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Shaving tips, or, 'how I remain Gillette’s bitch'

shaving brush

About six months ago, I read this excellent MSNBC interview about shaving (via the wiki’s shaving page), and I ended up experimenting with bits of what it suggested in my own periodic attempts at grooming. My results to date:

  • Water is good. AKA “The wetter the better.” Keeping your beard moist before and during the shave is job one. Shower first, and go nuts with a moisturizing soap. Not allowing time for your whiskers to fully saturate will make for a painful and joyless shave.
  • Get a brush. Even if you start with a $4.00 cheapie like I did, you just won’t believe the difference when you start with a brush. Even if you just use it to apply $2.00 drug store shaving cream, this will significantly change your shaving experience. A brush ensures that every little hair has been pummeled into submission with soap and water, and brother, will you never want to go back. I recently moved up to a moderately-priced badger shaving brush, and I love it.
  • Consider splurging on shaving cream. I’ve tried a bunch of soaps and shaving creams, including fancy Gillette gels and Italy’s popular Proraso, and, so far, my reluctant ruling is that it only really makes a difference at the high end. I’ll admit that I plunked down $17.00 for the article-recommended tub of Taylor of Old Bond Street, but, wow, was it ever swell — plus it makes you smell like a clean grandfather. Foamy, moisturizing, and it takes very little product to make an exceptionally generous beard of foam.
  • Safety razor? Meh. I tried it — bought a pretty nice Merkur safety razor, and stuck with it for 4 or 5 shaves. For me — and loathe as I am to admit it — the Gillette family leaves it in the dust. During the original Bush administration, I was a bleeding-edge “Sensor” sucker, and have upgraded annually or so to whatever model my masters at Gillette have offered. I’m currently a happy-enough Fusion man, although I’m not entirely sure it’s much of an improvement over the mighty Mach 3; that was Gillette’s “Abbey Road,” as far as I’m concerned. Your mileage may vary.
  • Finishing off. As smelly liquids go, I love Taylor of Old Bond Street’s “Eton College” after shave (“combining sparkling citrus oils with rich woody undertones”), but it seems the best finisher for the health of my face and neckal area is just lots of cool water and copious handfuls of regular old witch hazel. I break out like a teenager if I shave more than thrice weekly, and the witch hazel seems to really help with curtailing the damage.

What about you?

Got a shaving product or trick that you swear by?

Vish Vishvanath's picture

Safety razors are wonderful -...

Safety razors are wonderful - but you need to know how to handle one. These are not razors like those made by Gillette, which even a mal-coordinated idiot can use without slicing chunks off his (or her ;) face. Gillettes and the like are designed for people who aren't that skilled, who push the razor down hard on their skin in the misguided belief that this means a closer shave - it doesn't.

Safety razors and their bigger brother, the cut-throat (which is more difficult to use on oneself because of the angles you need to hold it at) are best used with delicate motions, never twice over the skin without water and soap in between and the shave is much closer and much smoother.

Not to mention the cost of the blades. Supermarket blades tend to suck. My faves are the traditional ones made by Gillette (ha) in India - my father brings me batches back at a time - and one double-sided blade will easily last me two weeks. You can snap them in half to place in certain types of cut-throat razor handles too.

Witch hazel is great - but try an alum bar - wet it and smooth it over after you've rinsed your face with cold water and it'll keep your face from falling off...




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