Apart from the difference in blade numbers, there are many other often-overlooked and nuanced differences between cartridge razor shaving and safety razor shaving. These small, but significant differences are what can 1) get you to a better shave with a safety or a straight razor and 2) cause some frustration in the newly-minted wet shaver.
Getting the perfect safety razor shave requires some patience, practice, adjustment and experimentation to get you to the right shave. The over-engineered cartridge razor seeks to provide a ubiquitous one-size-fits-all solution to the typical face, but no two faces are the same. As such, someone with very sensitive skin and overly-curly facial hair is likely to have a wholly different experience with the very same razor, especially if that razor only has one blade.
One of the most oft-repeated complaints I hear from those just started into wet shaving is not that they don’t enjoy the process of shaving with a safety razor. No, it’s that they wish they knew how to experiment toward the perfect shave faster.
Iterating toward the perfect shave requires a look hardware, technique and accouterments. We will take a brief look at each so the newly-minted shaver can prepare himself up-front for some of the easily-adjustable areas that will get him to his perfect shave much more rapidly.
Like the hinge that holds up a very wide gate, small movements in certain areas can create large fluctuations in others–for both good or ill. The same holds true for wet shaving hardware. Here are some small, but significant iterating experiments you can implement to improve your wet shave right from the start.
- Razor Head Gap. Your blade gap plays a significant role in the initial comfort of your shave. When just starting out, I typically advise shavers to opt for a more narrow blade gap to protect themselves from wet shaving weepers. As you become more accustomed to the process and technique, you will want to expand out from there.
- Head Type. There are so many safety razor head types to choose from: open comb, closed comb, slant, etc. For the novice shavers, I advise a simple closed comb model as these tend to be more gentle and forgiving. Open comb and slants are really built for those experienced in the wet shaving arts. As more aggressive blades in general, they are more helpful in really hacking through longer facial hair and even beards and mustaches.
- Safety Razor Handle. The longer the handle the more control over your blade angle and your razor. Shorter handled safety razors are good for traveling and camping, but until you’re accustomed to the style, they’re better used by those who a bit better versed.
- Razor Blades. Blades play a critical role in your success as a new wet shaver. Astra Greens or Gillette 7 O’clock’s are great for starting, but I typically steer folks away from blades like Feather. They’re sharper and you will be more likely to take off a layer of skin after your first couple of passes with the blades.
Wet Shaving Accouterments
The wet shaving software you use matters. The difference between a healthy, protective lather and one that simply smells nice can mean the difference between bleeding or not. However, one of the most fun parts about wet shaving is working through and trying all the myriad of shaving creams and soaps available on the market. The market for these products continues to expand and grow.
There are continual discussions on whether you should use a wet shaving cream or a wet shaving soap, whether alcohol-based after-shave is best for your skin or whether you need some type of pre-shave oil.
When it comes to experimentation, this is the area that can take years to perfect, partly because it can take six months to exhaust a single container of shaving soap. First, read customer reviews on the products you are looking to purchase. See what others’ experience is on various soaps and creams. Iterate between various cream types. You can even purchase smaller, sample packs until you find the right pre-shave, cream/soap and aftershave combination that works best for you.
Remember part of the enjoyment of wet shaving is experimenting among the available soap and cream options on the market.
Wet Shaving Technique
Apart from the hardware, your particular wet shaving technique(s) will play the biggest role in the quality of your shave. Quick technique adjustments can easily be made on a daily basis to have you iterating and experimenting toward the perfect shave in no time.
Here are our top considerations when trying to iterate to the perfect wet shaving technique:
- Short, Slow Strokes. Keep your strokes short and slow. This allows you to maintain control and adjust your angle with the contours of your face as you go up or down (as the case may be). Pay particular attention to areas that may be more sensitive and adjust accordingly. The perfect shave is best attained as you find out what works best for you and the direction your facial hair grows.
- Maintain a proper angle. Wet shaving enthusiasts will tell you to maintain a 30 degree angle, but it’s typically something that is most frequently done by feel. Both the feedback of the razor and the feel of the blade typically will let you know what your best angle is, but your best angle may be slightly different than others.
- Let the razor do the work. Instead of putting pressure and weight against the razor like you do with multi-blade razor shaving, let the weight of the razor do the heavy lifting. You are nearly guaranteed to experience less irritation in this scenario.
Even the most experienced wet shaving enthusiast is still experimenting. The perfect shave is not elusive, however. You will find that as you iterate through various types of shaving techniques, hardware and accouterments, you will quickly move down the learning curve and start wet shaving like a pro in no time at all.
What wise learning can you impart to the would-be and newbie wet shavers out there? How have you experimented toward the perfect shave?