What's new
  • Guest
    As per our long standing policy of not permitting medical advice on the forum - all threads concerning the Coronavirus will be locked.
    For more info on the coronavirus please see the link below:

What I have learned- If I was starting over what would I do differently?

The one thought that I have to add is:
Be it cream or soap, don't be afraid of using too much product. If I have mediocre lather or a poor shave, it's usually because of not loading enough product. It's cheap enough to make sure to use enough, and if you do use a little more than you need, there are no adverse affects, just extra lather.
Razor: Buy one razor that speaks to you. Nothing too expensive, nothing too aggressive, nothing adjustable, nothing Chinese. If you are buying vintage stay away from the open comb Gillette's, they do not make a great starter razor. Make sure that the blade gap is even across the bar and from one side to the other.
Blades: Buy a middle of the road variety pack. Try each brand two or three blades in a row before switching to the next one. Pick the one you like best, buy 25 to 50 and stick with them as you improve your technique.
Stick to one or two passes until you are more comfortable. One you have your technique down all of these suggestions are out the window. Experiment and take this hobby wherever you want to.
I won't be much help here, as I believe it is the very nature of hobbies to obsess over things. I recall, when I first discovered this thing of ours, how I would drive into a CVS lot, as if guided by some unseen hand, to see if they had the "other" Surrey soap, or explore the limited selection of men's products at the local C&E with glee.

I think that hobbies go through phases-
Wow, this stuff exists?
I have to try some of these.
I have to try all of these.
I must get everything.
I have everything.
I have to simplify.
I really love this but can live without that.

Helping newbies seperate the wheat from the chaff is a great idea, and can save some folks a ton of money, but it wouldn't have helped me. Without question, I now have a lot better stuff from which to choose, and am firmly in the zen camp of less is more, but make no mistake about it- I'll never have as much fun as I did in the early days when I was awash in the wonder of it all.

We may learn from our mistakes, but I wouldn't trade a second from that period of time, however misguided I may have been.
I totally agree. I'm at that point where i need to cut down on creams but when i try I read something to the effect of, "oh this stuff is amazing!" and find myself making purchased all over again. I will say all of the creams I've purchased, I've enjoyed.
I wish I would have started with a more aggressive razor. I feel I wasted too much money evolving through the mild ones to get where I should have started.
Great thread! Ok, I will play. If I started now
-I would have started with a Merkur closed comb DE, a Tabac and Proraso soap and a cheap quality synthetic brush. I started with EJ, Tabac, Proraso, and two cheap Omega boar brushes. So that was close.
-I would have gone directly to synthetic brushes, ignoring badger brushes. Luckily I only got two of these.
-I would have only bought Omega 10065, 98, and Proraso boar brushes. Not necessarily in this order.
-I would have never bought a second soap of the same brand, before becoming wiser about what I really like
-I would have avoided all soaps that come with an expensive bowl. For the above ^ reason, refill only please
-I would have completely ignored vintage razors sold at auction sites. Of the 6-7 I bought (and then sold), almost all were more or less worn out or unappealing to me. A mint NOS Gillette Tech with box that is still have is an exception. Luckily (for me, YMMV) I have steered well clear of Fatboys and other exotic (or not) vintage razors that were selling for a fortune a few years ago.
-I would have competely ignored chinese shaving razors and accessories sold online. I save the money everytime I have the impulse to buy a $5-$10 hardcore chinese stuff. I prefer to buy a quality product from a reputable seller later on.
Cheers :001_smile
Last edited:
I've not been at this hobby long enough to really comment yet, although I've been shaving since 1972 or so.

However, I really wish I'd only bought a couple razors, and while I enjoy the variety of soaps I have, I could easily shave forever with a 70's SS and Williams, using Astra SP or German Wilkinson blades. My most used brush is a cheap pure badger knot I bought from Penn State Industries in a handle I turned. Have a bunch of others, but use the cheap one or a boar in a nice osage orange handle I made, never seem to use the others.

The more I shave with a DE razor the more I'm convinced that there is far less difference between soaps, blades, and razors that is commonly thought, and technique is more important than anything else. Good wet lather, doesn't need to be very thick on your face, proper angle and razor usage with a sharp blade, you get a good shave every time. Once you learn to make proper lather and can get a good shave with a DE razor, you can use just about any razor, any decent blade, and just about any soap on the market without a huge difference. I'm quickly learning that while razors work differently, they give me a good shave once I figure that difference out.

Keep it simple and get a nice shave every day.....

Sooner or later I'll have to sell off a pile of razors.
Learn to trust your face.

I've probably been at this too long to give useful advice to new shavers. A lot of the advice on the board seems wrong for me. The only place that I completely agree with the consensus is that you need at least 2-3 minutes of prep.

Learning to shave seems a lot like learning to drive a car. There's hundreds of things to say to a new driver, and too much for the driver to remember, let alone actually make use of. And it's pretty much impossible to drive while keeping all of it in mind. You need time to internalize it and learn how to act and react. Eventually you go more by instinct and feel than thought and concentration.

And we all know YMMV.

When I shave, I let my face tell me what to do, and adapt on the fly. The main two guides are eliminating irritation and reducing the hair effectively. Sometimes, that means adjusting my lather after a few swipes or even stopping to toss my lather and start over, replacing the blade with a new one, switching to a different razor, maybe for just one pass or one small area, or even going back to square one to do more prep. While I have a general idea of which directions to move the blade during different passes, I don't have a set routine. Instead, I adjust constantly, depending on how my face feels. In some places, particularly around the chin and on parts of my neck, starting out somewhat ATG feels less irritating and gives better results. I never think in terms of perfect 90 degree angles or straight lines because my face isn't a perfect rectangle and the grain's never perfectly aligned anyway. The pass across my chin and jaw typically goes up and forward at the same time in a sort of spiral arc, roughly the same way a roller coaster takes a bottoming curve. Depending on the length of stubble and the place on my face, a more aggressive razor might make it easier to mow down the stubble, and other times it might be too irritating to get through, so I might choose to use a gentler razor and attack it with a few strokes at some gentle angle.

The key to all of this is learning to get immediate feedback from your face to limit any irritation that may accumulate during your shave. You also want to balance this with what's effective, since there's no sense in having no irritation if you're not cutting the hair. But your face isn't a big blob, so you want to do what's best for each part of your face. One part might be handled better with a very few passes with an aggressive razor, while another part might be best done with more gentler swipes, buffing, or one of the other advanced techniques. I think of the different parts of my face as cheek, jawline, under the jawline, adam's apple, sides of the adam's apple, sides of the neck, under the chin, the small of the neck, bottom of the chin, front of the chin, sides of the chin, mustache, cheeks near the mouth, lips, and finally the top line close to the eyes. Each of these needs its own approach.

So that's probably all too complicated for someone new to wetshaving to pick up quickly. The main points are to
  • let your face tell you what's right,
  • map your face in terms of roller coaster-like curved sections that feel different or need different techniques, and
  • be willing to experiment, stop, and go back in a heartbeat.
Aside from the obvious zen or gestalt approach, where I depart most from the conventional wisdom is in mapping a face as a set of curved surfaces instead of flat sections. The familiar techniques all apply, and they're really quite similar, except the blade flows over curves instead of straight lines.

One small tip is to keep your face constantly wet from when you first start your prep through the end of the shave, unless you need to dry it quickly to apply a preshave product. That means relathering each small section as you shave it instead of leaving it dry through a full pass.

Finally, don't be afraid to make lather the way that works for you. This might be dryer or wetter, puffier or more paste-like than what satisfies some average person. It also might vary depending on the product you're using. It even varies during a shave, with a lot of people going to a wetter lather as the shave progresses.
Is it old? Yes. Is it some of the best advice I have read yet? You betcha.
If I had to start over again...I probably would not change much except when I caught a bad case of RAD...I was obsessed with collecting razors thru EBay which was very expensive. A collector friend of mine also recommended that if you are going to collect anything...collect the best quality items that fits your budget and avoid ending up too much junk. Eventually you will want better quality in your collection.
Some excellent advice throughout this thread.

I guess I wish they had never invented them cartridge razors and consequently I wish I hadn't jumped on that wagon back in the mid '90s. So, the first thing I would've done differently would be not to put away my 1950's Gillette butterfly DE, which was my very first razor, when I started shaving (late '80s).

Since I've got back to wet shaving a few years ago, (after a lot of trial and error) this is what I'm now using, with great satisfaction and regular DFS / BBS.

Razor - Mühle R41 Grande, R89 head (rarely used)
Blades - Feather, Persona
Brush - Mühle mid-size silver tip badger
Creams - don't use them anymore, I prefer soaps.
Soap - Proraso red, white
Pre-shave - Proraso red, white
Aftershave - Proraso red (splash), Proraso white (balm), Davidoff Cool Water splash AS (mixes good with Proraso white soap's scent)

My tip to any newcomers would be (ideally) only shave after a long shower or bath and even then spend 10 minutes on face prep. Nothing softens the hair and moisturizes the skin as water itself, so a warm shower is absolutely essential, at least IMHO. After that, massage in a pre-shave for about 2 minutes. Then leather up your face with tick, creamy leather and let it there for another 3-5 minutes. I don't do wet hot towels, but if you can/want, it certainly doesn't hurt. Now, re-leather and off you go.

Getting that BBS will take time, as with acquiring any new skill. YMMV of course. So, to achieve it, there will be nicks and cuts along the way and razor burn and irritation. Eventually it'll all fall into place. Given you're not trying to shave with a rusty spoon, but properly honed SE or sharp blade DE and have prepped your face thoroughly, the technique matters more than anything else. And mastering a technique takes time, as to get that mirror-glass smooth, you'll need to learn the J-hooks, the buffing and the guillotine / slicing techniques. These will definitely leave their mark on your face, but nothing that won't be gone in a day or two :001_smile


Goose Poop Connoisseur
I have seen many sore faced newbies surfing into the B&B, watching their progress through the various and sundry 'ADs is a fairly predictable event.
Without a doubt, the more seasoned and experienced members have some clear preferences for type and style of products and hardware that they enjoy.

The greatest resource that we have here at the B&B is the experience and depth of knowledge that we share so freely.
This post is an attempt at short cutting some time and expense for the fledgling wetshaver.

If you have been wetshaving for two years or more, have tried a broad range of products, have a clear preferences or favorite setup, please post. All members are free to comment and ask questions.

Photos encouraged!
I’ve been shaving for over 55 years and if I could do it over, I would have used a straight razor instead of waiting until I was 68 years old. My wish is that the DE had never been invented.
Hand myself a stick of Arko, would have saved myself a lot of irritation from using Van Der Hagen which while better than anything else I used up to that point wasn’t as good as Arko for me. Also would have handed myself an alum block too, also would have helped a lot.

Beyond that I’m still using the Lord L6 razor, Astra SP blades (after testing a few brands), witch hazel, and the same bowel I got in the $10 van Der Hagen shave kit. All of which I got when I begin DE shaving, I’ve just added Arko, smaller boar brush, and an alum block latter to the mix.

My tip, master what you have instead of trying to master everything. But be willing to change if its not working. Technique > Gear

Also if you have sensitive skin, shave one section of your face and reapply lather immediately. This maximizes the time it’s lathered and thus moisturized and exposed to all that good stuff in our shave soaps which from my experience reduces the irritation.

My ideal routine:
Shower (if possible)
Lather, leave on for a few minutes
Reapply Lather
Shave Section + Reapply lather to that section immediately
Repeat last step as needed for desired passes
Alum block
Witch hazel
What would I do differentl?

1. Buy the EJ89 as my FIRST razor - took me awhile to finally pick it up, almost as a joke, only to find it’s my perfect daily driver
2. Not be seduced by the nostalgia around vintage Gillette adjustables and open combs - they all sit in a display cabinet now and I believe are vastly overrated - and overpriced
3. Also not be conned into the “price equals quality” snobbery when it comes to soaps/creams. I’ve tried the crazy priced “blessed by monks and kissed by virgins” soaps and for me they still don’t compare to Proraso Green.
4. Not bother with synthetic brushes and buy a Simpson CH1 much, much sooner.
5. Ask a question like the OP has on day 1 of the journey.
Razor - Razorock Teck 2, started with a parker 97 that was way to aggressive for my boat, got a few vintage techs that suit me fine and tried the razorock as a natural progression, works for me
Blades - Polsilver SI, I have about 180 blades, Astra Wilkinson sword and derby all work for me, I tend to mix them up and not worry about what I have loaded
Brush/es - I prefer synths and run two omega S brushes
Creams - started with ToBS but suffered with irritation so moved to soap after a member here told me about haslinger and MWF
Soaps - Pucks, haslinger (sheepsmilk, marigold seaweed and my favourite aloe Vera), MWF, Razorock Aqua and just trying out goodfella smile Shibusa
soaps - sticks Arko, Tabac I started bowl lathering but now face lather

things I have learnt, don’t worry about BBS, face Lathering is a lot less bother, a quality item does not mean expensive, if it works for you it’s quality.
I would have read the 3017 thread before hoarding an obscene number of soaps and creams.

Bought a Semogue/Omega boar as a first brush.

Stayed content with the Aristocrat my grandfather left me.
I have NO regrets.
For me, life is a series of "Adventures!" An Adventure takes both effort and sacrifice.
It is exciting and provides a life giving source.
The trip of discovery has been wonderful and entertaining.
And now, in these perilous times, it provides comfort and peace and the delight of my own efforts and trials.
I think that the joy of your own findings outweighs all.
I like this topic.

I just started using a safety razor. This is what I put together for my starter kit.

Pre shave oil I am using American Shaving Pre-Shave Oil - Sandalwood Barbershop Scent. This is my first pre shave oil. I am not sure if it works better than coconut oil or not, but I like that it has argan and jojoba oil which I think is good for the skin. I like that it is lightly scented. I do not care for strong scents they tend to make me sneeze. I think it is a good price it comes in a two ounce pump bottle for about $15.00

I am using the rocky mountain barber company (best?) badger brush. This is my first shaving brush I have nothing to compare it to. I bought it because it is inexpensive and is a badger hair brush. On the web it is advertised as a best badger brush but the box it came in does not mention ‘best”. The brush feels a little bit prickly on the face. It is in the breaking in process. I think any brush company can grade the badger hair anyway they want. Its not like I can call the badger hair police.

For a shaving soap I have a puck of Pre De Provence Bergamot & Thyme. I am still learning how to make a decent lather. I have been trying bowl lathering. I have hard water and a new badger brush there is a learning curve. The soap has a clean soap smell it is not offensive. It is shea butter enriched; the first time I used it my wife noticed right away. She never said anything when I used Barbasol. I have Barbosal, Cremo and TOBS (on order) for a back up should my lathering not be up to snuff.

I bought an EJ DE89lbl safety razor. It seems everyone says it is a good starter razor. It will be a good base line for comparison should I want to change razors.

I have a sampling of premium blades I have only used the Derby extra so far. Nothing to compare to yet.

I am using Osma alum block and Nivea sensitive shave balm.

That’s it that’s my starter kit.
I'd have bought a vintage Gillette Tech to start with, and used a cream like Taylor of Old Bond Street rather than Edge Gel and Barbasol. (Nothing wrong with Barbasol, though; I use it now and then.) Some Clubman Pinaud powder on the face and throat would have been a good idea too.