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December 21, 2011

Maz's Musings: Shaving

If progress is measured by innovation then surely the modern disposable razor indicates that humankind is one awesome species. The modern man is told that shaving like most other ventures must be done to the maxtreme. Hence, when one shaves they must do so using a metallic-plastic contraptions loaded with six razors, various lubrication strips and pay about $5.00 per cartridge for the privilege.

It would be incomprehensible for us to imagine that men (real men) actually shaved with one razor blade not that long ago. What’s most shocking is that they managed to get closer shaves and do it for a fifth of the price in modern money. The easiest way for most modern men to get a taste of real razor shaving would be to invest in a double-edged razor (DE).

I got sick of paying nearly $20 each time I needed to buy shaving carts for my Gillette Mach 3 and also felt like a loser for shaving in Mach 3 while the cooler guys were shaving in Mach 5 Fusion Extreme style. Essentially, I left the shaving rat race. I get closer shaves and save more money but I also enjoy the ritual of shaving now (more about that later). So, for this review I thought I would introduce the guys reading this blog to the basic DE gear needed.

First and foremost you will need a DE shaver. Easiest and cheapest place to get these are online. The most popular brand seems to be Merkur and it’s the brand I shave with. I use a Merkur 34C chrome shaver, these are solid quality gear made in Germany. These come with a shorter handle than what disposables come with but are much heavier – the trick is to let the weight of the shaver do the work. Unlike disposables where you can push and scrub pretty hard, a DE would probably cut you up doing that, so smooth and slow shaving is required.

The razors themselves are called disposable razor blades in that one would throw them away after use. If you’re wanting a close shave you would do a 3-pass method, meaning you would actually do three passes of the razor from different starting and ending points. I’ve done single passes before and they’re just as close as a disposable cartridge.

Your razor or your skin isn’t going anywhere without something to lubricate it. Enter the wet shaving soap. You can use your popular supermarket brands but they’re nowhere near as lubricating or nice to use than a quality speciality soap or cream.

Traditionally, one would use a soap and lather it using it a shaving brush. These are usually a bit more economical but less convenient than creams which don’t require lathering. I use e-Shave Almond cream which smells of heavenly marzipan, lathers brilliantly and is about $20 and lasts ages. I just bought Tabac soap which also comes with a shaving bowl for easy lathering, I’ll do a review later and let you know. I started off by using Body Shop shaving cream but think it’s rubbish – smells of industrial cleaner and is overpriced. Other popular brands are Proraso and Art of Shaving. I would recommend a shaving bowl, normal bowls tend to have a wider open lip which isn’t good for lathering – the Nando’s chocolate mousse bowls are perfect and cheap!

The most effective way at lathering is to use a shaving brush. If you’re starting out wet-shaving with a DE grab yourself a synthetic brush and practice the art before deciding to plunge $500 on a custom Silvertip Badger brush. I bought mine from Body Shop and it’s not bad for about $30. The things to look out for in a brush is its ability to hold water, lathering qualities and its durability. The next step would be to look at a boar brush or even better, a badger hair brush. My next purchase will be to invest in a decent silvertip badger brush.

Contrary to popular belief whacking on litres of aftershave after shaving isn’t the best thing to do. After shaving, especially with a DE razor, your skin will most likely be sensitive and possibly irritated. I would recommend applying a good shaving lotion to heal any abrasions and cuts and act as an astringent. Astringents pull the skin tight and close the pores – many lotions also contain anaesthetics to numb the sensitivity. Be careful about which products you use – I used Korres, supposedly a natural lotion which gave me bad rashes and hurt my skin. I now use Anthony Logistics which is brilliant. Other popular brands are Jack Black, Billy Jealousy and the Art of Shaving.

It’s also important that you consider a pre-shave preparation. Although it is not mandatory, it will make your first DE shaves smoother. Most important is to wet the skin with warm water – the easiest way is to have a hot shower with the door closed although nothing beats a hot wet face towel to open up the pores and prep your skin for lathering.

Some people also use pre-shave oils. I own e-Shave and Aveda and while they’re nice they don’t make a huge material difference to me. I guess if you had very long and wiry facial hair it might be effective. If you’re into pre-shave oils I would recommend you make your own – prepared ones are excessively overpriced.


What I love about DE wet-shaving is the ritual. I actually enjoy shaving now – it’s a time when I can zone out for 30 minutes and focus on one thing. I once read that drug addicts get addicted to the ritual – well shaving might be a good substitute looking for a zen-like ritual sans expensive and deadly drug habit.

I tried summing a surprisingly complex topic into a few paragraphs – I would recommend you check out the Badger & Blade forums (badgerandblade.com) for more info. To get this stuff, try mensbiz.com.au, strawberrynet.com and eBay. 

- Maz

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