Alright, gents. Ready to shirk modern luxuries like aerosol and multiple blades and, like your pop and gramps before you, master the art of the wet shave? Traditional shaving has many benefits including less facial irritation, cost savings in the long run, and, of course, a smoother, cleaner shave. Plus, nothing beats that musky man pride and satisfaction that comes with taking your shave by the (single) blade.
Of course, one of the primary barriers to entry when it comes to wet shaving is the necessity of gathering supplies. Thankfully, you don’t need a whole lot to transition over to wet shaving. But what supplies do you need, and how to how do you choose the best wet shaving supplies? Glad you asked. Here, we’ve put together a list of essential items in a shaving kit for wet shaving.
Water – We’ll start with the free one. Splashing your face with water is the first essential step in wet shaving (you may have guessed that already, you genius, you). Water cleans dirt and other debris from your face, softens your hair and lubricates your pores, laying the groundwork for a great shave. Water also is used to whip up your soap or cream into a proper lather.
Shaving Soap or Cream – One of the most essential items in a shaving kit for wet shaving. Shaving soaps and creams, when worked into a fine lather, soften hair on the face and protect your skin from razor cuts and burns.
Most beginners find creams easier to use, as creams contain more moisture and are easier to work up into a later. If you spring for a cream, aim for a traditional artisan shaving cream that contains soothing natural ingredients such as aloe vera, shea butter, and natural oils.
If you opt for soap, keep in mind that it may take you some time to learn a lathering technique that works for you. It may also take a little longer to work up a longer than you’re used to. There is a wide selection of shaving soaps to select from, but many wet shavers find triple-milled soaps produce the most luxurious and satisfying shaving experience.
In either case, purchase a soap or cream of high quality, as this step in wet shaving is essential to protecting your face from irritation.
Brush – Your shaving brush is the tool you will use to create lather. When it comes to your first brush, more expensive is not necessarily better. Lathering is a skill that can be learned using almost any brush, and it is a skill that should be mastered before you invest in a high-end brush. That said, shaving brushes differ in the type of bristle or hair that is used to make them, the most common of which are boar, badger, horse hair, and synthetic bristle. First-timers are advised to begin with a boar bristle brush, which is durable, long-lasting, and improves over time as the bristles are broken in with use.
In terms of shape, a bulb or fan shaped brush is a good place to start. You want the bristles of the brush (the “knot”) to be dense and firm. A decently dense knot will produce a good lather, whereas a loosely packed knot or otherwise floppy brush will fail to produce the results you want. The size of your brush should correspond directly with the size of your face. Smaller faces can do well with smaller brushes, but a larger face may require a larger brush. A good rule general size for a novice is a 20-24mm boar brush.
Lastly, your brush’s handle should be a factor in your purchasing decision. Brushes come with all kinds of handles—wood, metal, stone, synthetic, etc. Wood is the traditionally preferred option. Handled carefully and stored correctly, a wood handle shouldn’t split or crack. Synthetic handles can work well, but keep in mind that hollow synthetic handles will not be as comfortable to use. A brush’s handle isn’t just aesthetics—the handle provides weight to the brush, providing better balance.
Razor – Your razor, obviously, is the pièce de résistance in your wet shaving kit. So don’t be a cheapskate.
Despite the barrage of advertising trying to convince you otherwise, today’s modern multi-blade marvels don’t necessarily have advantages over the traditional razor. A single blade straight razor is traditional for a reason—it’s simple and it works well without causing irritation. It also looks pretty impressive.
A single blade straight razor may be a bit intimidating for some. Beginners and those unsure about a straight razor may want to opt for a safety razor. Safety razors are easy to use, take up little space, and can provide a really nice shave. One benefit of a safety razor is that you can experiment with different types of blades, until you find the one that’s right for your skin. Conversely, this is also a downside, as blades must be replaced regularly.
When it comes to razors, price and quality does matter. A top shelf razor may even run up to a few hundred dollars in cost. That said, a razor is a lifetime purchase. A LIFETIME, good sir. A good razor should last you not just years, but decades. However, your best bet if you’re just starting out with wet shaving is to invest in a moderately priced razor. You can always upgrade later.
When selecting a razor, be sure the razor blade locks tightly into the razorhead. There should be no blade movement as you move the razor, nor any sound. The length and weight of your razor matter, too. In terms of length, pick whatever feels most comfortable in your hands. When it comes to weight, your razor should be weighty. The idea with a razor is to let the weight of the razor naturally do the shaving. You shouldn’t have to apply extra pressure on the razor when it’s on your face—if you have to do so, your razor is too light. On the opposite end, steer clear of a safety razor that’s too heavy, as well, as this will put your shaving off balance.
Aftershave – Aftershave is essential for soothing and closing pores after a shave, and patting on the stuff makes for a refreshing end to your routine. The grand finale, if you will. Aftershaves typically come in liquid or balm form. Balms are heavier feeling, and provide more moisture and irritation relief. They are ideal for those with dry skin or for those who live in cold and dry climates. Liquid aftershaves are splashed onto the face, and contain a combination of toners, astringents, and hydrosols that close pores and provide antiseptic protection. Liquid toners, otherwise known as “splashes,” are good for those with oily skin or those who live in hot climates.
Glyder – That’s right. You know who’s product page you’re on. For your nicks and cuts, use Glyder, an antihemorrhagic agent and the quickest way to stop bleeding. Aloe and natural moisturizers will have you smooth sailing the full day.