Posted on Sun 25 November 2012

My compleat guide to shaving

Shaving Brush

When I think about shaving I’m ambivalent about it — I hate the need to shave regularly but really enjoy the ritual and how my face feels after a really good shave. Some years ago I was treated to a hot towel shave for a birthday and it was the most pampering, relaxing, of experiences. The only discordant note in a couple of hours of luxury was when I was offered aftershave — expecting something luxurious, I assented and had a product straight from a teenager’s bathroom cabinet applied to my tender, open, pores! The pain finally eased about two days later.

A few years ago I switched from shaving with the latest high-tech multi-bladed cartridge system to Double-edge wet shaving. This is the sort of shaving your dad probably did; with brushes and soap and razors that have to be screwed together once the blade has been fitted. Although I initially thought I was switching to DE shaving for economy my obsession with the design of products meant that idea soon went wrong. I bought a stainless steel Feather safety razor that I love using, as if just feels right. I generally only use each blade for a couple of shaves as I don't shave often. I’ll probably break even on my investment sometime in 2032!

There is a lot of useful information about traditional shaving on the Internet and if one is really obsessive there is even ‘method’ shaving! I’m not that disciplined but I do like to have a technique, and this is what works for me.

  1. Soften the bristles. Either take a nice hot shower or rub a pre-shaving oil into the bristles.

  2. Use a brush (I’m fond of my Simpson’s “Chubby” brush) to build up a thick lather using shaving soap or cream. You can use a bowl for this, but I just make this mixture in my hand.

  3. Brush this mixture into the beard and work-up a dense lather to support the bristles.

  4. Make the first shaving pass in the direction of the bristles. Don’t press the razor into the skin and don't worry about any bristles left behind at this stage.

  5. Rinse, then brush more lather onto the face and repeat the first shaving pass.

  6. For a really close shave, apply more lather and shave ‘against the grain’.

  7. Rinse one last time with an alum block and cold water. Alum is a natural astringent that tightens the skin and closes down the skin pores. It also helps that an alum bar looks lovely, like a quartz.

  8. After 5 minutes, rub in an moisturising after shave lotion.

Written down, this all sounds quite involved but it generally only takes about 10-15 minutes a couple of times a week for a really good shave.

Despite having worked out a technique that works for me, I’m still tempted to try other forms of shaving and easily distracted. Thanks to certain people on the internet I may soon try the sort of shaving your great-grandad would have known...

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