The Valet’s Ultimate Shaving Guide
The proper technique of shaving has become something of a lost art.
Today, the average male hasn’t a clue about the fine art of the traditional wet shave that their grandfathers and some of their fathers used to indulge in. Instead, they’re only accustomed to the cheap and disposable shaving products that multinational companies market and promote heavily in the media. I’m not sure how or why it happened, but the tradition of passing down the secrets of a clean shave, from father to son, seems to have stopped abruptly.
Thankfully, this glorious male ritual is making a massive comeback, partly due to men suffering from poor skin conditions, normally caused by a hurried and unconsidered shaving technique. A growing number of men appreciate that wet shaving with a blade is more desirable, as you can achieve a closer shave that way. However, it is not simply a case of using shaving foam, a razor and then washing the face with water. You need to follow a regular, recognised and approved technique such as the one outlined below.
What is the difference between a disposable cartridge blade & a double edge single blade?
First of all, switching from a cheap disposable razor to double-edged, safety razor is like upgrading from a Punto to a Mercedes. A safety razor is a machine. It’s reassuring holding a piece of heavy, sturdy metal in your hand while you’re shaving, as opposed to a piece of cheap plastic.
The double edge razor blades are manufactured from stainless steel and are platinum coated, to prevent the blade from rusting. These blades are generally a lot stronger and sharper than that of triple head cartridge blades. Traditional wet shaving with a double-edged safety razor creates less waste than shaving with cartridge razors. The only waste, when traditional wet shaving, is a single metal razor blade and lather down the sink. Unlike today’s razor cartridges, a double-edged blade can be easily recycled. The tubes and bowls that most traditional shave creams and soaps are sold in produce less waste (for the equivalent number of shaves) than those clunky, non-biodegradable, aerosol canisters do that gels come in.
Shaving with a safety razor will eliminate skin irritation and give your face a clean, healthy look.
Most men today walk around oblivious that they give themselves poor shaves. Electric razors and the latest five blade contraptions irritate the skin more than necessary, leaving you with razor burn, ingrown hairs and redness. Shaving with a safety razor will eliminate the skin irritation and give your face a clean, healthy look because you’re using only one blade instead of several that chew up your face in the process of cutting your whiskers.
A pivoted head razor, with multiple blades, is made of a material similar to a foil-type metal. Due to the compact design of the razor cartridge head itself, the materials used need to be of a lighter and thinner metal to become flexible enough to sit in the cartridge. The pivot head is also designed to rest on the surface of the skin, whereas a single blade in a safety razor is set at a 45 degree angle, which is the angle of incidence recommended to shave your bristles off without damaging the skin. In fact, with a safety razor, it is only the safety bar that sits on the face and not the razor blade itself. Multiple blades tend to clog and so prevent the blade from striking the hair shaft with any effect.
Gillette’s innovation since the 1970’s
Through innovation and the desire to take the shaving market to the next level, Gillette have, over recent years, produced variants of the Mach3 (M3Power, M3Power Nitro) and Fusion (Fusion Power and Fusion Power Phantom) razors, with many attached gimmicks. For instance, some of these razors produce vibrations that Gillette say are intended to raise the hairs up and away from the skin prior to being cut. But unsurprisingly, these claims were ruled in court as “unsubstantiated and inaccurate”. Another gimmick you will all be familiar with is the aloe strip! Ask yourself “Is this strip of paper really going to nourish my face with any real affect?”
Stick to traditional processes to achieve a closer & irritable free shave!
Back to basics and the golden routine from the Army; S. S. S. (AKA ‘The Three S’s’), leaving the most pleasurable ‘S’ ’til last!
Step 1: Shave first thing in the morning before breakfast, otherwise your digestive system will be activated and your skin will be more sensitive.
Step 2: Wash the face with a mild soap (a Proraso cutting edge bar ideally) and warm to hot water, to lift the hairs into an upright position. This is normally best done in the shower as the steam will help lubricate the face and soften the hairs ready for the shave. If you’re in a hurry and don’t have time for a shower, then a pleasant hot towel or flannel applied to the face will do the job, or simply rinse through with warm to hot water.
Step 3: Apply a pre-cream or oil to the face to soften the hair further and to also protect the face. This will act as a good undercoat for the shaving cream and with ingredients such a menthol and eucalyptus, it will help stimulate the hair follicles and naturally work them into an upright position. For extra sensitive skin, choose a pre-shave cream with extracts of Aloe & Green Tea, as these are generally milder ingredients.
Step 4: Apply a warm lather of shaving cream, on top of the pre cream, with a (preferably badger hair) shaving brush. The rotational movement of the brush on the face will make the hairs stand up. It is best to apply the lather to one area of the beard at a time, not all over the bearded area of the face, as this prevents the skin from drying out.
Step 5: Shave gently with a clean, sharp, single double-edged, safety razor, as this will minimise clogging of hairs on the blade and allow the razor to do its job. Glide the razor in the direction of the hair growth, using short even strokes. Dip the razor in warm water frequently, to keep the blade clean of hair and provide it with lubrication. Change the blade after five shaves. When wet shaving, never use upward strokes, but shave twice if necessary.
Step 6: When wet shaving has been completed, wash the face with warm or cold water and pat dry. Finish off with a good moisturiser, preferably something non greasy. Moisturising after a shave will delay the ageing process of the skin and protect it against the sun, the cold weather and shaving burns.
Step 7: Warning… never apply an alcohol-based aftershave to the recently shaved area as it will inflame the skin due to the pores being open. You could apply some to the back of the neck, however. We recommend you choose a cologne over an aftershave, as they normally contain fewer astringents. We suggest you apply to the back of the neck, behind the ears or on your chest, never to an area that has just been shaven and likely to have open pores.
Rules on shaving
Unlike shaving with cartridge razors, shaving with a safety razor actually requires some skill and technique. Once mastered, though, you will shaving effectively every time. The four rules to a successful shave with a safety razor are:
Rule 1: Use as little pressure as possible,
Rule 2: angle the blade as far away from your face as possible,
Rule 3: shave with the hair’s grain, and
Rule 4: go for beard reduction, not beard removal.
This will take some getting used to, if you have used cartridges your entire shaving life.
Soaps and Creams
If you’re like the average guy, you’ve probably been getting your shaving cream from a can. This blue/green, chemical-laced goop does nothing for your face and smells like a hospital. Traditional shave creams and soaps, on the other hand, are full of natural ingredients that nourish your face and leave you smelling absolutely manly. While these high quality creams and soaps may cost more than the canned stuff, just a dab will create enough of the creamy stuff for you to lather up twice. Also, the use of aerosol foams and gels means the use of your hand to apply, which tends to mean applying it in a downward motion and not upwards, to lift the hair away from the face. We already know that one of the key elements in achieving a sensitive shave is to properly lift the hairs away from the face with the use of a badger brush.
Don’t shave against the grain
While shaving against the grain can get you that smooth feel, you risk slicing up your face and causing ingrown hairs. When you’re first starting out, shave with the grain of your beard. If you lather up and pass the razor more than once over your face, you’re guaranteed to get a smooth finish.
The goal with shaving should be gradual beard reduction, not beard removal in one deft swoop. Most men try to get rid of their beard in one pass of the razor. This ‘hack-and-go” technique is what causes the majority of skin irritations. If you want to avoid skin irritation, lather up and pass your razor over your face several times. Your face will thank you for it.
The Badger Brush
Badger brushes come in various grades. They start with black badger, the basic and lowest form. Then comes pure badger, best badger and super badger – also known in the States and the silver tip. Here at the Valet London we stock the finest of hand made brushes – ranging from brands such as Simpsons (one of the UK oldest brush companies) The use of a badger brush is an essential tool for a quality shave. It’s use exfoliates and lifts the hairs.
What are ingrowing hairs?
Ingrowing hair occurs when the hair curls back and grows underneath the skin surface. The re-entry of the hair creates a space where bacteria thrive and cause an infection. The result is a sore or pimple – a razor bump.
Bad shaving techniques
Bad shaving techniques can aggravate an already existing skin condition and spread infection to other areas of the face. The best way to minimise the development and spread of razor bumps is to discover, through trial and error, a shaving technique or method of hair removal that is appropriate to the sufferer.
You don’t need to buy the most expensive moisturiser. There are several types for normal and problem skins and if in doubt, consult a beauty therapist at the Valet. Using a moisturising cream will protect your skin from ageing, the environment and extreme weather. We recommend Proraso cutting edge on price and for its non greasy consistency.
Skin care routine
For the optimum conditioned skin, a facial is advisable once a month. Once a week you can give yourself a facial mask – wash your face, pat dry, apply facial mask, going around the eyes making sure that you leave the eye area free. Leave for 15 minutes and rinse with warm water, dry and moisturise. Here at the Valet London we offer a Deluxe hot towel shave that incorporates a Geranium face massage, which sets as a mask, to then steam any dirt and grease from the skin with two to three hot towels. This process leaves the skin feeling totally cleansed and your complexion glowing.
We recommend the use of Proraso, Taylors and Coate’s products, due to each company’s incredible long standing history within the industry, manufacturing both quality and affordable products that all contain natural ingredients.
Tools of the trade
All of our shaving equipment is selected from only the best manufactures in the World. The majority have a German source and many of these are produced in the shaving city of Solingen, West Germany.
Note: If you suffer from razor bumps, acne or any skin condition consult your GP. Bad shaving techniques can damage your skin.
A modern razor for the modern man
The Merkur ‘Futur’ double edge razor (pictured) is one of the “sexiest” razors around. This razor is often the choice of Gentlemen who are new to the art of correctly wet shaving. The Merkur ‘Futur’ razor not only provides a traditional close, wet shave but it’s appearance, design and engineering are quite contemporary in nature. You won’t feel like you are shaving with one of your Grandfathers razors, like you may have done with some of the more typically ‘traditional’ double edge razors available on the market. With the rebirth and continuing escalation in the popularity of traditional wet shaving with the modern gent, this razor is truly a sign, if one were needed, that traditional shaving methods are being rejuvenated and are ‘en vogue’.
I can only describe it as being the best razor I have ever shaved with and an item that Marty (from ‘Back to the Future’ fame) would have been packing in his rucksack. This razor is supplied in three finishes; Polished Chrome, Matt Chrome and Gold. It is a solid, heavy tool with a quality blade and, in the correct hands, can give an unbelievable shave that you will never experience with a cartridge razor. A free consultation in it’s use and a lesson on how to shave the traditional way will be provided by booking an appointment in store at the time of your purchase.
Take advantage of this exclusive offer and purchase this razor from us for only £64.95, which you will find hard to be beat.
Do the right thing – shave the proper way and your skin will thank you. You will be making a wise investment not only to your well-being, but also to your pocket over the long-term. Hopefully you will now have gained a wealth of knowledge to encourage you embrace the art and to start wet shaving like your father and grandfather did, and that in time you will be able to pass this tradition down onto your offspring.
For further advice on any aspect of this guide please feel free to contact David our product expert.
Our next shaving seminar night is to be held at the Valet store in February 2015. Further details of the event will follow in due course. Watch this space as there will be limited availability.