Anyone proficient in the art of wet shaving will understand that the quality of the shave is directly correlated to the mix of shaving hardware, accoutrements and technique. Unfortunately, the mastery of each aspect is wholly dependent on the individual needs and preferences of the shaver himself.
The process for determining what works for your particular, individual preferences will be iterative in nature. That is, some experimentation will be necessary to truly nail your perfect shave.
The key is to quickly iterate your experimentation with the least amount of cost and time possible. Moving quickly down the learning curve of wet shaving is more gracefully and affordably done with some helpful inputs from someone experienced in the art.
1) Hardware Considerations
The most important consideration when it comes to the perfect shave, are the products you’re using to shave with. While not hugely significant, the up-front cost of your wet shaving gear will impact the quality of your shave in a significant way.
If you make a poor decision from the outset, you can risk spending much more on your razor than you originally anticipated. In order to avoid this, we have put together a brief outline of the various razor components, ranked somewhat by performance for the type of shave that may best suit you.
Most blades will do the trick. However, some safety razor blades vary greatly on sharpness and effectiveness. Additionally, an ultra-sharp razor (e.g. Feather brand) is not likely as desirable for one’s first foray into safety razor shaving. However, as a wet shaver gains more experience, a sharper razor may be the only razor he may wish to use.
Luckily, blades are the cheapest and most fungible form of hardware available to the wet shaver. At $0.10 to $0.30 each, it’s the least costly area. Many vendors carry smaller trial packets that include many brands from which you can readily try as you get acclimated to the process.
Razor heads can differ greatly in the size of the gap between the razor head guard and the comb. The larger the blade gap, the more aggressive the cut. The more aggressive the cut, the more quickly you will be able to mow through both follicle and skin.
It is advised that the novice start with a smaller blade gap and work toward the larger gap. However, the smaller blade gap does not come without its own trade-offs. For instance, small gaps contribute to cream and soap clogging and also are less effective at cutting through longer, beard-level hair.
There are multiple safety razor comb types, including closed comb, open comb, hybrid and slant. Each differs in style and shave aggression. Open comb, for instance, is among the most aggressive and can contribute to weeping, blood spots. Similar to the blade gap, the open comb can be more effective at slicing through thick, longer hair.
Considering your comb style and blade gap, newly minted wet shavers might look toward the conservative side on the head, but purchase a handle that can universally work with other, more aggressive heads as they progress in their wet shaving journey.
While less critical to the overall shave experience, a good quality badger hair shaving brush helps give some wet shavers the pampered feel they are looking for in a wet shaving experience. Good brushes can range in price from $20 up to $300. The marginal difference between these types of brushes can be nominal, particularly when thebrush does nothing more than massage a shave cream or lather into the face and does not directly participate in the shave itself.
2) Soaps, Creams & Other Accoutrements
Lucky for you, the consumable items in wet shaving are less permanent. If you do not care for a particular wet shave soap, use it up and simply replace it in a couple of months.
In fact, the accoutrement area of wet shaving is perhaps where most wet shavers get their greatest enjoyment. Most wet shaving enthusiasts will tell you of the love they have for [fill in the blank] brand shave soap.
But not all wet shaving soaps are created equal, however. Ask any quality soap or cream vendor and they will tell you the frustration of comparing the scents of the shave soap while simultaneously ignoring the quality. The best shaving soaps on the market provide a thick lather that protects against the blade while concurrently moisturizing the skin.
It can be a bit more expensive to iterate between shave soaps, but if you are committed to this form of shaving, you might actually enjoy trying new soaps and creams as you learn.
3) The Technique Of A Perfect Shave
Shaving technique is perhaps the quickest and least expensive of the adjustable components leading to the perfect morning shave routine. Varying safety razor shave techniques can certainly impact the quality of the shave. Here are a number of areas to consider in your shave routine:
Preparation of the skin & hair
Preparing the skin with hot water is perhaps the most important component of avoiding the irritation of learning how to wet shave. Learning the art of preparation will save a great deal of headache as you work through the other steps of shaving.
Number of passes
Some might do a single pass, once a day. Others may opt for the every-other-day shave with up to three passes. Each is more a matter of preference.
Direction of your passes
With the grain, across the grain and against the grain swipes can impact different shavers differently. For those with the most sensitive skin, the against the grain pass may be problematic. Attempt and adjust quickly to what makes the most sense for your skin and beard type.
Angle of the shave
Understanding how the angle of the shave impacts the blade’s ability to remove hair is critical. It will also be important to note that, unlike a cartridge razor, the head is not going to pivot around your chin and jawline. Effectively cutting the hair in those areas will require practice to execute the shave in a way that makes the most sense.
Remember, adjusting your shave based on each of these items will help you to iterate toward that perfect shave. But truly nailing it, can take a few weeks and months to iterate through varying hardware, accoutrements and techniques. Be patient with the process. Very few traditional shavers experience the perfect shave from the outset. With proper prior preparation and a little patience, you are more likely to file-down the learning curve quickly to find that shave that best fits your face and budget.