Introduction to Traditional Wetshaving
October 8, 2006 3:39 AM   Subscribe

Awesome. Mundane. Awesomely mundane.

I just want to say that - inspired by various comments here and over on AskMe - that about a year ago I switched from canned shaving cream to a simple brush, mug and puck of shaving soap. (I still user my Sensor, though.)

Really, we're talking bottom of the line WalMart stuff, here. Simple/cheap boar-bristle brush and a puck of basic Williams brand mug shaving soap. The brush and puck are basically the only traditional shaving supplies that are left in "regular" stores anymore.

And I'm never, ever going back to the chemical-laden canned stuff, even if I have to make my own soap and brushes. It's that good. No, really. It's incredibly awesome. Plus a puck of mug shaving shaving soap costs about a quarter or half as much as a can, and it seems to last about 10x as long. (I'm about halfway through my second puck.)

I'm still not brave enough to try a straight razor, but perhaps soon.
posted by loquacious at 4:18 AM on October 8, 2006

I never knew that multiblade razors caused those stupid bumps... guess I'd better save that 'Introduction to Single Blade Shaving' video for future use. Thanks!

I'd also like to use a cut-throat razor, but I'm too impatient and my house is too far from the nearest emergency room.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 4:49 AM on October 8, 2006

Here's the rest of them:

Part 2: Lathering
Part 3: Shaving
Introduction to Single-Blade Shaving
Single-Blade Shaving (short version)
The Art of Lathering
Advanced Shaving Techniques

And here's the guy responsible for all of these videos - Mantic59

I've also recently switched to brush and cream, and I'll shortly be investigating single blade (and maybe one day straight razors) and I have to agree with the sentiment above. I'll never go back to canned goop.
posted by Happy Dave at 4:52 AM on October 8, 2006

Dang it, never noticed that was a playlist - ah well, you've got single links now.
posted by Happy Dave at 4:53 AM on October 8, 2006

Much more.
posted by twsf at 5:03 AM on October 8, 2006

I saw these movies a month ago, bought some proraso soap and after shave and an inexpensive badger brush. Usually two passes does the trick. I invited a few women I'm friendly with to touch my face, they all had the same reaction: Mmmmmmm, smooth! Fellas, this is the real thing. You too can have women carressing your face and cooing! Hail Mantic59!
posted by Scoo at 5:55 AM on October 8, 2006

This is bullshit. I went through all that in the 1970's and I would never go back. Yeah, it's easy to slam the over-the-top phoniness of the name brand razors, but the products of today are still fundamentally superior. I find the four and five blade things are foolish, but a good three blade disposable is light years better than an old-school razor. Jebus, using a single edge razor is like using a slide rule...

The gels are better than the foams which are better than the soap cake and bristle brush. Case closed.

Go back to Woodstock, hippie.
posted by Tube at 6:07 AM on October 8, 2006

I did what loq did, only about 6 months ago, so I'm a newbie, but I'll never go back to the canned crap.

Uh, close your own case.
posted by disclaimer at 6:17 AM on October 8, 2006

Well I have only the evidence of my smooth, freshly shaved face to counter that Tube. Go with what feels good for you, I suppose.
posted by Happy Dave at 6:20 AM on October 8, 2006

The gels are better than the foams which are better than the soap cake and bristle brush. Case closed.

Gels? Gels are so last week's thang. If you aren't using shaving oil, you might as well be hacking your bristles off with a Bowie knife.

The reality is that it all depends on your level of skill. If you're a ham-fisted incompetent who does inadequate preparation, uses a crappy brush and makes piss-thin lather, then you aren't going to get good results. Such people are much better off with an aerosol and a Mach 14, because they get acceptable results with little effort.

However, there's a reason that people will spend forty dollars to have an expert shave them with a proper lather, an open razor and hot towels.

Me? I've got a beard. Shaving is for suckers.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 6:37 AM on October 8, 2006

Jebus, I can't believe I just got called a "hippy" for using old school shaving products. I thought hippies didn't shave or something?

I have a seriously thick beard. Hair is something neither my body nor head will ever want for, but my beard is something else. I can shave in the morning and have 5 o'clock shadow well before noon - though thankfully at most jobs I do in the tech or design industries I can avoid shaving for a few days and no one cares.

I used to use only supposedly "primo" brand name gel and razors. I even tried stuff like Aveeno's (I'm assuming) oatmeal based stuff. I've tried classics like Barbasol Beardbuster. All of them left my face either severely irritated or with serious ingrown hairs/bumps.

The mug shaving soap and brush way is far, far superior in results for me, especially when combined with a relatively simple (yet "modern") two blade Sensor blade. I still shave only in the shower, I still use a disposable razor, but the mug/brush is just much, much nicer than canned foams.

A huge part of it is probably just the scrubbing/lifting action of brush itself, but part of it is most likely a distinct lack of heavy chemicals, dyes, frangrances and whatever else hitting my face.

It's not a trendy fashion thing. I'm not out there oooing and aahing over thousand-dollar handcrafted straight razors. Those that know me would laugh at the thought and know I could give a flying batfuck about trends.

Anyway. If wanting a smooth, comfortable shave that doesn't irritate the everloving crap out of my face makes me a hippy, pass the patchouli and bong, brother.

Like the first video notes - there isn't going to be a one size fits all solution.
posted by loquacious at 6:52 AM on October 8, 2006

Shave Blog
posted by jaronson at 7:38 AM on October 8, 2006

(There is a picture at the above link, if you scroll way down, that may be nsfw. Sorry for the late warning.)
posted by jaronson at 7:45 AM on October 8, 2006

I thought this kind of shaving was for those who pined for the days when men were old-fahsioned gentlemen and shaved with a brush, soap, and a single blade, and weren't afraid to take care of themselves, not the antithetical hippies.

About a year and a half ago I switched to a single blade safety razor, brush, and soap. Badger and Blade was my guide. I've found that results vary wildly, especially with the choice of razor and blades. There is an unending combination of the two. A razor with one blade will tear up your face, but put it in a different razor and you'll get the smoothest shave in the world. In the end, it's a fun hobby for me, even with the occasional face injury.

There's one thing I'll never go back on: the soap. Nothing in the world smells better than my QED Fresh Lime shaving soap. Or any other scent that guy makes. Wow.
posted by zsazsa at 7:47 AM on October 8, 2006

I switched to single-bladed safety razor, mug soap, and brush about a year back, and also won't ever look back.

I do think that the shave is "better" primarily because it forces one to go just a little bit slower and quite a bit more carefully. You can't just zip the blade at any direction and pressure over your face like the Mach Pi or whatever, or it'll take chunks off.

The real reason I'll never look back is that, past the initial buy-in, everything is so much cheaper. Ten pack of blades for under five bucks, a puck of soap that'll last for months and months and months for less than the canned stuff that'll be gone in weeks.

So I don't know about being old-fashioned, much less a hippy (?)--but it satisfies my Scroogeliness.
posted by Drastic at 8:02 AM on October 8, 2006

You guys are all a bunch of little girls. I burn my beard off with lighter fluid. If I were in Hawaii, I'd dunk my head into hot magma for that clean-faced look.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:06 AM on October 8, 2006

Thank god I started wet shaving about a year ago as those tedious videos would have scared me away. He does FIVE passes in one of the vids and makes the process seem like it takes 90 minutes.
posted by dobbs at 8:25 AM on October 8, 2006

Shaving oil is where it's at. No nicks, no cuts, a close shave, and you don't have to wash afterwards, just wipe your face. And it's cheap.

When I first tried using oil, I used way too much. Turns out you only need a couple of drops, maybe three, for your whole face and neck. As a result, shaving oil is dirt cheap. You can use baby oil.
posted by peeping_Thomist at 8:28 AM on October 8, 2006

For those who like to read as well as watch, my blog has a comprehensive guide to shaving with a safety razor as well as some recommendations for a beginner's shaving kit.

The main benefit (beyond better shaves) is that one starts to actually enjoy the morning shave, which was quite a novelty for me. Seriously, guys, give it a go.
posted by LeisureGuy at 8:36 AM on October 8, 2006 [1 favorite]

BTW, my normal morning shave is 3 passes: with, across, and then against the grain. And I seldom get nicks anymore: one's technique gets better with practice. Great hobby. :) YMMV
posted by LeisureGuy at 8:42 AM on October 8, 2006

Soap & badger brush, foam, gel, and oil are all a pain in the ass. Just shave in the shower. It's the easiest, the cheapest, and you're never going to find that your local pharmacy has discontinued your shaving lubricant, because it comes from a tap in your house.
posted by Bugbread at 8:44 AM on October 8, 2006

I don't plan to argue for this or for that but do provide this one tip I have found useful:
take face cloth. wet it. Squeeze it out but leave damp. Put in microwave for about1 minute. put over face. Leave it there--it is very warm. Then apply whatevezr and shave. The heated damp cloth will help whatever it is you are going to use, brush or soap from can.
posted by Postroad at 8:47 AM on October 8, 2006

Ingrown hairs on my neck have always been my undoing. I've tried every whiz bang new razor and every sensitive skin lotion and notion under the stars (except for this old school method), and ultimately gave up and used electric trimmers to cut down to a 3 day growth. Every single time I've shaved for the past 25ish years I've gotten a crop of ingrown hairs and nasty zits on my neck that make shaving again impossible for several days. Other than weddings, funerals and job interviews I never shave.

Hearing these testimonials makes me want to give it another try.
posted by Mr. Crowley at 9:07 AM on October 8, 2006

Mr. Crowley
I have exactly the same sensitivity. Here is a link to my comment in an AskMeFi thread. There's lots of good info from others in that thread as well.
posted by The Deej at 9:34 AM on October 8, 2006

Men are the new women.
posted by srboisvert at 9:54 AM on October 8, 2006 [2 favorites]

Same here, Mr. Crowley. I may as well take a chainsaw to my face than a razor, for all the good it does me.
posted by quite unimportant at 9:55 AM on October 8, 2006

Me? I've got a beard. Shaving is for suckers.

Complete agreement.

You buncha little boys! Men (and lesbians) should have crazy mountain man whiskers for god's sake.

What? You ladies gonna post video of how to paint your toe nails and wax your coochies next?

This dude taking an hour to shave everyday? That's an hour I could be chopping wood, killing animals, pimping ho's, practicing my with ZZ-Top cover band and invading Iraq!

I only shave for weddings and client meetings. It's futile, though. I got this Fred Flintstone beard. I shave and then "PAFF!" thirty seconds later a beard appears again. (At which point the prehistoric bird whose beak I use to shave with sarcastically says "Eh. It's a living.")
posted by tkchrist at 10:07 AM on October 8, 2006

Funny - I learned to shave using a single blade safety razor through the late 80's to late 90's, even using it to maintain my mohawk. I ended up switching to a Mach 3 because I could no longer find replacement blades that were worth a crap. I'd buy a pack of blades and they'd be dull or rusty. The second I can find a reliable non-internet source for blades I'll switch back.

Shaving cream? I'd rather wipe my face with a cat's ass. I'll never give up my mug and brush.
posted by lekvar at 10:26 AM on October 8, 2006

Man, I'm glad I'm a hairless manchild. Certain genetic elements allow me to skip days shaving without anyone noticing, and I shave in the shower, taking about 30 seconds.

And none of this will impress me until you're using the straight razor. Now, that's cool.
posted by Bookhouse at 10:45 AM on October 8, 2006

I feel it is my patriotic duty to link to the following comment posted by Divine_Wino on the subject of shaving, manliness, etc.:

... real men rip the head off the badger ...

All other attempts (I'm looking at you, Astro Zombie) are paltry in comparison.
posted by synaesthetichaze at 10:49 AM on October 8, 2006

In the post I linked to above are several sources of DE blades, and also a link included to a guy who will sell you a sampler packet of 5 each of several different makes of blades (or 10 each, your choice): Merkur, Derby Extra, Israeli Personna, Swedish Gillette, and Japanese Feather blades.
posted by LeisureGuy at 10:50 AM on October 8, 2006

Yeah, I definately switched to the safety blade/mug method thanks to that earlier post. I'm way happy, and definately a fan of vanilla shave soap.
posted by craven_morhead at 11:27 AM on October 8, 2006

When I switched from "modern" foam to brush and shave soap a few years ago, my skin irritation from shaving just about disappeared. I've not gone the saftey razor or straight razor route, though. Case not so closed, idiots not withstanding.
posted by kjs3 at 11:55 AM on October 8, 2006

What annoys me most about this bit of product-fetishism is the name wetshaving. It's not as if the alternative is dryshaving.
posted by hattifattener at 11:58 AM on October 8, 2006

My "hippie" comment was obviously flippant, but based on the hippie's famous disdain for consumer products they perceive as "plastic", disposable, and vacuous. I will concede that a great deal of modern shaving products do embody those characteristics.

As penance I shall admit my undying admiration for Dr. Bronner's liquid soap. It does a superb job of "surface prep" on skin to be shaved, as this is a major part of good shaving.

This is not an idle issue with me, as I have been shaving my face since the late 1970's, and my head since 1992.
posted by Tube at 12:47 PM on October 8, 2006

... real men rip the head off the badger ...

Real men rip the badger from its lair, dip it in the nearest creek to wet it down, then lather it up and hold it against their face. The writhing of the badger creates a rich, thick lather perfect for shaving with a 3/4 axe.
posted by QuestionableSwami at 1:38 PM on October 8, 2006

Next up, hats and how to doff them!
posted by Basalisk at 3:05 PM on October 8, 2006 [2 favorites]

All these wetshaving links are bordering on pesi blue.

Wetshaving stinks. I've tried every variant of these stupid methods, and even got suckered in to trying the single blade safety razor thing.

Here's the rule: After you finish sahving, you run an index card against your face in every direction - with against perpendicular to the grain. Everything. If at anypoint you hear a flick or a bristle, the shave is a failure.

The notion that shaving is the one area where tools have not improved over time is ludicrous. Do we still use steam locomotives? Iron shovels? No. Everything is improved with alloys and coatings, and so have razors.

The best shave I've ever had is with an electric razor, bar none. It's not even a close competition. In four minutes my face is smoother than a fingernail, no bumps, no bleeding, no shadow like the guy in the video.

I wonder if blade shaving only works for people with finer or softer facial hair. I don't see a lot of black guys or middle eastern guys extolling the virtues of scraping your face every morning.

If your going to give these methods a try, and least be thorough and try a braun or norelco electric razor.
posted by Pastabagel at 5:29 PM on October 8, 2006

(At which point the prehistoric bird whose beak I use to shave with sarcastically says "Eh. It's a living.") Thanks, tkchrist, now I need some of that shaving soap to clean the snorked Diet Pepsi off my monitor.
posted by Oriole Adams at 5:55 PM on October 8, 2006

i've found that shaving in the shower works pretty well
posted by 29 at 6:18 PM on October 8, 2006

bugbread: how on earth can you shave with just water in the shower? Congrats to you if you can pull it off. I sure can't. I shave in the shower and still need some sort of face lubrication.

Pasta: The blades are improved -- most of the high-end blades are platinum-coated stainless steel, much improved from the old Gillette blue blades.

Anyway, I really have no idea how guys can do many passes with a double edge safety razor to get baby butt smoothness without slaughtering their faces. I actually shave with a DE razor and only do one pass because I *don't* want close. I have ridiculously curly thick whiskers on my neck that dig under my skin like fishhooks. A not-so-close shave helps to keep them above the surface of the skin and prevents ingrown hairs.

I also tried a nice Braun electric -- it just couldn't cut the hair on my neck without irritation. I wish I could use one. It'd be a hell of a lot easier.
posted by zsazsa at 6:19 PM on October 8, 2006

I don't see a lot of black guys or middle eastern guys extolling the virtues of scraping your face every morning.

Three words: Magic Shaving Powder.
posted by Oriole Adams at 7:59 PM on October 8, 2006

I saw a post about wetshaving on MeFi about a year and a half ago, and decided to give it a go.

Still doing it, but I'm shopping around for a new razor. shaving soaps are fantastic (try lime, or grapefruit/peppermint).

I also get a lot of ingrown hairs when I go against the grain, so I stopped doing that. I have irritation-free shaves now.
posted by flippant at 12:56 AM on October 9, 2006

It's all in the grain. Dampen face with hand wet from a pass under the tap. Double blade disposable with, then against. Done. No lubricant. No cuts. No burn.

Used to use the mug and brush. Liked the aesthetic but really unnecessary. If I have that kind of extra time I'll think about having breakfast instead.
posted by dreamsign at 8:26 AM on October 9, 2006

i use a double blade Sensor with no soap or cream. just very hot water, immediately followed by very cold water when i'm done. works great - about 2 minutes a day, followed by moisturizing sunblock. i would find it hard to switch as it's extremely cheap and easy.

more important than how you shave, i would recommend using a light sunblock every day. for me non-oil-based is important, but ymmv.
posted by mrgrimm at 6:50 PM on October 9, 2006

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