Over the past six months, I’ve gotten more and more interested in shaving. Not the “electric razor for 10 minutes” kind, or the Gillette Mach 72 kind. The old school, cup, lather, brush, and double-edged razor blades kind. And I think I’ve finally figured it out.
It may seem counterintuitive for someone who loves technology as much as I do, but I really enjoy shaving this way. It’s a surprisingly refreshing process that makes me feel clean, relaxed, confident and… well, masculine. It’s not just another part of the routine anymore: it’s something that I look forward to, and take pride in.
- musk-scented glycerin-based shaving soap (obtained from my local barber’s shop)
- a badgerhair brush with a stainless steel handle (obtained from Target)
- my great-grandfather’s silver and nickel-plated Gillete Travel Safety Razor
- Wilkinson Sword Classic razor blades (these are leftovers that came with the razor. I’m going to run out soon, which means experimentation time!)
- Loreal For Men alcohol-free facial lotion
- A styptic pencil (it’s a chemical coagulant for stopping a bleeding nick or cut; beats the hell out of toilet paper)
I also use a Norelco Bodygroom for trimming my goatee and mustache.
You can get really expensive equipment, and I experiment with various parts of the equation as I run out of the consumables, but right now, this is working pretty well for me.
The procedure (for me) is as follows:
- Shower. Get a good hot steam going, get your face nice and wet, and shampoo your beard. The steam opens up the pores, and the shampoo helps to soften up your facial hair and get it nice and wet. I also use conditioner on my goatee and mustache, and I find that using a little conditioner on your face helps to lubricate the beard.
- Dry off, but leave your face wet. Get your brush nice and wet with the hottest water you can get out of the tap (steam should be rising).
- Gently shake water out of the brush until it’s dripping every few seconds. Swirl the brush around in your lather cup until the brush is saturated with a thick, soapy lather.
- Rewet your face with a couple of handfuls of water from the sink, and then start applying lather in a circular motion. The idea here is to get lather all around the hair on your face so that it stands off of the face, and using an up-and-down “paintbrush” stroke won’t do that. Once your face is covered in lather, set the brush down (either in the cup or so that it stands bristles up) and let the lather stand on your face for about 1-2 minutes.
- Fill the sink to about a quarter- or third-full with the hottest water you can get from the tap (again, steam should be rising from the sink). While the sink is filling, assemble your razor and put in a good, sharp blade. I shave every other day, but I have a thick beard, so a blade usually lasts 2-3 weeks for me. As with anything, your mileage may vary. Once your razor is assembled, dunk the head in the water for about 3 or 4 seconds.
- Apply the razor to your face so that it stands perpendicular to your face, and then turn it slightly toward your face. The head of your razor should be curved slightly so that it sits this way naturally. Using short strokes and no more pressure than it takes to hold the razor upright, pull the razor across your face. The key here is no pressure. The blade is really, really sharp, and the idea with the angle and the whole deal is to allow it to do the work. If you press down on the blade, you’re going to irritate the hell out of your face and end up with the nastiest razor burn of your life (trust me, I learned this one the hard way). This is the coolest part for me; if the room is really quiet, you can hear the blade cutting through the hair on your face.
- Depending on how thick your beard is and how sharp the blade is, you’re going to repeat step 6 about 2-4 times. Each time is going to be a different direction, and you relather your face each time; pass 1 goes with the grain (nap) of your beard, pass 2 goes against. Feel your face before passes 3 and 4, so that you cover anything you missed. I usually go with the nap on pass 3, and go against on pass 4, but with the line of my jaw.
- Once your face feels smooth and clean, pull the drain stop and rinse out your brush. Use hot water until all of the soap is out of the brush, then switch to cold. Shake as much water as you can get out of the brush, and then leave it sit bristle-side down to dry.
- Rinse off your face with cold water. You’ve just opened up your pores to make cutting the hair out of them easy, so you now want to close them up to prevent infection and to clear away any dead skin. Towel off with a nice soft towel, and let your face dry for at least 10 minutes.
- If you need it, apply some aftershave lotion. I use an alcohol-free lotion because it’s not going to irritate my skin and (more importantly) dry it out. I use one with an SPF 15 sunscreen built-in, but you may have a different preference.
It takes a while to get used to, but once you’ve done it for a while, you’ll never want to go back to anything else. Your face will feel clean, you’ll feel good, and you’ll actually look forward to shaving!