Wet Shaving At Home: Chore Or Indulgence?

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?

A man wet shaving himself with a straight razor.
Facial grooming comes with the territory of being born a male. Either get used to it, or get used to sporting an ever increasing bushy beard… Not a very good look if you want to project a professional brand image.
Image by @stockking of Freepik

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.

A customer having an full fledged wet shaving treatment with a professional barber. His beard being lathered evenly, and the barber carefully shaving with a straight razor.
A weekly visit to the neighbourhood barber was the norm back in the olden days. When houses started to have running water, wet shaving at home became more prevalent, and visits to a barber became an occasional treat rather than a regular affair.
Image by harshul6 of Pixabay

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.

Close up of a barber's hands, whisking up a lather using a shaving brush on a shaving scuttle.
Whisking up a dense and luxurious lather for shaving needs only a good shaving soap, small amount of water, and lots of elbow grease. A shaving scuttle may be helpful if you’re shaving at home, but most professional barbers prefer to face lather, as it also helps to exfoliate the facial skin prior to shaving.
Image by @master1305 from Freepik

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.

Close up image of a home wet shaving kit. Contents are as mentioned in the caption.
A typical home wet shaving kit, which consists of (clockwise from left) a vintage safety razor, a bottle of aftershave lotion, a badger hair shaving brush, and a tub of shaving cream.
Image by Andrew Chang courtesy of Othrs Barbers Kedai KL

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?

Close up image of the tools against a black tray, as listed on the caption.
A professional barber’s tools of trade (from left to right): electric hair trimmer, Feather Artist Club straight razor, The Elektrik Chair Supercharge shaving cream, and an oversized silvertip badger hair shaving brush.
Image by Andrew Chang courtesy of Othrs Barbers Kedai KL

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.

Close up image of the opened tub of The Elektrik Chair Overload shaving cream, showing the cream itself.
The Elektrik Chair Overload shaving cream is an off-white paste, with a consistency of thick peanut butter. It’s rigid enough to stay in place in the tub, yet soft enough to be scooped out and applied on the face for lathering.
Image by Andrew Chang courtesy of Othrs Barbers Kedai KL

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.

Close up of a tub of The Elektrik Chair Overload shaving cream, and next to it, a shaving brush that's loaded with the lather.
A rich and thick foam that’s stable enough to last throughout the whole shave is what makes a luxurious shaving soap. In this case, The Elektrik Chair Overload certainly lived up to its promise.
Image by Author

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.

Close up of a lathered face, pre-shave, showcasing the rich and stable lather of The Elektrik Chair Overload shaving cream in action.
Lathering up straight after a shower. Hot towel treatment is a luxury that you can’t do on your own, so a hot shower will suffice for self wet shaving. Notice that some of the beard hair is poking up from underneath the dense lather.
Image by Author

(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.

Close up of the shaving brush and razor after the first pass of the shave, showcasing the stability of the lather even after shaving.
After the first pass with the grain, and the lather is still firm and stable. Notice how the shaved hair is trapped in the lather on the razor?
Image by Author

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.

Close up of the post-shave face, immediately after a cold water shower to rinse off the balance of the lather.
Rinsing off with cold shower after the shave reveals the smooth skin post-shave. Always remember not to wipe dry immediately. You don’t want to accelerate the process of drying your sensitive, newly shaved and exfoliated skin.
Image by Author

(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?

Close up of a bottle of The Elektrik Chair aftershave lotion.
Your facial skin is most vulnerable immediately after shaving. You’ll want to disinfect your skin, but you also want to lock in the moisture too. Hence, an alcohol-based aftershave is discouraged. You’ll only accelerate the ageing process by drying it out prematurely. The Elektrik Chair aftershave lotion disinfects your skin, and contains humectant to lock the moisture in your skin too.
Image by Author

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.

Close up of the face post shaving, and post aftershave lotion. The skin is slightly sensitive due to the mechanical exfoliation, but is moist and supple.
The face condition immediately after applying the aftershave lotion. The slight redness is the body’s natural reaction to the repair of the epidermis, especially right after a mechanical exfoliation with a razor. The most important thing is to ensure you don’t accelerate the drying process. Allow the still moist skin to air dry naturally.
Image by Author

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.

Close up image of the tools and consumables used for this article. The individual items are as listed in the caption.
The wet shaving kit used for this article (from left to right): a badger hair shaving brush, The Elektrik Chair Overload shaving cream, The Elektrik Chair aftershave lotion, and (foreground) my trusty Double Arrow, full-hollow, straight razor.
Image by Author

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.

Andrew Chang is a one-man-show barber at Othrs Barbers Kedai KL, hence service is only by appointment. So don’t make a mistake and drop in unannounced.
Image by Andrew Chang courtesy of Othrs Barbers Kedai KL

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.

Which method of facial hair shaving do you employ?
28 votes

About CHOW Wei Ming

Brand consultant, photographer, creative director, storyteller, and a true believer of the power of visual communications. Outwardly expresses a friendly disposition, but hides a perfectionist nature deep inside him.

4 Replies to “Wet Shaving At Home: Chore Or Indulgence?”

  1. Used my Friedr Herder Ace of Spades straight razor, with my Riva Badger brush and First Canadian Shaves Notorious shave soap and aftershave today. Had a great shave, traditional shaving is the only way to go.

    • Yes indeed. Sometimes, modern technology simply can’t improve on something that’s already perfect. 😁

  2. Wet shaving since 1973 and will only quit if too old and feeble to raise my arms! I did use a foil, electric from age 13 to 21 as that was what Dad used and the only method that was permitted. First day out on my own; WET SHAVING begins! I always proselytize luxurious wet shaving to all.

    • I think most of us grew up having to relearn how to wet shave. Most, if not all, fathers of our generation adopt “modern” tools for shaving. Hence, we all start our shaving journeys exactly the way that our fathers taught us. But having relearnt the art of wet shaving, I don’t have any regrets, nor would I revert back to “modern” shaving methods.

      And yes, we should advocate wet shaving to any and all young men out there who’re interested to learn.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *