(re) Discovering Shaving
Recently, I decided to up my shaving game. I don’t suffer from excessive ingrown hairs or really bad irritation from shaving, but it seemed to be getting a bit worse in recent years. I looked into it, and started discovering that there are better ways to take care of your face when shaving. I also discovered there’s an entire world of “shave geeks” out there, who are definitely on par with CoffeeGeeks, if not more so. Many of them congregate over at Badger and Blade, which is a well run, respectable community of shaving freaks.
After some research, I decided if I was going to do this, I’d be going all in (though I really didn’t - see below): I’d buy a top of the line kit from the get go, and just dive in.
I ended up buying an Edwin Jagger Chatsworth (that’s a style line) Faux Horn set that included a silvertip badger brush (a pretty wide one), a cartridge razor handle, a stand and a steel bowl (for catching drips and also a small bowl for creating lather), I finished it off with a apothecary soap mug and a few good soaps. I bought the set at Vancouver’s Mr. Lee’s Haberdashery and got a deal because the brush had some cosmetic damage (I got the set, including soap mug and soaps for around $250ish, which I know is still insanely expensive, but retail was around $375). I was planning on a $200 budget for everything, but this set was so nice, I opted for it.
My first mistake though was getting the cartridge brush handle (I have it for sale, barely used if you’d like it! $75! It sells for $148 new! It was a mistake for me, because for my slightly increasing skin and shaving problems, I wasn’t eliminating the main problem - the multi-bladed razors. I needed to go double edged safety razor, and do multiple pass shaving.
So I bought the matching double edged safety razor and a big sample pack of razors (60 in all). The good news is, the razors are cheap - the 60 pack cost $20, including some very expensive ones.
Okay, all final purchases done. It’s been a few weeks now, and I’ve noticed several things. First, my skin is improving quite a bit. Second, I’m getting an incredibly close shave. Third, the silvertip badger brush is finally breaking in and it feels like… feels like luxury. I can’t describe it any other way. Fourth, I have to schedule about 15 to 20 minutes for shaving now in my daily schedule, instead of the usual 3-5 minutes. And Fifth and last? I’m loving it. I actually look forward to shaving now! Crazy!
Here’s one of two shaving routines I have: one is fresh out of the shower, one is not.
Before getting into the shower, my brush goes into a bowl with hot water to wet and condition it. I dribble about a teaspoon of water into my apothecary bowl with the shaving soap, to soften and wet it. In the shower, make sure my face gets lots of steamy hot water treatment. I also use a face cleanser to clean the whiskers and further soften them up. As soon as I get out of the shower, I use very hot water to partially fill the sink; I shake out a lot of the water and moisture from the brush, and start swirling it fast in the apothecary bowl. I get a lot of dense lather on the tips of the brush. Then I go to a second bowl I have (an old school cafe au lait bowl) and start building up my lather, adding a bit of water here and there to do so. Then I apply a first coat of lather to my fave with some vigorous brushing in circular motions, then a final “paint” to get the coat nice and even. The lather is moist, but not overly so - it can create peaks and density. Think hand-whipped whipping cream.
At this point, I haven’t dried off from the shower, save for my hair.
First shave with the double edged razor is very light, kind of thinning and reducing the whiskers, always shaving with the grain (I figured out the grain patterns on my face). Then I re-lather, and shave again, still light, not much tugging and pulling, this time, across the grain of my whiskers. Then I’ll re-lather again, and do a near final shave, still very gentle, against the grain in trouble spots, and across the grain in smoother spots. A few bits of brush-applied lather here and there for final touchups, then I rinse my face with cold water. Last thing I do is apply a good, non-alcohol based aftershave. Still working on finding even better ones.
Everything I do in the shower shave for the actual shave is the same. My prep is different. First, the brush goes into a bowl of hot water. Next, I run really, really hot water onto a face towel and soak that. Next, I splash really hot water on my face. Then I do all the lather-building stuff with my brush that I mentioned in the Shower technique.
The facecloth is soaking in hot water, my face is wet from hot water, and I’ve got lather. So I spread some of the lather on my face and scrub it in a bit, with my fingers. Then I take the super-hot towel, rinse it out a bit, and place it over my beard for about 1 minute. It looks awkward, but works. I wipe off any residual shaving lather, get the towel hot again, and reapply it to my face. This helps really, really soften up my whiskers, and it makes an unbelievable difference to the quality of the shave. This technique is also known as “Kyle’s Technique” for the guy who argued why it was the best way to prep.
Then I follow the rest of the steps outlined in the Shower Shave, above.
This whole thing is pretty nifty, and it’s become a new ritual for me. I’m not really super OCD nor am I clinically diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, but I do enjoy, and I think need, rituals in my life. This is a new one, and I’m quite enjoying it. My face is too.