By: Matt Vice
(Pictured above is Matt's collection of WSP products that he posted to our WSP Club on Facebook - join now to chat with our fans and get access to special WSP content!)
Creating a Great, Slick and Safe Lather for Your Skin (cont.)
Shave Soap Lathering: I have already gone into quite a bit of detail regarding the use of increased water for improved slickness and cushion. You will most likely run into vegan and tallow bases the most, but each will have various ingredients. Then there are soaps that are based around different types of milk and fat, such as goats milk and duck fat. All the while, several soap artisans have started to add skin nurturing components, which is a bonus.
With soaps, I like to load directly from the tub in a circular motion while my brush is semi-wet. It’s also perfectly fine to scoop a small amount of soap from the tub and lather it up with a bowl. Always make sure that your beard/skin is wet before and during the lathering process. Once I see a decent amount of soap on the brush, I will start out by splaying the brush (pushing down) in circular motions across my beard. It’s perfectly safe to use this process with synthetic and some badger brushes, and I only use the splaying method towards my first pass.
Do not be surprised if the lather is a bit dry or pastey at first. In that case, simply continue to add a bit of water to the brush for improved slickness. Adding more water may have to be done several times towards your first pass for optimal performance. I will follow that up by painting my beard with the sides of the brush. This will help by providing a nice cushion and increased slickness. Make sure your lather is evenly applied on your beard and has that yogurty-esque look and texture. After each shaving pass, I wash off my face with warm-to-hot water. It isn’t necessary, but it helps with my dry skin staying wet throughout the entire shave.
Shave Cream Lathering: Creams are a bit similar to soaps, but have quite a few differences as well. As always, make sure your beard/skin is wet before you start lathering. Shaving creams are always quite soft, therefore it is not necessary to use a brush to load from the tub. You can if you wish to, but I would only recommend using a dry brush in that scenario. Then apply any additional water on the loaded brush. Since you should not add any water into a cream tub, you can put the lid on directly after lathering. Unlike soaps, creams are not meant to dry out.
Typically a bowl is used for cream lathering. Easily scoop out a small bit and set the cream around the center of the bowl. Add a small amount of water to the bowl and/or brush and start swirling away until you see that yogurt-esque texture. Continue to add small amounts of water if needed. You will want to avoid having any air bubbles, as that could mean you wouldn’t have much of a cushion on your skin.
Mild, Yet Efficient DE Razors
Razors are another area where results can differ between person-to-person. Since this is an article aimed at improved skin conditions and potentially beginners, I will mostly be going over razors which will help in those areas. However, I will also discuss more aggressive types of razors, which could be beneficial at later times of the wet shaving experience.
Mild DE Razors: If you are looking for a mild DE razor or new to wet shaving, it is most likely you will receive recommendations towards the Merkur 34c and Edwin Jagger DE89 razors. Both offer great performance and are smooth towards your skin. The most recent razor I have purchased instantly became my new favorite. That is the medium aggression version of the Henson AL13. It’s still a mild razor, but it is also very efficient when cutting the hairs. I own and have used a huge amount of different razors, and the Henson AL13 delivers the most smooth and comfortable shave I have ever experienced in over 20 years of shaving.
Adjustable Razors: This is a fantastic option to go with, as you can easily dial in the perfect blade gap of the razor and blade. You also have the option to decrease the gap after your first pass, as a lot of your beard will be taken down at that point. Doing so should help you have a better shave with very little-to-no irritation. When it comes to modern adjustable razors, the Rockwell 6c/6s are immensely popular and used by many wet shavers. This razor incorporates different base plates, which can be switched out during your shave for a more aggressive or mild shave.
Slant and Open Comb Razors: While these types of DE razors are typically quite a bit aggressive, they are useful if you haven’t shaved for several days or have a thick/coarse beard. From a slant razor standpoint, I really enjoy the Merkur 37c. This razor, along with many other slants, will easily chop away the beard growth. The most notable feature of a slant razor is how the gap gradually opens up more, thus tackling a decent beard down very quickly. If you are like me, and the hair on your neck grows in all sorts of different directions, a slant razor should absolutely help take care of all those hairs within two passes.
Open comb razors can also be another beast, but they help with cutting hairs very effectively as well. Essentially, an open comb razor has teeth-like plates, where around half of the blade is not “protected” from the safety bar. Quite a bit different compared to the others I have listed, as those are closed comb razors. Open combs can be quite aggressive, so they’re rarely used on my end.
Razor Blades: As always, there are a plethora of blades available to use and it really comes down to what you prefer with the razor(s) you shave with. If you are just now starting off or haven’t tried different blades, a sample pack may be the best route for you. For my type of skin, I really enjoy the following: Gillette Wilkinson Sword (India), Astra SP, Personna Platinum and Vikings Blade. When it comes to the Henson AL13 razor, I immensely enjoy using what is widely known as the sharpest blade - The Feather. Once you are more comfortable with wet shaving, it isn’t a bad idea to use a mild razor with a sharp blade or vice-versa. Bonus: Be sure to grab a blade bank to dispose of your used blades!
Map Your Beard Growth: As I previously mentioned, areas of my neck can be a mess regarding the ways hairs grow in different directions. For a better understanding on how to tackle your beard for close shaves without irritation, allow your beard to grow out enough to see which angles the hairs are growing. You may very often hear that “shaving with the grain” is the safest way to go with your first pass. That is very true, but keep in mind that you may have areas where shaving downwards or sideways could actually be the more aggressive “against the grain” pass. If that is the case, make any necessary changes to avoid rough shaves.
Three or More Pass Shaves Are Not Necessary: Depending on how much growth you have, and especially any skin conditions, it isn’t a bad idea to perform a two pass shave. This also applies to mapping your beard growth, as you can avoid those rough spots with an against the grain pass. You can still receive extremely close, non-irritable shaves with “only” two passes. There is also the possibility that areas of your skin simply will not react well to specific angles. Example: Shaving right-to-left on my neck, which is primarily against the grain on my end, can cause a bit of irritation on my skin. Practice makes perfect!
Stretch Your Skin: During your shave, I recommend slightly stretching any necessary areas of your skin for a more smooth and less irritable outcome. You can accomplish this by using your other hand and leaning your head back to better tackle your jawline and neck. You can also perform various facial expressions for improved results. Doing so will allow your skin to be even, which allows the razor and blade to glide in a much more smooth fashion. If you are like me and have a rather large Adam’s Apple, I recommend stretching that skin to the sides with your other hand.