's Guide to Gourmet Shaving - Sixth Edition: Shaving Made Enjoyable

Leisureguy’s Guide to Gourmet Shaving – Sixth Edition: Shaving Made Enjoyable


The sixth edition of the complete beginner’s guide to traditional wetshaving—brush, shaving cream or soap, and safety razor with double-edged blade—is a major update of the previous edition: a third larger, with a new chapter, new sections, and covers aspects of shaving such as DIY products and guidelines on collecting that were not in the previous editions. Reviews of new razors and other shaving products are included, and the appendix now includes well over 100 on-line vendors as well a…

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My SO got me a starter kit(r/wicked_edge)

The four most common mistakes that cartridge shavers make when switching to a DE razor:

a. Poor prep: Trying to use canned foam instead of a real lather is always bad, but particularly bad with a DE razor. I recommend washing your beard with a high-glycerin soap (e.g., Musgo Real Glyce Lime Oil soap (MR GLO), $6.50/bar, or Whole Foods 365 brand glycerin soap, $2/bar, or Dr. Bronner’s bar soap, or Clearly Natural glycerin soap), using your hands, rinsing partially with a splash, and then applying a real lather made with a brush and shaving soap or shaving cream. Here’s how I make lather. Hard water doesn’t work well with soap; if your water’s hard, use a shaving cream (more detergent-like). Try, for example the 7-cream sampler from Since some fragrances trigger skin reactions, it’s always good to try samples first in any case. For soap samples, try (To test for hard water, try a distilled water shave. Note that bottled drinking water is hard water and that most Brita filters will not soften water; the Brita Maxtra does claim to soften water. A pinch of citric acid will soften hard water, so you can try that if your water’s hard.) J.M. Fraser, less than $14 for a 1-lb (450ml) tub, is the best bang for the buck in shaving creams.

b. Ignoring the grain of the beard: Use this interactive diagram to make sure you know the grain. 24 hours after shaving, rub your beard with your fingertips. The roughest direction at each point is against the grain at that point. When you shave, you will lather, make a pass with the grain, rinse, relather, and make a pass across the grain. After a couple of weeks, you can do a third pass: rinse, relather, and do a pass against the grain (except in any area in which you get ingrowns). You will feel stubble after the first pass: that’s why the second pass is made. It does NOT mean you should use more pressure. Quite often the grain on the neck is strange and the grain there might suddenly go the opposite direction: quite a few guys who have a lot of irritation on their neck have found that in the first pass, when they thought they were shaving with the grain, they were in fact shaving against the grain.

c. Using too much pressure: Cartridge shavers tend to bear down hard, mainly because they’re trying to make the cartridge last for yet another shave, since it’s so expensive to replace. That’s very hard on your skin, and with a DE razor will produce razor burn and cuts. Try to use too little pressure, just enough to keep part of the cap in contact with the skin—not pressing, just touching.

d. Using too steep a blade angle: This mistake arises from the habit of holding the handle close to the face: that’s correct for a cartridge razor but very wrong for a DE razor. In order to keep the blade at a shallow angle, make sure part of the cap is touching the skin, and this puts the handle at a steep angle from the face, the blade at a very shallow angle to the skin it’s cutting. In a silent bathroom (no running water, no fan, no radio) listen to the quiet sound of the stubble’s being cut to tune the blade angle.

Muscle memory will tend to make you use too much pressure and hold the handle of the razor too close to your face, so the first weeks will require conscious attention to develop new habits.

Also note this post on blades, which are probably not what you expect. A blade that’s bad for you can produce razor burn and irritation, so you need to test a variety of blades. But stick with the first brand of blade that works for you for at least two months. (You will have to buy a couple of packs of that brand so that you can replace blades as they become dull in use.)

By keeping the brand of blade constant, variation from shave to shave is (probably) due to prep and technique, so you can focus more on perfecting those by not changing the razor or brand of blade. Also, after two months, you’ll really know what that brand of blade feels like so when you try a new brand the differences are highlighted.

There’s much more—enough to fill a book, it turns out—but this will get you started.

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Michael Ham

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Leisureguy’s Guide to Gourmet Shaving – Sixth Edition: Shaving Made Enjoyable

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My SO got me a starter kit

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