Most men will say that they know how to shave. However, if we’re being completely honest, this can become pretty debatable, particularly when it comes to wet shaving.
If you’ve ever been left with patchy areas and roughness after shaving, you’re not alone. Wet shaving isn’t easy: it’s an art form, and it takes time to master.
Knowing how to wet shave properly is a skill every man should learn. Even if you’re rocking some awesome facial hair, you probably still need to neaten up the edges and your neck with your old friend the razor. Yes, you may be going for the lumberjack look, but that’s no excuse to go full Unabomber.
So read on to learn all the tips, tricks, and the best way to wet shave.
How to Wet Shave Like a Pro
If you want the genuine barber shop shave, you’ll need to follow these steps, and probably practice them a few times for perfect results.
Step 1: Prepare
As the old saying goes: “Fail to prepare, and prepare to fail.”
In shaving, as with many things, preparation is everything. You might be tempted to skip preparation and jump straight into it. However, not only will prepping properly deliver better results, but it will also make all of the following steps easier. So why skip it?
This does need a little forward planning, as you need to prep 30 minutes before you plan to shave. Half an hour before getting busy with your razor, you should shower, wet your face, or apply beard oil to your whiskers. Make sure each and every one of the hairs is wet, and that all of the skin is damp also.
This step is important to soften the coarse facial hairs so that the razor will glide smoothly across your skin. Wetting up the skin will lower the risk of razor burn and irritation post-shaving.
Step 2: Moisten
Once you’re ready to start shaving, wet your face again with warm water. You should be like Goldilocks here: the water should be warm enough to remove dirt and dust and open up the pores, but not so hot as to aggravate the skin.
As a best practice, you should use a cleanser or facial scrub to get rid of all grit and dead skin cells. This step also softens your skin, once again helping the razor to move smoothly across the skin.
Additionally, softer skin will only add to the smooth experience. Finally, washing your face with warm water helps with the next step of lathering.
Step 3: Choose Your Product
This is decision time. You’ll need to choose whether to use foam, soap, or gel according to your skin type as well as your personal preferences.
Many people prefer foam because it’s easy to use: all you have to do is rub it between your hands and then apply it to your face. Using your hands lets you be more precise in the areas you apply it to.
On the other hand, soap and gel have a longer shelf life and so are good for men who shave more sporadically.
A word of caution here: you should only use specific shaving soap, never use regular soap for shaving. Regular soap is made to remove dirt or oils from the skin, while shaving soap is designed to form a protective layer between the skin and the razor to make shaving more comfortable and help you to get a close shave.
Step 4: Lather Up
Now you’re armed with your product of choice, apply it over to the areas you want to shave with a soft shaving brush (or your hands). Some people swear by shaving brushes made from fox or badger hair. If using a natural hair brush, soak this in warm water for a few minutes beforehand to let it absorb the moisture. Shake off excess water before using the brush to apply the product.
There are also quality synthetic options that are vegan and sustainable. Whatever you do, don’t use a cheap plastic shaving brush: these won’t lather as well and can irritate the skin, especially if you are prone to acne.
With your brush of choice, work your shaving soap or cream in a circular motion to create a thick lather – this can take a couple of minutes. Then use the brush to apply the lather to the parts of your face you want to shave, again using a circular motion.
Leave the lather on your face for 30 seconds before moving onto the next step, so that it can absorb into your facial hairs and soften them even more.
Step 5: Blade up
Now comes the main Edward Scissorhands part. Dip your razor in warm water or under hot running water to warm it up, but not so much that it will burn your skin. A warm razor will glide more easily over your skin. Then, start to shave your face, gently moving in the direction of hair growth.
Hold the base of the razor handle with the tips of your middle, index finger, and thumb, at a 30-degree angle to your face. Keep adjusting as you move over the contours of your face so that you maintain this same angle. You don’t need to shave the whole length or width of your face with one stroke: go for short passes.
Never ever shave against the grain of your hair. Doing so will irritate the skin, not to mention making things more difficult for yourself. When you shave with the grain, the blade will glide over your skin smoothly and give you a closer shave. Don’t go over the same area twice with the blade as there won’t be lather there any more to protect your skin. If you miss a spot and need to take a second pass at it, always re-lather first.
Step 6: Check for Stubble
After your first pass, run your fingers over the whole area to check for stubble. If you feel any stubble, this means that you’re not done yet!
Start again at step 4: re-lather and shave the necessary area or areas again. Gently pull the skin to keep it flat and taut for the second pass to make sure you get rid of any stubble.
Step 7: Rinse
Congratulations, you have just completed the best way to wet shave! To finish off, rinse your face with clean, warm water to wash off any residual lather or cut hairs.
Note we said clean water – this doesn’t mean the sink full of murky water you’ve been using while shaving. The soap, hair, and debris in the sink may get in your pores and cause irritation later.
Then rinse your face once more, this time with cold water to close your pores and minimize irritation or redness. Pat your face with a clean towel to dry. It’s a good idea to finish with some shave balm to soothe your skin and add some post-shave protection.
Uncover the Secrets of Wet Shaving
Wet shaving is the only way you’ll achieve a truly close, smooth shave. Like any skill, wet shaving takes a bit of practice. So take a breath, take some time, and practice the steps above. You’ll soon become the Picasso of shaving!
To learn more about how to wet shave and other facial hair care tips, check out Betterly’s Beard Watch series.