Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Kaliandee Guide to Summer

Fun though Winter sports can be, Summer is most people's favorite time of year; or is at least the time of year when most people feel like they ought to be enjoying themselves. Some of us however are rather less adept than others at coping with Summer's few downsides.

1) Summer Skincare

The most important skincare consideration in the Summer is to avoid sun damage. Technically, this is a year-round issue, but people tend to expose a lot more skin in the Summer so it becomes much more pertinent. 

The skin produces vitamin D when exposed to sunlight, and if your diet is in any way vitamin D deficient, some exposure is healthy. Sunlight would also appear to have an effect on mental health, as bright light therapy has shown to be an effective treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder. However, extended exposure brings with it the risk of sunburn, skin cancer, and aging effects (and despite the implications of some skincare marketing, skin aging cannot be reversed). Several health organizations have endorsed 15 minutes of unprotected exposure (per day) as being optimum for receiving health benefits from sunlight. Anything beyond that, and you are advised to cover up. 

Sunscreen
If you are relying on sunscreen, there are 4 things you need to bear in mind.
  1. Pick one with an SPF of 30 or higher. If you are fair skinned, aim higher.
  2. Pick one that protects against ultraviolet A and B rays ("UVA" and "UVB")
  3. Be plentiful- it's easy to apply too little. Follow the instructions on the pack or aim for about a palm's worth, and don't forget your face, the back of your hands, feet if wearing sandals etc. If you are fair skinned, you may need more.
  4. Reapply- Even sunscreen meant for use while swimming will rub or wash off. Reapply at least once an hour- money wasted on sunscreen is better than money wasted on aftersun.
Some people have concerns about the safety of sunscreen, but they are rigorously tested products, and all the medical evidence so far says sunscreens are far safer than skin damage.

Shade and Clothing
I personally don't rely entirely on sunscreen. I've come to the conclusion that old-school explorers with their long sleeve shirts and brimmed hats had the right idea, and I think it's foolish to ignore the fact that the Tuareg, the Indians, and other inhabitants of hot climates tend to cover up. 

A good summer shirt (loose fitting, linen, long sleeves with a button to hold them loosely in place when rolled up) is often the better choice than a t-shirt or tank top. A shirt is more versatile than a t-shirt; sleeves can be rolled down to cover the arms or up to make the most of a breeze, collars can be raised to protect the neck, buttons can be undone to expose more skin without having to go shirtless, and you look smarter too (it is easier to dress down a shirt than dress up a t-shirt).

To help protect the face, a hat with a brim is ideal. There is a time when no sensible person would leave the house without a hat- this is a habit people really ought to re-adopt. Preferences will vary, but I favor a straw fedora or trilby. Goorin Bros. make some nice examples, though there are cheaper options that will work equally well (I've had several compliments for the £10 hat I picked up in an English supermarket).

If you are planning a day on the beach, it is highly recommended that you bring some kind of shade with you.

Skincare routine
You may find that your skin changes with the seasons- usually in how dry/oily it is. You may need to adjust to a lighter or heavier moisturizer to accommodate this. Geo. F. Trumper's Extract of Limes Skinfood is a great Summer option if you need to go for a lighter one.

Geo. F. Trumper Extract of Limes Skin Food; a good, light moisturizer
Geo. F. Trumper Extract of Limes Skin Food; a good, light moisturizer


2) Dealing with Sweating

Being sweaty is not in itself a bad thing, it is a necessary body function to keep your body within its safe operating temperature. The undesirable side of sweating is a) Body odor, and b) Sweat patches. 

As someone who sweats rather easily and copiously (though I have the good fortune to be as tolerant to cold as I am intolerant to heat), I've picked up a few coping strategies over the years. 

Go old-school and layer products

Body powders (mainly, but not exclusively talcum powders) are excellent, and often overlooked products. They have fallen somewhat out of favor thanks the successful marketing of spray-on and roll-on deodorants, and due to concerns about safety. As long as you buy from reputable brands, and don't go out of your way to inhale large quantities of the stuff, talcum powders are generally considered safe. Clubman, D.R. Harris, Taylor of Old Bond Street, and LUSH Cosmetics all make great options.

Pinaud Clubman Finest Talc
Pinaud Clubman Finest Talc


For me, talc has two main benefits. Firstly, while it doesn't stop sweating, it seems to buy a little extra "dry time". Secondly, I find that the application of dusting powder makes all the difference in scent. My wedding day was a stifling 31°C with high humidity, and I was wearing a 3 piece bespoke suit. At the end of the day, my suit and I, while slightly disheveled, still smelled mainly of Clubman Pinaud's Finest Talc, which I'd layered on top of my regular deodorant. 

Osma Alum Block
Osma Alum Block


Another product worth trying is an Alum block. Normally used as a post shave treatment, these crystals of hydrated potassium aluminium sulfate is antibacterial and mildly antiperspirant, and can help reduce odor. 

D.R. Harris Arlington Stick Deodorant
D.R. Harris Arlington Stick Deodorant


For best results, try layering one or both of these with a good quality conventional deodorant, such as D.R. Harris' Arlington Stick Deodorant.


Clothes

As I said above, on all but the most humid, still days, a good summer shirt is usually the better option than a T or tank top. Picking clothes that protect you from direct sun while being light enough to allow sweat to evaporate is a great help. 

Don't overdo the air conditioning

Years ago I read "Unscathed: Escape from Sierra Leone" by Major Phil Ashby. Phil Ashby was a Royal Marines officer sent to Sierra Leone as a military observer, who eventually found himself on the run from rebel fighters with three other officers. He mentioned in the book that, unlike most of his fellow observers, he chose to make minimal use of air conditioning when he arrived in country, so as to better acclimate to the heat. Later, while on the run, he credited this with making his time on the run from rebel fighters marginally less miserable. 

Reading this inspired me to cut back on my AC use during Summer. I've found that this works well. If you are in reasonable shape and take proper precautions to avoid heatstroke and dehydration (and over-hydration), working out in the heat seems to assist this acclimation.

I'm not suggesting that you give up using your AC entirely, but restricting it's use for only the hottest times of day will help to make venturing outside less unpleasant.

...............................................................


Now it's time for me to venture out into the heat to check out Toronto's World Pride celebrations. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

My Wet-Shaving Setup

Just a quick post today; I thought someone out there might be interested in what's in my shave den, and which products I use regularly.

Safety Razors:
Merkur 34
Merkur Futur (the matte version)
Edwin Jagger DEL8614BL (long handle, imitation ebony)

Straight Razors:
Vintage Sprock 5/8 hollow ground
Vintage Wade and Butcher near wedge
Dovo "Best Quality"
A hollow ground razor marked only with "Solingen"

Brushes: 
Edwin Jagger 181P27 Best Badger
Vie Long Badger & Horse mix with wooden handle (currently on loan to a friend)
Men-U Barbiere Pure Bristle (boar)
"Invisible Edge" Pure Badger (currently on loan to a friend)

Creams:
Proraso Menthol & Eucalyptus (currently on loan to a friend)
Truefitt & Hill West Indian Limes
Boots Cool Cologne Lather Shave Cream
Boots Freshwood Brushless Shave Cream
Men-U Concentrated Shave Creme
Mondial Sandalwood
Mondial Zagara
Bulldog Original Shave Gel
King of Shaves Alphagel

Soaps:
Taylor of Old Bond Street Sandalwood
Edwin Jagger Sea Buckthorn
Williams Mug Soap
Osma Shaving Soap with Alum
Col. Conk Amber Glycerin
Col. Conk Bay Rum travel soap
Boots Travel Shave Stick

Other:
Osma Alum block
Proraso Menthol & Eucalyptus Pre & Post
Various brush and razor stands
2 Dovo strops
Assorted Edwin Jagger cream and lotion samples
Various brands of blades
Shaving Mug


My current favorites:
Obviously, not all of this gets used every day. A lot of it was bought more out of curiosity than expectation of it being good (mostly the cheaper products like Williams mug soap).

I'm on a bit of an Edwin Jagger kick at the moment, so the combination I've been using most often in the last few weeks is my Edwin Jagger or Men-U brush, the Edwin Jagger DE razor with Feather blades, and the Edwin Jagger Sea Buckthorn soap in combination with the Truefitt and Hill cream. Lately I've not felt the need to use pre-shave, but I still tend to finish off with alum.

The bad:
Bear in mind that "your mileage may vary"; products that I hate may be loved by others.

The non-lathering creams really don't work for me with single edge razors, though I really liked the King of Shaves gel back when I was still using cartridges. The Osma shaving soap was also a big disappointment: I liked the scent but the lather actually irritated me, it has spent the last few years on a shelf.

The Boot's own brand cream and soap (Boot's is a chain of drugstores in the UK) and the Williams Mug soap aren't great performers, but they do get the job done and at that price point I don't feel I can call them bad products.

Men-U's concentrated cream didn't do a lot for me, although I'm still not convinced I'm lathering it right. That said, if it's harder to use than the $2 Williams mug soap, then some criticism is justified.

The rest:
I liked both my Merkur razors just fine before the Jagger came along, and the DEL8614BL only beats them by a small margin- the chrome on it is fantastic though. I prefer the 34 to the Futur, but have no regrets at purchasing the Futur (I bought it at full retail price).

My straight razors are all overdue a good honing, but when they're actually in shaving condition I tend to favor the Wade and Butcher for those rare occasions when I have more than a week's growth, and the Dovo for everything else. The hollow grind of the Dovo lets you feel each hair "pop" as the blade cuts it, whereas the wedge grind of the W&B relentlessly plows through the thickest stubble with barely any noise or feedback.

All four brushes are more than capable of whipping up excellent lather. I slightly favor the Edwin Jagger best badger, but the Men-U also stands out for me. I purchased it at the same time as the Boot's own brand creams, and was surprised at how good it was for £10- I have something of a preference for stiffer brushes.

I've hinted at my attitudes to cheaper and more expensive soaps and creams in the post on superlathering; I find that you generally get what you pay for, but cheaper products can still be fun to use, especially in combination with others. In the warmer months I particularly appreciate the scent of Edwin Jagger's Sea Buckthorn soap (now discontinued, but Muhle's Sea Buckthorn is identical), and find that it shaves at least as well as my winter favorite, Taylor of Old Bond Street's Sandalwood.

I'm less fussy about creams than soaps, and find that Proraso, Truefitt and Hill and my Edwin Jagger samples all offer equally good shaves. I tend to choose between them purely on the basis of scent.






Friday, April 11, 2014

Why a Single Edge?

I feel that I'm overdue writing a post dedicated to the single blade razor. Lately I've been emphasizing the importance of the brush and preparation, at the end of the day it's not the brush that removes stubble, and I do love my razors.
For clarity: shaving with a "double edge" safety razor counts as single edge shaving, as only one of the two sharp edges should be in contact with your skin at any time. If both edges are touching your skin, your shave has gone badly wrong!

Reasons to shave with a single edge:


  • Cartridges cost more over time than DE blades or a straight razor.
  • You are not locked into a specific brand of blade.
  • Traditional razors are built to last a lifetime, not until the next model comes out.
  • Traditional razors look far more impressive.
  • A single edge gives you more control.
  • A single edge gives you more feedback- especially a hollow ground straight razor.
  • Traditional products have a sense of historicity.
  • You get to learn a new skill.
  • You may achieve a much closer shave than you've had with cartridges.
  • You are less likely to experience ingrown hairs.
  • You are less likely to experience razor burn.
  • The best reason: Because you want to.
Some of those points need no elaboration, but I do want to emphasize a few.

Control and Feedback

When you shave with a cartridge razor, you have much more material in contact with your face- several blades, the blade guard, and a "lubricating strip" of questionable benefit.

Shaving with a safety razor, you only have the single blade and the safety bar (or comb) in contact with your skin. A straight razor has even less contact: only the finest edge of metal against your skin.

One of the first revelations I experienced when shaving with a traditional razor was how much more feedback I ever had with my cartridge razors. The analogy that came to me the first time I experienced this was of car enthusiasts talking about being able to ``feel`` the road beneath them through the suspension and steering. This feeling is most pronounced when using a hollow ground straight razor, which allows you to feel individual hairs ``pop`` as the blade cuts through them.

As well as being an incredibly useful tool for perfecting your technique, this feedback give you a great connection to your shaving ritual, and will teach you about the contours of your face and growth patterns of your hair, which is useful to know whatever razor you use.

Control (again)

The second way in which single edge shaving gives you control is in your choice of blades. Once you buy a Fusion, Hydro 5, Azor, or other cartridge handle, you are locked into buying the specific cartridge meant for that model, from the one manufacturer that produces it.

Double Edge blades are standardized in shape, but made by many manufacturers under many brands, with some key differences in quality, sharpness, materials and treatments. This means that if you decide that your blades are too sharp, too dull, too short-lived, you can try another brand. At the time of writing, the Kaliandee store carries Astra, Dorco, Feather, 3 models of Gillette, Merkur, Personna, Wilkinson Sword and Derby- and this is not an exhaustive selection of available brands, they are just the most popular.

With a straight razor, you are locked into one brand- the make of the razor. In the case of straight razors, this gives you all the more control as you can stop and hone (or have honed) your straight razor to your exact specifications.

Ingrown Hairs and Irritation

Most traditional shaving enthusiasts feel that a single edge beats cartridges for reducing irritation and ingrown hairs. There are a couple of reasons why this is probably true:

1) Fewer blades across your skin

Shaving generally requires multiple passes- the aim is to reduce hair over multiple passes of the blade rather than lop it all off at once. One of the selling points of cartridges is that their multiple blades give the effect of several passes in one. In my experience multiple passes are still needed for a close shave- and when you have 5 blades in one razor, even if you only go over the same area twice (as opposed to my usual 3 passes), you are accumulating the equivalent of 10 passes with a single edge.

2) Cartridges "tugging" on hair
Some people feel that cartridge razors tend to "tug" on the hair, pulling it slightly before cutting it. If this does happen, this will cut the hair below the level of the skin, leading to an increased chance of ingrown hairs. I've yet to see convincing scientific evidence for this, but ask the members of any shaving forum why they prefer a single edge over a cartridge and you are likely to hear ingrown hair and razor burn horror stories about cartridges.


 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Superlather

Do you particularly appreciate the variety of scents and products that traditional shaving offers? Are you a perfectionist, always aiming for a better shave?

If you can answer either of the above in the affirmative, and you haven't tried shaving with a superlather yet, I suggest giving it a go at your earliest convenience.

First off, a definition: A "Superlather" is any shaving lather made from a combination of two lathering shaving products (soaps, creams, and Italian hard creams/soft soaps known as "croaps").

Most wet-shaving experts specifically use the term to describe a combination of a hard soap and a soft cream, but I have combined soaps with soaps, and creams with creams before, and I called all of them superlathers (all the good ones anyway!).

There are a variety of advantages to be had from combining products (if you just want to give it a go already, I give a quick explanation of my approach at the bottom):

The Best of Both Worlds
Pretty much all reasons to try superlathering stem from this: "the whole is greater than the sum of it's parts".

As I've discussed before, there are some broad differences between soaps and creams in general. Certain brands also have a reputation for being particularly strong in certain characteristics. By combining a soap and a cream (for example), you should be able to make a good, rich lather with the moisturizing and protecting qualities of a cream, with the slickness of a soap- in other words, you can get a step closer to the perfect shave.

Scent Combinations
The best way to create a signature scent (short of approaching a bespoke perfumer) is by layering and combining products. Although shaving soaps and creams do not scent your skin with anything like the strength of an actual cologne or aftershave, they still add to the effect (someone has to get close to pick up the scent of your shaving products, so think of this part of your scent layering as a treat for the people in your life who you are close to). Through some fun trial and error, you are bound to find a combination that suits your personality and tastes.

Making your products punch above their weight
Even though my University days are behind me, I still enjoy picking up the occasional budget or own-brand product just to compare to the big name alternatives. Where shaving products are concerned, while you generally get what you pay for, I find the cheaper soaps and creams still provide an acceptable shave even if they lack some of the luxury refinement of the high-end products.
For my last shave (which I enjoyed mid-way through writing this post), I loaded a Vie-Long brush with Col. Conk's Bay Rum soap, then proceeded to whip up a lather using Williams Mug soap. I find that the Williams/Conk combination works far better than either soap on their own. I won't be giving up my Taylor's, Truefitt, Trumper or Harris products any time soon, but superlathering makes the cheaper stuff enjoyable enough to stay in my rotation.

Using up "second choice" product
If, like me, you enjoy picking up and trying new products, then sooner or later you'll have a few around that don't quite cut it, and which tend to get overlooked in your collection. Throwing them away is wasteful. Giving them away is a great option, especially if you think the product is good but not to your tastes. The third option is to find a product you can superlather it with that makes for an enjoyable enough shave that you find yourself wanting to use it again (this is why I started superlathering with the Williams Mug Soap in the first place). 

 How to create a superlather

 My personal method for combining two soaps is to gently splay out the brush, and load* the inner part of the brush with the first soap, gently "close" the brush, trying not to squeeze the soap out, then load the tips of the brush from the second soap- not applying too much pressure in the process.  I aim to have the brush loaded with as much soap as I would if I were lathering only one, so the time spend loading from each soap is about half that if I were only using a single product.

For creams, I prefer to place a small (about half what I'd normally use) amount of cream into the splayed out brush,  then load the brush from a soap as usual.

Either way, once the brush is loaded, you can proceed to build your lather in a bowl or on your face as normal.

This is in no way definitive- Mike Sandoval of Shaving101 and Mark H of sharpologist both prefer to load their brushes with a soap and place a small amount of cream in his shaving bowl before lathering. The basic techniques of lathering do not change significantly, you are merely trying to incorporate two products rather than one into a lather. For me at least, experimenting with new techniques and products is part of the fun- hopefully you'll enjoy finding the combinations that work for you!

*introduce plenty of soap, i.e. "soapy water" into your brush, before you aerate and hydrate it further by actually whipping up a lather.


Monday, March 31, 2014

Choosing your shaving gear: What do you really need?

There are a LOT of products that fall under the umbrella of "traditional wet shaving gear":
  • Safety razors (adjustable or fixed)
  • Straight razors
  • Boar, horse, and synthetic shaving brushes
  • Black, Pure, Best, Super and Silvertip shaving brushes
  • Shaving creams and soaps
  • Hones and strops
  • Pre shave creams and oils
  • Alum blocks, post-shave creams
  • Traditional aftershaves
  • Brush and razor stands
  • Soap dishes, mugs and scuttles
With all of this choice, it can actually be somewhat stressful for the beginner to work out exactly what products they should invest in. For this reason, I'll be taking a look at what products are truly essential, which ones come highly recommended, and which are simply luxuries or a matter of personal preference.

Essentials:

Vulfix boar shaving brush
Vulfix Boar Brush


Brushes, Soaps, Creams
Certain items are more or less non-negotiable. The key to wet-shaving is the "wet" element, and what sets the traditional apart from the modern is the use of a shaving brush to make a lather. This means that a shaving brush and something to lather with it are THE essentials. Like many wet-shavers, I have more than one brush (I have more than one of most shaving products), and while I prefer certain brushes to use with certain products, a good brush, be it boar, badger, horse or synthetic, can do most things. Arguably the most all-round brush would be a high-end best badger, or a well-broken in boar brush. Both of these options should have a good balance between softness and stiffness, and suit a wide range of techniques and products*. I've covered creams vs soaps before; provided you buy a good quality one, either should serve you well.

Edwin Jagger Plaza double edge safety razor
Edwin Jagger Plaza Safety Razor


The Razor
Although I favor single edge shaving, I'm not going to argue too hard with anyone labeling themselves a "traditional wet-shaver" if they use a cartridge razor, so long as they are using a brush and soap.

However, you are going to need SOMETHING sharp to cut those whiskers- a razor of some kind is non-negotiable- and sooner or later, the company making that cartridge razor you've been using is going to try to talk you into "upgrading". Instead, I recommend a sidegrade to something more traditional. For only slightly more than the cost of a 12 pack of Fusion cartridges, you can pick up a basic safety razor from a manufacturer like Edwin Jagger, and blade sampler pack that should last you months. A basic straight razor will set you back more, though it could well end your dependence on buying blades for life.

Dovo hanging razor strop
Dovo Razor Strop for Straight Razors


Leather Strop (straight razors only)
A straight razor needs stropping before every use. Since this task is both essential and needs to be done as regularly as you plan to shave with your razor, it is not something you can outsource, as a beginner might with razor honing. At a minimum, you will need a leather strop, ideally with a canvas back, and a maintenance paste for the strop.

Recommended

 A brush, cream/soap, razor, and a bit of skill should be all you need to achieve a better shave. There are certain things that make the experience undeniably better though.

Dovo stand for shaving brush and straight razors
Dovo Brush and Razor Stand


Brush and Razor Stand
Shaving brushes are designed to hold onto water, a brush that doesn't will do a poor job of lathering. While this is a desirable quality for the actual shave, it is not ideal for the brush's longevity or hygiene for it to sit around damp afterwards. For this reason, you should allow your brush to dry out as best you can. This is best done by keeping the brush in a stand; apart from allowing gravity to aid the process by keeping the brush in a bristle-down position, a brush in a stand is less likely to be put into a poorly ventilated cupboard, or otherwise misplaced or mistreated by visitors, roommates, partners etc. A brush in it's stand is clearly already where it belongs. These same things apply to razors, although drying out is less essential provided the razor is not a high-carbon straight razor (which WILL rust if left wet).

Apothecary bowl
Apothecary Bowl


Shaving Mug
A shaving mug, bowl, or scuttle, is a great accessory for your shave den. Although you can build a lather directly on your face (which is what bumps this down from being an "essential"), mugs are great for beginners as they allow precise control of the amount of product and water used. Larger sizes of mugs can also be used to store shaving soaps, which allows you to buy refills of shaving soaps rather than the version that come in a bowl. You can (and many people do) use something like a large cappuccino mug for bowl lathering, but many people prefer to get something designed for the job- the "apothecary style" mug you'll see in many places is designed to be easily held with wet hands.

Osma Alum Block for soothing nicks after shaving
Osma Brand Alum Block


Alum Blocks
Astringent and mildly antiseptic with a mild coagulant effect, alum blocks are a very old-fashioned post-shave treatment. By moistening the block with cold water and gently rubbing it across the face after your shave, you'll help to seal and disinfect any nicks and cuts.

Alum blocks are often described as "soothing", but what many people will actually find is that it stings slightly when you first apply it, before calming down and leaving your skin smooth and irritation free. What I, and many wet-shavers find, is that the better your technique and sharper your blade, the less initial sting you have (presumably due to fewer microscopic nicks on your skin). This makes the alum block very useful for assessing your technique.

 Finally, because of their antiseptic effect, if you DON'T like alum as a shaving accessory, you can use it as a natural deodorant instead, so it's unlikely to be a wasted purchase.

Hones (straight razors only)
Stropping helps to keep your razor sharp by gently re-aligning the microscopic metal burrs at the razor's blade into a fine edge. After several months of use, these burrs will start to become too numerous and too misaligned for stropping to be sufficient. At this point, your razor needs re-sharpening, or honing, or it will become ineffective and downright uncomfortable. This is a task you can outsource to one of the many independent "honemeisters" who can be found on the shaving forums. If you only have one razor, this can be inconvenient, as typically such arrangements involve mailing the razor off, and there may be a waiting list. With some care, most people can learn to hone their own razor. The basic tools required are a hone (or several, but many get by with a single combination stone, with a high grit side and a low grit side) and a lapping stone to ensure the hone is flat.  

Optional

Pre-shave oils, Creams, Aftershave Creams
 A good lather and good technique with your razor should get you a long way to a perfect shave. Pre-shave treatments and aftershaves (especially the non-alcohol based variety) can help you go the rest of the way. This is particularly true if you have sensitive skin, don't quite have your technique down, or have very particular preferences regarding the feel of your skin after a shave. For some people, some kind of pre/post treatment would be an essential, but for many (including me), they are luxuries; sometimes I use them, sometimes I don't.

Traditional Aftershaves
Traditional aftershaves tend to be alcohol based, and are formulated at least partly for purposes of fragrance rather than effect on the skin, although they are mildly antiseptic. The best aftershaves will still have some kind of moisturizing ingredients to counteract the drying effect of alcohol. I would regard this style of aftershave to be entirely non-essential, but nevertheless a fantastic way to finish off your morning grooming routine- if you're not one of the few who find them drying.



*The latest generation of synthetics may well prove to be good all-rounders too.


Monday, March 10, 2014

Shaving in a hurry


There are many reasons why men make the switch back to old-school shaving products; price, control, a sense of history and tradition, a love of luxury, or even just sheer curiosity. Most men have a few reasons, and if there is one factor in common with all traditional wet-shavers, it is probably a perfectionist streak.

However, many men shave in the morning under time pressure, and  find that busy mornings and the quest for the perfect shave are fundamentally at odds with one another. This is especially true for beginners and straight razor users (and doubly so for beginners learning on a straight razor!), who are obliged to take extra time and care to avoid nicks and irritation.

Over time, as you gain more experience, you will likely find that you can achieve a good shave quickly, without feeling too rushed, or too much like you are performing a chore. Until you reach that level (I still have some room to improve), here are the approaches that work best for me:

1) Streamline your preparation

Shaving is an art- lots of factors need to come together for a perfect shave. Chief among them however is preparation- mainly of your face, and of the lather. There are a few ways you can make this more efficient.


  • First- if you both shave and shower in the morning, fill your shaving mug with warm water and place your brush to soak in it while you shower. Your brush will likely absorb enough or more water than you need to create your lather (if it soaks up too much, you can gently shake out some of the excess- a little practice will teach you how much you need). 
  • If you are using a solid soap, use you brush to transfer some of the warm water to the top of the soap to soften it while you shower. This will make it much quicker and easier to lather, in many cases it will lather as easily as a cream at this point. 
  • Use a shaving bowl- As much as I enjoy face lathering, if you are in a hurry, whipping up a lather in a bowl will reduce the likelihood that water and lather will end up somewhere you will have to clean up. You can also usually produce more lather in a bowl for a similar amount of time and effort, as you can "whisk" the brush around rather more quickly in a bowl without redecorating your bathroom in a "foam party" theme. A bowl full of lather also makes reapplying for subsequent passes easier. 
  • A warm shower should prepare your face enough before you lather- just don't entirely dry it off before you lather up. If you do not shower in the morning, wash your face with warm water while your brush soaks.
2) Replace your blades regularly

I find I can get quite a few shaves out of most brands of DE blades, but most blades are past their best after the first 2 or 3 shaves. At this point, more care is required for a comfortable shave- both in preparation and the shave itself.

If your time is at a premium, swap out blades early, after all, they are cheaper than cartridge blades. The straight razor equivalent to this would probably be to strop the razor thoroughly the night before, so it is at it's best and ready to go in the morning.

3) Use More Product!

Pre-shave products are no substitute for a good lather, but they can certainly improve the quality of your shave, and may help prevent nicks and irritation if you take a few liberties with the speed and care of your shave.

Traditional aftershaves tend to be alcohol based and fragranced, and while they may have some soothing ingredients, their purpose is often to be mildly antiseptic to help prevent nicks and cuts from becoming infected (it was an infected shaving nick that killed the 5th Earl of Carnarvon, backer of the Tutankhamun dig, so this was rather crucial before antibiotics).

Modern aftershaves are created to be more soothing, and these excel at relieving the irritation that may occasionally result from a hurried shave. While prevention is better than cure, these are still worthwhile products.

4) Switch to the evening

This one seems rather obvious, but shaving has been so culturally ingrained as a morning thing that it really doesn't occur to some people. I find shaving can be invigorating or relaxing, based entirely on what products I use.

Products such as Edwin Jagger's Cooling Menthol or Proraso's Menthol and Eucalyptus will tend to be stimulating and awakening, and ideal for a morning shave, while products with woodier, warmer scents are more relaxing and can help you to wind down after a busy day. If you want to take your time shaving, and your beard isn't so fast growing that you can shave in the evening and wake up with stubble, I highly recommend giving this a try.

5) Keep perfectionism a weekend luxury

In our interview with Neil Jagger (founder of Edwin Jagger), he revealed that his weekday shaves are usually with an Edwin Jagger razor fitted with a Fusion cartridge, while he uses a Chatsworth with a DE shave head on the weekends. He prepares with a silvertip brush and a soap or cream for all his shaves, so they are all to a standard he enjoys.

My own approach is similar: As someone who owns both straight razors and double edge safety razors, I tend to default to safety razors during the week for convenience, and treat myself to a luxury straight razor shave on weekends.

Even if you do not use more than one razor, the key here is to aim for "good enough" during the week, but to treat yourself and take your time on the weekend. The things you learn on your weekend shave will probably improve your everyday shaving experience over time.

6) Keep your mirror clear

One annoying obstacle to shaving, quickly or otherwise, is often a foggy bathroom mirror after showering. Here are my top workarounds for this:


  • The obvious: Better bathroom ventilation
  • The masochist: Colder showers (which are supposedly good for you, and actually quite tolerable, especially if you have a morning exercise routine)
  • The high-tech: apply an anti-fog treatment of the variety sold for car windscreens and mirrors
  • The low-tech: leave the bathroom and shave like they did before modern plumbing, with a basin of warm water and a freestanding mirror



I've had good results from all of these approaches (apart from anti-fogging my bathroom mirror, which I've only heard good things about). I'm sure there are other good ways to get a better shave in a hurry, and I'd love to hear about them in comments.