Traditional Wet Shaving
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“At the Art of Shaving, we have definitely seen the safety razor trend grow over the last year, both in our 150 stores nationwide and in our e-commerce business,” says Art of Shaving’s managing director Todd Brisky. “Our safety razor sales increased by 1,000 percent between 2009 and 2014 alone.”
Plenty of smaller, independent brands are getting into the mix, too. Baxter of California is one of many contemporary grooming outfits to include safety razors, double-edge blades, badger brushes and lather bowls among its wares.
“Over the years,” Lawlis says, “Badger & Blade has morphed from being a shaving website to a gentleman’s lifestyle website because many of our users aren’t simply interested in a ‘better shave,’ they’re interested in ‘better.’”
“The shave is actually not as close as a conventional cartridge razor (two to five blades), which tends to cut the hair follicle below the surface of the epidermis, giving rise to folliculitis, more commonly known as razor bumps,” says Chase. “The major performance benefit of using a single-blade razor is the reduction in razor bumps, as the probability is drastically decreased that the follicle will become inflamed.”
Another benefit of making the switch is economic. Gillette Mach 3 cartridges can cost dollars apiece. High-quality razor blades come in at as little as a quarter each. So far, I’ve found that the Japanese-made Feather blades are awfully sharp and best suited to those who know what they’re doing. Derbys, Wilkinson Swords and Merkur Supers have all ably knocked my beard back a step or two and are recommended for rookies.
Here in South Africa though you won’t find any brick and mortar store stocking a good selection of wet shaving products. If you search online you will find most of the products, but at separate sources. Right now the best sourcing is done from online retailers. I will list below some of the best sources that I have found in South Africa.
Why YOU should start wet shaving
Some of the key reasons are:
– It works out cheaper in the long run – blades are way cheaper, and break even is usually after 12 months.
– No vendor lock-in – you can source your razor, blades, soaps, brushes all from different companies. The baldes fit all safety razors.
– No razor bumps or ingrown hair – a single sharp blade is better than multi-cartridge blades. Since I moved to DE blades I have had no more ingrown hairs.
– Less environmental impact – no discarded tins of shaving gel or entire plastic razors. A shaving soap only “wastes” the wrapping, and most refills come packaged in paper or cardboard.
– More fun – you get to try out all sorts of different soaps and creams to shave with.
– Mostly natural ingredients – this features strongly in the different types of pre-shave oils, soaps/creams, and post-shave products.
– A few days of beard growth is no problem for a safety razor, but a multi-blade razor will tug and clog the blades.
– It’s manly – well that is really a subjective opinion, but it is more fun and nostalgic! And actually it is also not just men doing wet shaving, I have also posted on how women are getting involved too.
Video tutorials are the easiest way to see what wet shaving is all about, and to learn some of the techniques. I have compiled a playlist of my favourite YouTube videos on this topic here.
Places to source the best products in South Africa (without importing)
Edwin Jagger – the best for a brick-and-mortar walk-in experience is at the various Crabtree & Evelyn stores in South Africa. See my post here.
Merkur 34C razor – only available online at Takealot.com or at The Digital Barber. If they are out of stock, try River Valley Trading on Bid or Buy.
Feather double edged razor blades – available at The Digital Barber here.
Proraso Shaving Creams – available at The Digital Barber or at Fine & Fabulous online at Metelerkamps.
Bluebeards Revenge products – Edge for Men hairdressers has their brushes and creams at many of their brick-and-mortar stores.
Tabac shaving soaps and fragrances – Dis-Chem pharmacies
iKon & Edwin Jagger razors, various blades and brushes – at River Valley Trading on Bid or Buy.
Ad-hoc razors and products – Master Shave has a smaller selection but also good on Bid or Buy.
Muhle and Omega brushes – at Sharp Edge online. Sharp Edge also has Muhle razors as well as the Merkur Futur adjustable razor.
Truefitt & Hill soaps and fragrances – can be found at Victorian Bathrooms brick-and-mortar stores.
Badger Pre-Shave Oil – can be found at Faithful to Nature online or also some health stores and online at Takealot.
Which razor to buy?
A common question and bearing in mind that a good razor is going to last you a lifetime or two (and you also don’t want a bad experience to start with) and I’d recommend that you choose between the Edwin Jagger DE89 or the Merkur 34C razors. The Merkur is certainly slightly less aggressive than the Edwin Jagger. You can see my review here on these two razors. The Edwin Jagger will give a closer shave but you will need to be a lot more careful with your technique, and make sure you order one with a serrated grip handle. What I have discovered though, is that a blade such as an Astra or a Gillette 7 O’Clock SharpEdge mates very well with the DE89 head (the Feathers may actually be too sharp and less forgiving with the DE89).
What am I currently using?
Razor: Merkur 34C – I’m enjoying the mild “bite” and the knurled handle
Blades: Feather – the sharpest (or Gillette 7 O’Clock SharpEdge with the DE89)
Shaving Soap: Tabac shaving soap since June 2016 (I’m definatley preferring soaps over shaving creams)
Brush: Bluebeards Revenge boar bristle brush because I’m using a harder soap, the stiffer boar hair brush gets that soap lathering quickly. Learn more about boar brushes at http://shavenook.com/showthread.php?tid=296
Shaving Mug: Crown King Victorian Style Shaving Scuttle but for travelling I use a collapsible Sea to Summit X-Mug
Pre-Shave Oil: Badger – love its thicker consistency and spicy smell (sometimes I’m using Rooibos Tissue Oil)
Alum Stone: Edwin Jagger – nice and compact and comes in a plastic container
Post Shave Balm: Badger After-Shave Face Tonic with Witch Hazel, Aloe and Menthol. But I also use a cheap Rose Water & With Hazel toner that comes from a local store.
Preparation that works for me:
– Put shaving brush in cup, boil some water (or use about 80 degrees Centigrade if your kettle will do this), and fill cup to the height just below the top of bristles of the brush. If the water is too hot it could melt the glue that holds the bristles in the brush, so be careful not to use too hot water.
– Let the brush soak for at least one or three minutes.
– Ideally you have showered already and washed your face (steam helps the beard soften) then wet face with warm water (don’t use very hot water as it will strip away the natural oils and damage your skin).
– If you are going to use a pre-shave oil or cream, apply that to your wet face. I sometimes just use plain virgin coconut oil.
– Shake excess water from brush, then give a few swirls in the shaving soap tub until it has a bit of lather (the trick is finding the correct amount of water on the brush – not dripping but also not squeezed out). For other soaps like the Mitchell’s Wool Fat, you will get a bit on the brush and then lather it up in your shaving mug.
– Use the brush now to lather the soap onto your face and do this for about a minute.
– Use gentle strokes of the blade (do not press like a cartridge razor) shaving downwards from the sideburns to about an inch under your jawline (direction of hair growth). Use short strokes and rinse the blade under hot tap water. I cannot emphasise enough – do not use pressure – the secret is no pressure, then do a second or third pass which takes a bit more off.
– Stroke upwards for the portions of the beard further down (lower neck).
– Rinse your face and use the remaining lather on the brush to cover the jawline again, and run the razor gently over the same area (the idea is to do multiple passes taking a bit off at a time – two passes are usually enough for me).
– Wash the face afterwards with cool water, and rub an alum block gently over the shaved area. If it stings a bit, it is telling you that you shaved too closely on those parts. The alum block also has the effect of closing the pores and acting as a mild antiseptic.
– The shaving brush should be rinsed in warm water and then have a final rinse under cold water. Only clean it on a hand towel that has not been washed in conditioner. You can use shampoo to clean the shaving brush properly once a week. Brush should hang bristles downwards, to dry.
– The razor should be rinsed off under running water and dried carefully so as not to rub the blade edge itself. As a rule of thumb I put a new blade in every Monday and Thursday mornings.
– I finish off by rinsing off the alum with cold water and using a face wash. Then applying an after-shave balm or toner if required.
** Disclaimer: All the above information is my personal opinion based on my experience and other reviews I have read. I receive no compensation or donations of any products from any suppliers **