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Improving your preparation to get better results

This article explains different ways of preparing your face and whiskers for shaving. Preparation is an essential part of wet shaving, and an important step in getting an enjoyable shaving result without irritation.

Contents

Basic information

The preparation work is twofold;

1- The skin beneath your beard needs to be protected from the razor's cutting edge,

2- Your beard must also be softened. Soft whiskers are much easier to cut than dry whiskers are, and the razor blade will not hang up in them nearly as easily when they are properly prepared.

The following links will give you some basic information about hair and skin care which is relevant to the topic of shaving.

  • RTENOTITLE explains a hair's anatomy
  • RTENOTITLE explains skin's anatomy as well as some basic information of skin hygiene
  • RTENOTITLE explains what exfoliation is and why it is important for healthy skin
  • RTENOTITLE as the name says natural way to care for your skin

Before Lathering

Different methods of preparation listed in this text are not in any particular order. You can choose one to try or grab them all or everything in between. It is just up to you. Skin type, whisker type, climate demand, and how much time you have to spend etc. are different for everyone so I suggest you to try without prejudice. It is the best way to find out what works best for you.

In some situations you may want to consult your dermatologist is the conditions persist. He should be able to suggest off the shelf products that are dermatologist tested and approved and available at reasonable cost.

Hot shower

While you need not necessarily shower before you shave, it is arguably the easiest way to get a lot of hot water onto your face. The purpose of taking a hot shower before you shave is to moisten whiskers and make them softer. While in the shower, wash your face with soap to remove oils and dirt from your whiskers. This will add to the hairs ability to absorb water. Rinse well and do not towel dry your face between shower and shaving as that would be counterproductive to keeping your whiskers soft. Just let the water stay on your face and lather up.

Hair conditioner

For me just a plain hot shower doesn't do enough to soften my coarse whiskers. I use a hair conditioner on my beard the same way you would, use it for your hair. After shampooing and rinsing scrub a little bit of conditioner on your hair and on your whiskers. Let it be for a couple of minutes and rinse off. That's it. Again do not towel dry your face if starting to lather up instantly. RTENOTITLE includes several ingredients which penetrate the hair/whiskers much better and help to make whiskers softer.

Hot towel treatment

This treatment is a very enjoyable method of preparation. Take a soft cotton towel and rinse it with hot water and wrap it around your face tightly. Let it stay several minutes. A popular way to get the towel ready is to heat it in a microwave oven for about 30 seconds. Readers new to this procedure should note: a 1000 watt microwave can heat a wet towel to temperatures capable of scalding skin in less than one minute. The 30 second time given here as "popular" is popular for a reason. Please start low and proceed gradually to the time and temperature that's right for you.

Pre shave oils

In the market there are several different pre shave oils to choose from. The main purpose is to help the blade glide over the skin without so much exfoliation. They do soften the whiskers too but the main idea is to protect the skin.

Keep in mind that it takes very little of these oils for it to work properly.

Use just enough to cover your face with the thinnest possible layer of oil.  You do not want to get sticky and all shiny.

Too much oil could kill the lather you are trying to apply, and it could also compromise the brush you are using.

Should this happen, a good shampooing will help clean your brush. [1]

'Other Products for Pre Shave'

Along with the afore mentioned products many shavers use a small dab of shaving creams such as Cremo and Kiss My Face. A small dab rubbed well into your beard before you lather adds a little more cushion and comfort to your shave.

Sauna

Last thing to mention is very usual in my country. A Substitute for a hot shower/bath is to use a Sauna. Let the heat affect a long time. It really softens the skin and whiskers.

Examples

Here are two different examples how you can combine methods to get the best results for you.

1. Short first, this combination works pretty well when I don't want to spend too much time in a bathroom.

  • hot shower and hair conditioner
  • towel dry your face
  • massage skin food and lift your whiskers up and let it dry while making a lather
  • lather up your face and shave WTG
  • Rinse well and towel dry your face
  • massage skin food again to get a good skin protection for the next pass
  • lather up and shave ATG/XTG
  • notice that do not use too much skin food and let it dry well and create the good film on your skin otherwise you sweep it away with your brush

2. Second example takes a little more time and it is more useful on weekends, or when there is no hurry.

  • hot shower and hair conditioner
  • towel dry your face
  • massage skin food or pre shave oil
  • Wrap the first hot towel
  • lather up your face and shave WTG
  • Rinse well and towel dry your face
  • massage more skin food or pre shave oil
  • wrap the second hot towel
  • lather up and shave ATG/XTG

After both combinations I rinse first with warm water and then with cold water.

Lather

Foam vs. soap vs. cream

There have been many arguments which of these gives the best lather. It is generally accepted that canned products will not provide adequate lather. The main reason given for this is the inferior quality of the materials used for the foam. As for soaps vs. creams, the general consensus appears to be that it is a matter of personal preference. Most quality products will provide adequate lather.

When choosing your soap or cream, the minimum criteria to look for will be:

  • Quality of raw materials
  • Latherability, i.e. how easy it is to create lather
  • Moisturising, i.e. whether the lather will leave your skin dry
  • Cushioning, i.e. the ability to create a buffer between the blade and your skin
  • Glide, i.e. the ability to make your razor glide smoothly along your skin

While scent and price can and likely will also influence your decision, packaging should not. While glass containers may look good, they constitute a health hazard when dropped. And you will one day drop that container.

Which brush to use?

Main article: Brushes

There are three main types of brushes:

  1. Boar hair bristle brushes
  2. Badger hair bristle brushes
  3. Synthetic bristle brushes

Badger hair bristle brushes are believed to hold the most water, and therefore be the best shaving brushes. As with other pieces of equipment mentioned in this article, the choice is ultimately down to personal preference, and budget.

Heating up everything

Temperature plays an important role in building lather. Ideally, both your brush and your shaving bowl will be hot. The easiest way to achieve that is to fill the bowl with boiling water, and let the brush rest in there for a few moments.

There is, however quite a few seasoned wet-shavers who feel that a cold water shave yields very good results too. It is said to be less comfortable, but quite effective when chasing that smooth shave.

Another caveat with the hot water is that the lather from some soaps and creams will break down quickly if the water is too hot.

Building lather

Main article: Articles about lather

In theory, building lather is simple: use the right mixture of shaving soap and water, and use your brush to whip the soap into lather. In practice, however, the variables have to be well balanced. Some tips:

  1. Let the brush rest in hot water until thoroughly soaked and heated. Then whip out the water.
  2. If you are using cream, you may want to squeeze the brush dry in order to avoid turning the cream in your container into liquid. Add water to the bowl instead.

Lathering up

  • Put lather on brush
  • Put brush on face
  • Move brush so as to impart lather on face

Ready to start

  • Turn on the polka
  • Grasp the razor tightly
  • Shave to the music

One aspect that has not been mentioned here is the group of shavers that find hot water and hot lather detrimental to a good shave and skin condition. For those with sensitive skin and/or reactions to some ingredients in soaps and creams the following is recommended.

Use an unscented product. Make sure to check the ingredients list. Depending on sensitivity a few of the products people can be allergic to are menthol, eucalyptus and Shea butter, even though they are used widely.

Use lukewarm, tepid or cold water to build your lather. I have not found cold water to be detrimental to building a good lather.

Wash your face with cold water and when done shaving rinse with as cold water as you can stand. Tightens up the skin.

For aftershave use it is suggested to use an aftershave balm. Several brands are available and the bottle/tube will be labeled 'for sensitive skin'.

You may also find that alcohol based products give you problems when used in aftersahve lotions or colognes.

References

  1. mankind.co.uk's website has some examples and customer's comments.

(additions added by Razorfeld, Aug 23, 2014)


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