So you’ve bought your first razor and made the switch to wet shaving but, you’re still a little apprehensive about the correct technique to use to get the best shave possible whilst avoiding that unsightly razor burn or irritation. Please read on for a few tips and tricks to help you get settled in to wet-shaving the right way.
Mapping your beard
“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” – Benjamin Franklin
As with everything in life, the act of shaving will go a lot “smoother” if you start with a great plan and a good understanding of what exactly is going on when we take a super sharp blade to our skin. Skip these steps at your own peril!!!
Mapping your beard is arguably one of the most important steps to take when you’re just starting out with wet shaving because we don’t really want to be shaving against the grain (until much later, that is) as it could potentially lead to skin irritation and razor burn/bumps.
Mapping your beard is the conscious effort we make to look at the natural direction in which our beards grow so that we can avoid shaving in the wrong direction.
Armed with this information, we can then formulate a proper plan of action when shaving each section of the face so that we’re sure we make the first pass, or two, in the same direction as the hair growth. Mapping is best done with 2 -3 days worth of growth so that we can clearly see the direction the hair is growing in.
Please download and print a beard mapping chart here and draw arrows within each section of the face so that you have a clear picture of the direction of the hair growth.
See example below.
Now that you’ve mapped your face correctly, shaving with the grain should be a breeze. Please refer to your chart whenever you’re not sure about the direction of the hair growth.
Building a good lather
- Begin by soaking your brush in hot water for a minute. I usually let mine soak whilst I have a shower but this is not necessary to get a good shave.
- Lift your brush out of the water and squeeze off any excess water leaving just enough water on the brush for it to feel damp.
- Load your brush for 10 to 15 seconds in your shaving soap until the brush is coated with a good amount of soap. You’ll quickly figure out how much or how little soap to load as you gain experience. Remember, we’re trying not waste too much soap here! You’ll be surprised at how long you can stretch a good quality shaving soap.
- Work the brush on your face or in a bowl, whilst adding a drop of water at a time until a thick creamy lather starts to build. I prefer building the lather on my face because doing so helps exfoliate my skin at the same time and lifts the whiskers away from the skin.
- The final lather should have the consistency of yoghurt and should have a nice sheen/shine to it once painted on the face. The lather’s job is to trap water between the bubbles to facilitate slip and to give the blade a thin cushion of soap to glide on but there’s NO need to produce mountains of lather. A thin layer of good lather is all you need to protect your face from the blade.
Finding the correct blade angle
- Gently touch the blade cap at 90 degrees (perpendicular) to your cheek so that the blade isn’t touching your skin (see figure 1).
- Slowly tilt the razor handle downwards around 30 degrees from perpendicular whilst slowly dragging the razor over your skin. As soon as you feel the razor cutting your whiskers, that’s the proper angle to use for your specific razor (see figure 2). This is the angle you should always use to avoid nicks and irritation.
- If you use too much blade angle (see figure 3) you may cause irritation and even small cuts on your face!
- The most important rule of wet shaving is – do NOT apply any pressure on to the skin through your razor!!! Let the weight of the razor itself supply any downward force onto the skin. DE blades are super sharp and should easily cut the hair without any added pressure. If the blade is tugging at your beard instead of cutting through, it’s time for a fresh blade.
- It is generally a good idea to shave just after you’ve had a shower as the hot water will help to soften your beard, making it easier for the blade to cut through the hair.
If showering is not an option, soak a face cloth in hot water and apply the cloth to your beard for a minute or 2 to help soften your whiskers.
- Once you’ve figured out the correct blade angle for your razor (see above), draw the blade lightly over the face with the grain for the first 2 passes making sure to never run the razor over any parts of the face which aren’t covered in soap.
- Remember, the goal is to slowly and gently reduce the beard and NOT to take everything off in one swoop! Use short, light strokes making sure to keep the razor clean after every couple of strokes by rinsing the razor in warm water. I like the keep a small Tupperware container nearby which I use to keep a small amount of clean water in for rinsing my razor. This also helps save water!
- We recommend that beginners aim for a 2-pass shave with the grain until your skin has adjusted to this new way of shaving. Later on, you can add a 3rd pass across/against the grain for an extra smooth finish. Caution!!! Only do this once you’re positive your skin can handle it!
Post shave care
- Always finish up with a good aftershave balm to help your skin recover from shaving.
- Try to avoid alcohol based aftershaves especially if you have very sensitive skin as these will leave your skin dry and more prone to irritation/razor burn.
- If you are prone to pimples/bumps after shaving, try a little Mylocort cream which can be purchased at any pharmacy without prescription.
Caring for you gear
I like to remove the blade from my razor once I’m done shaving and give the razor a good brushing with the leftover soap from my brush. This keeps my razor looking immaculate and free of soap build up. Always store your razor as far from the loo as possible as bacteria from airborne spray may find its way to your razor which could cause you a nasty infection.
Rinse your brush thoroughly after shaving and store it in a well ventilated area away from your loo as bacteria may collect on your brush as a result of airborne spray from the toilet.
Rinse your shaving soap under warm water once you’re finished shaving. You want to rinse away any leftover lather and then leave your soap out to dry upside down so any excess water can drain away overnight.
Don’t be afraid to experiment
Once you’ve mastered your wet shaving technique, it’s time to start exploring the plethora of new soaps and different razor blades out there.
Razor blade sample packs are a great place to start looking for your perfect blade to razor match. You’ll be amazed at how different your razor will feel on your face when you find that perfect blade to go with your specific razor.
There are literally thousands of shaving soaps out there with various degrees of performance, price and scent. Have fun exploring different options with all the money you’ve saved from switching over to wet shaving.
Your perfect shave is out there!