You’ve had enough of razor burn. You hate that your face still feels rough even after you’ve shaved, and you’re tired of throwing away blades that cost you a couple of dollars each. If that sounds familiar, you’re not alone! And, if news of your shared suffering with millions of others isn’t enough to brighten your day, you’ll be glad to know that it doesn’t have to be like this.
Wet shaving may be the old school way of doing things, but like reality TV, modern society may have dropped the ball on this one. We get it, looking at wet shaving products online and seeing words like cut-throat doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in someone new to the category, but that’s where we can help clear things up and get you on your way to shaving happiness. Let’s jump in!
Wet shaving razors come in two basic kinds: safety razors (also known as double-edge razors) and straight razors (which are also called cut-throat razors). Safety razors do what they say on the box in that they have a relatively shallow learning curve and will only take a shave or two to get up to speed. They use a single, inexpensive, double-edged blade that’s guided against the skin by a, typically, metallic guard. It’s this guard which lends safety razors their name and makes them the right choice for someone new to wet shaving, or looking for a reliable daily razor.
Straight razors, or cut-throats, are a slightly different ball game. They feature a single-edged, long blade that’s housed within its own handle for storage. Straight razors have fixed blades that require regular sharpening with a strop, and periodic sharpening with a whetstone to maintain their edge. As you can probably guess, straight razors require a little more dedication than other razors. Aside from a super close shave, their key advantage lies in their ability to sculpt lines with much more precision than other razors – especially squaring off hairlines and stubble. You’ll also look like James Bond every time you shave which is not nothing!
A word on shavettes: these are straight razors with disposable blades. They offer the precision of a straight razor with the convenience of a safety razor and are very popular with professional barbers.
Shaving brushes come in a sometimes-overwhelming number of types, shapes and sizes. A good brush is one that holds the right amount of water to create a nice lather and that provides enough stiffness to raise stubble before shaving.
Synthetic and badger hair brushes, as their names imply, are respectively made from nylon (or similar) and humanely-sourced badger fur. Synthetic fibres have come a long way in recent times, however, badger hair brushes remain the choice of enthusiasts for their superior quality.
Badger bristles are graded on a quality scale from Pure to Silvertip:
Pure Badger: The lowest grade, these brushes are made from the most common badger fur and are usually dark in colour. They are generally coarser than higher grades and with greater variation between brushes.
Best Badger: Finer and lighter in colour, Best Badger bristles are packed more densely in the knot and will hold more water than a Pure Badger brush.
Super Badger: Super Badger bristles are specially graded Pure Badger bristles that have characteristics more favourable than either Pure or Best Badger bristles. They are not trimmed to length, so do not feel prickly on the skin and easily make a thick lather.
Silver Tip Badger: The finest grade, Silver Tip Badger bristles are very dense and flair out towards the end to give the brush a full and fluffy feel. They feature naturally off-white tips and have excellent water retention to produce a perfect lather.
Thankfully, choosing a shaving cream is a lot less complicated! Firstly, if you’re still using a shaving gel from the supermarket, please stop torturing your face! Aside from being less sticky, traditional shaving creams are far less irritating to the skin owing to their natural ingredients. Plus, after spending money on a nice razor and brush, it would be a shame to let a poor shaving cream get in the way of what should be a good shave.
Quality shaving creams work to soften the hairs for easier shaving, and help the razor glide across the skin without dragging. Additionally, shaving creams and soaps often contain natural additives such as aloe vera that soothe the skin and limit any irritation.
Paired with a good brush, shaving creams develop a thick lather that won’t dry out too quickly or leave sticky residue like the gel-type foams typically found in supermarkets. Shaving soaps, while similar, often take a little more work to produce a thick lather – though some wet shavers feel there is some added ‘slipperiness’ from soap lather compared to a shaving cream.
For men with particularly sensitive skin, unscented options are readily available from most brands. However, timeless scents such as sandalwood or eucalyptus remain the most popular choices.
Razors, brushes and creams are the three staples of wet shaving and some background knowledge of each will go a long way in ensuring your first shave is an enjoyable one. Stay tuned for future articles, where we’ll look at additional items like pre-shave and aftershave products, sharpening tools and more! Until then, happy shaving!