Problems facing new wet shavers

Discussion in 'Shave School' started by PLANofMAN, Jun 6, 2012.

  1. PLANofMAN

    PLANofMAN Eccentric Razor Collector Staff Member

    Moderator Article Team
    You looked online for other options to try besides the expensive cartridges. You found two trains of thought. "Cheaper" and "Better Shave." So now you want to try wet shaving, and after a few months of reading up on the subject, decided to join our forum to ask a few questions of your own.

    The floodgates opened! Suddenly you were inundated with a torrent of advice, some of it contradictory. "try this", "no try this", "do this or that," Why is there so many different opinions? you wonder.

    Each and every shaver is different. Different skin, different hair growth, sensitivities, allergies, warts, moles, different directions of hair growth and different techniques for shaving that hair off. I haven't even gone into different pre-shave preperations, tools for shaving, or post shave care. What works for one person might not work for you. We say that a lot in the The Shave Den Forum, though we usually shorten it down to YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary).

    Other things are good advice and should be followed by every new wet shaver. GDCarrington advises all new wetshavers to stick with one setup for 30 days.
    1 razor
    1 brand of blade
    1 brush
    1 type of soap or cream
    1 aftershave
    At the end of that time, you change one thing and repeat the process. "Does this actually work?" You wonder. The answer to that is a shrug and "YMMV." Within a week, even new shavers can tell whether a blade is going to work for them or not. Within a few hours to a few days new shavers can tell if they are allergic to something in the soap or cream. The only addition I would make to the above advice is to have two of everything but the brush and razor (and maybe them as well). Not two of the same thing of course, but two different blade brands, two different brands of soap or creams, etc. Only because of the possibility of allergies or blade intolerance. So why the month restriction? It gives you time to learn technique before changing up stuff. For an analogy, imagine you just joined a football team. You know nothing about football. You struggle into your gear, ready for your first practice, only to be told there's a game tonight and you are part of the starting lineup.

    O.K., so that might be a little extreme. Football isn't like shaving. Much...

    Good results come from practice and repetition. Not changing your inital setup for thirty days and only changing it slowly after that is where the repetition comes in. I know you want to try new stuff. I've been there. luckily I was broke and unemployed so I was forced to use what I had and develop good technique. Now I switch razors, creams, soaps, blades and aftershaves on a daily basis. But, I shaved with a 60's Gillette super speed and the same type of cream with the same brush for over a year. I learned technique. More importantly I learned it to the bone. Muscle memory and all that. I can shave half asleep and with my eyes closed. (I don't recommend this, shaving should be fun!)

    When we throw out terms like WTG, XTG, ATG, you should know that we are talking about the direction of facial hair growth. "With the grain," "Across the grain," and finally "Against the grain." When you are just starting out, limit yourself to two passes with the grain. If your hair grows downward, only shave in a downward direction. Your shave might not look as good as you want it to at this point, but whats important is that you get a comfortable shave with no irritation. Let your face get used to this new method of shaving, then try across the grain. Don't feel bad if you can't handle against the grain shaving, many of us can't, including me. I've found that after wet shaving for years, I can do one against the grain pass once a week with only minor irritation and burning. Anything more than that and I start to get ingrown hairs and razor burn, which is why I started wet shaving in the first place. Neolithium uses the following technique that has worked well for some shavers.
    "I can't afford the good stuff." We know that. We also know that you may not continue to wet shave or continue contributing on this forum. This is why most of us make an effort to recommend to new shavers razors that are reasonably priced, creams and soaps that sell for no more than $15 and if you have the extra money to go with the better brush. "Why the Brush? Isn't the razor the important thing?" Well, frankly, no. The difference between an expensive razor and a cheap one is often miniscule. The blades are the most important part of the razor and they are dirt cheap. The difference between a good brush and a bad brush is huge. Notice that I said "good" and "bad" not "expensive" and "cheap." Good brushes can be had for under $20. Bad ones can be expensive. When it comes to brushes, research the brushes, ask questions, and read reviews before you purchase. Remember the price difference between an excellent top of the line boar brush and an average badger brush might be pennies. If you want to know more about the different types of shave brushes, this is a link to my brush sticky, "The Brush: Basic Information Everyone Should Know" in the "Brush" section of this forum. Here is a comprehensive guide to producing good lather. This is an excellent link that will get you started with your new brush.

    "Yes, the brush makes a difference in the quality of the SHAVE! The SHAVE is not just the sum of lather and blade. The SHAVE is comfort and meditation and scent and even sound. The SHAVE is not just a utilitarian beard reduction - it is a sensual ballet; a synergistic interaction of disparate components whose sum is so much greater than the parts. The SHAVE is meditative - and the brush is an indispensable part of this dance. The right brush is the one that appeals in the moment, and it will change over time, only to come full circle again. Some things are meant to be analyzed... some things are just meant to be experienced and appreciated. Never settle for thin and sufficient if your heart longs for abundance!
    Doubt me on this? Tell me - why do you own so many soaps and creams and aftershaves? For the shear innocent sensuality of it! Indulge your SHAVE!"

    Every razor has a blade that works best in it for you. Your combo may be different than mine. Every blade will give you a close shave, the difference that you are looking for is which will give you a comfortable shave. Your job is to find the sharpest blade that will give you the smoothest shave. It really is a trade off, the sharper a blade is, the more likely it is to give you irritation, weepers, and cuts. The duller a blade is, the more likely you are to get tugging, pulling and dragging. Most blades have some sort of coating to smooth out the edges of the blade. Usually a form of Teflon or a platinum coating. We can recommend blades until we are blue in the face, but that does not mean it is the best blade for you. I have found exactly one other person, out of the hundreds in this forum that I interact with on a regular basis, that has the exact same taste in blades as I do. We like the same blades and hate the same blades. Each person is different.

    At this point you are probably wondering what particular razor or brush or blade I recommend. You won't find that in this post. You have hundreds of threads in this forum that have many different shaver's answers to those questions. You also have a core group of hundreds of wet shavers in this forum who are willing and ready to answer questions. And no, there are no "Stupid" questions. Even if it's something blindingly obvious to most of us here, it may not be to you or other new wet shavers looking for help and advice in this forum.

    If you are wondering what the best way to ask questions and advice is, this thread is the most ideal newbie thread I have ever seen: If you are looking for a happy ending for him, you won't find it there. With luck he figured out what needs to change, but in the meantime, that thread has helped many other people. This is a perfect example of how advice given can give you the tools you need to become a better shaver, but in the end, only you can improve your shave.

    I wish you the best as you embark on a journey that will change your life, one shave at a time.

    Edit: It's been a little over 8 years since I wrote this, and since I stickied this in my signature, I figured I would revisit this topic and see what, if anything, I would add. The answer- not much. I can shave against the grain on a daily basis on my neck these days. On the flip side, I usually only do one pass, plus touchups, these days. I attribute this to my gradual gravitation towards open comb razors that tend to be more efficient (aggressive), rather than any significant change in my shaving technique.

    I continue to maintain that comfort is more important than results. If you focus on getting a comfortable shave, results will follow. If you prioritize results over comfort, you will extend the learning curve far beyond what it ought to be.
    Last edited: Jul 4, 2020
    ginger_gin, Terry, Keithmax and 39 others like this.
  2. tomnat

    tomnat accepting applications

    Well said, Ryan.
    PLANofMAN likes this.
  3. Matt F

    Matt F Active Member

    Good post. I'm tempted to give DE shaving another try!
    PLANofMAN likes this.
  4. Smott

    Smott Chew your shave. Slowly.

    Nice, Ryan. From what you say, it would seem that money constraints might just be a benefit to those trying wet-shaving for the first time. This principle should apply to many hobbies and activities. I read once that there were social concerns with young people who left their parents' homes to start their own lives—they tried to furnish their new places with everything they enjoyed as children and youth. What they failed to realize was that their parents had struggled their entire lives to eventually settle in those comfortable circumstances. When it comes to wet-shaving, we are often impressed by the extensive dens of so many experienced shavers. We listen attentively to the recommendations as if we were building an undisputed task list we will check off as we seek "wet-shaving certification."

    Your post effectively communicated the crucial notion that those who have found greatest satisfaction in their shaving pursuits already paid the price for that satisfaction. They now say to us: "YMMV." That is to say, "Here's the journey I experienced. Over the many miles I traveled, these are the things I spotted along the way. Here are the items I picked up in my adventures. These worked well. These didn't work well. Keep at it, you'll get there." How presumptuous of us to think that we can have everything they have without recording as many miles on our own odometers. And would we want it? Who wants a list of souvenirs to buy from a convenience store? I want any memorabilia I acquire to mark the experiences that came with it!

    The route we travel may vary. Our mileage may vary. But our miles seldom vary. If we pace ourselves, though, we'll get there.

    Thanks, Ryan, for the great insights.
    Joef, BWBarber, ohpaos and 5 others like this.
  5. PLANofMAN

    PLANofMAN Eccentric Razor Collector Staff Member

    Moderator Article Team
    Matt, if this encourages you to start wet shaving again or more importantly, to get a nice comfortable, enjoyable shave, it was worth it. I was trying to post something that if not sticky worthy, would at least be good enough to be moved to the articles section of the forum. This is an issue that gets overlooked because we either talk about it too much, or we don't talk about it enough. I don't want to see young or new shavers get discouraged because they don't have the latest DE whisker whacker. If blade X in razor X with soap X and brush X worked every time for every person we wouldn't have a massive variety of blades, razors, soaps, creams, and brushes to choose from. Always remember, Technique is more important than Tools.
    ohpaos and burnout961 like this.
  6. GDCarrington

    GDCarrington Burma Shave

    True, I am the dispenser of the 30 day rule advice and every new shaver that has used that method has realized that technique is something that cannot be mastered in a day.
    The temptation of using new stuff too early is the reason why many budding traditional shavers quit too soon. If you follow that advice, you will be able to master the fundamentals. Then every thing else builds on top.

    Excellent write-up.
    wmbjr, Bill_F, ohpaos and 1 other person like this.
  7. Slipperyjoe

    Slipperyjoe Rusty Metal Tetanus

    You've written some valuable ideas here. I think the whole YMMV thing comes with the territory as everybody is a little different and the advice given on TSD is done largely with the intention of making the learning process easier and less confusing. In Shaving as in life in order to accomplish the task, one must gain one's own experience and gather one's own millage is the way of things..:yoda
  8. burpsan

    burpsan Well-Known Member

    I second the advice about 2 different blades, soaps/cream, and brushes when starting out. 30 days on a blade or soap/cream that's not working may just terminate a new wetshavers hobby before even getting off the ground. Out of two recommended items, one or both is bound to work well.
    PLANofMAN likes this.
  9. Larry Stephenson

    Larry Stephenson Active Member

    Good advice, and very well said. I can agree totally in that a straight razor shave is a very personal, zen-like experience, and I’m already discovering my own preferences (a few months old for me).

    Also, excellent advice on the brush. My first straight razor shave consisted of me applying a home-made shaving soap by rubbing the end of the bar across my face and massaging & lathering the soap by hand into my beard. This certainly worked, but it wasn’t until I used a good brush (with the same soap at that time) to make a lather that my hand couldn’t, and found that the brush application technique matters, as well.

    Being an evening bather and a morning shaver, I had to spend extra attention on shaving prep, letting me know what works best for softening my beard without the added benefit of a steamy shower. Another immediate revelation to me was how little pressure I should apply to achieve superior results; made me suspect that a lot of novices apply way too much pressure which could account for much of the skin irritation and nicks experienced first time shavers.

    This site is a wonderful asset in my new journey. Glad I found TSD. Thanks, guys.
    Bill_F and PLANofMAN like this.
  10. FacialCarnage

    FacialCarnage Well-Known Member

    Well said, I enjoyed reading that.
    PLANofMAN and Larry Stephenson like this.
  11. ewaynedodson

    ewaynedodson Well-Known Member

    Very helpful post!
    PLANofMAN likes this.
  12. bigmac53

    bigmac53 Well-Known Member

    Nice post, great advice.
    PLANofMAN likes this.
  13. PLANofMAN

    PLANofMAN Eccentric Razor Collector Staff Member

    Moderator Article Team
    I posted this elsewhere, but felt I should include it here as well. This is what I consider to be my favorite shaving setup for a luxurious shave. It does not include Aftershaves or strongly scented soaps or creams. I posted this as an example of how a low-end setup can be better or equal to the most expensive combinations of brushes, blades, soaps, creams and razors out there. These are my personal favorites, and doesn't include some items that I love to use but are incredibly hard to find unless you are really lucky or have large wads of cash. This is not for everyone, but most people would find it hard to better this list for the same amount of money.

    "My idea of a premium shave set is probably not what most would expect. Especially since I have a kit I could put together that would run about $400, maybe a bit more. If you are going for the absolute best quality and shaving experience, you can do it for much less.

    Mitchell's Wool Fat with ceramic container, $38. Refills, $18
    Figaro or Barbon (The Hungarian shave cream, not the Italian Soap. $3.99 They are out of Figaro at the moment, which I find a bit distressing. (Edit: I now buy Figaro shave cream online from eBay).
    The Real Shaving Co. 2X Moisturizing Shave Cream $4.99 Also sold in store, so if you have a local Rite-Aid...
    The Body Shop Maca Root Shaving Cream 16.00 Worth paying full price for, but often found with a buy one get one type deal.
    Astra Superior Platinum 100 blades $8.97 + free shipping The price goes up and down daily, but is always under $10.00
    Semogue Boar brush.
    Whipped Dog Badger brush
    H.I.S. Shaving Brush $34.95
    Shake Sharp razor, if you can find one. $30-50
    Gillette Slim Adjustable $20-40
    Gillette Fatboy (also called the Gillette 195 Adjustable) $40-60
    Both of these are on eBay and other online auction sites. You can also put a "Want To Buy" in the Forum classifieds.

    If you bought everything listed here and one of the razors, (and I provided links for everything but the razors) plus shipping, you would be looking at a setup for just under $200 that would last you for about a year to a year and a half. The Mitchell's Wool Fat Shaving Soap puck by itself will last almost a year.

    I would also pick up a suribachi dish to lather in. a 5 inch one will cost about $15."

    Again, I post this as an example of a fairly low priced entry setup, with a fairly high end vintage razor.
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2015
    Bill_F, Lothar101 and ohpaos like this.
  14. PatrickA51

    PatrickA51 Well-Known Member

    Very well written Ryan. Thank You, interesting read.
    PLANofMAN likes this.
  15. 178-bplatoon

    178-bplatoon Well-Known Member

  16. Draftetdan

    Draftetdan Active Member

    "utilitarian beard reduction"
    This is my new favorite quote.
    great post
    PLANofMAN likes this.
  17. NTR

    NTR Well-Known Member

    I’m new here, and have read a TON already. So much good advice in TSD. Your very simple advice, however, may be the most valuable: don’t chase the BBS to start, just get a comfortable WTG shave with no irritation. This excellent advice, combined with finally “getting” the “ride the cap” concept resulted in my most comfortable shave yet this morning. No alum sting. No redness. Just a “no blood, no sting” shave. I’ve had smoother, but this one was a revelation. Even on day 3 of the Big Ben stainless blade, which I’m sure isn’t all that great but certainly adequate.

    I am really struggling to dial in my B&M Dickens soap. I feel I’m usually too dry or too wet, not getting the right slickness. Face lathering mostly, but I’m going back to the bowl tomorrow to see what I can do.

    Thanks! And glad to be here.
  18. pisces_0

    pisces_0 Well-Known Member

    This right here is the lightbulb clicking on!

    Pretty cool when it all comes together, huh?
  19. PLANofMAN

    PLANofMAN Eccentric Razor Collector Staff Member

    Moderator Article Team
    I'm not a fan of Big Ben blades. With that out of the way, don't be afraid to practice making lathers. If the lather is too wet, keep working the puck. You'll end up with extra lather, but that's not really a big deal. It's easier to compensate for too wet lather than dry lather in my experience.

    The puck will also absorb some water the more it is used, making subsequent lathers easier. Just something to keep in mind.
    RyX, brit and Frijolero like this.
  20. NTR

    NTR Well-Known Member

    Agree about the Big Bens. Nothing special that I can tell, but I’ve been trying to go by the 30 day rule and use the same blade.

    Today I said “shine”. It was 2 degrees out and I busted out my Cryogen sample. Proraso green preshave and post shave balm as well, with the Crogen in the middle. Damn, but my eyes really did start watering. I couldn’t believe it. But I had a magnificent 4 pass shave (using Merkir 34c) with no irritation to speak of and damn near BBS. Some redness in the neck, but no burn, so I’m not sure about that.

    So far, I prefer my Chisled Face sample soaps to my big tub of B&M Dickens. I may set that aside for awhile. I ordered a bunch of the CF sample AS today too. And a non menthol pre shave. Digging everything so far.

    Since I’m off the 30 day, maybe I go feather blade next? Or Astra?
    brit and Frijolero like this.

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