Gents, if I told you that you can enjoy shaving I am sure I will be met with more than a little scepticism. Well believe me I am not pulling your leg. I was introduced to what is known as DE or double edge wet shaving a few years ago and I have not looked back. What was a chore, boring, often painful with the all so common razor burn has now become something to enjoy. Usually about fifteen minutes to relax and treat myself to a proper shave like our fathers and grandfathers did.
Now that I hopefully have your attention allow me to explain. I like most people used the disposable Gillette or Wilkinson Sword razors plus shaving foam from a can and used the blades well past their prime to get my money´s worth. Sound familiar? That is all in the past, I have been enlightened…
What is this shaving nirvana you might be wondering? I threw out my cans of shaving foam, put my Gillette razor into a cupboard for travelling (more on that later) and invested in a good quality double edge razor, a synthetic shaving brush, a stand and a selection of wonderful shaving creams from the likes of Taylor of old Bond Street and Truefitt & Hill. It took a short while to learn to shave properly with a quality shaving instrument and once that was mastered I haven´t looked back. My skin is better, no more razor burn, I am no longer spending a fortune on packs of shaving blades from Gillette or Wilkinson Sword and I have been enjoying, even looking forward to shaving for the first time ever.
Learning to shave properly…
If you were born after 1970 you have most likely only ever known plastic disposable razors. This seemed to be the way to go in shaving as we have been led to believe by the big players in the shaving industry. Our fathers and grandfathers originally will have used double edged safely razors, gone to a barber for a proper shave or maybe used straight razors (we will talk about these another day..). We were convinced that the cheap plastic disposable razor is the way to shave and nobody really questioned it. It is generally accepted in shaving circles that the 5 blades are not so kind to your skin and shaving with a high quality single blade in a double edged safety razor is far better once you get the hang of it. You need to be careful and slow when you first start. You do not apply any pressure and instead use the weight of your shaving razor and let it glide along your face. It is better to shave with the grain of your facial hair in short strokes. With a good lather using a quality shaving cream, a good blade and a good razor the difference is worlds apart. I would recommend you search DE shaving on Youtube where there is an abundance of videos showing you how to DE shave properly along with reviews of shaving creams and equipment. By taking some time, using quality equipment instead of cheap plastic and using decent shaving soaps and creams with nice ingredients you are far better off.
Let´s get down to business. What do you need to get started?
Introducing the double edge safety shaver
You need to start by getting yourself a proper safety razor. There are many choices out there, you can buy a new razor or buy yourself a vintage razor like I did. I purchased a Gillette Slim adjustable manufactured in the USA in 1966. My safety razor is older than me! The Gillette Slim adjustable is highly raved about in shaving circles and on popular shaving boards such as Blade and Badger. The Gillette Slim allows you to adjust the aggressiveness of the blade so it´s just right based on the blade you choose, amount of stubble and how many passes you make. Usually I makes two passes, this means shave once on a higher setting and then on a lower setting shave again to get a super smooth shave. Many go onto three passes or even four but two is usually enough for me. I started out DE shaving with a Merkur 34c HD which costs about 34 pounds on amazon UK. I would recommend it as a good razor to get started with and if you like it move onto a more expensive modern razor or a vintage razor like mine. If you like the idea of a vintage razor you will find them on ebay and sites like Etsy where I purchased my Gillette Slim Adjustable. As you get into shaving you will find yourself building a collection of shavers, brushes, quality soaps and creams. Don´t say I didn’t warn you!
The shaving brush, badger, boar or synthetic…
Traditionally badger hair brushes have been and are still the top brush in shaving circles. These can be expensive starting from around 25 pounds and going up to and beyond 150 pounds for a premium silvertip badger brush. There are also boar and horse hair brushes but we´ll leave them for another day. I started out with a synthetic brush and continue to buy and use synthetic brushes. They are getting better and better by the year and even many die hard shaving aficionados are admitting that the new generations of synthetic shaving brushes are beating their trusted badger brushes. As I haven´t tried a badger brush I can´t compare but that´s for you to discover for yourself. A very popular synthetic brush is the Lóccitane Plisson sold in Lóccitane stores, it retails around 30 pounds. It is a very soft and luxuriant brush and I really enjoy it. Shaving like many other things is something very personal, you will need to discover what works best for you.
A new world of quality shaving soaps and creams
This is where the fun begins. There are so many high quality soaps out there that you will genuinely be surprised and wonder how you missed them. There are established old school manufacturers in the UK like Taylor of Old Bond Street and Truefitt and Hill that have been around for over 200 years and still going strong and there are modern day artisan makers too. On the whole you are buying good shaving quality soaps and creams rather than cheap chemicals in cans. To give you an idea of costs, good shaving creams and soaps can cost as little as 3 pounds for 100ml from companies like Proraso of Italy and could easily last you six months or more. On the more expensive side Truefitt & Hill 1805, one I regularly use and like costs about 18 pounds and again a tub will last you many months depending on usage. Beyond that you have companies like Acqua Di Parma where a 125g tub of shaving cream will cost you around 45 pounds. There are too many shaving soaps and creams to mention but there is something for everyone and every budget. The ones listed here could be your starting point. In addition to shaving soaps a good quality moisturiser is a must. As you venture into your new shaving journey you will begin to try different soaps, improve your technique and your other half will have an endless list of gift ideas for birthdays and Christmas.
Unlike the Gillette, Wilkinson Sword or fill in the blank modern disposable razor blade cartridges which easily cost 11 pounds or more for a pack of 4, DE shaving blades cost pennies. There are many brands out there and they are relatively easily accessible. A very popular and one of the sharpest blades out there is the Feather blade from Japan, apparently as sharp as a samurai sword! A pack of 10 Feather blades will set you back around 4 pounds or 40p per blade. One of the beauties of DE wet shaving is that you no longer end up shaving with blunt blades, after two to four shaves on average you simply replace the blade as they are so cheap. With DE wet shaving a single blade will cost you approximately 20p – 40p compared to around 3 pounds per cartridge. If you buy DE shaving blades in packs of 100, the price per blade comes down even more. Other popular DE shaving blades are the Russian made Polsilver Super Iridium, I recently discovered these and really like them, Astra is also another popular shaving blade. There are many more and I recommend you do as I did and purchase a DE blade sample pack. You will get a selection of blades from a number of manufacturers that you can try and see what works best for you and your skin.
Accessories… add a bit of glamour to your shaving
OK, I´m going to assume you´re intrigued enough and are ready to get on board. I would recommend you buy yourself a nice shaving brush and razor stand. It looks nice, keeps your brush nice and dry and you can neatly store your razor.
Better for the environment
No discussion about the benefits of DE wet shaving can be complete without mentioning the environment. Instead of throwing away mountains of plastic, you are buying a reusable razor which can last you a lifetime. As mentioned earlier, mine was made in 1966 and is still going strong. The shaving blades are made of steel and are fully recyclable, the packaging is minimal and usually recyclable. You don´t need to be an eco warrior to make a difference to the environment. Switch to DE wet shaving and you are already making a difference.
The shaving ritual, make time for yourself
No matter how busy you are, you owe it to yourself to have some me time. What kind of society do we live in where taking the time to have a proper shave is no longer possible? My recommendation, allow yourself a bit of extra time and enjoy a relaxing shave. Best is to shave straight after showering. Put on your favourite music, shut the door, pick out the shaving cream that takes your fancy, take a sniff of the lovely aroma and get started on the shave that will kick off your day. When you have finished shaving, splash your face with cold water to close the pores, apply a good quality moisturisor and finish with your favourite cologne and you are ready for your day! Do this for a while and you will get to the point where you will make the time to turn what was a tedious chore into something enjoyable and rewarding.
To be honest there aren’t many downsides. The only major one is travel. If you are flying with carry on baggage you will not be able to take razor blades on board with you so you either need to take the razor without blades and buy blades from a supermarket when you get to your destination, store your razor and blades in hold luggage or travel with a Gillette style disposable razor like I do.
The bottom line
Take the plunge I urge you, your skin, your wallet, your conscience and those 15 to 20 minutes of shaving bliss will be more than ample reward, trust me!
Where to next?
Blade & Badger, a popular forum for all things shaving
Taylor of old Bond Street – providing shaving products since 1854
Truefitt & Hill – providing shaving products since 1805
Proraso – a wide range of shaving soaps and creams from Italy since 1908