Our ancestors didn’t have the benefit of running water in their homes. Hence, shaving was a weekly visit to the neighbourhood barber. And wet shaving by a professional barber was the only way to go. There simply wasn’t any other choice. But modern advancements have brought us lots of amenities, namely running water straight out of the taps in our bathrooms. So why don’t men today take advantage of wet shaving for our regular grooming needs?
The Origins Of Wet Shaving
Back then, before we had running water in our bathrooms, many men sport full facial hair. It was the logical thing to do, since it was next to impossible to maintain a clean shaven look. But if you prefer a clean shaven look, or like me, you suffer from irregular facial hair growth, tough luck… The more affluent had personal barbers to regularly shave for them in the comfort of their homes. For the rest of us mere mortals, the neighbourhood barber was the next best thing. And daily shaving was a luxury many can ill afford. Hence, weekly visits to the neighbourhood barber was the norm.
What’s The “Wet” In Wet Shaving?
When we refer to shaving by a professional barber, we mean wet shaving with a straight razor. And the term “wet” literally means lubricating the shave with water. Of course, it’s more than just water alone. There’s always some sort of lubricant mixed in to cushion the shave, and more importantly, to hydrate the facial hair. And the most common lubricant used is soap. Whilst the regular bath soap is usable, nothing beats a specially formulated shaving soap. A good shaving soap will produce a thick and stable lather to help cushion the razor against the skin. And also slippery enough to help the blade of the razor to glide effortlessly on your facial skin.
In case you still don’t recognise it, wet shaving is indeed an indulgence. It’s not often that a man can spend a good half hour (or more) just leaning back and doing nothing. If the barber is really good, you might just end up falling asleep while he works on you, pampering you.
Can We Wet Shave Ourselves?
The ultimate way to wet shave is to let a professional barber do it for us, using straight razors. However, there’s no way for an average man to be able to afford professional shaves on a daily basis. An occasional treat to the barber is fine, but not for your daily shave, or even every other day. For the regular shaves, one still has to do it himself. But does that mean he can’t indulge in wet shaving when he shaves himself?… You most definitely can.
Wet shaving one’s own face demands one’s full concentration. All you need are the right tools and consumables. For those new to the game, the best razor to use is a double-edge safety razor. And for the more daring ones, a straight razor is the way to go. What better way to express one’s manliness than shaving with a straight razor, right?
Wet shaving with modern cartridge or disposable razors?… Well, you can still do that… But it’s like signing an important document with a stick of crayon. Technically speaking, there’s nothing wrong with it. But wouldn’t you want to express your civility and maturity by using a classic fountain pen instead? Especially a luxurious one with a solid gold nib?…
You’ve Got Your Razor Of Choice, So What’s Next?
After the razor, the next most important thing in wet shaving is the shaving soap. Shaving soap is a specially formulated soap, designed to cushion and lubricate shaving, not for cleansing. And whilst the term “soap” is used interchangeably, there are generally two major “types”. The first is the “hard” soap. It looks and feels like regular bath soap, only that the bar is typically shaped like a flat disc. Usually stored in flat shallow tubs, you use a wet shaving brush to load it up and whisk up a lather.
The second type of shaving soap is also known as the shaving cream, or “soft” soap. You also store these “harder” paste-like creams in flat shallow tubs. You use them in the same way as hard soaps. And then there’re also even softer, almost slurry-like creams. These, you dispensed through tubes, just like toothpastes.
However, foam sprayed from an aerosol can is not shaving soap. That’s shaving foam, not soap, not even cream. These generally use synthetic detergents to generate the foam, and some variety of gaseous propellent to dispense it. So instead of moisturising the skin like natural soaps, it dries the skin even more. Hence they’re not the same thing. Shaving soaps generally use natural ingredients instead.
Step-By-Step Wet Shaving At Home
Without going too deep into the details, wet shaving is generally broken down into these steps :-
(1) Preparing Your Face For The Shave
Hot towel treatment is the best way to open up your pores and soften the facial hair. But unless you visit a professional barber, hot towel treatment is out of the question. The next best thing is to shower pre-shave, preferably with hot water. It’ll essentially result in the same thing as hot towel treatment.
Next, wet your favourite shaving brush with some hot water, and load it up with the soap. Then you can either whisk it into a thick lather on a shaving scuttle, or directly onto your beard. The latter is great if you want to massage your face with the shaving brush whilst working up the lather. Either way, you’ll end up with a thick and luxurious lather covering your beard.
(2) Gently Shave Your Beard From Your Face
We don’t intend to go into the myriad of shaving techniques here. But the general process is to shave all the facial hair at the base of your skin. This leaves your face soft and supple. And the lather also functions to trap all the newly cut hair into itself, making the process much cleaner too.
Don’t forget that shaving also exfoliates your facial skin too. Once the moisture dries up, your face will start feeling sensitive. So don’t wipe your face dry. Instead, pat your face gently with a clean and dry towel. Keep your face moist, not dry it completely.
(3) Post-Shave Treatment
Once you’ve removed the excess water from your face, it’s time to start your post-shave treatment. Many of us are familiar with splashing on some aftershave, usually an alcohol based liquid. Contrary to popular belief, this is the wrong thing to do. Whilst alcohol sterilises any weepers (microscopic open wounds), it also dries your skin out too. Remember how it stings the moment you splash the aftershave on immediately after your shave?… Not a nice feeling, right?
Instead, you’d want a proper aftershave lotion, not a splash on. A cooling balm to sooth your sensitive skin, and astringent to seal the moisture in. Once you’ve completed this step, your face will be nice and smooth, at least for the next 24 hours.
Where Can I Buy The Necessary Tools And Consumables?
There are many wet shaving special interest groups around, especially on social media. And many of them will be more than happy to recommend products for you to try. Understand that we all have different skin types, and not all products will work equally well for everybody. The best way to learn is to experiment it yourself. Nothing beats trying the products out on your own.
As for me, I’ve can safely say that The Elektrik Chair Overload is an excellent shaving cream. Works better than the whole collection of various shaving soaps that I’ve hoarded over the past decade. If you want to skip the whole learning curve, and get one that just works, go with Overload. And while you’re at it, don’t forget to get The Elektrik Chair aftershave lotion too.
The Barber, The Chemist, And The Artist
You’re probably wondering how can I be so confident with The Elektrik Chair brand, right? The answer is pretty simple actually. The products were developed by Andrew Chang of Othrs Barbers Kedai KL, for use in his barbershop. The home shaver was never the target market in the first place. So if they’re good enough for a professional barber’s use in a barbershop, they’re definitely good enough for the home shaver. And good things are meant to be shared, right? So lucky for us wet shaving enthusiasts, they’re now available for sale too.
Reach out to Andrew Chang if you have any enquiries. Right now, The Elektrik Chair range of products aren’t widely available just yet. But you can arrange to purchase directly from him, or even just to get to know him better. No purchase necessary. He’s a really friendly fellow.
Living The Life Of Our Wet Shaving Forefathers
Technology has indeed made life a little more comfortable for us. And modern living has distanced us from the path of our forefathers. But the romance of living the simple life our forefathers lived sometimes beckons like the call of the wild. Want to brag to the world that you shave with a cold sharp steel blade against your exposed skin? Especially when most of your friends are probably still dry grinding their beard with a handheld “lawnmower”?…
Better still, treat yourself to a professional wet shave by the master himself. Just make an appointment for a visit. And feel free to drop a comment at the end of the page. But not before participating in the poll down below. We’d like to know how you shave too.