Learning to Wet Shave

I purchased my first Braun electric razor in 1987 while I was living in Germany. Up until that time I shaved using cheap disposable razors. That’s what I watched my father use, and I figured I’d continue the tradition of blue Gillette razors and gooey aerosol shaving cream.

My father told me I’d eventually want to move to an electric razor because it would be easier to navigate the numerous chin scars with a blade behind an aluminum foil. I found his words to be true after plunking down about $200 for the nifty Braun gadget. Without prepping my face with any oils, lotions or creams, the Braun glided over my face removing the day’s stubble in less than three minutes. No mess. No cleanup. I couldn’t imagine ever going back to a razor of any kind.

And then last year I came across an article from Lex Friedman titled,  The Wet Shave.

I was curious, but it all seemed a bit overwhelming. There was a list of required items to purchase and learn to use. I had upgraded to a third generation Braun unit, but wasn’t happy with the closeness of the shave it delivered, even when I frequently swapped out a new blade and foil. So a couple of months ago, I decided to give wet shaving a try. I began to add an item here or there to my Amazon shopping cart until I had what I needed.

I’ve waited a couple of months to write up my thoughts on wet shaving because, frankly, it’s an ongoing learning process. It reminds me of skiing where the first few times totally suck because you fall down so often you’re constantly cold and wet. I would have given up wet shaving after the first few times had I not read from others that using a safety razor comes with a learning curve.

After the first week of wet shaving, I wondered if I could return everything to Amazon.

After the second week, I was bleeding a bit less after each shave.

But the third week, I was determined to master the art of wet shaving after Kim mentioned how smooth my face felt.

I’m still a long way from mastering the wet shave if that’s even possible. I haven’t yet packed up or sold my Braun, but I haven’t used it in over two months either.

Here is the process and products that are working well for me today. They may also work well for you, but don’t assume that’s the case. Experiment and figure out what works well for you. I shave right after I get out of the shower while my skin is still a bit damp and relaxed.

I rinse my face with warm water before I do anything. While my face is wet, I take a shaving brush and run it under the warm water. I give the brush two shakes and then swirl it around William Mug Shaving Soap in a shaving bowl.  You don’t need a lot of soap.  As for the shaving brush, I’ve tried a few, and prefer the ones with synthetic bristles. You can drop a lot of money here on badger, boar, or horse hair brushes, but the Parker synthetic is just about perfect.

I then swirl the brush with soap around my face until it’s evenly covered. The goal here is to lift the stubble making it easier for the blade to reach and cut. I do this to one side of my face so the soap doesn’t dry out.

You’re now ready for the razor. I really like the Merkur Long Handled Safety Razor because it feels sturdy and stable in my hands. Unlike plastic disposable razors, the Merkur doesn’t require much pressure at all. The weight of the Merkur provides just the right about of pressure against your face to remove the stubble. Press too hard, and you’ll be donating some skin to the sink. I shave one half of my face at a time, and I start with my sideburns before moving to my chin, neck and upper lip areas.

You will need to keep a number of blades on hand. The number of blade options is absurd, but I prefer the Personna Double Edge Razor blades after trying a few brands. I swap out a new blade after every five shaves, but your mileage may vary.

Only shave where you’ve lathered. The quickest way to cut yourself is to run the razor over a dry area of skin. If you miss an area, lather your face before going back to your razor. I use the Williams Mug Shaving soap on the first two passes. It lathers well and is cheap, but it’s unscented and far from indulgent. One reason to wet shave is to pamper your skin, so on the third and final pass, I use a more expensive shaving cream from Taylor of Old Bond Street. I love the grapefruit scent and the rich cream feels wonderful. Like the soap, you only need a small dab of cream to lather your entire face.

Once I’m finished with the razor, I rinse it off and place it back in this stand from Perfecto. It holds both my brush and razor.

While my face is still wet, I run this alum block over my face. It acts as an astringent and closes any razor nicks I inflicted upon my face. It stings a bit and acts as a reminder that running a blade over bare skin is not something to be taken lightly.

I let my face air dry before applying an aftershave lotion. I have never used lotions on my face because I can’t stand the feel of any oily substance on my face. But I’ve found two aftershave lotions I really like. The Neutrogena Post Shave Lotion doesn’t leave my face feeling oily and is affordable.

If you really want to pamper yourself, grab the Aveda aftershave. Kim bought me some of this for Christmas, and I have no idea how she expects me to go back to anything else.

I’m still learning how to best take care of my skin, but I love the close shave that only a real blade can provide. It takes some patience to learn how to maneuver the blade around my face without gouging my skin. I’m learning to ease up on the pressure of the razor as to not nick it up more than it already is around my chin area.

The biggest downside to wet shaving is that it takes now takes me about 10 to 12 minutes to shave compared to 2-3 minutes with my Braun. But I’ve found this is also one of the benefits of wet shaving that I enjoy the most. Shaving used to be as exciting as brushing my teeth. Now I look forward to the days I shave because it slows down my morning and gives me time to indulge my skin.

I find the whole process relaxing and a great way to begin my day.  It might be time to box up the Braun.

One thought on “Learning to Wet Shave

  1. Mr. Nordquist, it’s great that you didn’t give up and return any of your items back! There is a learning curve – as you have noticed yourself. There is something you alluded to at the end that is true in today’s society, and that would be regarding living in a fast-paced society. We grow up thinking that we have to move fast. However, you have stumbled upon a classic-but-revived tradition that allows you to focus on yourself. Appreciate that time as you also provide yourself with a close shave and a smoother face.


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