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What works for me...


Moderator Emeritus
Within my profession it is a common practice to frequent conventions for the purpose of hearing how others solve like problems. When going to one of these conventions, it is not with the intention of making a wholesale change to my own practices but to find an idea or a tweak that I can implement into my own existing procedure/plan that will contribute to a better solution. Additionally, hearing of others’ failures can help me to prevent making like mistakes. In the grand scheme of things, this is the same premise on which our message board operates.

Keeping these things in mind, the following information pertains to how I solve my shaving issues. These are certainly not the only solutions or ideas that will work, and it is just as likely that they are not the best available solutions either. They are, however, the concepts and practices that have worked best for me up to this point, and in sharing them, I hope that I can provide some of you with ideas that differ from your current practices and prove intriguing enough to warrant your own experimentation.

At one time, I believed myself to be uniquely plagued with an extremely coarse beard and terribly sensitive skin. After being a member of this board (and others) for quite some time, I’ve come to realize that a majority of men believe this about themselves and the reality of the situation is such that many of us have very coarse beards and contrastingly sensitive skin. We are, in fact, only unique in this when compared to pre-pubescent boys or women. The mere facts that this message board has the number of members that it does and that this number is growing at a very rapid rate is proof that many gents have whiskers that are difficult to remove without suffering irritation of the underlying skin.

The truth of the situation is that I have a coarse, thick, darkly colored beard and my skin gets irritated when I drag a razor across it too many times without adequate lubrication or attention to pressure.

It would appear that the most popular school of thought leans toward showering before one shaves. This is not, however, a practice that I subscribe to. After completing my third or fourth DE shave, I thought to try showering after my shave. This was not a stroke of genius that I came to after much deliberation, it was simply a reactive measure taken to encourage the cessation of blood flow before departing for work in the mornings. For this cause, it works beautifully.

As I became a more experienced shaver and blood became a less frequent side effect of the morning ritual, I experimented with showering before the shave. In my very non-scientific findings, I discovered that showering first did not contribute to as good of a shave as waiting and opting for the post-shave shower. It could have something to do with the presence or removal of natural skin oils or it could be a horrible trick played on me by my twisted mind. Whatever the fault, I don’t shower before I shave.

My prep consists of holding a hot moist towel over the area to be shaved for 2-3 minutes. I use hot water from the tap and will “refresh” the towel in the sink bowl every 30-45 seconds until I have reached the aforementioned 2-3 minute mark. The only additional prep work that I will ever perform is the addition of some Proraso Pre/Post shave cream.

When I first began this fabulous journey that is wet shaving, I was a build-the-lather-on-the-face zealot. I viewed using a bowl as cheating and as a copout for weak and incapable people. While loading my brush with soap one morning and on a complete whim, I grabbed my empty coffee mug (the big bowl-like cup of joe style mug), rinsed it out and began making swirls. Before I knew it, I was giggling like a schoolgirl and slinging globs of lather around the bathroom like it was going out of style. Since this day, I have never looked back.

I love the control that a lather bowl gives. It is much easier to manipulate the water component and to properly agitate a more stubborn medium. Certainly, the diameter and depth of the bowl are important in finding a proper lather vessel, but to some degree, the final preferences will be individual.

When looking at the qualities of a good or even great lather, it is important to remember that many of your personal criteria are not universally necessary traits. The only thing that lather must do to be considered a success is to be lubricating enough to provide a skilled wet shaver with an irritation free shave (of course an allergy to said product negates its ability to perform in a satisfactory manner). Other desires filled or not filled by a particular product are the highly subjective traits that pertain to an individual’s personal preferences

As a side note, one method that I employ for testing the quality of my lather is that of rubbing it between index finger and thumb. This will give you immediate feedback as to a lather’s performance potential.

Indeed this is something that I think is horribly overlooked by new and old wet shavers alike. A proper razor grip can provide a quick solution to those who struggle with the issue of too much pressure. By using a two or three-fingered grip on the tip of the handle, one can maintain excellent control of the razor and razor angle while retarding their ability to apply pressure.

Razor angle and razor pressure are the two most difficult components in wet shaving to consistently master. Additionally, these two things become increasingly difficult when you move from the planes of the cheeks to the hills and valleys of the neck. Practice, practice, practice is the only thing that can earn the angle and pressure merit badges.

Not surprisingly, these two elements are not at all independent of one another. I find that improving one will automatically encourage the improvement of the other. Perhaps the most important tool in conquering these foes is to understand that as men, when faced by opposition of a stubborn whisker, or posse of whiskers, our natural response is the old “I’ll show you, you stubborn little…” attitude. When faced with a stubborn problem, avoid violence. Attack the issue, or whiskers in this scenario, from a different angle of approach until you emerge the victor.

Like many of you, while performing my due diligence in wet shaving research, I ran across the ever-popular cut sheets. For a beginning wet shaver, I believe these to be an invaluable tool. They are not the final answer in wet shaving, but they are a terrific guide for the inexperienced and can get you some very good shaves while you are figuring out the intricacies that best suit your individual hair growth patterns.

For the longest time, I performed shaving passes from N-S, ear-to-chin, jaw-to-nose, and S-N. This was followed by some touch and cut where I utilized a pressure-blading technique. This series of passes provided many a good shave. It has been quite recently, however, that I’ve added another pass to this regime, which has dramatically changed the resulting shave and for the better. The change of which I speak is a pure E-W or ear-to-nose pass that has been inserted as the third pass. Instituting this little miracle has caused the S-N pass to be only necessary in a few select areas and with an incredibly light, almost negative pressure touch. Additionally, the touch and cut is now rarely necessary. This change up has resulted in a higher percentage of A+ shaves while nearly eradicating instances of even slight razor burn or even sensitivity.

I doubt that there is anything I do in the process of a shave that is truly unique or original. Perhaps the way that I’ve paired some of the building blocks is different or new, but everything I do is essentially something that I picked up from another member here at B&B.

To those of you gentlemen who have forged the path ahead of me and left behind the map and the trail to the nirvana or Zen that you have found, I say thank you.
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A new bible for the novice wet shaver, as well as the hopelessly impractical (i.e me.) Great post Kyle.
Great post indeed! Kyle, posts like this one are the reason why B&B is such a great resource. Thanks for the time, thought and energy that must have been invested in this post.
Definately great info. The part about holding the razor is very easily overlooked. I know, I learned the hard way. Thanks for sharing!


Moderator Emeritus
Kyle, great post. I confer the advanced degree of Doctorate in Shaving Science! Well done.
Good post. I especially like the point about holding the razor, I hold it much closer to the head and sometimes find myself applying too much pressure. I will try your technique next shave to see if it helps me.


BRAVO-well done! another valuable resource for the neophyte beard buster!

May I ask how long that took to write?
Thank you and particularly with regards to the Holding the Razor portion of your article. That runs counter to the way I have been holding my razors. I'm becoming more comfortable holding them but my grip is much closer to the head. Your grip leaves me thinking that there would be less control.

I will experiment with your technique this week.
Just remember, the blades are plenty sharp enough to do their jobs, so focus on using "negative pressure" and your shaves will improve.

Great read. I was interested in the part about prepping the face and the way you hold the razor. Good work. I will consider these techniques in my first shave.
Your post is GREAT. This post should be saved and emailed or PM'ed to every newbie who askes how to get started. Even though I am a shower shaver I agree with your hot towel prep being so important if one doesn't shave in the shower. Good job Kyle.

Tony Espo
Great post.. thanxs.. will try "your" way of holding the razor next time. I have noticed that I am putting a little to much pressure on the razor and maybe this will helpo me
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