A Beginners Guide to Traditional Shaving

A Beginners Guide to Traditional Shaving

Shave like a pro in no time.

Carson Bennett

For many men, traditional shaving is the way to go when it comes to hair removal. Traditional, or "wet shaving" is when someone shaves using a double edged razor, or a straight razor, coupled with an old fashioned puck of shaving soap or cream. Despite popular opinion that razor companies have tried to get people to believe, several blades are not better than one, and in fact, can cause excess irritation on the skin from how multi-bladed shaving razors work; pulling and tugging at the skin to achieve a "close" shave. This form of shaving also eliminates razor burn, ingrown hairs, and severe irritation.

When it comes to actually shaving, there is a big difference in technique. With modern razors with several blades, you'll typically only run the razor over your face once. But with wet shaving, the double edge / straight razor is passed over the face up to three times, usually in different directions. Instead of getting goop out of an aerosol can, a soap is used in tandem with a shaving brush to whip up a dense lather. And the savings... The savings are real.

First, let's go over some of the commonly available things you can shave with.

This is a double edge safety razor. This Gillette model I got for $10 a year or so ago, it is older than I am, believe it or not. It is a fantastic double edge razor, and fairly aggressive, meaning it has less room between the blade and the guard. It also opens like a butterfly to insert the blade. The "safety" portion of the name means that there is no openly exposed blade, meaning it is a fair bit less possible that you will cut yourself.

Here it is open:

The next is one I purchased from Amazon roughly six or so years ago, and costed the same. This one unscrews at the top to insert the blade, and is a lot tamer than the Gillette, making it a good starter razor.

This is known as a shavette, and is most commonly seen in barber shops, because they are more sanitary than traditional straight razors, as the blade can be swapped for a clean one after a shave. These are great for people who are interested in shaving with a straight razor, but don't want to delve quite that far into it before trying it first. For most shavettes, a broken in half double edge blade is used, making it extremely easy to replace. On occasion, I have dry shaved using this, simply because I am really lazy sometimes.

Now, let's break into some blades. Double edge blades are cheap. Most companies will sell a box of 100 for roughly $10-$15, and each blade can offer 2-3 shaves each, meaning you can shave 200-300 times for around $13. This is significantly cheaper than spending more than that just for one razor cartridge that lasts a couple days. Derby and Astra are two of my favorites, for unknown reasons really. Double edge blades are extremely sharp, so do take great care when handling them.

Now, onto shaving soap. There are pretty much an infinite amount of different brands and types to choose from, some more popular than others. The one I have been using recently is Cella, which is composed of tallow. Not all soaps contain tallow, some use glycerin as a base, and other slippery things. A great soap to start out with, is either of Van Der Hagen's two main soaps, these are cheap, good, and are available at supermarkets and drug stores.

Some might be asking themselves at this point, "but wait, that's not in an aerosol can, how does it get on to my face?" The answer is by using shaving brushes. These are brushes made out of boar hair, badger hair, other animal hair, or synthetic fibers. In the image, the one on the left is made of boar hair. I prefer this one myself, as it is more rigid. While the one on the right is made out of badger hair, and is a lot softer. When you first wet a shaving brush that is composed of real animal hair, it will smell pretty bad, typically like a wet version of whatever animal hair it is made of. A good way to get rid of that scent, and to also break the brush in a bit, is to soak it in warm water, and then swirl it around in the shaving soap, and then let it sit overnight. This can be done as many times as you'd like, and doing so "conditions" the brush, making it softer.

When some people think of aftershave, they think of that scene in Home Alone where Kevin screams after slapping some on. In the below image, the bottle on the far left, Pinuad's Clubman, is known to illicit that burning feeling and serving as an improved version of Brut. Note the "200th anniversary" on the bottle.
I use the two aftershaves on the left more often in the summer and less dry months, as they can dry out the skin from the high amount of alcohol they contain. The two on the right are great for the colder months, especially the Nivea one. The Nivea post shave balm is very famous on online wet shaving forums, as it works wonders at rehydrating the skin after a shave.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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