It's March 17th (Happy St. Patrick's Day) and I'm staring out the window at a mountain of snow in my backyard. The melt is very slow and this morning, with coffee in hand, I can still see a few snowflakes falling from the sky. This year we celebrated 5 years of being online and it's been a wild journey. The website and store have really changed a lot from those humble beginnings. Our first few sales happened via FaceBook and 99% of them were to friends and family. Despite all the changes and despite the growth (my store....not my beard) it's always worth it to take a look back and celebrate the achievements big and small.
When it comes to traditional wet shaving, it's also worth doing a review or reflection from time to time. The most important basics can get lost or forgotten leading to poor shaves. Even a seasoned wet shaver can benefit from a review or reminder once in a while.
Here are just some of the key points to perfect your shave:
1) Skin Prep- Honestly a hot shower is the bare Minimum you should do to prep your skin for a shave. Using a pre-shave treatment such as a cream, oil or soap can help you achieve a closer shave with minimal irritation and nicks. I've said many times- go for a traditional shave at a barber shop and pay attention to how much time is given to skin prep.
2) Use as little pressure as possible- This isn't difficult with heavier razors like the Rockwell 6C or the Karve CB (Brass). Typically you let the razors do the work for you. However, this can become more challenging with razors such as the Aluminum Henson which is very light weight. While you don't want to add too much pressure with a lighter razor- you can still get a closer shave by using a fresh blade and very good skin prep. I would also avoid shaving after several days of growth. Lighter razors, in my opinion make excellent daily razors or perhaps every other day. I'm not sure I'd reach for one after 7 days worth of growth.
3) Blade angle- This seems to be one challenge where most people need the work or practice. I'd recommend practicing without a blade in the razor so you can really observe the razor to your skin. While it's generally easier to maintain that 20-30 degree angle along the cheeks and side burns, I do find that it becomes more challenging to find the correct angle near the jaw line or where the neck and jaw line meet. In that case, I recommend shorter strokes in that area. That allows you to make more subtle corrections to get the proper angle. Locking your wrist will also help.
4) Shaving with the grain? This is one of those debates and the ? is there because quite frankly, everyone has a different perspective. In all likelihood, you will get a more comfortable shave if you shave with the grain or across the grain versus against the grain. Notice I didn't say smoother shave. We often think of shaving as hair removal...but that's not really the case...it's hair reduction. A good analogy is mowing the lawn. We never remove the grass, we merely reduce it's length. The same goes for shaving. All of this doesn't mean "thou shalt not shave against the grain". But it's not always necessary and it can, in many cases lead to irritation or nicks. I'll admit at times I will do a shave against the grain- especially around my neck to help clean things up. Regardless of how many passes you do or how you shave- just make sure you lather up between each pass. Don't shave on bare skin.
5) Incorporate a post shave ritual. Where it's a cold towel, alum, an aftershave splash. a balm.....or some combination, be sure to treat your skin to a nice post shave ritual. You skin just got a shave and adding a good quality post shave to your shave routine will keep your skin looking and feeling like a million bucks! Not to mention some fantastic scents that will awaken your senses or bring back fond memories.
If I could maybe add one more tip to having a great shave, I would encourage you to take your time. Don't rush a good shave. Put some music on, enjoy the experience from start to finish. This is your time.
May all your shaves be smooth.