Shaving was a chore. When I first started shaving as a teenager, I was using a Gillette Mach 3 razor. I never found shaving enjoyable, but all the commercials on television told me that it could be a great experience. So I upgraded to more blades in my cartridge. Then I got a razor that pivots. It still wasn’t enjoyable. So I switched to electric to make the whole process go by faster, but I found that I wasn’t getting the close shave that I wanted, so I switched back to a cartridge razor.
A few years ago I stumbled on a company called Harry’s that made inexpensive razor cartridges with stylish handles. I bought one of their razors with a shiny metal handle and thought that maybe if I introduced a bit of “artistry” into my shaving routine, I might begin to enjoy it a bit more. I ordered some old-fashioned shaving cream and a badger hair shaving brush and decided to learn how to build a lather.
I hit YouTube for tutorials on lather building, and I discovered that none of the videos featured cartridge razors. In fact, all of them referred to something called “wet shaving.” I researched it more and more and ended up completely enthralled by the idea. There were double-edge razors, single-edge razors, straight razors. There were creams, soaps, balms. It was like a brand new world had been opened before my eyes. So I decided to give it a try.
I’ve been wet shaving with a double-edge razor for almost three years, and I can honestly say that I’ll never put a multi-blade cartridge razor against my face again.
Here are the reasons I enjoy wet shaving.
- It’s better for your skin. Contrary to popular belief, more blades on a razor does not lead to a smoother, closer shave. In fact, the extra blades lead to more tugging and more damage to your skin. Additionally, the extra skin care required to effectively wet shave provides added benefits to facial health.
- It’s less expensive. Okay, so this is entirely dependent on how much of a hobby this can become. In the most utilitarian sense, it is far less expensive than standard cartridge razor shaving. While the initial investment can be pretty high (a good double-edge safety razor can cost around $30, a badger-hair brush can cost $40), the maintenance cost is a lot lower. A pack of 100 razor blades will cost around $10, and that can last up to two years. A shaving soap can last almost a year, and they cost around $15. But if you start collecting shaving accoutrements, it can certainly get expensive.
- It takes practice. It’s a skill, and like any skill, it requires practice. I spent time learning technique, and that gives it a sense of ritual for me. I learned to appreciate the discipline it takes to get a perfect shave, and mastery has become a goal I look forward to attaining.
- It’s therapeutic. There are so few rituals we have these days; everything needs to be done as quickly as possible. With wet shaving, there’s a ritual that is both distinctly masculine and beautiful. I love taking the time to build a good lather from a tallow based soap, the steady strokes with a weighty razor, and the aromas of my shaving soaps and post-shave balms.
- It’s better for the environment. Cartridge razors are often made of a lot of plastic, and the razor cartridges create a lot of plastic waste. The aerosol cans that are often used with cartridge razors also create hazardous waste. Double-edge safety razors, on the other hand, are made almost entirely of stainless steel. The blades are also stainless steel and are easily recyclable. The shaving soaps and creams used are often organically made, providing a healthy alternative to the chemical goo that comes from a can.
I could probably list a dozen more reasons, but these are the basics. While I’m not naïve enough to think that wet shaving is for everyone, I do believe that everyone should give it a try. The experience is definitely worth the effort. If you’re interested in giving it a try, let me know. I’d love to hear about how it goes for you.