Shaving for Real

me getting ready to shave.
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When you look at a safety razor, you see the mostly-unguarded blade.  When you look in the mirror, you see your throat and you see this blade–by definition, razor-sharp–and you realize that you are about to put a knife to your own throat.   Why?

Because shaving sucks.

For my 18th birthday, I received 2 Mach3 razors.  I used them  for more than 10 years.  It certainly beat disposable Bics, but not by much.

I liked it, but only because I didn’t have anything good to compare it to.

I’ve start using an old-fashioned safety razor.   Now, I can shave smoother and with less irritation than I ever could with a modern razor and it only takes a few extra minutes.

Why would you want to abandon modern technology to put a blade against your jugular?

Modernization isn’t always an improvement.  There is something about reaching back in time a couple of generations and doing things, not only the way they used to be done, but the way they should be done.  It’s the same feeling I get handling an old rifle or sitting in an antique car.

A real shave is 15 minutes of peace and focus. Lock the kids out of the bathroom and focus on the task at hand.  The concentration will usually give you a chance to forget about the rest of the world for just a few minutes.  This is pure meditation.

As a benefit, when you’re done, you feel refreshed and well-groomed.  It feels good to take care of yourself.

What do you need to shave like a real man?

Start slow and ease your way into it.  Put a cup in the bathroom. If you shave with a modern razor, the easiest way to improve your shave is to use hot water.      Put your shaving cream in the cup and add a bit of hot water.   Mix that up and use it to shave.  The hot foam will do wonders for your skin and the closeness of your shave.   I did that and immediately start trolling antique stores looking for a good, cheap shaving brush.

A brush makes applying your shaving cream a small pleasure. Spreading the hot foam on your face with a brush gets in on all sides of each hair, softening it for the razor.   Ideally, you want a badger-hair brush, but I’ve been perfectly happy with boar hair.   I found one at an antique store for $5.

Shortly after acquiring my antique shaving brush, I decided to go even older-school and upgraded to an old-fashioned safety razor.   I took my life, and my life-blood, in my own hands to shave for real.  I went with a  Merkur 23C Long Handle Safety Razor.   It’s a basic razor with a longer handle, because I have large hands and long fingers.   Don’t worry about getting an adjustable razor.  There’s no point.   It cost $29 at West Coast Shaving*.

You will need blades for the razor.  West Coast Shaving sells a variety pack of 45 blades for $15.    Try them all and stick with the one that works best for your facial hair.   I tend to change blades every 4-5 shaves.   More than that, and they get a bit dull and make me bleed.  I try to avoid bleeding.
Now that you’ve got a brush, a razor, and blades, it’s time to get rid of the worthless can of shaving foam. Shaving soap works much better.    You can get 3 discs of Col. Conk’s soap for $15, and they will last 6 months each, easily.    They are almost exactly the same diameter as a regular coffee cup, so guess what?  Just drop it in your cup.
That’s everything you need to shave for just $65, and of that only the blades and soap are recurring costs.  Your razor and brush will last forever.   I figure it costs me about $1 per month to shave, now.

How do you avoid killing yourself while getting ready for work?

It’s all a matter of technique.

  1. Dampen your cheeks with hot water to soften the hair.  I prefer to shave immediately after I shower.
  2. Run hot water over your brush.  Get it thoroughly soaked, then shake off the excess water.  You want it hot and wet, but not dripping.
  3. Briskly brush the soap disk until the brush picks up as much soap as it can.   It may or may not form a lather in the cup.
  4. Put the brush on your face and whisk it around.   I use a quick circular motion to build up a lather on my cheeks.   This works the hot soap into each hair.   Keep brushing it onto your face until it forms peaks.
  5. Pick up your razor.   I run it under some hot water, just so the cold metal isn’t a shock after the hot foam.   From here, you need your full attention on what you are doing.
  6. Shave.

When you are shaving there are a few things to keep in mind.

  • Take your time.
  • Never, ever, ever, ever turn the blade while it is in contact with your face.  You will bleed.   Once the blade touches your face, it goes in a straight line.
  • Keep the edge of the blade as close to parallel with your face as possible.
  • The goal is hair reduction, not removal.

I make 4 passes when I shave.  First, I shave from the top down.   Next, from the back towards my nose and mouth.   Then, from the front to the back.  Finally, I shave against the grain from the bottom to the top.    This results in a closer shave than anything I’ve ever had with a modern razor.

When I think I’m done, I dip my fingers in some warm water and run them around my face, in all possible directions, to see if I missed a spot.

When the hair is gone, wipe of the remaining cream and splash cold water every place the razor touched.   This closes the pores and will help prevent infections and razor bumps.

The last step is aftershave.    Aftershave disinfects your face.   It also prevents infections and makes you stink nice.

There you have it: the secret to a baby-butt-smooth shave and 10-20 minutes of masculine meditation.   If you are looking for a present for someone, you could do a lot worse than a real razor set.

*I have absolutely no affiliation with WCS.  I am just very happy with the service and the product.

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