September 26, 2017

The Ultimate Guide to Wet Shaving - Everything You Need to Know

wet shaving guide how to

Nothing beats the feeling of a clean, close shave...

If you want one, then you should ditch the electric shaver and enter the world of wet shaving.

Wet shaving is not just about razor shaving, it's a whole new world of technique, equipment, style and retro.

I've prepared this guide for new comers who consider entering this exciting world of wet shaving. In this guide you'll learn the following:

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    What is wet shaving?
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    Pros & Cons to wet shaving
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    The tools you'll need
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    How much it's going to cost you
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    How to properly shave

What is Wet Shaving?

Wet shaving is a pretty simple concept, it's when you shave with a razor, water and a shaving cream (or soap).

There's a difference between non traditional wet shaving and traditional wet shaving. This guide is about traditional wet shaving, but for the sake of completeness I will describe non traditional wet shaving as well.

Non Traditional Wet Shaving

When talking about non traditional wet shaving we basically mean shaving with a disposable or cartridge razors together with a shaving gel. (Think Gillette Mach 3 razor and shaving gel). 

This form of shaving is very common, and can be an option when you need a fast wet shave when you're in a hurry. It's also usually safer and takes less time to master.

Another form of non traditional wet shaving can be accomplished by using electric shavers. Not too long ago new breed of electric shavers started to support wet/dry shave technology.

These shavers can work in a wet environment (for example, in the shower) or with a shaving cream/foam. This is definitely a step up from dry shaving (i.e using an electric shaver in a dry environment). If you're looking to up your shaving game with an electric shaver this is a great option.

non traditional wet shaving

Traditional Wet Shaving

Traditional wet shaving is how they used to shave back in the day. Usually you'll need to have the following:

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    Pre-Shave Routine
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    Shaving Cream or Soap
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    Shaving Brush
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    Safety Razor or Straight Razor
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    Aftershave Routine

I will describe each of the tools, products and routines in detail later on.

Pros & Cons to Wet Shaving

Although wet shaving is generally a simple process, there are both benefits and drawbacks.


1. Shave Quality is Much better

If you want to achieve a shave that is as smooth as a baby’s bottom, wet shaving is the way to go. It will deliver the closest shave possible.

On the other hand, dry shaving with an electric razor is convenient, but doesn’t provide the same shave quality you’ll get with a safety razor or a straight razor.

2. Your Skin Will Thank You

A lot of men are complaining about skin problems due to shaving. Razor burns, skin irritation and razor bumps are just some of the problems.

Traditional wet shaving can have a great positive effect on your skin, there are few reasons for that:

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    Shaving Soap/Cream: Usually non traditional shaving gels or foams contain chemicals that can irritate the skin. In most cases traditional shaving creams contain natural ingredients which nourish the skin.
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    Shaving Brush: A shaving brush is just like a natural scrub for your face. When you lather up your face with a brush it exfoliates your skin. This can reduce ingrown hairs and provide a better, easier shave.
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    Safety Razor: Using a safety razor (which is a single blade razor) can really help with razor burn and ingrown hairs. “You can be using all the right skin-care products, but if you’re not using the right razor, you’re not going to get the best results,” said Emily Dalton, a co-founder of Jack Black. “Shaving with multi-blade cartridges is very irritating.”

3. Traditional Wet Shaving is a Trend & a Hobby

Beard enthusiasts have jumped on the wet shaving band wagon.  Those who recognize the benefits of a good, close shave invest in using quality products, joining beard clubs, and voicing their opinion on beard maintenance.

Traditional wet shaving has come back from a grave after being shot down by technology. Those discovering the trend have found that cartridge and electric razors do not do the trick. They are tired of irritated skin, razor burns, and mediocre shaves.  So much so that many have taken wet shaving to the next level by making it a hobby.

4. Good for the Environment

There's nothing about cartridge razors that scream that they are mother nature-friendly.  They are made of plastic and metal, and bulky.  They are also commercially packaged is attractive looking boxes that are supposed to appeal to the masses.  Cartridge razors come with a lot of waste.  A box of safety razor blades does not compare.  The most waste is the thin paper wrappers.

Though neither option is biodegradable, the size of the carbon imprint of the safety razor is much less than the cartridge razor.  Every little bit helps.


1. Wet Shaving Requires Some Learning

Learning to do a traditional wet shave quickly is an art form. Initially, when you start shaving using this method, you will need to take your time to understand the flow of your hair on your face.

The traditional wet shaving process is known for its close shave. You can't accomplish a smooth outcome without a sharp blade. Nicks and cuts are likely to happen until you gain a little more experience. Even the most experienced shavers get nicked every now and then.

Many novices make mistakes like poor prep, lousy lather, ignoring the way your hair grows on your face and neck, and applying too much pressure. Cuts often occur when rushing through the process, so it’s important to invest some time in learning.

After a time, you will become a pro at shaving with a safety or straight razor, but it does not happen overnight.

2. Initial Investment Can Be Pricey

Starting out can be slightly costly. A good safety razor is around $30, the badger or boar’s hair brush ranges anywhere from $70-$200, good lather cream or soap, and a moisturizing aftershave.

However, it is worth noting that wet shaving is fairly inexpensive once you’ve passed the initial costs.

I will discuss the costs in detail later on.

Tools Needed For a Wet Shave

You need the right tools for the job. Shaving is no different.  You will need a few tools and products for a quality shave.

1. Pre-Shave Products

The goal of pre-shave oil is to soften the skin and whiskers, allowing for a smoother shave.

I've reviewed the best pre-shave oils in the past. They're not a must, for some they work well and for some they don't do much. As usual, you should experiment and see if it's adding value to shaving experience. As a thumb rule, if you have problematic skin pre-shave oil can help you, the essential oils which get soaked in the skin nourish and soften it.

2. Razors

Depending on the route you decide to go, you will need to invest in a high quality razor. Basically you have two options to choose from: safety razor or straight razor.

Safety Razor

safety razor is basically a fancier, better-constructed version of a disposable razor.

a safety razor is made to last. It's almost always made entirely from metal. All you need to do is replace the blades.

There are basically 2 types of safety razors - Double Edge (DE) and Single Edge (SE).

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    Recommended Safety Razor

I recommend beginners to start with a safety razor. It will be easier to get used to and learn. Go for a Merkur, it's cheap and perfect for new comers: Merkur Long Handled Safety Razor.

Straight Razor

A straight razor is a long piece of sharp metal attached to a pivoting handle.

A straight razor will give you a very close shave. But you need to know how to properly use a straight razor or else you run the risk of cutting yourself pretty badly.

If you decide to opt for a straight razor, get ready for a higher learning curve. To maneuver the blade takes skill. Terefore it's recommended for those who are new to wet shaving to start with a safety razor

3. Blades

If you'll choose to go with a safety razor you'll need to get some blades.

They cost pennies in comparison to popular cartridge razors and last about a week or about 5 shaves for each edge (that is 10 if you're using double edge).

A single blade of a straight razor can last you a lifetime which keeps costs very low.  You will need to hone your blade to keep it in good shape.

4. Shaving Brush

A shaving brush is one of the corner stones of traditional wet shaving. It is used to lather the face with shaving cream or soap. There are 4 types of shaving brushes:

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    Boar's hair shaving brush
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    Badger's hair shaving brush
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    Horse's hair shaving brush
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    Synthetic shaving brush
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    Recommended Shaving Brush

Pure Badger's hair shaving brush is recommended for those who want a quality brush and not break the bank. I recommend Parker's Pure Badger Shaving Brush. It'll give you nice thick lather.

5. Shaving Creams & Soaps

One of the most important things in wet shaving is lather. The lather coats your face and provides lubrication and protection while you're shaving. Quality shaving creams or soaps will soften your skin and facial hair and will allow for an easy close shave without irritation. 

Non Traditional

In non traditional wet shaving you can use a shaving gel or foam, and just apply it to your face and start shaving.


In traditional wet shaving building up lather is done with a shaving cream or a shaving soap using a shaving brush, directly on the face or in a shaving bowl.

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    Recommended Shaving Soap

A recommended shaving soap is Proraso Shaving Soap. It's a quality soap with a low price tag which will last you for a few months. It's a great product to start your shaving journey.

6. Aftershave Products

Just like shave creams, soaps, and pre-shave oils, aftershave products are no different.  Invest in quality products for your skin.  After brushing a sharp razor over your skin, your face will want relief.  Look for aftershave products that soothe your skin containing ingredients like witch hazel and chamomile.  Make sure to buy an aftershave that does not conflict with the smell of your cologne.

How Much Wet Shaving Will Cost Me?

So as I've said before, getting into the wet shaving world can be a little pricey. I'll try to outline how much it's going to cost you. Of course that it depends on the products you'll by, maybe you'll pass the pre-shave oil or something else.

A good safety razor will cost you around 30-50$ and will last you for a long time (many years). 200 blades cost 20$, a blade can last for 10 shaves on average. 

Shaving brush cost around 40$, and can last for many years (5-10 years). Shaving soap cost around 10$ and can last for a few months.

So you basically need to invest around 90$ to get a razor and a shaving brush which will last you for years. Blades and shaving soap are pretty cheap and will also last for a long a long time.

How to Wet Shave - Guide

Now you know what traditional wet shaving is, you have the tools, and you have a five o’clock shadow, you’re ready to get shaving.  Take the following steps and you will get one of the closest shaves you have ever had, right in your own home.

1. Prep Your Materials

Before starting any job, you must prep.  You will need to make sure your blade is either sharpened (honed) on your straight razor or replaced on your safety razor.  Go ahead and soak your shaving brush for easier use later use as it will help with lathering the shave soap or cream.

Take a look at your face to map the grain of your beard.  Getting to know the way your hair grows very intimately will prevent post-shave irritation and make beard reduction easier.

2. Pre-Shave

An essential ritual to pre-shaving is washing your face with hot water.  It will help soften your hair and open your pores.  Be sure to wash your face as dead skin tends to build up on beard hair.  If you use a daily exfoliator, you will help the process of removing any impurities.

Apply a pre-shave oil to moisturize the skin to make the shaving process smoother, especially if you have tough stubble.  The blade on the razor will glide more smoothly on a well-prepared surface.

3. Building a Lather

To make a lather using shaving cream or soap, shake your brush of excess moisture.

Take a small amount of the soap of cream and put into a small bowl or your hand.  If you had a bowl, it would be easier so that your hands are free during the shaving process.

Next, use your badger or boar’s hair brush by swirling it in the soap or cream to build the lather.  Add a little bit of water and continue to mix

You will eventually end up with a lather that is light and shiny.  brush is loaded, you can either start applying the soap to your face, or build the lather in a bowl. It is better to start with a relatively dry lather and add moisture rather than try to remove moisture later in the process. You know you have added too much water when you start to see large bubbles that will not go away.  If the lather is too runny, it will dry on your face, making shaving more difficult.

Once the lather is mixed, you are ready to load your brush and apply the lather to your face.

4. Finding the Right Blade Angle

Before you begin your first pass, you must find the correct blade angle. Start by placing the razors face flat against your face with your hand perpendicular to your face while pulling your skin.  Slowly lower the razor handle down towards the ground. When you start to feel hair being cut by the razor, you have found your angle.

5. Your First Pass

Now you can begin shaving.  You will run the razor over your face more than one time to get the closest shave. Run your fingers across your face to find the direction in which your hair grows. Then use little to no pressure by simply letting the weight of the razor stay against your skin.

Take your time with this process.  Some might say that traditional wet shaving is meditative.

Don’t forget your neck. Rinse your face when you have finished your first pass.

6. Your Second Pass

Lather up your face again as you did before your first pass but instead of following the grain, drag the razor across the grain of your facial hair.  This second pass will get you closer to the smooth skin you wanted when starting the process.  Also, like the first pass, rinse your face.

7. The Third Pass - Be Cautious

If you want to achieve a baby bottom smooth shave, you can opt for a third pass, but it is entirely up to you.  Reapply your lather and shave against the grain. This pass is the harshest, and the most likely to irritate your skin after you finished shaving. Take extra precaution if you decide to take this step.

8. Loose Ends

At this time, you want to inspect to see if you missed any spots or need to adjust any edging on your hairline.  Check your face to see if any strays missed your razor and remove those hairs.  Also, run your fingers over your face.  It will help to catch hairs that you could not see with your naked eye.

9. Rinsing

After you have finished your third (or second, depending on preference), rinse your face with warm water. This part of the process removes any leftover lather from your face and reopens your pores.  

Your skin has gone through a very vigorous ritual where a sharp razor came in contact.  It needs a chance to recover.  Take this time to look over your face and neck again to see if you missed any stray hairs.

10. Aftershave

Now that your face is rinsed and rid of any later, it’s time to prevent any unwanted facial blemishes.  Your skin is now vulnerable and exposed. After you have cleaned your face, wash your skin with cold water to close your pores then pat your skin dry.  Try patting with a towel instead of rubbing as it can irritate your pores. 

Take care of any nicks or cuts you got while shaving to stop the bleeding.  Then you will want to use your aftershave. Something with an astringent and toner, like witch hazel, will clean and close pores. 

Wrapping Up

Traditional wet shaving is becoming the preference to all men out there.  Not only do you get a closer shave but it is a very masculine ritual that connects you to your father and father’s father.  

Whether you decide to use a straight or safety razor, wet shaving is a better shave that reduces skin irritation and gets you closer to the smooth shave you have always wanted.

I hope this guide helped you with the basics and got you on the path. Let me know how wet shaving is going for you in the comments.

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