Be a Real Man and Learn How to Wet Shave Like Your Grandpa

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Proper shaving is a dying art in this age of plastic cartridge razors and shaving gel. Ugh. Nothing with the word gel in it should ever get near your face.

Most young guys today have no idea that all the supposed technological advancements touted by razor companies (five blades, moisture strips, etc.) don’t actually do anything to improve the quality of shave you get — they just pad the wallets of the guys running those companies.

The way your grandpa shaved — the traditional “wet shave” — is still the best way to shave. It gets you a closer shave with less irritation, it’s way cheaper than shaving with cartridges and it feels manly as hell. Win-win-super win.

It can take a week or two to learn how to do a proper wet shave, and you might get a few small cuts along the way, but it’s worth it. Just follow these steps and you’ll be shaving like a true gentleman before you know it:

1. Get the right gear

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In this earlier post, we implored you to stop buying disposable razor cartridges and we ran down a list of most of the items you need to for a wet shave. We’ll go into a bit more detail now. You’ll need a double-edge razor, a razor blade (these are sold in packs), some real shaving cream / shaving soap (this often comes in the form of a puck, but it can also come in a tube — and it definitely doesn’t come in an aerosol can), a shave brush to apply the lather (badger hair is best, but it’s okay to start with a cheaper boar hair brush), a bottle of witch hazel and a mug.

Some guys also like to buy a pre-shave lotion and some kind of aftershave or post-shave balm — we’ll leave that up to you, as those items aren’t essential. If you’re prone to the tiny pimples that some guys get on their faces and necks after shaving, it can be a good idea to buy some hydrogen peroxide (so you can sterilize all your equipment before and after use), too.

2. Soak it up

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Before you shave, you need to get your skin prepped. If you try to apply lather to dry, cool skin, you’re just asking for trouble — and a lot of blood.

If you can, take a long, hot shower before you shave. This will help open your pores and soften your beard hairs, making them easier to shave off. If a shower isn’t possible, hold a hot and wet towel up to your face and neck for a few minutes. Really let it soak in.

3. Slather that lather

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Now comes the fun part. If you have your shave soap puck in a mug, add a few drops of hot water, grab your shave brush and start to make a lather. If your cream comes in a tube, squirt a bit into a mug, add water and go to town. Get your whole body into it — a good lather takes some time and effort to make. If it’s too thick, add another drop or two of water.

When you’re satisfied with your lather, paint that stuff all over your face. Really work it in, using circular motions with the brush. Make sure all your skin and every beard hair is coated with the stuff.

4. Now comes the tricky part

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Take your double-edge razor and place it on your face. Just let it sit there for a moment. Then, change than angle of the razor so that the blade just barely touches your skin. Now, slowly, carefully, let it slide down your cheek. Don’t apply pressure. Just let gravity do the work. It will feel different than a multi-blade cartridge razor and it will sound louder, too (the sound is the hairs).

Do this all over your face, always letting gravity pull the razor toward the floor (going “with the grain” — the direction your hairs grow) and never pushing on your face. Use short strokes, making sure to rinse your blade in hot water every few seconds.

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Don’t try to get a smooth shave on the first pass. In a true wet shave, you’ll do multiple passes. When the first pass is done, lather up your face and neck a second time. This time, run the razor sideways across your face and neck (“across the grain”). Again, don’t apply pressure.

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For those new to wet shaving, two passes (one with the grain and one across the grain) is usually enough. It should give you a shave roughly equivalent to your old cartridge razor. When you feel ready to take things to the next level of closeness, you can introduce a third and final pass — strokes that move upward (“against the grain”). This final pass is what gives you that smooth-as-a-baby’s-bottom closeness only possible with wet shaving.

Got all that? Let’s go over it once more. First, do a pass “with the grain.” Then, do a pass “across the grain.” If that’s not close enough for you, do one final pass “against the grain.” Make sure you apply a healthy dose of lather before every pass and never, ever, press on your face with the razor.

Still don’t get it? Watch this video by shaving expert mantic59. He does a really good job explaining everything:

5. Get cleaned up

When you’re done with all the passes you want to do, rinse your face off with warm water and dry it with a clean towel. Then, rinse it again with cold water — this will close your pores up. Splash some witch hazel on your face (and tend to any small nicks or cuts) and you’re done. Sure, it takes a bit longer than the girly five-blades-and-aerosol-gel method, but your face and your wallet will reap the rewards.

Congratulations on shaving like a real man.

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2 Responses to Be a Real Man and Learn How to Wet Shave Like Your Grandpa

  1. The second pass should probably be across the grain, not against as you wrote above. In the photo you correctly wrote “across the grain” but the main text says “against the grain” for the second pass. Not a good idea!

    Otherwise, a good and informative article.

    • You’re absolutely right. It was an error in the post and it’s now corrected. Second pass should be across the grain.