Modern dryers are better than hanging laundry to dry, iPhones are better than rotary phones, and a digital calculator is better than an abacus.
It’s true that technology makes most things better, but technology has not made shaving better.
Sure, modern razors and gadgets have made it faster and more convenient to shave, but I don’t think they have made it better. The way men shaved in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s is tried and true, and it seems to be making a comeback. And it worked for me-it’s how I shave every week, and I want to share with you how you can upgrade your shaving routine.
In this column, I’m going to offer my process, some products and where you can find items to upgrade your routine. There are plenty of more guides, tutorials and experts out there if you want to learn more. This article is a great place to start, as well as these tutorials on YouTube.
Why wet shaving?
I began to look into double-edge safety razors after my frustrations with the current razor system. The blades I had been using cost $20 for a pack, only lasted a few weeks and then I was back out to buy another. The shaving cream I was using-I’ve since learned-was full of propellants, glycols and other chemicals. Shaving cream is actually closer to antifreeze than it is a cosmetic product. While it is slick and feels fine, it’s doing more harm to the skin than good. So even if you’re not ready to give up your cartridge razor, upgrading your shaving cream is the easiest way to start.
My favorite no-foam cream is Racer shave cream from Portland General Store. Cremo shave cream is a great shaving cream for the cost, too. Both smell great and provide better protection than any foam or gel for the same price.
I know they look scary, but the double-edge razor is going to be gentler on your face than the latest multiblade cartridge. The secret is one blade as opposed to five.
If you make three passes with a five-blade cartridge, one bit of skin is getting 15 touches of a blade. With a safety razor, I usually make three passes and I’m done. Not even with my medieval-looking tool do I regularly have nicks or cuts.
And overlooking all the petrochemicals that go into packaging and production of cartridge systems, I can buy Derby blades-my go-to daily blade-for 10 cents apiece, and I only need to change it once a week.
My initial investment of a brush, mug and razor handle ran me about $50 on Amazon. This set, which I recommend, is even sold at the Walgreens on Frazier Avenue. There are lots of different types of handles with different characteristics, but a simple one will do to start.
How to shave
Here’s how my routine goes:
I start with warming the brush in hot water in a coffee mug before I get in the shower. I also put some hot water on top of my soap to loosen it up a bit. In the shower, I use a face scrub (i.e., exfoliant) before I shave. I’ll apply preshave oil, too, usually five or six drops. My skin tends to be fairly sensitive, so this provides a bit more slickness, which I don’t get with just the shave soap. From there, I get my brush, shake out the water and swirl it in the soap mug. After a minute of swirling, the lather begins to form. You can go right to your beard here or keep building the lather in the mug.
The brush stands up the hairs, giving you a more consistent cut, but it also gets the lather closer to the skin. I’ve tried Proraso Green, which is menthol- and eucalyptus-infused. It has a great smell and feel, but tends to be more irritating (to my face) because of the fragrances. The soap that comes with the set is good as well, and fairly mild. You’ll notice the shaving soap is fairly inexpensive and an easy thing to try out and find what works best for you.
Mapping your face
Before you start, you need to look at how your facial hair grows and understand which direction it grows. I reapply later with the brush between each pass, a step you should never skip. The first and second passes are always with the grain (the direction the hair grows), and the third and “touch-up” passes can be against or across the grain, but should be done slower and with caution. The safety razor is made to be used with extremely light pressure and a shave angle of 30 degrees or less. The idea is to remove hair with multiple passes with as little pressure as necessary.
Videos are really good to explain this part of the process.
After I’m finished, I rinse my face and pat dry without rubbing. Then, I apply a nonalcohol whiskey aftershave by Portland General Store. Some like alcohol-based products, but I’m not a fan. If I feel like my skin is still irritated, I use Baxter of California post-shave balm. I make sure to rinse my razor, brush and mug, and hang them on the provided stand.
Now that it’s a regular process, it takes about 10 minutes more than my old routine. However, this is a minor tradeoff for a truly better shave.
I don’t expect everyone to convert immediately, but incorporating a nonfoaming shaving cream or using a brush will undoubtedly improve your routine immediately.
Alan Baird writes about men’s style and occasionally fashion. He thinks fashion is temporary, while style is forever. His personal style is classic, preppy and contemporary. If there are trends you like or if you want to argue about the utility of cargo shorts, feel free to contact him at [email protected] or on Facebook or Twitter. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.