Wet Shaving

Why yes, as a matter of fact, I did enjoy that month-long camping trip.

Ahem.

Okay, so I haven’t updated in a while. It’s been a busy month, and my real-life work has dominated my spare time and practically drained the life out of me. Not a good excuse I know, but there it is. That said, as I hinted at a couple of posts ago, there is some exciting news coming, as well as a new Literal Daze entry, so don’t give up on me yet!

Changing gears, if you would be so kind, I’d like to take a moment to talk with you about my facial hair.

Wait, come back! I promise it will be interesting! Or at the very least, slightly less boring than whatever else you were doing that was so mind-numbingly dull that coming here seemed like a better option.

Like many strapping young lads, I started shaving in my early teen years. Probably well before I needed to, and certainly well before I knew what I was actually doing. My Dad, though he taught me a great many things, never really took me aside and taught me the finer arts of shaving your face. Yes, he showed me how to use a cartridge razor and how not to completely slice my face up, but I’ve recently come to understand that mindlessly dragging an expensive multi-blade cartridge across your face does not count. It might get rid of the facial hair, but it isn’t truly shaving.

Not that I’m blaming him of course. For whatever reason, this was what he knew and he did his best to pass it on to me like any good father would. However, I always felt that there was something more to it, something I was missing. No matter how good the razor was, I always managed to irritate my face, plaguing it with razor burn and ingrown hairs, to the point that I just began to stop shaving on a regular basis. It was as if my face simply couldn’t handle the ravishing effects that shaving imposed. I’d let it grow out for several days before bothering to shave again, despite the fact that I badly needed it. In my job as an engineer, where looking professional is important, this wasn’t the best practice. But what was I to do?

Finally, after doing some research, I discovered the answer. My face wasn’t the problem. It was my method, and more importantly, my razor. I’ve simply been doing it wrong.

Soon, I discovered a whole world of shaving that I didn’t know existed, like the land of Narnia quietly lurking behind the doors of the wardrobe. It was a world of soaps and badger-hair brushes, of facial growth maps, of proper lathering techniques, and understanding the difference between shaving against the grain and across the grain.

It was the world of wet-shaving.

Now, I’m not going to go into all the specifics of wet-shaving, mostly because even I haven’t learned them all yet. It’s surprisingly complicated and deep, but let me share a primer of what I’ve learned so far. Here are the basics.

  1. Wet-shaving is all about never passing a razor over a non-lubricated face. This is why multiple razor cartridges don’t count as wet-shaving. With cartridges, the first razor scrapes away some hair and all of the soap/cream/whatever, and the others drag across unprotected skin. This is a big no-no in wet-shaving.
  2. Due to #1, this means that wet-shaving must be accomplished using single blade instruments. Most commonly, that implies either the use of a safety razor or a straight razor.
  3. Since only a single razor is used, multiple passes are necessary, and each one is generally in a different direction on your face. This means multiple latherings of your face are also necessary.

And that’s why we call it wet-shaving. Of course, there are a host of other guidelines and subtleties that are involved depending on how you go about your shave, but those are the fundamentals. But it sounds like an awful lot of trouble, right? Why go through all of that when it takes so much more time and effort? For me, the answer was easy. I was tired of irritating my skin and cutting my face to shreds with cartridge razors, but I also wanted the baby-smooth shave that I’ve never quite been able to accomplish with electric razors. Wet-shaving gives me an incredibly close shave while also keeping my skin soft and irritation free.

Enough talk now. Here, let me introduce you to someone.

 

This is the Merkur HD 34C safety razor.  She is lovely, isn’t she? A marvel of German engineering and uncompromising beauty. I purposefully call her a “she” because I’m slowly coming to understand that a good safety razor is in many ways like a woman. Treat her well, and her gentleness will repay you twice-over. However, treat her badly, and you will find no end to her wrath.

Yes, I’m being a little hyperbolic for effect, but there is some truth in it. This thing is not a toy, and it’s not your daddy’s razor, although there is a pretty good chance that is quite similar to your grandfather’s razor. What, you thought wet-shaving was a new concept? Far from it, this is the traditional way of shaving that has been lost by the wayside as commercialism and marketing paved the way for expensive, over-produced and over-engineered cartridge razors. We’re only getting back to the basics here, and this fine instrument allows me to do just that.

Though it seems expensive for a razor, your paying for quality. Plus, considering the cheap price of razor blades compared to cartridge razors, you make your money back in savings fairly quickly. It’s a two-piece design, with a nut on the bottom of the handle which loosens the top of the head, allowing access to the razor slot. Here, you place a single, double-edged razor blade, sharp and deadly as… well, as a razor blade. Yes, unlike cartridge razors, the blades used in safety razors could maim or kill a man when used for malicious intent. For those who are brave enough to move up to straight razors (not me), this is even more true. As I said, it’s no toy, and is not to be trifled with.

Thankfully, once you have placed the blade in its slot and re-tightened the head, the more dangerous aspects of the razor are mostly mitigated. Yes, it can still cut you if you aren’t careful, but the cuts will be shallow and non-lethal. Thus, why they are called Safety Razors. At that point, it’s all about technique and getting a feel for how the razor will react to your face, adjusting the angle of incidence and grip and various other factors to ensure a close, clean shave.

This is where I am now, slowly learning how to handle the thing. I’m getting better though, and I can already see the positive effects this kind of shaving has had on my skin. More than that, it has turned shaving from a chore to be gotten out of the way as fast as possible to an experience that I actually look forward to.

You can’t put a price on that.

If I’ve piqued your interest, you can go where I did to further explore the world of wet-shaving at the fantastic website Badger & Blade. There, you’ll find just about everything you ever wanted to know on the subject, and probably more that you didn’t.

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One Response to Wet Shaving

  1. Pingback: Wet Shaving | The Wilderness - safety-razor

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