Updated: Mar 25
If you’re a millennial or born after that era, the term wet shaving might be strange to you, as the beard made a massive come back. But your dads, grandpas, and great grandpas had to be shaved for work.
Multi-bladed disposables were creeping in the market back then but before than men had to use straight razors ( cut-throat razor ).
In 1901, the safety razor was born thanks to inventor King Camp Gillette.
This device housed a disposable blade that was safer to use because of the outer layer of metal that shielded most of the blade from the skin.
If we fast forward to the 20th century, disposable razors take the market by storm, 3 blades now we up to 5 blades.
If you need/want to shave every day but want to save time, disposables are the default option. It’s faster and there isn’t much learning involved.
In a way wet shaving has become a lost art because of time requirements to learn the traditional way but once learnt the way with a straight razor, you will gain go many benefits.
What is wet-shaving?
Whether you want to use a safety or a straight razor there is a common denominator your going to have a wet shave.
It’s a process of shaving with a wet and lathered up the skin using shaving cream, soap or foam.
It was how men used to shave and for several good reasons.
First, it adds layer protection and lubrication to lessen friction from the razor as it goes through hair and face.
Second, it helps exfoliate if you use a shaving brush.
Why should I consider wet-shaving?
First reason, while you can shave without shaving cream on just a wet face, the difference is night and day in terms of how your skin will feel afterwards.
There will be fewer razor burns, cuts, nicks and irritation because of the layer of protection and lubrication.
The great thing about using a safety razor is the flexibility to choose the type of blade that will fit your particular skin type. That’s not always the case with a disposable razor that oftentimes use inferior blade materials that isn’t as sharp.
Pricing up a razor
Let’s do the math. Gillette Fusion razor will cost almost £12 compared to the Merkur long-handed safety razor which costs around £30. That’s close to an £18 difference so there will be an upfront investment.
Now let’s look at the running costs. A pack of Gillette Fusion refills (8 pcs) costs around £26 while a pack of Wilkinson double edge razor blades (100pcs) costs around £10. Cheaper brands can go as low as £8 per 100 blades.
So I choose the Merkur long handed safety razor but this comes with a technique tho.
What tools do I need to wet shave?
First, you’ll need a razor and there are two options.
Option One: The Safety (or Double-Edged) Razor
A safety razor consists of two parts – handle and headpiece.
The headpiece is what houses the razor blade.
The great thing about this type of razor is the limitless option in terms of what blade you can put in it.
You can put a really sharp blade to get the closest shave possible or something less aggressive if you’re just starting out.
Each brand will use different grade steel that may or may not suit your skin and facial hair.
The safety razor is the default option for a lot of men because it is safer and easier to learn than the next option.
Option Two: Straight Razor
This is the tool of choice in a lot of barbershops.
I remember my barber using this whenever I have a haircut. And it scared the heck out of me. A straight razor will give the closest shave, hands down.
But this will not be a wise choice for novices because of the technical learning involved.
Buying a good quality straight razor will cost more upfront but after that initial purchase, it’ll last a lifetime if you take good care of it.
Of course, there is other stuff you need to buy such as a hone and strop to sharpen the blade that adds to the upfront cost or you could a straight razor that takes disposable blades.
A shaving brush is more than just a tool to apply shaving cream.
It also helps scrub off dead skin cells that help in exfoliation and raises up facial hair so it’s easier to cut.
This tool also helps spread shaving cream evenly on the face and protect the skin from direct blade contact that can cause razor burn.
There are three main types of shaving brushes.
The most expensive option would be the badger brush. Next up is the boar brush and the cheapest would be synthetic brushes.
The badger brush has four different grades, the highest and the most expensive are the silver-tip badger brushes.
If you check out prices in Amazon they would cost roughly from £8 to a £80.
Shaving cream / soaps and after-shave products
No wet shaving is complete without good shaving cream.
No, it does not have to be the most expensive but it should not contain any alcohol in it because alcohol = dry skin, a big no-no if you want great looking post-shaved skin.
Experts recommend a shaving cream with glycerin because these are thick and rich and not foamy. This will give you the best possible protection from razor burn.
Another option aside from shaving cream would be shaving soaps. These products will provide the best possible protection from irritation, nicks and razor burn.
Before shaving soaps were available, the only option men have shaving soaps. These products have a harder consistency that resembled bar soaps hence the term.
There is a slight difference in how you create lather but it’s subtle. If you want to learn more about the differences between these two, there plenty of videos on Youtube.
Can I use aerosol shaving creams?
Yes, you can but there’s one thing you should know about these products – it contains propellers, lubricants and chemicals that can trigger allergic reactions.
Men serious about wet shaving should get proper shaving cream or soap.
Don’t forget the aftershave
Aftershave products is another must-have because it provides a layer of protection and moisture that the skin needs post-shave.
Always remember that when you shave, you actually take off a few layers of the skin – this leaves it vulnerable to irritation if you don’t apply a layer of protection and that’s the job of an aftershave cream or moisturiser.
How to wet shave?
Now that you have all the tools in place, it’s time to actually shave.
Step 1: Prep
Before you start shaving you need to prep, remember prep is the most important step in any successful shave and you start by either washing your face or taking a hot shower.
Washing your face helps remove any excess oil and other impurities that may otherwise block the path of the razor and clog it. Remember to use hot water to open up the pores and soften hair to make it easier to cut.
The next step would be covering your face with a hot towel for two to three minutes. This is oftentimes done in barbershops which helps in further softening facial hair. If you’re in a hurry you can skip this step as long as you had a hot shower.
Step 2: Lather
After washing your face, it’s time to apply shaving cream/soap. Remember that you don’t need a lot. An almond-sized amount will be enough to work the entire face.
The technique used is circular motion then ending with a crisscross pattern.
Most enthusiasts will have a similar technique but there will be nuances based on personal preferences.
Rule of thumb is not to apply too much pressure and allow the brush to do the work for you.
You can apply shaving cream by hand but using a shaving brush is a better option because you’ll need to use less shaving cream to achieve the same lather.
If you prefer applying by hand, this is one technique you can use but you will still need a shaving brush…
Step 3: Shave
To get the best shave possible you need to remember a few things.
Know the proper angle the razor will work best. When shaving the side of the face, start with a 90-degree angle and then move the handle down between 30 and 45 degrees as you start to shave. Use this same principle when shaving the neck area.
Don’t apply pressure on the razor but let the weight of the razor and blade do the work for you.
If you’re used to disposable razors, throw everything you know out the window, using a safety razor or straight razor will require a light touch and proper technique.
When starting out always go with the grain and not against it. Once you’ve mastered the art of wet shaving, you can go against the grain to get closer.
If your neck area is sensitive, avoid going against the grain.
Step 4: After-shave protection
Always rinse your face with cold water because this will close the pores of the skin. If you’ve suffered any cuts or nicks, try covering your face with a cold towel to alleviate irritation or apply alum block.
Avoid rubbing the face, instead pat dry it. The last step would be applying some aftershave lotion and/or moisturiser.
Here at Craig’s Barber Shop, Bolton, we do traditional straight razor shaves, some may know them as Turkish Shaves, there no real difference. For more information contact the shop via phone on 01204322513 or just drop us a message on any social media platform or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org