I know, recently I blogged about clothes and now it’s shaving. Next thing it’ll be discussing my feelings or something…
A few weeks ago the topic of wetshaving came up again on Twitter and I thought, why not? I’ve been a life-long electric razor user and the only real reason is that’s how my dad shaved so that’s how I started shaving.
But with a combination of thick hair (which doesn’t mean “lots of hair” but rather “each strand of hair is thick”) and sensitive skin I’ve always suffered from neck rash and ingrown hairs. Since the ingrown hairs were mainly on one side of my face I always attributed them being a stomach-sleeper and laying that side of my face on the pillow. But maybe a better complexion would come from a different shaving approach?
- Razor: Edwin Jagger DE89L Double Edge Safety Razor Lined Chrome
- Blades: Gillette 7 O’Clock Super Platinum Double Edge Blades
- Brush: Edwin Jagger Super Badger
- Soap: Pre de Provence Shave Soap
- Razor/brush stand
Mainly what I wanted to capture here was the learning process - what I expected and what I’ve been finding or where my results have differed from what I’ve read.
This struggle was one of expectations - just how smooth a shave should I expect? Watching some YouTube videos I heard the phrase “baby-butt-smooth” so initially that’s what I went for, going over each part of my face multiple times looking for it to be smooth both with the grain (WTG) and against the grain (ATG). What I found is that parts of my face (cheeks) can withstand multiple passes with no issue, while others (throat) can’t and the result is rash. I’ve learned instead to leave well enough alone in spots that are more prone to rash - a baby smooth shave only lasts so long anyway. My results are decent WTG but do leave stubble ATG. Overall this is still a better result than I would get with my electric razor.
With the Grain?
Most advice says to only shave “with the grain” but I’ve found this doesn’t work well. I need to go slightly against the grain or I don’t get good results. I think a more aggressive blade may help so plan to try that in the future. I’ve also discovered I have a cowlick on my neck so there are spots where there is no grain - hair grows out in all directions.
I’m new to the whole “shaving soap” idea so watched some videos and read some forum threads around how to work with the brush and soap to create a shaving lather. The advice seemed to mainly be “work at it for several minutes”. using lots of elbow grease. I tried this a few times and was getting weary of the time it was taking and the mess & noise it was making. At one point while shaving I ran out of lather and just quickly got my brush saturated with soap again and did a quick mix in the bowl. What I got was a wetter and thicker soapy cream that felt better and didn’t seem to work much differently than the “ideal” lather. It’s messy and drips all over but doesn’t take as long to ready, my arm doesn’t get tired, and I don’t make such a racket with the brush and ceramic bowl.
Working around mustaches and goatees is a pain. I used to keep the edges fairly neat but it may well be that those get a bit sloppier with this shaving approach and then get re-established at haircut time. Or I need to purchase a dedicated beard/mustache trimmer.
It’s taken a bit of practice but I feel like I’m coming out with a better shave than I used to get, with my neck rash gone and ingrown hairs drastically reduced. I don’t think my left cheek skin has looked this good in years.
Still practicing though!