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Wet Shaving Lingo Guide

The hardest part of wet shaving isn't actually shaving, it's learning all of the weird terms and lingo that everyone uses. So, we created this glossary to help you better understand what people are talking about when they say things like “TTO” or “software”.

But first, let’s make sure you got the basic definition of wet shaving down.

Wet Shaving (N): The name designated to a type of shaving that requires the shaver to use some type of lather and unpowered razor.

A lot of things can pass under that definition, but in practice it refers to any kind of shaving that does not use the following: cartridge razors, canned shaving creams, or electric trimmers.

Now that we got that out of the way, let’s get into things.  

General

These are basic terms you need to know to be able to communicate with other wet shavers.

  • Face Lather: Building a lather on ones face without the use of a bowl, mug, or scuttle.
  • Grain: The direction in which a person’s hair grows. It is best to shave in the same direction as one’s grain. This is commonly referred to as shaving “with the grain.” Shaving opposite one’s grain growth is called going “against the grain.”
  • Hardware: Shaving goods that are not consumable such as razors, brushes, or bowls.
  • Lather: The result of a wet shaver mixing water with a soap or cream and frothing with a brush. It is a thick foam used to lubricate and protect the face from the razor while shaving.
  • Pass: When the razor has passed over every area of the individuals face and removed both lather and hair. Often times in order to get a close shave, multiple passes (usually 2-3) may be required. 
  • Razor Burn: Red itchy or burning bumps that are usually the result of poor shaving technique, low quality hardware and software, or user error.
  • Software: The goods a wet shaver uses that are either liquid or soft to the touch such as soaps and aftershaves.

Razors

These are objects that have sharpened edges used to remove unwanted hair from the face and body.

  • Double Edge Safety Razor: This is the most common wet shaving tool as it is lower cost and requires less maintenance than other traditional shaving razors. It looks like the letter “T” and holds a disposable metal blade. The blade protrudes out from both sides of the razor head and includes a safety bar to stop you from getting cut while shaving.
    • Aggressive: Describes when a razor exposes a significant amount of the blade’s cutting surface to the skin. Increased blade exposure results in a closer shave with an increased risk of getting nicked.
    • Adjustable: A type of safety razor that features a built in system to adjust the aggressiveness of the razor head.
    • Closed Comb: A type of razor that has solid safety bar, known as a comb, that helps a shaver avoid cutting themselves while shaving. 
    • Mild: Describes when a razor exposes less of the blades cutting surface to allow for a more error tolerant shave.
    • Open Comb: A type of razor that has a slotted safety bar, also known as a comb, to help with aligning the hairs while shaving and draining any excess lather, water, or shaved air. 
    • Slant Head: A type of safety razor that has the head slanted in a bit of a twist to offer a more aggressive shave.
    • Three Piece: A safety razor that a removable handle, base plate, and top cap
    • Twist to Open (TTO): Commonly known as butterfly razors, these razors feature a handle that twists in order to open the razor head for blade changes.
    • Two Piece: A safety razor that has just 2 pieces, a combined handle and base plate with a removable top cap.
  • Straight Razor: A razor that most people think of when someone thinks of traditional shaving. It is sometimes referred to as a “cut throat” razor. It has a finger sized blade that folds out from protective scales. These razors offer extremely close shaves and come in many varieties.
    • Honing: Act of straightening one’s blade through the use of a strop. Honing does not sharpen one's blade, but it does enhance shave performance by maintaining a straight edge.
    • Kamisori: A Japanese variant of the straight razor that does not include the foldable scales and instead uses the tang of the blade as a handle.
    • Scales: Two pieces of material that traditional straight razors tuck into for storage. They are often made of plastic, wood, or bone.
    • Shavette: A razor that looks and feels like a traditional straight razor, but uses single sided disposable blades in order to avoid the maintenance required for traditional straight razors.
    • Strop: Piece of leather that straight razor users must use to hone their blades. 

Brushes

These are small handheld brushes used to lather shaving soap and apply it to one’s face. They are made with a variety of materials and often utilize animal hair for the bristles.

  • Badger Brush: Badger hair is looked at as the standard for shaving brush bristles. The hair from badgers are often categorized into 3 levels of quality: Pure, Best, and Silvertip. However, there is no standardization for these rankings and one must be sure to verify the quality of the brush by other means. 
  • Boar Brush: Brushes with bristles taken from boar hair. They often are a bit rougher than their badger counterparts, but this allows them to offer better exfoliation properties and to hold form better while lathering. 
  • Horse Brush: Brushes with bristles constructed from horse hair. They offer similar characteristics to boar bushes with slightly softer bristles.
  • Synthetic Brush: Brushes made from synthetic fibers. They offer similar performance to their animal based counterparts with the exception that they do not typically hold water as well. However, they dry faster and are less prone to degradation through use.

Shaving Soap

There are many varieties of soap and different terms to describe them, so it is important you understand them in order to buy the best soap for your face and budget.

  • Glycerin: This a component of all soaps, but in the wet shaving community glycerin soaps are typically categorized as soaps that do not contain any form of tallow. These soaps create great lathers and are easy to melt and pour into your container of choice.
  • Soap Base: The actual formulation of the soap without its fragrance. This is where all of the soaps’ performance properties such as lather quality and lubrication come from. 
  • Tallow: This is fat derived from animals, typically beef. Tallow is often used an umbrella term for all animal fats. The tallow undergoes a process called saponification where it is mixed with other ingredients to create soap. Tallow based soaps are typically higher end soaps that offer more cushion and lubrication.
  • Vegan: These are glycerin based soaps that do not contain any animal products.

Shaving Cream

This is a great alternative to traditional shaving soap if you are more interested in something with a creamier consistency. There is usually no performance difference and this is more of a preference thing.

  • Canned Shaving Cream: These are the shaving creams that you might find in your chain super markets. They usually emit some type of slime that you rub on your face to to use as lather. 
  • Shaving Cream: These are higher end shaving creams that are made from fine soaps that have been processed into a creamy consistency for easy lathering. They are typically sold in jars similar to soap. 

Aftershave

Aftershave is the grand finale of your shave. It is what you apply after the shave to sanitize your skin, tone your face, and give you a wonderful smell that lasts all day.

  • Denatured Alcohol: This is a component of most aftershave and is essentially some form of alcohol with a bittering agent or menthol to make the resulting solution undrinkable. The alcohol acts as a disinfectant to prevent any infections or irritation.
  • Witch Hazel: Also known by its scientific name, Hamamelis, it is plant with astringent properties. The essential oils of this plant are often extracted and added to aftershaves to help tone the face.

Other Gear

Shaving is not all razors and soap; sometimes you might want to up the ante with some fun gadgets to improve your shaving experience.

  • Alum Block: Solid piece of potassium alum that is rubbed on the face after shaving to tone skin and reduce any irritation or bleeding.
  • Bowl: A concave dish that is textured from within to allow the user to construct the lather in the bowl and then transfer it to one’s face.
  • Mug: Functions similarly to a bowl, but takes on a mug form factor.
  • Scuttle: A bowl with a water reservoir that is used to heat the bowl walls in order to keep one’s lather warm while shaving. 
  • Septic Stick: Made of the same material and functions similarly to an alum block, but with the exception of being in stick form for spot treatments of irritation and bleeding.
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