Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Shaving Iconoclast

An iconoclast is one who questions cherished beliefs.

I guess I'm an iconoclast, and here are a few of the beliefs I've questioned in regard to wet shaving:
  • A wet shave should be done with warm to hot water. My experience has told me that not only is this not true, I believe that hot water removes oils from the skin that make it more dry and sensitive. There have been Internet videos with well-known guys (at least one, anyway) shaving with ice water. I myself prefer cool water right from the tap. It saves me running a lot of water down the drain waiting for it to run hot, and it doesn't wash away as much natural skin oils.
  • A hot shower or steaming, wet towel is best to prep the beard prior to a shave. Nah, it's about moisture, not temperature. Get your stubble saturated and it'll be fine. Really.
  • A good shaving soap has a deep lather that provides cushion for the blade against the skin. This is silly. You're cutting hair with a blade, not pole vaulting. Actually it's the slipperiness of the soap combined with water that makes for a smooth shave. Even a really good shave soap, if it isn't combined with sufficient moisture, isn't going to give a very good shave. In fact, on the other hand, I've gotten a reasonable standard shave (one pass, with grain) with no soap or lather -- just letting water from the shower rain on my beard as I shaved. (Okay, I don't do this often, but I've done it.) I do take standard shaves on occasion with just bath soap and water -- but no more than one pass.
  • A DE razor shaves better than two-, three-, four-, five-, six-, or seven-bladed modern designs. Well, a DE shave can be more economical, and more environmentally friendly, for sure. Opinions will vary on this one. For a standard shave (that is, one pass, with grain), multi-bladed cartridges may give a slightly better shave. For a really close and good shave, the DE holds its own in terms of closeness and (lack of) irritation -- that is, when properly used.
  • A three-pass shave, with grain, then across grain, and finally against grain, is the proper way to shave with a DE razor. Uh, no, there isn't a proper way to shave. It's what works best for the individual. Some guys (me, for example) can't do a three-pass shave every day or my face will eventually end up raw. I often do the equivalent of a two-pass-plus shave, but actually no longer do discreet passes. I use the regional uni-shave approach that I wrote about weeks ago.
  • You must always thoroughly clean, rinse, and dry your shave brush after your shave. Gee, don't think so. Ever since I first read the vintage Gillette advice from the 1920s that recommended not rinsing the soap out of one's brush, I pretty much haven't done so. I lather and then hang the brush upside down with the lather still in. Works fine, no problems, less soap required, brushes are doing fine, thanks very much.
  • Rubbing the beard with your shave brush while lathering exfoliates the skin. This is one of the silliest beliefs that seem to persist. This is a myth foisted on silly women from the "experts" in the beauty industry. Well, that is unless you lather with a sandpaper shave brush, or perhaps a loofa shave brush -- anybody use a wire wheel in an electric drill? None of these are recommended, but in those cases, yes, you are exfoliating as you lather. However, the good news for those of you who believe that you should exfoliate, well, you are exfoliating when you scrape that sharp metal thingy.... you know, the razor blade, across your skin. You are definitely exfoliating when you do that, so don't worry there, Nancy.
Anyway, I'm sure I've got more where those came from, but I can't think of them just now. So for the moment I'll sign off and wish you....

Happy shaving!


  1. Mythbusters shaving edition ;)

  2. You can add 'open combs are more aggressive' to the list. The Merkur OC proving that OCs can be mild

  3. Good word, "iconoclast." I found another one: "googlearchy."

  4. I'm with you about "exfoliation"; nearly everyone who says that brush exfoliates has also declaimed their love of synthetic Plisson-like brushes (which definitely couldn't exfoliate more than a boar brush)

  5. I'm with you about "exfoliation"; nearly everyone who says that brush exfoliates has also declaimed their love of synthetic Plisson-like brushes (which definitely couldn't exfoliate more than a boar brush)