Method Shaving, also called the Roberts Method of Wet Shaving (RMWS), is a system of products and shaving techniques developed by Charles Roberts. Through the products, called Hydrolast, and the techniques, Method Shaving purports to deliver an exceptionally close and comfortable shave while eliminating problems like ingrown hairs and skin blemishes. Method differs from traditional wetshaving in that standard items like soaps, creams, and brushes are not used. The technique also runs counter to the grain shaving system that most wetshavers use. While Method Shaving has a relatively small but dedicated user base, it has also proven controversial in the wetshaving community.
The Hydrolast line of products are designed to create a layer on the face (called "wet mix") that holds water to the skin. Rather than shaving through a lather of shaving cream or soap, the shaver cuts through the layer of water. The object of the products is to both keep the skin constantly hydrated and provide a layer of protection against the razor blade. The focus on hydrating the skin is intended to give a shave that is not only close but healthy for the face.
The essential products in Method Shaving are:
- The shaving cloth, which is used instead of a brush to create mix.
- Primer, a bar or block of soap that forms the main ingredient of the mix.
- Cutting balm, an oil that provides excellent protection and lubrication.
- Shaving paste, a thick mixture usually applied directly to the face for further protection.
There are other products in the Hydrolast system, but the four above are the basics needed for a Method shave. There is no standard razor or blade, though the Feather blade is recommended by Charles Roberts and is probably the most commonly-used blade in Method shaving. The Bic Platinum is also used by many shavers who need a milder blade.
Method Shaving has unique ways of both preparing to shave and shaving itself. Since it can be dense in technique, Method Shaving has a higher learning curve than standard wetshaving. The steps of the shave are also difficult to describe without photos or video. To combat this, there is a Youtube series that instructs new shavers. Charles Roberts is also known for his willingness to tutor shavers in RMWS techniques both in person and via phone or email.
Building the Mix
The shave starts by building the wet mix. Essentially, the primer soap is rubbed inside the cloth to create lather, to which cutting balm is added to add protection. The shaver pulls the mix from the cloth into his hand and uses that to apply to his face and shave. Paste and/or activator (a solution used to make the shave more aggressive) can be added either to the face or to the mix once it is in the hand. Building mix is not difficult but takes time getting used to. Viewing the Method Shaving Youtube videos is the best method to understand building the mix.
Shaving and the three forms
One the mix is built and spread on the face, the shaver begins reducing the beard. Unlike traditional shaving, Method shaving encourages reducing the beard quickly with long, smooth strokes and repeated passes. However, speed is not necessary to a good shave, particularly for beginners. The shave is done by following three patterns, or forms. They are:
- 1st Form - north to south
- 2nd form - diagonally downward from the outside of the face to the nose
- 3rd form - diagonally upward from the outside of the face to the nose
The forms are done in order, and multiple passes are done on each form until all areas of the beard are reduced to the shaver's satisfaction. Typically, the 1st form takes up most of the time. More advanced shavers can combine the 2nd and 3rd forms to perform "crossover cuts."
Another major change from standard wetshaving is that Method shavers are instructed to "pitch" or roll the blade forward as they cut instead of using a fixed wrist. This is another more advanced technique that is not strictly necessary but can provide better results for many shavers.
"Gloss finish" and post-shave
Method shaving is increasingly focused on the "gloss finish sequence," which takes place after beard reduction. In this stage, the shaver wets down his face, then applies a small amount of shaving paste (and, optionally, activator). This layer protects the face while allowing the blade to cut extremely closely. The shaver then cuts the beard using a combination of the 2nd and 3rd forms until all remaining patches of hair have been eliminated. Finishing balm is newer product made specifically to use once beard reduction of the first 3 forms has concluded, removing the paste and activator from the process. Worked into a wet down face, it provides the epidermis with nutrients that protect the skin from cuts and blade whipping, plus adding a "glossy look" to the shaver after this buffering stage in the shave. After the gloss finish, the shaver wets down the face again and then applies post-shave products. Hydrolast makes post-shave products in the form of a tonic spray and conditioning balm, but any products may be used.
While there is "by-the-book" Method Shaving technique, many shavers frequently experiment to adjust the results to their needs. Most commonly, shavers will change the products and amounts used in their mixes. Some shavers will ignore the three forms or will use some non-Hydrolast products in their shave. Method Shaving using a badger brush is also still practiced, despite "official" Method technique having moved to the shaving cloth. Like traditional wetshaving, Method Shaving is basically infinitely adjustable to the needs of each shaver's face.
Method Shaving terms
Method Shaving is sometimes described in terms coined by Charles Roberts. While the terms may be confusing or even off-putting to some, most have fairly simple explanations. The following is a partial glossary:
- buttress - the beard line
- floating steel - using no pressure and letting the razor glide across the face
- frequency - a term for razor blades that refers to how quickly they reduce the beard. For example, a Feather is a "high frequency" blade.
- shaving terrain - the face
- slag - plain lather from the primer
- stretching - reapplying wet mix to the face between passes
- substrate - the wet mix when applied to the face
- velocity - refers to the aggressiveness of a particular mix. The "faster" the mix, the more aggressive the shave.
- wet mix - also called just "mix," this is the lathered-up combination of soap, cutting balm, paste, and activator that is spread on the face while shaving.
Method Shaving has proven to be somewhat controversial in the wetshaving world. Some shavers claim that the Hydrolast brand is an ineffective money-making scheme, while others have criticized the use of jargon and the price of Hydrolast products.