I'm fairly new to wetshaving, but I tend to get very involved in any endeavour that I take up. Last year while I was applying to graduate school, I wrote detailed entries in my blog about the application process and post information that I had laboriously dug up that I found useful for students in the same sitution I was in. Kyle's post yesterday sort of inspired me to do the same thing, but my outlet will be this forum and specificially this post. This will be a sort of guide from a new wetshaver sharing the info he has been able to dig up in his short time wetshaving. My information is not going to be perfect, but I think I can answer a lot of questions that new wet shavers might have (since I've been asking them and getting lots of good answers in this forum). So, on we go....
What is wetshaving?
I won't spend much time on this because if you are here, you probably know what wetshaving is.
While these may not be the minimum requirements you'll get from everyone, I think wetshaving includes taking time to prep your face before a shave with lots of hot water, keeping your face wet during the shave, using a brush and non-canned shaving cream or soap to build up a lather, and shaving with a non-cartridge razor. Some people may say that you only need parts of these to have a shave qualify as a wetshave, however as someone who bought his wetshaving kit piece by piece, the experience isn't the same until you have all the components working for you.
Why would I want to switch to wet shaving?
As Kyle said, many men have sensitive skin and tough beards and so are looking for a way to alleviate some of their daily discomfort. Still others hear about a wonderful experience of wetshaving and think they'll give it a try. Others think wetshaving is more economical (I'll mention this more later). Whatever your reason or method for stumbling upon wetshaving, I think the best reasons for doing it are that after a time you can expect to get a shave that is closer and more comfortable than is possible with other shaving methods. Even though I've just started my shaves are almost irritation free and are closer than I have gotten with other razors and shaving methods (without having to tear my face up in the process). My face is also healthier as a result of the methods and products I've been using on my face.
Another good reason to take it up, is that it turns a mundane morning task into something you might actually look forward to. There was a post on these boards posing a hypothetical question: "if there was a pill that would make it so you never had to shave, would you take it?" The resounding answer here was "no" and I"m starting to understand why. Waking up in the morning and putting on a nice shave cream is a really enjoyable activity that can really wake you up.
A third reason is that wetshaving takes more skill than regular shaving and as such can be a hobby (this contributes to the previous reason I suppose). There is something satisfying about a practice that is done as a hobby for its own sake rather than just instrumentally (some philosophers call this a focal practice as opposed to a commodified practice). While many people on these boards call their spending habits 'aquisition disorders', I believe they signify an appreciation of the instruments and tools of this hobby and people appreciate them as such. When you read a review by Joel about his brushes you can't but be impressed by his dedication to shaving and notice his competence at the art. The same goes for straigh razor shaving, which I believe is another extension of the hobby where you can actually maintain the instrument you shave with. As with other hobbies, shaving can also bring people together (a fact to which this forum attests). This hobby has created a community of people that it takes a very short time to notice are very nice people. Even if your shave remained of the same quailty, the chance to socialize with people of these sorts is worth the switch.
How much will it cost to switch to wetshaving and what sorts of equipment are there?
To get started wetshaving, using what I mentioned as the minimum, you will need to purchase:
A Brush $6-$35
Brushes are of three kinds (as far as I can tell); Boar, Badger, and Synthetic. Boar bristles are cheaper than badger (and synthetic but I'll confine my talk to boar and badger) but not as soft on your face. I owned a boar for a couple of months and it did improve my shave, so I would say starting with a boar bristle brush is ok even though now that I have a badger I wouldn't want to switch back. You can get a board bristle brush at walgreens for about six dollars or a better one from proraso at target for 8 bucks. A starting badger brush like those sold at Crabtree and Evelyn start at about 35 dollars. I do not know much about the high end brush market so I won't speak to that end. From what I have found, the 35 dollar C&E brush will serve you for a very long time giving you luxurious shaves so its a good place to start (until you get SBAD or Shaving Brush Aquisition Disorder).
Shaving Cream/Soap $6-$20
I won't go into the differences between creams and soaps, mainly because I haven't paid much attention. I've used both and its harder to lather a soap. In either case you can get a tube of shaving cream starting around 6 dollars or a tube for about 10 dollars. If you want to splurge on a tub you can get them for about 15 dollars (shipping chargers vary). This is one area where wetshaving can be economical, I expect my twenty dollar tubs to last me at least five to ten times longer than a can at the store which can easily cost 5 or six dollars. For your money you get a cream that will feel much better on your face, improve your shave, and smell amazing. I highly recommend that a starter order samples from Scotto (http://badgerandblade.com/vb/showthread.php?t=2251) so they can toy with different scents before committing to a full tube. Scotto is prompt and has a wide variety of scents. Each sample looks like it will last me about five shaves (this may vary, Scotto says he gets a weeks shave from each sample) and at six samples for 20 dollars its a good way to figure out what you like (getting the right smelling cream can really set up your day nicely). I really like Taylor's soaps for lubrication and lather and the smell of lavendar, avocado, and rose are really really amazing.
Razor and Blades approx. $30
The most often recommended blade for new shavers is the Merkur HD or hefty classic. The razor will run you about 30 dollars at most places and blades are $4.50 for a ten pack. I currently use the merkur and so far it has served me really well. The rich newbie can start with something like the future or vision which is an adjustable razor. This allows you to control how much blade is exposed to your face. The HD doesn't have any settings, you put a blade in and tighten the razor to create the blade angle. However, you can still get a great shave without having to get an adjustable.
You may also be able to get a DE razor on ebay for cheaper, but I have not done any looking around.
Also, different blades will get you different shaves and match your face differently. I have yet to try anything but the Merkur blades and some crappy walgreen's brand DE blades but as most people will tell you, your best bet is to order a blade sample pack from LetterK (pm him). For under 20 bucks you can try the major quailty razor blades and make a decision from there.
As you can see you can get started for a little more than 40 dollars and you can get started with a badger brush for about 100 bucks.
It looks like wetshaving will be cheaper in the long run, is this right?
Well the answer to this is yes and no. I would not recommend that you get into wetshaving if your primary reason is to save money. As I said this is a hobby and hobbies usually require an investment of both time and money. While you could save money over standard shaving by just buying the minimum needed to wetshave, you'll be missing out on a lot there is to offer and I doubt you'll be able to control your spending anyway :). Once you get started you'll really want to invest in new creams, new aftershaves, new pre shave gear, new razors, and worst of all...new brushes. As with any hobby you'll want to experiment and build your collection. Part of the fun of the hobby is the way it can be extended. Some people are brush fiends and love to review and test and stare at various brushes. Others like to order older razors on ebay and clean them up (shaving with a piece of history can be thrilling). Whatever aspect of shaving grabs your fancy, you shouldn't feel like its money wasted if you are enjoying the hobby (so long as you can maintain all your other fiscal responsibilities). I think many people look for an economic justification for switching because pre-switch they view shaving as a miserable task, but not so once they switch. This could account for the various aquisitions disorders prevalent on this board.
Where do I get all the stuff and what do I get?
There are various online venders that are recommendend for ordering this stuff. B&B has a nice list of stores that carry shave products and you can find it here (http://badgerandblade.com/vb/showthr...169#post40169). I think you can get a good start to shaving with an order of the HD from www.classicshaving.com and a trip to target. As you'll notice on the boards, many people are in love with the proraso line of products (available at target). Here you can get a highly recommended cream and other products as well as a boar brush. If you want to start with the badger, you can order from (or go to) Crabtree and Evelyn for their best badger brush.
From what I've tried and smelled so far (and this is limited, although my list of creams grows from trips to colonial) I'd recommend the following:
C&E Best Badger
Taylor's Shave Cream (Lavendar or Avacado!)
I have all the stuff, now how do I shave?
The first thing you'll want to do is prep for your shave. This means softening your whiskers and opening the pores on your face using hot water. Different people have various methods for doing this (hot towels, a hot shower, etc.) so you can look around for a method that fits you.
You'll also need to prep your brush to prepare your lather. I won't have anything to say about lathering because my current method is all taken from this one post from Joel (http://badgerandblade.com/vb/showthread.php?t=9). If you follow that You'll end up with a good lather that is great to shave with. It also has pictures that are very helpful.
As far as shaving goes, I'll list my bullet points for a good shave and then link you to a recent post by Kyle (the one that inspired this post) that is very helpful for getting a good shave.
- approx. 30 degree blade to face angle
- Don't apply pressure
- Keep your face hot and wet (just like your ladies...sorry couldn't resist)
- Multiple passes (don't try to get it all on the first pass)
- Don't pull your whiskers
Now, read Kyle's post for info that is actually helpful:
As you go along, you can get information and help from these boards. Everyone on here is extremely helpful and gentlemanly. Once you get into the hobby you'll end up trying out new stuff and you'll probably want to expand into post shave treatment (which there is plenty of info on). Where you expand will be based on what parts of the shave really interest you or what features of shaving are most important to you.
What about using a straight razor?
For me it was a natural progression from a DE to an SE (straight edge razor). Since I view this as a focal practice and hobby, I like the idea of maintaining a precision instrument that I use for a task that I enjoy. Some people say you can get a better shave with a SE (after taking the time to perfect it). I'm just starting my adventure into SE shaving, but I have a perspective that I think is helpful. I see SE shaving as a hobby with two elements. The first element is shaving with an SE. The second is maintaining the instrument. You can do the first without the second, but to me both are very appealing. The idea of finding an old razor and bring back to a place where you can shave with it embodies the best parts of this hobby (for me). Anyway, I don't have much to say on this except that to get started with the first element you need a shave ready straigh razor and a strop for daily maintenance of the blade. The strop is used pre and post shave to keep the razors edge keen. The second element requires a hone for restoring duller edges to blades. As I said, I'm just starting into this, but I do have some links that will be helpful.
For straight razor information in a format much like B&B (also with great people) you can go to Straight Razor Place (www.straightrazorplace.com). As far as purchasing equipment many members of SRP sell shave ready razors. Most new razors do not come shave ready, so if you order a new razor you might want to have one of the honemesiters at SRP hone your razor before you use it.
For strops, everyone there recommends going through Tony Miller at http://www.thewellshavedgentleman.com.
I have some more info on straight shaving, but I think I'll have to save it for another time. Most of my info has been gathered from searching SRP and private conversations with members there. Maybe if people find this useful, I can write another one for straight shaving when I have some more experience.
Anyway, sorry for the long post and I hope it helps someone. P.S. I can be much more helpful if you are applying to graduate school in philosophy :) If you are, check out www.philblogs.com/normalscience