Common Wet Shaving Questions
Are you new to wet shaving and have questions? We’ve compiled answers to some of the common questions we’ve gotten from both new and experienced wet shavers. This isn’t a comprehensive list but hopefully we’ve addressed some of your common concerns.
How do you get a good shaving lather?
The first thing you need to do is figure out if you have hard water or soft water. This is actually a very common problem that a lot of people have and don't realize it. One way to check is if you have chalky, white deposits on your shower head or sink, you probably have hard water.
Hard water has an over-abundance of minerals such as calcium that can really mess up your lather. Try buying a gallon of distilled water and heating it up to shave with. This can help immensely.
So you've got soft water, but your lather still doesn't whip up nicely? The best advice is to start with less water and add more as you go rather than over-doing it right away. You can always add water, but getting water out of lather is as ridiculous as it sounds!
What kind of shaving brush should I get?
There are four primary shaving brush styles: badger, boar, horse, and synthetic. There are also blended hair style brushes that utilize the properties of both hairs in the same shaving brush. (Technically, they could be considered their own subset but if you understand the pros and cons of each hair type then it should be simple to determine what a blend would offer.)
Badger is generally softer and holds a lot more water. There are several types of badger hair as well, but there are so many companies with their own standards for what silvertip and pure mean that we won’t tackle that discussion here.
Boar is stiffer and holds less water. The stiffer bristles will agitate the soap more efficiently than badger, generally.
Horse hair is basically described as being a halfway point between badger and boar, with a firm feeling but also very soft to the face.
Synthetic shaving brushes are designed to imitate natural hair brushes and are targeted towards those with allergies or issues with using real animal hair. Synthetic shaving brushes have come a long way in the last few years, and some are giving badger hair a run for its money.
Are shaving soaps or creams better?
This is a great question, especially for newer wet shavers when they're building their first shaving kit. Shaving creams are generally a little more expensive (although there are creams available that are very inexpensive and serviceable) but will probably create a better lather early on in your learning window due to its consistency.
Shaving soaps are usually a bit less expensive, although higher end brands can be almost as expensive as high end creams. West Coast Shaving carries shaving soaps from under $10 to over $50.
The difference to using shaving soap is the work and time to lather your shaving brush - either in your hand, on your face, or in a separate container.
Shaving soaps come with different options for ingredients as well, with some being animal-fat/tallow based or vegetable-based. You can also find organic and natural shaving soaps. Soaps can also be milled into flakes to melt into your favorite mug or scuttle, or cut to size to fit the same.
What is a strop?
A strop is a piece of leather or canvas that aligns the microscopic edge of your razor blade before you use it. A leather strop cannot take metal off the blade; this is why shavers hone the razor on a whetstone intermittently. The strop will only help shape the blade back to its original bevel.
Most strops come with two pieces, one that is usually a fabric much coarser than the leather that serves to agitate the blade and heat it slightly before stropping.
There are two primary types of leather used: horse and cattle. Horse is considered better because of its inherent ability to hold more moisture, which is key to keeping the leather conditioned.
If you are a straight razor user, you need a strop because without it, you will find that the microscopic edge on your blade will not last as long, start to tug and pull, and you will end up with less than favorable shaves.
With a safety razor, you can simply throw the blade away and start fresh, but with a straight razor, you must routinely and regularly maintain your blade to ensure it is working as it was intended.
I bought 100 of the same razor blades and I don't like them. What should I do?
First and foremost, it's a great idea to pick up a razor blade sampler pack with as many different brands as possible. This will allow you to try a variety of blades to find ones that work for you and your razor.
The “best” razor blade is the one the works best for you. Sometimes a blade might be too sharp/aggressive for you while others love it. Or maybe you want a super aggressive blade that others shy away from. The point is to experiment. And (seriously) take notes. If you are working through a variety of blades, you might forget what you noted about the blade by the time you are on your fifth option.
In fact, you might find that you hate a blade on the first use, but come to love it. Or your favorite blade in a different razor just doesn’t do the job the same. Having a variety of blades to play with can make your wet shave even more enjoyable.
Keep in mind that there are minor discrepancies between different razor blades even of the same brand - so it’s best to try as many different razor blade sampler packs as possible.
So, what do you do with that bulk of blades you don’t love? Don’t despair. Share with a friend or keep it in the rotation because you might find you love it down the road or with a different razor.
These are just a few questions that frequently pop up from new and seasoned wet shavers. What other questions do you have? Drop them in the comment below and let us know. Happy Shaving!