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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?

Karl G. Siewert's picture

I read this thread yesterday...

I read this thread yesterday and didn't think I had much to contribute, but after my ablutions this morning, I have a couple of related suggestions. I'm a dedicated mug-and-brush shower shaver.

Go to your kitchen and find one of those cheap 32 oz plastic cups. You know you have a stash of them from the ballpark or convenience store. Keep it in the shower (upside down so it doesn't collect water). Now, go to your local hardware store. Not Home Despot or Lowe's, because they stopped carrying what you need. In the plumbing fixtures area, find yourself a shutoff valve. It's a little chrome jobby with a push-button or twist-knob closure. You ought to be able to find one for less than $10. While you're there, grab a roll of teflon tape. Go home and install that puppy behind whatever shower head you use. It won't add but about 1/2" to the pipe's length, so don't be concerned that you'll end up taller than your shower head when it's done. Use the teflon tape on the threads to prevent leakage.

Now, during your usual morning shower, fill up the cup with nice hot water and drop your razor and brush in. Leave them soaking while you wash (my scrub of choice is Neutrogena's Acne-free Face Wash). Then shut off the water using the little valve, shake off your brush, lather, and shave as you normally would. Use the water in the cup to clean out the razor between strokes. It's much more effective than the shower spray.

Here's the cool thing. With the water slowed to a trickle, it cools down. So when you're done and you turn the valve back on, you have cool water for that skin-toning first rinse. When it warms up, rinse out your cup and fill it once more for a thorough rinsing of the brush.

I use a Mach 3, though I'm liking the idea of trying a safety razor. Garage and estate sales are good places to find those cheap. I use a badger-hair brush and an Old Spice promo ceramic mug with a clipper ship on it. Both are hand-me-downs from my father. The cake in the mug is a glycerine-based no-name brand I picked up at the local barber supply. Not to be confused with a beauty supply. Ask around.




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