As the old saying goes,
Proper preparation prevents piss-poor performance.
Nothing could be more true of getting the ultimately perfect wet shave with a safety or a straight razor. Yes, hardware is important, but getting the best shave of your life on an on-going basis requires a strong emphasis on the skin and beard prep.
Too many newly-minted wet shavers (typically using a safety razor or straight razor) complain the shave did not perform as advertised. Unfortunately, in many such cases, it was not the razor’s fault, but more likely operator error with a lack of proper shaving preparation.
Proper shave preparation will help you avoid many of the complaints about wet shaving, which can include:
Unfortunately, proper preparation does not solve for complaints about speed. There are certainly methods and tactics for speeding up the process. But, if you follow the cost/quality/speed matrix, there is no way to increase speed without simultaneously decreasing quality or increasing cost or both.
When it comes to preparation, some time is involved. But, if you fail to prepare properly, your shave will not even closely resemble that of the ideal wet shaver.
So, when it comes time to prepare your face for your next wet shaving experience, here are the proper preparatory steps for the best wet shave of your life:
Soften the beard and whiskers. This is done with a combination of water and heat. The best preparation uses hot water, typically first splashed on the face and then the application of a hot, wet towel over the beard area.
Apply some preliminary shaving cream or soap or pre-shave oil. The preliminary amount is much less than the complete amount used for your shave. If you are using pre-shave oil, a few drops in the hand should do if your have just a few days growth, more if you have a more mature beard. The application of some initial soap or cream can be applied as a substitute for pre-shave oil. I typically suggest an amount that is about 1/3 to 1/4 of what you would place on your face for your full shave routine. Remember, this is simply the preparation phase of the process, but you should build your lather at this stage as you will want to be completely ready to apply the lather immediately after step 3.
More heat and water. Once you have applied the small amount of pre-shave accouterments like cream, soap or oil, heat your wet towel again and place it over the lightly creamed face. Keep it as hot as you can handle it. This is often referred to as Kyle’s Method.
Apply your lather. Somewhere before now, you should have already built your lather. The ideal time to apply the lather is immediately after you remove the towel from step number 3 above. When the time for performance has come, the time for preparation is past. Get the lather on. Get it on thick and get it on quick.
Scrape and repeat Step 4. Once you apply your lather, you can now use the razor of your choice to scrape off the follicles. If you have properly prepared for your shave, you will not need to apply the water and heat for additional passes. Just use your brush and existing lather.
In typical wet shave fashion, you will likely look to make two to three passes until all noticeable hair is removed. Remember, wet shaving is about continuous beard reduction, not immediate beard elimination.