No-shave November is behind us. Now it’s time to revisit the techniques that give your beard the best look. Your beard is a critical part of your look which conveys style, hygiene and attention to detail.
So, we thought we’d put together a guide that will tell you how to kick it old school with wet shaving. Here we go.
Table Of Contents
- What Is Wet Shaving
- Benefits of Wet Shaving
- How Does Wet Shaving Work
- Pros and Cons of Wet Shaving
- Tools One Needs for Wet Shaving
- How to Prepare Your Face for Wet Shaving
- How to Create Lather for Wet Shaving
- How to Create Lather With Shaving Soap
- How to Create Lather With Shaving Cream
- How to Wet Shave With a Safety Razor
- How to Care of Your Skin After Wet Shaving
- Quick Tips for Wet Shaving
- Wet Shaving vs Dry Shaving
- FAQ About Wet Shaving
What Is Wet Shaving
You know what shaving is. It’s the process of removing body hair with a bladed item like a razor. Wet shaving is a method that men often use to remove facial hair.
So, you essentially remove hair by cutting it as close to the skin as possible using a bladed piece of equipment. It is called wet shaving because it involves making the area that needs to be shaved wet using hot water, shaving cream or soap.
Compared to dry shaving, some prefer wet shaving methods because it is more effective if you are going for a clean-shaven look. Using hot water ensures that the pores open up and the muscles in your face relax. And the cutting is effective in a way that the hair is also softer.
Benefits of Wet Shaving
There are many benefits to wet shaving, especially on your face. This is a traditional choice and a simpler way of doing things, for starters.
It’s the way men used to shave their beards back in the day. It also has the backing of conventional wisdom and if you’re into that stuff, it is nostalgic.
Secondly, about 2 billion razors, including cartridges, are disposed of every year in the US alone. All of this is waste that ends up in a landfill.
Wet shaving doesn’t involve some new disposable razors or cartridges, making it a more sustainable practice. Many shaving soaps and creams are in reusable containers, which means it is not as much waste if you are responsible.
And check to make sure you are buying a biodegradable one which means the little you throw away also doesn’t kill the planet.
The best straight razors have steel blades that can be used for many decades and are recyclable too. Choosing between a safety razor and a cartridge razor can be a tough one but going for the former is a good move.
And finally, it is more enjoyable. You can turn hot water into a healthy practice and the ease of shaving does a chore that is probably boring into a nice self-care activity. It is something you can enjoy because your pores will open up and get some air which is bound to make you cleaner and feel better at the same time.
How Does Wet Shaving Work
There are different types of wet shaving techniques. This depends on the kind of razor you use. For wet shaving, the choices usually are:
Straight razor or open razor or cut-throat razor
Safety razor or double-edged razor or multi-blade razor with a cartridge
The process is the same no matter which razor you buy which involves pre-shave, shave and aftershave.
Pros and Cons of Wet Shaving
It is softer and easier to shave since you soak the hair and lather it up. Razors also have it easier as they shave it close to the skin without causing any or as much damage.
Thanks to the recommended equipment and the process of shaving itself, wet shaving results in a smooth shave. Usually, single blades are used for this process which reduces any irritation to the skin to the minimum.
You also don’t run the blade on your face too often, making your skin rough. And using cream or soap adds a level of lubrication that ensures that your skin stays healthy.
When you are not wet shaving, the razor you use has multiple blades. These blades lift your skin a little to cut the hair, creating bumps. But wet shaving prevents ingrown facial hairs because it involves a lubricant.
The combined action of the various shaving products and modern razor design allows the blades to remove even dead skin cells, leaving smooth, soft and fresh skin. This is why men’s skin always has a youthful glow after a shave.
You might be looking at cartridges or disposable shaving equipment. Wet shaving can cost a lot less because single-blade razors are cheaper. Getting a starter kit will make things even better. However, go easy on the many soaps and creams and aftershaves. That can end up costing you more than dry shaving.
But like everything else in the world, wet shaving is not without a couple of downsides. Here are the cons.
Learning the Technique
There is a bit of a learning curve here. You need to figure out the razor that works best for your skin. And using a straight razor isn’t always the easiest thing. So, you need to learn that. Then you also need to know which shaving products are best for your skin and your razor.
Wet shaving involves preparing the straight razor before you can use it. Then you must prepare your face (by wetting it with hot water as mentioned before) for the shave.
After this, you will need to lather the face and only then does the actual process of shaving start. And even if you get better at it, it’s not something you can rush.
Tools One Needs for Wet Shaving
You have choices between pre-shave oils, creams and lotions. They all make sure that your skin does not get irritated from the shaving process. This is particularly true for those who have sensitive skin.
Using these lotions and oils makes sure that the beard is soft enough for the razor to do its thing. You need to keep them on for about 3 minutes to ensure that it is effective.
And you must apply them after splashing some warm water on your face. Keep the oil or lotion on your face and use the shaving cream or soap on it.
A double-edged razor is an upgrade, no matter how you look at it. It is heavy and sturdy and better than a plastic razor. This one will also last longer, which is the cheaper option. A straight razor also comes with the same benefits.
You can pick from the many blades available in the market. The blades made for these razors are unique in their ability to cut while sharp.
Using safety razor blades, which is what they used back in the day, is a good choice when it comes to wet shaving too.
The purpose of a shaving brush is to make sure that the soap or cream is thick and hydrated. It makes it easier for the cream to reach under the facial hair, which is how you get a smoother shave. And today, there are many impeccably designed shaving brushes to choose from.
For instance, you are likely to find brushes made of boar or badger bristles. The former is cheaper, but they don’t hold as much water as the latter. So, it’s your pick.
Shaving Cream or Shaving Soap
This is an important part of the kit. You need something not filled with chemicals, doesn’t lead to an allergic reaction on your skin and smells good.
Luckily, many traditional brands are made with natural ingredients and nourish your skin. They may cost a bit more, but you only need a dab to lather up the face.
Shaving Bowl or Shaving Scuttle
A shaving scuttle is typically a ceramic bowl where the lather is kept so that it is warm enough till you finish shaving. It has a bottom bowl filled with hot water to make sure the shaving cream in the top bowl stays warm. It also helps create relatively thick lather, thanks to the grooves and the heat in the bowl.
This is a stone made of potassium alum. You make it moist with some water and rub it on the shaved part of the face. Alum block acts like an antiseptic and reduces bumps and possible razor burns. After the shave, it is usually used to kill bacteria and soothe your skin.
This is a medicated substance and is available in a stick. Its primary job is to stop your cuts (if any) from bleeding. Stopping small cuts with a styptic pencil is the easiest way to care for your skin.
There are different aftershaves with ingredients that can cool and heal the skin. A little beard butter can help nourish the hair later on. But even otherwise, you will find many alcohol-based aftershaves in the market, but there are plenty of balms too which are catching on. They will moisturize and protect your skin.
And by the way, a premium beard comb is a good investment.
How to Prepare Your Face for Wet Shaving
Step 1 – Make the beard soft by using warm water
Let your soak face in it for about 30 seconds so that the razor can glide easily on the skin and avoid cuts.
Step 2 – Apply the shaving cream or soap
Massage it on the beard so that lather is created. This protects your skin from the sharp edges of the blade and makes it easy for the razor to move.
How to Create Lather for Wet Shaving
The part where you create lather on your skin is very important in the wet shaving process. Here’s what you need to know before you start shaving.
Many shaving creams and soaps come in a tube with a wide mouth. So, getting it out and on the brush isn’t an issue. As you would imagine, soaking the shaving brush helps create lather too. This means adding a few drops to the soap.
You must also figure out if you want to lather the soap or cream in the bowl or on your hand or face. If you are doing this in the bowl, getting ridges at the bottom is a good idea. This activates the lather better than smooth surfaces do. Then you need to keep adding drops of water and move the brush.
If you are lathering it directly on your face, you will be exfoliating the face, which can also be good.
How to Create Lather With Shaving Soap
Step 1 – Dampen the tips of the brush in a bowl
You can also use your palm and swirl it slowly on the soap.
Step 2 – Gently swirl the brush to create a lather
It might have some bubbles, but that is not a problem. If you do this rigorously, you might end up with too many bubbles, which is not recommended.
Step 3 – Move the brush on the soap till the head turns pasty
This usually happens in about 30 seconds, but you can go longer if you want more lather.
How to Create Lather With Shaving Cream
Shaving creams are more popular because they don’t take as much time to create lather compared to soaps. They are also soft and are easier to scoop out of the bowl. Sometimes, you don’t even need a container.
Step 1 – Get a small amount of cream
Squeeze out the cream that is the size of a dime on your shaving brush or bowl or your palm or face.
Swirl your shaving brush so that a proto-lather is created. Take the brush out and wiggle it gently to get rid of excess water that might drip along your chin while you shave.
Step 3 – Dip the brush back into the bowl
If it gets too thick, you can add a couple of drops of water and swirl with medium speed. When it looks like whipped cream, you are ready to shave.
How to Wet Shave With a Safety Razor
Once you have lather on the shaving brush, you are ready to shave your beard. Here’s how you should proceed with a safety razor. They need a little more technique compared to shaving with a cartridge razor. So, here’s what you should aim for.
- Don’t put too much pressure
- Get the angle right
- Shave in the direction of the growth, aka with the grain
- Aim to reduce the beard, not to remove it entirely
Now to the process itself.
Step 1 – Prepare the skin by creating lather
Pick up the razor at a 30-degree angle such that it is not very close to the beard hair. Move the razor slowly till it starts collecting hair. That’s the right angle.
Move the razor and let it work on your hair without putting much pressure. Make sure the blade isn’t dull.
Step 2 – Shave with the grain, especially the first time
It also helps prevent razor burns. Take your time with short strokes and keep rinsing the blades.
Step 3 – Stretch the skin using your fingers
Ideally, the razor should encounter a flat surface like an ironing board.
How to Care of Your Skin After Wet Shaving
Aftershave care is not just about beauty but the health of your skin as it helps reduce skin irritations.
Step 1 – Rinse your skin with fresh, cold water
Apply the alum pen or stick for about 20 seconds. This will take care of any nicks on your skin. It will also close the pores that were opened before you started shaving.
Step 2 – Apply an aftershave lotion, balm or a moisturizer
Clean your shaving tools right away. Rinse the soap off the body of the razor and the blades. Wipe it down with a clean cloth. Rinse the shaving brush with water that is less than 115 degrees Fahrenheit. Ensure you get all the soap residue, especially the middle of the brush and leave it to dry.
Quick Tips for Wet Shaving
There are a few things to keep in mind so that wet shaving is as enjoyable as it should be.
- Don’t skip applying warm water to your face. The same is true for pre-shave oils or lotions, especially if you have a heavy beard.
- Massage the shaving soap or cream into the stubble.
- Shave in the same direction your beard grows to avoid rashes and razor burn.
- Wash your face with cold water to close the pores.
- Clean the razor with hot water.
- Use a razor with a sharp blade to avoid unevenness.
- Run the razor on your face a second time after learning the technique well. This can go against the grain.
Wet Shaving vs Dry Shaving
Here are the main differences for those of you who want to shift from dry to wet shaving.
Wet shaving is more traditional and involves soaking the face and lathering it with soap or cream. Dry shaving is done with an electric razor that doesn’t need creams or soaps.
Wet shaving takes time but is the closest shave, whereas dry shaving is a quick solution but might leave your hair cut unevenly.
You need to get the right angle and technique with wet shaving, whereas dry shaving can be done in any way.
Wet shaving is cheaper and better for individuals with sensitive skin. The electric razors used for dry shaving are costlier and need more maintenance.
FAQ About Wet Shaving
Is it good to wet shave?
Because the technique is such that there will be little friction between the razor and your face. It reduces the chances of rashes and irritations.
How hard is wet-shaving?
After reading this guide and a few tries, you will know what you are doing. It’s not rocket science.
Why is it called wet shaving?
Because it involves using water on your face to soften your skin before shaving.
Is it better to shave at the sink or in the shower?
This depends on where your mirror is. But if you’re going to pick the sink, you might want to run some warm water over your face. You don’t have to think about it in a shower because you presumably just took a shower.
How do I switch from dry to wet shaving?
Get the right razor, figure out what you need from our checklist mentioned above and get started.
Does wet shaving stimulate beard growth?
No, that’s a myth. The process could nourish the hair and remove obstacles hindering growth, but wet shaving doesn’t actively promote it.
How much will wet shaving cost me?
It’s critical to have sharp blades. If you get a double-edged razor, you will be fine because replacing the blades is cheap and you must do it after three to four shaves. The razors are also affordable, which makes them easy.
You also need a good shaving cream that creates lather easily. That way, you won’t run out of it soon. And you need an excellent aftershave too. So, the overall cost depends on how often you shave.
Now you have a comprehensive understanding of every aspect of wet shaving. While it looks like the best way to trim your beard, remember that there is a reason dry shaving works for some people.
So, pick what’s best for your skin health and comfort. But if you go for the latter, learn how to treat your dry skin.
Michele Meesh Antunes is the lady of the Beardoholic writers team and a genius when it comes to hair and beard styles that suit any face shape. She’s been a barber for years now and, no matter your personal style, she knows exactly what beard, hairstyle and length suit you. She brings the women’s perspective on beards, beard care, haircuts and hairstyles and male grooming.