So often the questions that come to us here at The Shaving Shack are from gents, and sometimes ladies, new to the wet shaving experience. They ask for information regarding a more luxurious way to take care of themselves, information on how to start wet shaving, however most often the questions revolve around improving their current shaving regimen. Bits and pieces of information have been shared in our Question and Answer section but we thought a more comprehensive review of technique was in order.
First we address the topic of shaving “with the grain”. Shaving “with the grain” means following the direction of hair growth with your razor. For instance, if the hair on your upper lip grows straight down towards your mouth you would shave towards your mouth from your nose to shave with the grain. The importance of following the direction of hair growth lies in the ease of cutting the hair. It causes less distress to the hair, hair follicle, and skin underneath while also offering the path of least resistance. Following this technique if your skin in prone to breaking out with spots or ingrown hairs is especially helpful.
Discussion of grain direction leads us into the next technique of reducing the beard by separate “passes”. Often you will see these passes referred to as “with the grain, across the grain, and against the grain.” Following the order of passes serves to reduce the hair in steps to get as close to the surface of the skin as possible. Going with the grain we discussed above. Shaving at a 90 degree angle, or perpendicular to the direction of growth will follow a path across the grain. Shaving in the reverse direction of growth goes against the grain. Often you see debate as to whether this last step is necessary, however most folks will find that shaving against the grain will top off their shave with the smoothest finish. If you find that your skin is sensitive, or you are new to wet shaving, leaving off this last pass until you are comfortable with the technique and blade angle is advisable.
Speaking of blade angle, what is a good angle to hold one’s razor? The first caveat being if you are using a disposable cartridge razor, the angle of the blades is pre-set and you need not worry about it. However to those shaving with double edge razors such as The Bluebeards Revenge Scimitar, Merkur 37c, or other fine razors this matters a great deal. Too shallow an angle and you are not taking off as much beard as you can, too much and you end up scraping skin instead of cutting hair! Neither outcome is advisable! If measured out properly the angle comes out to somewhere close to 30 degrees. However different razors can have differently shaped heads and this angle can differ. The best way we have found is to hold the razor with the handle sticking out perpendicular to your face, and as you slide the razor gently down your face I sharpen the angle so the blade edge nears the hair. When you feel the blade edge begin to catch and cut the hair you have found the correct angle.
Hand in hand with this is pressure. No one likes pressure at work, home, and especially when a razor sharp blade is against your face. Unless perhaps you’re 007! Using as little pressure as possible no matter your choice in the style of razor is best practice. Because of the hinge on most cartridge razors more pressure will be needed than for a double edge razor, however a light hand will still go a long ways. “What kind of pressure is too much or too little?” We hear you ask? Allow the razor to just set on your face with its natural weight and letting gravity draw it in the direction of your pass is the easiest gauge.
Another small piece of technical advice that will help you on your journey is to keep you arm straight, locking your wrist, and use the movement of your whole arm to control the razor. This will help you control angle, pressure, and prevent painful gouges. (Ouch!) These basic techniques will help set your shaving for smooth success! And smooth is what we are after, right? Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more in depth looks at wet shaving technique in articles to come.
Two products stocked by The Shaving Shack have been shortlisted for coveted FHM male grooming awards.
Both products were selected from hundreds of entries by a group of leading men’s grooming experts, the magazine said.
FHM is a mainstream men’s lifestyle magazine and because of this generally only shortlists products that are stocked in supermarkets or Boots.
This makes the Scimitar’s achievement even more impressive, and hopefully represents a change in attitudes in the wet shaving market. Many men we talk to are fed up to the back teeth with the rising cost of cartridge razor blades and the fact they give a pretty poor shave.
The ‘Scimitar’ is up against the Gilette Fusion ProGlide, Superdrug Triple Blade Razor and Wilkinson Sword Hydro 5 Power Select razor.
You can vote for our products online at: http://www.fhm.com/site/pages/grooming/voting.aspx
Aaron answers a question about switching from a cartridge razor to a double edge razor
Shaun Lancaster, from UK, asks:
“Hi Aaron! Its about time I switched from a cartridge razor, and started shaving properly, and stopped throwing away cash! What would you recommend for a ‘newbie’ with a steady hand? Maybe something solid, but not breaking the bank? I do have some minimal scar tissue under my chin, so I’m slightly wary of catching it with a DE razor. Is there a starter pack c/w shave stick or some soap you would recommend? Many thanks. Shaun.”
We’re very happy to hear you want to join the ranks of wet-shavers around the globe! There are many great products out there to choose from, but for a beginners set I do have a couple of recommendations. The first is the Bluebeard’s Revenge cream & Doubloon brush set. This set gives you a great starter brush and cream to shave with, and allows you to choose your razor. If you’d rather get the whole kit in one shot and not worry about choosing a razor, I would recommend the Bluebeard’s Revenge Gift set, which include their Scimitar razor. This would provide all the basics you need to get you started on your journey. Whatever you decide, enjoy and welcome to smooth shaving!
Do you have any burning questions you would like ask our wet shaving expert Aaron Wolfenbarger?
Mark Howard, from the UK, asks:
“I’m so tired of the high prices of cassette type blades to the poing that I’m overusing blunt blades! I want to move to double edge razor but is this a backwards step in terms of shaving and blade technology? If double edge razors are so good, how come people moved to the cassette type? I want to believe!!!!”
“Mr. Howard, Your have a good question! Thanks for asking! In short, yes it is a step back, but technological advances do not always make things better! The first patents for “safety razors” came out in the late 1800′s. What we recognize today as a safety razor today became patented in 1907 (if I recall correctly).
That makes this technology over 100 years old! Cartridge or cassette type blades have only been in production for the past 40 years, since the 60′s. The problem with Cassette blades is that they were designed to give a large average percentage of men a good shave. Note, not a great shave. The blades rest above the skin, so they rely on the process of historesis to give a smooth shave, unfortunately this cause more problems than it solves! Razor burn (from too much pressure and not enough lubrication), razor bumps and ingrown hairs. Plus lots of pulling and tugging (which it is designed to do!).
Safety razors have a blade that rides right next to or on the surface of the skin, providing a smooth clean shave. It does take some technique to learn, but it time you will have no nicks, cuts, or razor burn. All this to say, it might be a step back technologically, but switching to a safety razor will provide you a much closer and better shave.
If you have any questions about how to start, or what products to use, please read through the blog, or contact me again for more information! I’d be more than happy to help.
Do you have any burning questions you would like ask our wet shaving expert Aaron Wolfenbarger?
Newspaper reports out today are suggesting that the global financial crisis is taking its toll on the men’s grooming industry, with the ‘alpha male’ supposedly making a comeback.
According to a new study by The Grocer, British men are switching away from the smooth metrosexual ideal to the bearded and messy look during the economic downturn.
The research has revealed that in the past year sales of razors and blades were down by 7 per cent.
Market analysts Kantar Worldpanel say rising prices, as well as the economic slump, is a key factor for the change in male attitudes.
However, for men still wanting too look dapper and clean-shaven but don’t want to pay the earth for some overpriced and poor performing cartridge razor, then there is a solution, and it’s called double edge shaving.
Not only is double edge razor technically superior to a Gillette ProGlide or any other expensive cartridge based razor system, its also much cheaper.
The following comparison is based on an average use of: 1 x Mach3 cartridge a week OR 2 x double-edged razor blades a week
MACH3 CARTRIDGE YEARLY COST
Boots do twelve cartridges for £11.99. So: £11.99 divided by 12 weeks of shaving x 52 weeks a year = £51.96 for a year’s worth of Mach3 cartridges.
DOUBLE EDGED RAZOR BLADE YEARLY COST
At the Shaving Shack, we do 30 blades for £5.99 (15 weeks shaving at two blades a week). So: £5.99 divided by 15 weeks of shaving x 52 weeks a year = £20.76 for a year’s worth of double edged razor blades.
That’s a saving of around £31 a year and less than half the cost of shaving with Mach3s.
Even in the first year, where you would have to purchase a double edged razor, this saving is more than enough to cover this initial extra cost.
Need another reason to bin the expensive cartridge system and opt instead for the luxurious double edge razor? A study published earlier this year found that well-groomed guys have much better job prospects as well. 90 per cent of HR professionals said being well groomed is more important than a firm handshake when it comes time for a job interview.
And if that doesn’t convince you, surely this well….Research also suggests that men who shave regularly have twice as much sex as those that don’t.
This study found that men who shave at least five times a week are having sex 15.5 times per month, compared to 7.8 times for unshaven men.
So men, abandon the scruffy, un-shaven look and quick as it would appear that keeping yourself clean-shaven is the key to a successful career and love life.
As Gillette launches its much-hyped Fusion ProGlide Power razor in the UK – I take a quick look at why a double edge razor is still technically superior to a ProGlide or any other cartridge based razor system out there.
For those who use double edge safety razors for shaving on a regular basis, the answer to the question “Why is a double edge razor technically better than a cartridge based razor system?” may seem quite obvious: ‘because you get better results’. However, for the rest of the men out there who use multi-bladed cartridges instead – and let’s face it that includes the vast majority of men in the Western world – they may wonder why they should ever consider changing their shaving method?
Well, the real answer to the question above lies within the technology of the types of razor on offer. From a scientific standpoint double edge safety razors certainly have the edge over cartridge based razor systems like the Fusion ProGlide Power razor, Wilkinson Sword Hydro and the King of Shaves Azor.
I recently spoke to American wet shaving expert Mike Sandoval, who runs the Shaving101 website, about why the cartridge razor system was so popular.
“The cartridge razor system is appealing to many men because it is advertised to be modern and high performing with innovative designs and multi-blade cutting action,” he said. “High-dollar marketing campaigns feature celebrity athletes that promote modern cartridges as the only masculine option.”
So why do double edge razors produce a closer and more rewarding shave?
The cartridge system razor generally works by using its hinge or pivot point to maintain a constant angle on the face while shaving. And while there may be many other features or gimmicks they offer, this pivoting mechanism is the most important aspect of the razor at making the shave quick and easy to use – which is the key advantage of these razors.
“The problem is that the blades of a cartridge are close together with extremely small spacing between each cutting edge,” explains Mike. “The razor is unable to cleanly cutting hair without requiring multiple passes along your skin, catching and pulling long stubble, as well as constantly clogging during the shave.”
On the other hand, while double edge razors may take longer to get used too – with a short learning curve to overcome – you have far more control over the razor and the closeness of the shave itself. Therefore, with DE shavers the process may take longer, with shorter strokes, but you will notice an improvement in the (even more crucial) performance aspect of the shave.
Mike adds: ”The double edge safety razor uses a single cutting edge that tracks along the skin at a much more comfortable angle and cuts the hair cleanly without grabbing or pulling excessively (provided you choose the right blade for your beard and skin type).
”Although you won’t find many celebrity athletes promoting the double edge razor, there has been a strong resurgence in traditional shaving. Many men are returning to old-school shaving because it is more comfortable and more economical.”
If time really is the most important factor when shaving, a Hydro, Azor or ProGlide may be the answer, but if you are a man who likes to work with engineering excellence that has stood the test of time and has the patience to learn, then maybe it is time to think about leaving those expensive cartridges behind and opt for a results-proven double edged razor.
Gillette launched the new Fusion ProGlide Power razor in the UK this month. It is the latest addition to its growing family of Fusion razors with Gillette’s thinnest-ever blades. The firm says the ProGlide outperforms its existing Fusion razor.
There are two versions of the Gillette ProGlide, a battery-powered model and a manual version. The battery-powered Gillette Fusion ProGlide Power comes with one blade cartridge and is available priced £12.99. The manual version comes with two blade cartridges and costs £9.99.
Over the last few years, I have used many different brands of cartridge based razor system, including the Azor, Gillette Fusion Power Stealth and Gillette Mach 3 Turbo, Wilkinson Sword Quattro Titanium Energy and Wilkinson Sword Hydro 5 and Boots’ Hydro and Titanium Triple Razor, but personally still prefer the excitement and closeness of a DE razor.
The Merkur 33C Classic will always be my all-time favourite, but I would also highly recommend the Merkur Futur 760, Goodfella, Muhle R89 and the relatively new Bluebeards Revenge “Scimitar” Double Edge Razor.
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A new study claims today’s modern man would rather invest time and money refining himself and his lifestyles and putting his family first.
According to the survey, carried out by shaving firm Wilkinson Sword, spending time with family and loved ones tops the list of the modern man’s priorities with 65%.
Grooming and taking care of appearances came in as the second most important priority with 30%. It appears the modern man is now trying to smash the clichés of the lager lout, with drinking coming in third on 16%, followed by gaming (14%), clubbing (11%), and casual sex (8%).
The research of men aged between 25 and 34 also claims “British men are returning to the golden age of their grandfathers in terms of time honoured traditional dress, manners and shaving etiquette”.
Nearly 30% of men feel the best definition of masculinity is ‘a well-mannered man’, followed by ‘a clean shaven man’ (27%), with half of those questioned emphasising that being clean-shaven makes them both look and feel confident.
The study also found that 92% of men buy their own razors, while 71% buy their own skincare products.
The boffins at Wilkinson Sword claim this new trend towards personal grooming can be attributed to the “troubled economic climate of modern times”, as men respond to this “by looking back to smarter, simpler and more secure times”.
“This new breed of man longs for authenticity and craftsmanship, for connoisseurship and chivalry, and looks to an old template of masculinity to find it. His grooming and dressing habits are inspired by and evoke his grandfather – he buys bespoke suits and shirts, savours fine wines and whiskeys, and lists positively Edwardian-sounding traditional pastimes such as shooting, fishing and cycling,” the report said.
Mark Tungate, author of Marketing to Men and Luxury World, sees this new trend as a living act of cultural remembering. “We’ve forgotten how good it feels to be well-groomed” he says, “when I got married I had a manicure, a barbered shave, and then put on a bespoke suit made for the occasion and I felt so sharp. It was like I’d turned into the best possible version of me.”
Karen Williams, Senior Product Manager of Male Systems at Wilkinson Sword, added: “The report findings suggest that young men want to look and feel smarter and healthier, and shaving is a quick and easy way for them to achieve this.”
Wilkinson Sword launched its much-hyped Hyrdo cartridge based razor in the UK back in October of this year. Reports suggest the firm has spent a whopping £20m on marketing the product, covering TV, print and digital advertising.
The new razor claims to introduce “revolutionary” technology, including a gel reservoir to hydrate skin during shaving, and new skin guards to help prevent skin getting trapped between blades.
It will go head-to-head with Gillette’s Fusion ProGlide razor, which launches in the UK in January 2011.
The new Hydro razor comes with either three or five blades, costing £5.99 and £7.99 respectively.
Follow Nick Gibbens on Twitter @nickgibbens