Describing my daily shaving routine.

April 15th, 2008

Note: Now with pictures as requested by Barndoor! Only a couple as it is too dark in the mornings to take good pictures. Since people other than just my friends seem to be looking here I better put up more shaving advice! It seems there are a few people in NZ wanting to give up the multi-blade rat race and go back to the good old days of gentlemanly shaving.I should really talk a little bit about what wet shaving actually involves. Most people should know the basic idea by now. You throw away your expensive multi-blade Gillette or Schick or whatever plastic razor and go back to using the plain, simple, single edge razor blade. You also give up using shaving goop in a can and start using real soaps and creams and a proper badger brush to make your own lather.Of course you don’t HAVE to do all these things. Some people prefer using a Mach 3 or canned shaving foam which is fine but for me I didn’t consider myself a ‘proper’ wet shaver until I had the razor, the brush and the soaps and was doing things totally the ‘old ways’.What follows is basically how I do things. This is what works for me. It might not work for anyone else and other people have their own ways of doing things of course. I don’t think any one way is more right than another. That’s half the fun, experimenting and finding out what works for you. The combinations of prep/blade/razor/brush/soap/post shave/etc are endless really so there is plenty of room for variations. I always shave in the mornings and my basic procedure is as follows. First I load a blade into whatever razor I am using that morning (I will post about the different razors I have later). I take the blade out of the razor after I use it and leave it out to dry. Keeping them in the razor can lead to them rusting and it is probably less hygienic than letting them air dry in the open. Typically I will use a blade for around 5 shaves on average but blades are cheap enough (if you buy from overseas) that I just change them when they start feeling dull. Next I put the razor and my badger brush into my shave mug. I sit the mug in the sink and fill it with hot water. The hot water warms the razor and brush. Sitting the brush in water will allow it to soak the water up and soften the bristles. soaking Brush and razor soaking in hot water. I also choose whatever soap I am going to be using that day (I prefer the hard soaps to creams). I have all my soaps in little screw top plastic containers. I take off the lid and put a little hot water on top of the soap and let it sit. Next I shower. Obviously you clean your face in the shower but the other important thing that is happening is the hot water and steam will be softening the beard and making it easier to cut. After the shower the razor, brush and shaving mug should all be warm. The soap should be softened and will be much easier to get onto the brush. I tip the water out of the mug, gently squeeze most of the water off the brush. The amount of water you keep on the brush depends on which soap you are using. I also tip the water off the top off the soap container. I don’t tip all of it away though as I put a little of the soapy water into the bottom of my shaving mug. Again the amount depends on what soap you are using. A slight variation I have been trying here is wrapping a hot towel around my face while I am making the lather. The easiest way is to take a flannel and wet it. You don’t want it dripping water but it needs to be damp. Then you microwave it! I find 50 seconds to a minute is enough. I then tie the flannel around my lower face bandit style. The steam and heat from the flannel really softens the beard nicely. It also has the interesting effect that with a flannel around your face you can’t smell the soap while making the later. As soon as you take the flannel off though you get the scent of the soap full strength! This works really well with a strong smelling soap such as Tabac. Next you start making your lather. I take the brush and gently rub it around on top of the soap in the plastic container. The idea with this step isn’t to make later. Rather you are trying to get a nice loading of soap on the brush bristles. You want  the tips of all the bristles to be covered in soap. I then put the lid back on the soap container and put it away. soaponbrush Loading the brush with soap. Now you switch to using the brush in your shaving mug. You swirl the brush around in the mug whipping up a nice lather. There are various techniques to doing this and again it can depend on the soap you are using. I generally swish it about until I have a nice lather formed and I find I can usually tell when it is getting ready as it seems to thicken up (a lot like making whipped cream). Once I have a nice lather I refill the sink with hot water, sit the shaving mug and razor in the water (to keep them hot) and brush a layer of lather on my face. lather Making lather in the shaving mug (OK, coffee cup). At this point you could start shaving right away but I prefer to allow the later to sit a while to allow it time to soften the beard. Generally I use that time to put in my contact lenses and go make myself a coffee. One word of advice, if you accidentally drop a contact lens into the lather be sure you rinse it extremely well before sticking it onto your eyeball (don’t ask how I know)! Finally, after the lather has sat a few minutes, we get to the actual shaving part. It may seem like a lot of effort to get to this stage but really it doesn’t take that much time. I usually dip the brush in the hot water and use that over the lather on my face already just to make sure it is properly hydrated. Typically when I shave I do three passes. When shaving we talk about the direction of the passes with respect to the grain of the beard. Grain it the direction that the hairs are growing on your face. It varies for everyone and will vary on different parts of the face. It is important to know what your grain pattern is so you know the most comfortable way to shave. To determine your grain pattern you can either let you beard grow for a few days and then look to see which direction the hairs are growing or you can simply rub your fingers across your beard in different direction. Going with the grain will feel much smoother than going against the grain. I typically use a three (plus tidy up) pass shave. The order you shave the parts of your face can vary too. Generally the hair on your cheeks is softer than the hair on your chin. So you shave your cheeks first and save the tricky chin area to last to allow the later more time to soften the bristles in those areas. I shave each cheek, then each neck area under my cheeks, then move onto the chin and under the nose. I typically only follow that pattern for the first two passes and I figure by the third everything should be nice and soft and so the order doesn’t matter as much. The direction of each pass varies as we progress. The first pass is done with the grain (WTG in shaving bulletin board shorthand). If I am using an adjustable razor I have it set to a milder setting (typically 5 on a Fatboy). After each pass I rinse my face in the hot water and apply fresh later before the next pass. The second pass I do across the grain (XTG). I will usually dial an adjustable razor up to around 7. The third pass is done against the grain (ATG) and with an adjustable set on 9 (which si opened right up to the most aggressive setting). Again these settings are what works for me. Some people find they can’t do an ATG pass at all without causing irritation. I find though is I want a BBS (baby butt smooth) shave I have to do an ATG pass and I can do so without irritating my face. A lot of people starting out think the idea is to get a BBS shave every time. This isn’t really the case. You should aim for the best shave you can get without irritation. I then usually have to do what is known as a tidy up pass to get all the little places I have missed. I find that under my jaw line and neck usually need some touch up. The easiest way to see where needs touching up is to run your hands across your face ATG. Any rough spots should be easy to feel. I just lather up those spots and re-shave them. After shaving I rinse my face in cold water. The cold water helps close the pores in the skin and helps sooth the face after the shave. Sometimes, I rub my face with an Alum bar. This is a naturally occurring mineral you wet and rub over your face and it acts as an antiseptic and an astringent. It helps close up any small nicks or cuts you may have suffered. I find it is a good indicator of how irritating the shave was as it will tingle or sting as you rub it on depending on how much irritation there was to your skin . I find I don’t use it as much these days as I am getting close and irritation free shaves. After rinsing I apply an after shave balm. I use Nivea sensitive skin balm and find this works very well. You should stay away from alcohol based products as the alcohol can cause the skin to dry out. I rinse the razor and brush in cold water and remove the razor blade. I usually dry off the razor with a towel (make sure the blade isn’t in it first!) and using a flicking motion get as much water off the brush as possible. The brush then gets put, handle up, in the shaving mug to dry. Standing it up that way lets the water drain for the base of the bristles. A good badger hair brush should last for years when it is looked after. And that’s basically it! It sounds like a lot of work but generally the whole routine described above takes me 30 minutes. It’s a very relaxing way to start the morning and your skin does end up being better off for it. And it turns something that was a chore into an interesting activity! Soon I will describe the razors and soaps I like to use.

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8 Responses to “Describing my daily shaving routine.”

  1. David Says:

    Fancy modern shaving. In the good old days men pulled their hairs out with clam shells.

  2. Pretesh Says:

    Hi there.

    Have you checked out Mantic59’s videos on youtube?

    (sorry; I’m a random that came across your site)

  3. Simon Says:

    No need to apologise! Yes, I have seen those. He posts on Badger and Blade a lot too.

  4. Pretsh Says:

    Yes I learned a lot of the techniques you talk about from his videos; he’s like a shaving God.

    Yes I just recently discovered Badger & Blade (It’s great for newbies like me)

    anyway, I hope your enjoying your hobby!

  5. Simon Says:

    Yes I am but I have settled down a lot now. I just tend to use the Fatboy razor and one or two good soaps (Tabac at the moment). It can get expensive buyin new ones all the time!

  6. Pretsh Says:

    Hey yeah, I’m looking for Tabac at the moment.

    any idea where I can get it from in NZ?

    Is it still available at Smith & Caughey’s as you mentioned in one of your other posts?

  7. Simon Says:

    I am not sure but I imagine they still have it at Smith and Caugheys.That’s the only place in NZ I have ever seen it.

  8. Pretesh Says:

    Cool Thanks I’ll have a look around.

    any idea if the C&E best badger (Edwin Jagger) is still available at Crabtree & Evelyn?