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A Beginner's Guide to Wet Shaving

There’s a lot I wish I knew on my first shave with a safety razor so I wrote this guide for you to learn from my mistakes. Here’s everything you need to know to get an amazing shave right from the start.

Supplies You’ll Need

First, make sure you have these items ready:

  • Safety razor with a fresh blade
  • Shaving brush
  • Shaving soap
  • Bowl (any bowl in your house will do)

Preparing for Your Shave

Start off by getting your materials ready. Grab your bowl and fill it with hot water, then soak your shaving brush. The hot water will help create a pleasantly warm lather for your shave. Also, load a new blade in your safety razor.

It’s important before your first shave to map out the direction your hair grows so that you can shave with the grain on your first pass. Use your hand to feel which directions are roughest. The rough directions are against the grain, so you’ll want to be shaving in the opposite direction. It’s common to have strange growth patterns with abrupt changes in direction so be sure to note where the grain changes.

Next, I recommend taking a warm shower to soften up and hydrate your hair before shaving.

Building Your Lather

After your shower, you’re ready to build your lather. Remove your brush and spill out the water in the bowl. Lightly squeeze your brush to remove some excess water.

You have the choice to build your lather in a bowl or directly on your hair, but I recommend starting with bowl lathering:

  1. Start loading your brush with soap by pressing the bristles of the brush to the top of the soap. Use light pressure while swirling the brush in a clockwise direction for 15 seconds. Then swirl in a counterclockwise direction for another 15 seconds to make sure all the bristles are loaded with soap.
  2. Once your brush is loaded with soap, put the brush in your empty bowl. To build lather, simply swirl your brush around the bowl. If you don’t see it start to develop, add a few drops of water and repeat. The lather should be a consistency like yogurt without any visible bubbles. Keep in mind that some soaps require more water than others.
  3. Once you think your lather is ready, completely wet your hair with warm water. Then take the lather with your brush and start working it in across in circular motions. When finished, your lather should feel slick with a slight shine. If the lather still seems too dry, sprinkle a few drops of water onto your brush and keep working the lather.

Using Your Safety Razor

  1. Bring the razor to your hair and use slow, short strokes at about a 30 degree angle shaving with the grain. Don’t apply pressure to your skin! The razor should glide easily across using just the weight of the razor. If you feel tugging, there is likely a problem with your lather that needs fixing.
  2. As you shave, lather will build up on your razor. Simply flip the razor to the other side of the double edge, continue to shave, then rinse razor with warm water after that side builds up.
  3. Make sure to only go over parts that still have lather and remember to shave with the grain (WTG)! If you see a spot that was missed, don’t worry– you’ll get it on the next pass.

Once you’ve finished your first pass with the grain, take your brush and lather up again for another pass.

For your first time shaving, try going with the grain again on your second pass. When you’re done, look for any spots you need to touch up and lather up those areas for a touch up pass.

Don’t keep shaving the same spots over and over or else you’ll get razor burn! For any troublesome spots, try using your other hand to pull your skin taut.

Post Shave

When you’re finished, rinse with cold water and pat dry with a towel. Now is the time to apply aftershave splash if you would like. Aftershave splash is a great antiseptic/astringent and feels and smells great. An aftershave balm or moisturizer is also a great post-shave option.

Clean up by rinsing your bowl, brush, and safety razor. Make sure to remove all soap from the brush by squeezing repeatedly under water. Dry the brush with a towel and leave the brush out to finish drying. 

Final Thoughts

Don’t worry if you didn’t get as good of a shave as you would have liked. Practice makes perfect! For me, it took a while to get the right consistency for my lather. My facial hair also grows in many different directions so it took me some time to practice and memorize my hair growth patterns. Part of the fun is continuous improvement, and there is nothing better than the sweet success of a perfect shave.

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