now that you’re clear about the three phases of a premium shave, let’s get down to the details involved in each stage:
The first thing to do is prepare your hair and skin for the shave that follows. One of the easiest and simplest ways to do so is to take a hot shower. The warmth and moisture provided by the shower will hydrate your beard and make the hairs easier to cut.
A hot shower will also help to dislodge dirt and oil from your pores, creating a smoother surface for your blade to work on. You don’t need any extra time in the shower to get all these benefits. Your usual 5-10 minutes in the cubicle is more than enough to prep your face.
Take a few minutes to wash your face with a gentle cleanser. You don’t need a high-end, spa-like product for this. Any supermarket or drugstore cleanser that’s gentle and doesn’t irritate your skin will be fine.
Working with the hot water of your shower, a cleanser will help to remove the dirt and oil that’s been accumulating over the past twenty-four hours. Apply a small amount of product to your fingertips and rub the whole of your face in circular motions. Then rinse off under the shower.
Every now and then, it’s also good practice to exfoliate your skin in the shower. Once or twice a week, gently buff away the dead cells from the outer layer of your skin with a mild exfoliating wash. The spherical beads and natural fruit acids from these products keep your pores clear and peel away dead skin that can clog your razor.
If you’re not showering before your shave, at least spend a few minutes at the sink splashing warm water on your face and cleansing the skin.
Once you’re at the sink, it’s time to lather up in readiness for your shave. There are a wide range of shaving creams and gels available nowadays, but we’d strongly recommend investing in a high-quality shaving cream from a traditional manufacturer.
You’ll need to invest a few extra dollars on the cream, and of course on the brush you’ll use to create a lather. But experienced wet-shavers wouldn’t dream of using anything else, and you’ll feel the difference after the first shave.
Work up a creamy, rich lather with circular motions in a bowl or on your hand. With experience you’ll learn to find the best ratio of soap to water. Then apply it to your beard and allow the bristles of your brush to relax the skin and lift your hairs.
If you’ve properly applied your shaving cream, your skin will be lubricated and protected and ready to face the blade. Check that your blade is new or nearly-new; if there’s any doubt, toss and replace it.
You’ll later be able to get many excellent shaves from every blade, but in the early days it’s best to start with a sharp one.
Start to shave on your neck. Lift your head to tighten the skin and take your first strokes with the razor. Keep your wrist loose and take short, gentle strokes to avoid nicks and irritation. Do your best to shave along the grain of the beard at first. Later you can re-lather and shave across or against the grain.
Follow your neck with your cheeks and leave your chin and upper lip until the end. The hair in these last parts can be particularly coarse, and by leaving them until the end you’re allowing your shaving cream some extra time to soften up the hairs.
Once you’ve completed your first pass with the grain of the beard, rinse off your face with warm water and run your hands over your face. If you’re happy with the results, then it’s time to move on to your post-shave routine.
Many men won’t be able to get satisfactory results from only one pass. If that sounds like you, then you’ll need to lather up a second time before you make further passes. The good news is that a high-quality shaving cream should easily produce enough lather for several passes.
Rather than shaving directly against the grain, instead try taking perpendicular passes (in other words, at ninety-degrees to your first pass). This will remove much of the remainder of your beard and may mean that you don’t need to shave against the grain.
However many passes you take, remember never to apply a blade to bare skin. Doing so is almost certain to irritate and nick the skin.
Once you’re happy with the closeness of your shave, it’s time to rinse off and help your skin to recover. Splash cool water onto your face and neck to close the pores and remove any residual lather. Run your hands over your face to make sure that you haven’t missed any spots.
Cool water will help to calm your skin and reduce any irritation that you may have caused. But in addition to this, it’s important to apply a post-shave treatment to help the skin to heal and replace lost moisture. What type of product you choose depends upon personal preference and your skin type.
For normal and oily skin, an aftershave splash will offer mild hydration and keep the area clean and free of infection. If you’ve got dry skin, you’ll find a cream or balm will give you the same benefits but with increased moisture for your parched skin.
Once you’ve cleansed and treated your skin, you’re pretty much ready to get on with your day. However, for many long-time shavers the experience isn’t complete until they’ve added a little fragrance. This final step isn’t absolutely necessary, but you may quickly become used to the added touch of refinement that fragrance gives to your grooming routine.
Take the time to experiment with different fragrances until you’re able to find a couple that suit your personality and attitude. Many men enjoy crisply masculine fragrances that include ingredients like musk and citrus fruits. Apply sparingly to the base of your neck and chest.
Shaved and showered and ready to face the day
For long-standing traditional shavers, the daily shave is much more than just a tedious chore. It’s a relaxing ritual that calms the mind and prepares you to face the challenges of a new day. Give yourself the perfect shave and put your best face forward!
Hi, I’m Theo, and I started Shaving Parlour to help men everywhere get the best shave of their lives. Check out my popular guides on Safety Razors, Shaving Cream, Shaving Brushes, Beard Oil, and more!