Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The joy of life is in small things like shaving

If I told you a way you could improve your health, save money, help the environment, and feel better about yourself by doing something you already do every day, would you be interested?

As a reader of Zen Habits with values of simplicity and efficiency … I thought so. What’s surprising is this method has been around for over a hundred years. I’m talking about a traditional wet shave using a shaving brush, shaving soaps/creams, and a double edge razor. Before you scoff at this idea, let’s take a look at the benefits.

1. Improve Your Health. By far, the predominant reason men find traditional wet shaving is the promise of healthier skin. Fed up with razor burn, ingrown hairs, redness and bumps, many are searching for alternate methods to achieve a smooth face. Not only can wet shaving help with shaving problems, your face will thank you for the extra attention. Whereas the normal canned goo and aftershaves are made with chemicals and low cost ingredients, traditional products are full of nutrients and skin-friendly moisturizers. Your face will look better and feel healthier.

2. Save Money. I was drawn to wet shaving for the economical benefits after being increasingly frustrated with the multi-blade cartridge racket. Outside of the $100 initial investment, the daily consumables cost pennies a day. For instance, where a marketing driven cartridge razor can cost over $3 a piece, a typical double edge blade costs a quarter, a savings of over $140 per year on blades alone.

3. Reduce Your Environmental Impact. With traditional wet shaving, the only waste is the lather you wash down the drain and a simple metal blade, which is easily recycled. Shaving soap bowls can easily be reused if you buy refills. Even the lather down the drain is friendlier to the environment as it’s just soap rather than chemical ridden goop. Try a straight razor (yes, they’re still used) if you want to reduce your footprint even more.

4. Improve Your Wellbeing. It is well known that when you look your best, you feel better. Starting the morning off with an excellent shave, followed up by a quality aftershave leaves you feeling clean, professional, and smelling good. It consistently amazes me how good my day starts when I take a few minutes to treat myself to a good shave. I feel awake, more energy, and confident to tackle the day.

5. It’s fun! I had to add one more reason. It may be surprising, but for the reasons above, you may even find shaving to be fun. Scrubbing your face with a badger haired shaving brush with nice smelling lather is luxurious every time. You may also find yourself proud of learning to use traditional shaving items, which do require some skill to use correctly. You may even venture into the world of straight razor shaving and learn to shave the way your great-grandfather shaved, bringing to your life a sense of tradition and connection to years past.

A Quick How-To
Now that I have you convinced, you’re probably wondering how this all works. With apologies to the ladies, this brief guide will be directed at the gentlemen. However, fear not, the same basic approach can be used for hair removal of the female variety as well (my wife is a wet shaver!).

1. Prep Your Beard. One of the keys to any proper shave, regardless of the tools, is good preparation. There are a number of methods, but the key is to sufficiently hydrate the beard. Wet hair equals weaker hair, which means it’s easier to cut and results in less pulling and irritation. One of the easiest methods is to shave right after your shower giving your beard a few minutes to absorb the water.

2. Create and Apply The Lather. The easiest method to creating lather is to place an almond sized dollop of cream in a bowl. Take your pre-wetted brush and swirl the cream in the bowl until you get thick meringue-like lather. Use the brush to apply the lather to your wetted face using a swirling or painting motion depending on your preference.

3. Shaving the Beard. Cartridge razors are designed to remove as much hair as possible at once. This leads to a very quick shave, but also a poor one. A double edge razor is the normal razor of choice for the wet shaver, primarily due to the quality of the shave and ease of use. With a double edge razor, gradual beard reduction is the key, and typically results in 3 passes. Sure, this may take a bit longer, but the results are worth it. The key to mastering the DE razor is to use very light strokes at the proper angle. It will take a little experimenting to get it right, but anyone can learn to use one.

4. Post-Shave. Now that you have a smooth face, it’s beneficial to follow-up with an aftershave. This helps reduce any irritation that may have resulted, especially in the early stages of learning, and protects the skin during the day. Properly hydrated skin is healthier and looks better.

As I said, this guide is brief. You may very well find success using these simplified instructions. However, if you‘d like more information, there is an amazing amount of knowledge online regarding traditional wet shaving, from product recommendations to help with specific problems. One such place is, the largest online community devoted to wet shaving and men’s grooming (ladies welcome).

John Koontz happened to find wet shaving while looking for a better, less expensive shave about 2 years ago … and was hooked. Shaving became an enjoyable hobby instead of daily chore, and he’s now a moderator of the Badger & Blade forum where he’s been spreading the benefits of traditional wet shaving for 1.5 years

You forget something most Italians do, or used to do: sing your favorite piece of Opera. That really helps.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

How long does a double edge blade last? How good of a shave will a blade give?
As with a "cut-throat" razor it depends on the sharpness of the blade and the durability/hardness of the steel.
Has anyone looked at the edge of various maker’s double edge blades under a 10 power magnifying glass, or, better yet, a microscope, to see if they can see a difference in the blade edges?
I looked at a Schick, and a Merkur, under a 10X glass. The Merkur, even at only 10X, has a rough edge. The Schick has a much smoother edge.
I checked this out after using one of each blade. The Schick gave me 25 good shaves before it started pulling,
The Merkur blade gave me a worse (it pulled more) shave on the first shave than the Schick did after 25 shaves.
I used to get 60 good shaves out of the Gillette Blue Blade. Now I am doing good to get 30 out of stainless steel, platinum, etc.
Seems the blade makers are just not putting as good of an edge on their blades just so they will get duller faster.
I have not tried the Feather Blades yet, but have ordered some, as they have a reputation for sharpness.
A person should be able to tell just how long, comparatively, a blade will last just by looking at its edge under a microscope.
The whole thing seems to be a "sting" operation though, as sharp blades could go out for weeks and then start sending out less sharp ones.