Despite what the notion that most men lead splash and dash lifestyles, there are some areas of our existence where dogged ritualism makes all the difference. The opening and sampling of a good red wine is one; shaving is another.
Often thought of as a bit of a chore, the act of shaving can not only be thought of as cleansing, but cathartic too. Get it wrong, and you’ll be unconsciously massaging a chaffed face all day, but get it right and you’ll feel on top of the world.
But the road to a good shave can have its mis-steps, and there is a great deal of perplexity about how to get the best shave. For a start, there is a distinction between shaving yourself and receiving a good shave; trying to apply hot towels to your own face is always going to go wrong, and if you include the Turkish practice of flicking the ears with flaming mentholated spirits, then you just deserve all you get.
Those potentially dangerous tass aside, however, a proper shave is something that should be savoured, not rushed, and needs approaching in the right way. There are no cutting corners with this; it’s all or nothing.
Should men use shaving creams?
To have a good shave, you need a number of things. You need a skin wash, a shaving cream, a decent razor, a good moisturiser or balm, and a steady hand. Of these, people tend to think of the razor as being the most important component, but they all impact the comfort and outcome of you shave to different extents.
In reality, while a razor actually cuts, without a good lubricating surface, it would be a painful and sore experience. So, it could be argued that the shaving cream is equally as important as the razor, but with different varieties available, are comparable, and if not, which is best? There are three basic types of shaving lubrication, being:
- Shaving soap. As shaving soap is the most conventional of these many shaving products, those of us who have a certain vintage flare frequently gravitate towards using it. It is often administered using a shaving brush and comes in the shape of a solid that is typically contained in a small bowl or dish. Before beginning to shave, you will use the brush to work the soap into a lather, and then you will apply the lather in a thick, creamy coating all over your face. A high-quality shaving soap will never be drying to the skin and will instead leave it feeling brightened and revitalised after use. However, because it typically does not contain as much moisturising ingredients as other soaps, it is typically more appropriate for those with oily or normal skin types.
- Shaving gel. A much more modern take on shaving, these expanding gels are now very popular. When compared to shaving soap, shaving gels are less frothy and produce less of a lather, moreover, they are slightly smoother and more lubricating than shaving soap. This ensures that your razor will glide smoothly over your skin, sparing you from nicks, cuts, and other forms of skin irritation. They frequently also have the benefit of being clear, which allows you to see exactly what you are doing and enables you to create those crisp shaved edges.
- Shaving cream. Described by many as the best experience you can get, shaving creams are designed to be smooth. When compared to other types of shaving products, shaving cream often has a consistency that is described as being the creamiest and richest overall. Your skin will come away feeling supple and hydrated as a result of its exceptionally moisturising properties. Shaving creams are appropriate for use on all skin types, but they are especially helpful for those of us who have skin that is more sensitive and drier in character. For best results always keep an eye out for shaving creams that contain high-quality natural ingredients that are beneficial to dry and sensitive skin. For example, the shaving creams made by Hawkins and Brimble contain elements like elemi and ginseng, and they tend to be very gentle on the skin.
Wet shave or dry shave?
A good shaving cream has several advantages over more contemporary alternatives like shaving gels and soaps, and should always be used with the appropriate amount of water. Shaving creams serve to soften facial hair in preparation for shaving by adhering to time-honoured formulas and consisting of high-quality components. This makes it easier for the razor to cut through the beard, which results in a shave that is both closer and less irritating to the skin. Shaving cream also creates a very slippery surface, which makes it easier for the razor to move across the skin.
Of course, it goes without saying that you will get the best shave from a shaving cream if you use it in the right way, and that is all part of the ritual. For a start, you need to allow your shaving brush to rest in hot water at about 50°C for a couple of minutes to warm it up, before using it to whip up a thick lather with the cream. To work up a rich lather, you need to move the brush around inside the shaving cream tin in a circular motion until the consistency stabilises, which can take up to a minute.
At this point, it's possible that the mixture will benefit from the addition of a little bit more warm water. If the lather is still quite stiff and thick after adding more water, add the hot water to the bowl about a teaspoon at a time until it reaches the desired consistency.
Pretty soon, you should achieve a lather that is fluffy, glossy, and has a consistency that is either very close to whipped cream or maybe slightly looser. Make it too thick and the blade won’t slide through as easily as it could, while have it too thin and it won’t lubricate sufficiently.
How much shaving cream should you put on?
Now apply the cream to your face. To begin, apply it in a circular motion all around your face and neck. This will result in the skin being exfoliated, the beard hairs being raised, and lather being formed around each whisker. Because it also helps to soften the beard, the longer you practise this process, the better it will be for you. As soon as the face has been thoroughly covered, you can switch to a painting motion to remove any extra lather and make sure it is evenly distributed across the face. With a good layer of shaving cream applied, you can now shave in your normal way. Finish off by cleaning off the excess cream with warm flannels and apply an aftershave balm for the best results.
Shaving is important and you should strive to do it well. Shaving creams are not created equally, and to get the best shave, you should choose the best cream that you can….oh, and make sure that your razor is sharp.