Improve your shave - 7 unconventional tips

Your face, your razor. How they interact is up to you, my friend.  What works for you, works for you. It might not work for me, but so what? 

You're unique. There has never been, nor will there ever be, a person exactly like you. Even identical twins have different experiences and their own perceptions.  


Your shaving experiences and perceptions are truly individual, tailor made for you, by you.


So, how peculiar it is that we think that there's a correct, approved way to shave?

You know what I mean, the hot water, bowl or scuttle, the three-passes, the alum, the balm. That's the standard shave, isn't it?

YouTube and forums can be great way to gather information, but it is important to recognise that there's very little diversity in the shave experience offered. The standard shave, for want of a better expression, is amazing - if it suits you. 

So, here are some tips that you may want to try to mix up the standard shave so that it works for your face! The tips are gleaned from my family tradition of shaving, my own experience, experimentation and pure accident!


TIP 1: Different Strokes

 He may be on Youtube, but he didn't learn his shaving there...


The video shows a gentleman shaving for the camera in 1900.  Whilst he may be on Youtube, he didn't learn his shaving there.  There's a lot to notice in this video, for example the hand stropping prior to the shave itself. 

What I would like you to notice is the stroke he uses: sometimes long, sometimes much more staccato and choppy.  Barbers can use long stokes, because they're looking at your face, controlling the tension of your skin with each stroke of the razor.  There's a lesson there, shorten the length of the razor's movement: I'm suggesting 10mm at a time. You'll be surprised at how much feedback your razor will give you, how much control you have, how you wield that blade like a pro.  If you suffer from nicks, I promise that shortening the stroke will improve your shave.


TIP 2: Lather your face, not your bowl.

It's commonly accepted that you make your lather in your mug, bowl or scuttle. Whipping up that lovely soap into a fine creamy lather. There's an art to it. Too much soap, too little water and your lather won't perform. If your lather doesn't perform, then you've ruined your shave.  Being able to make a good lather takes time, both in learning how and making a lather, every time you want to shave.

So, what can you do to improve your shave? What I'm proposing can really improve your shave and, importantly, save you time.  Lather your face.

Here's how:
Step 1: Soak your brush for a little while
Step 2: Shake your brush to rid it of the excess water
Step 3: Load your brush with your favourite soap
Step 4: Make your lather on your face
The benefit for your shave is that by making your lather on your face, you really do soften your beard. If you normally bowl lather, then try it. You'll be surprised. Spend time softening your beard, not softening your shaving bowl.



TIP 3:  A place in Michigan 

Welcome to the world of cold water (apologies to the photographer)

I learned this trick from my Grandfather. Never, ever let hot water near your face when you shave. Use cold water, it has a tremendous effect. I don't understand the science, but that doesn't stop it from working. If you ever suffer from shaving irritation, this could help you.


 TIP 4: One pass, possibly no mas

If you shave everyday, you might want to forget about three passes.  It's just to harsh for your skin.  Believe me, daily shaving will take its toll if you do three passes. One pass (plus a tidy-up) is enough, most days. You'll be clean shaven and smooth, but without the potential to tire your face out.

Forget the obsession with being Baby Butt Smooth (BBS) it's unhealthy and a bit odd. You are a man. You have a hairy face.

I've never met any seeker of the BBS that didn't have an extensive range of post-shave lotions.  Lotions are generally required because you're stressing your face.  Believe me, one pas, no mas gets your face plenty smooth. Need more persuading? Here's a one-pass barber from 1937.



TIP 5: Groove to smooth

Learn the difference between sharp and smooth and sharp and harsh. Most razors today are honed on synthetics, which produce a great, zingy-sharp edge. Trouble is, I think that they're not suitable for razors; they're harsh. 

I think that a lot of good shaves are diminished by honing on synthetics. The Victorians honed on natural stones. This takes more time and patience, but you end up with a smoother edge, it's like shaving with a buttery smooth razor.

Make sure that your razors are honed with naturals. Your face will thank you. 


TIP 6: Go, go gadget arms!

Modern razor strops are becoming longer and longer.  This, I think is causing people to experience difficulties with stropping. Remember this chap?


Inspector Gadget, the only person who could use the full length of a modern strop!

Long strops encourage the user to try and take advantage of the length. This causes over-extension of the arm and rolling of the edge.  Of course, this results in those tragic nicks to the strop. In fact, just pause to consider where most nicks occur, invariably at the extreme ends of the strop.

I suggest that your stropping will improve if you shorten the length of your stropping stroke, perhaps to 15 inches or so. This will mean that you're fully in control of the stropping action. Basically, don't feel that you must use the length of your strop in your stropping motion. Try it and see.


TIP 7: Watch what you watch

There is a lot of great stuff out there on YouTube. Just remind yourself that what works for them may not work for you. If you watched a video of an F-16 pilot landing his plane, could you do the same? Of course not, so you've got to make adjustments when watching videos on YouTube. There are so many things that can conspire against you if you copy without adjustments, without tailoring to your face, your way. The angle of the blade, the style of the shave, the feel of the razor.

Remember: you're not a barber. Unless you are one. So don't shave your face like a barber would. The barber's shaving someone else; you're shaving you. 


FINAL TIP: Remember, listen to your face.

Remember, your face talks to you about your shaving. Listen to it and look after it; no-one else will.




Guys, stop looking for this. End the search for BBS.

You owe it to your face. 

Do it your way.


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