All you need to get started with DE safety razor wet shaving
Updated 22nd of February 2021
New to DE shaving? Here we recommend a DE safety razor beginner kit that will give any new DE shaver a great start.
There’s not much to it – don’t worry! But if you get your initial setup wrong, it can turn what should be an enjoyable experience into a disaster that gets your new equipment disregarded and relegated to some never to be seen again drawer with other well intended hobby equipment!
So what are we talking here? Well you need a DE razor, and some blades – that’s obvious! The selection of both of these is very important. There are vast differences between the performance of different razors, and different blades. Next up, if you are using canned shaving cream, it’s highly recommended to move onto a shaving brush and shaving cream. You get slickness and glide from a nicely lathered shaving cream that just won’t happen with canned shaving cream.
Besides a few other optional accessories (like a shaving brush, razor stand, styptic pen), it’s also important to make sure you have aftershave on hand. Look after you skin, and it improves your shaving experience.
Quick guide to a beginner DE shaving kit
Is DE shaving really better?
If you are new to DE shaving, you may be questioning if DE shaving is really the way to go. Most people know DE shaving is inexpensive in comparison to other options. But there are many other less known advantages to DE shaving.
It doesn’t matter if you are comparing to an electric razor, or cartridge systems, DE shaving wins.
DE vs Electric razor
The real difference here in favor of a DE razor is closeness of shave - An electric razor will NEVER shave as close as a DE safety razor. Having tried many electric razors, the results at best feel like around 12 hours of growth after a DE shave. So if a close shave is your aim, a DE razor beats an electric razor. Of course that’s only one criteria. You could argue an electric razor is more convenient. It doesn’t need water or shaving cream. Personally I prefer a close shave…
Both these shaving methods have reasonable startup costs. But with the right DE razor, it can last a lifetime. Electric razors generally last around 3 years before needing new cutters, or full replacement.
DE shaving also has the added benefit for many of reduced skin irritation as well as reduced ingrown hairs. With an electric razor I get ingrown hairs around every 2-3 weeks. These ingrown hairs would swell up in a big red blemish for a good week or so. With DE shaving, I’m looking at 1-2 ingrown hairs per year. Hard to beat.
DE Vs cartridge razors
Besides the crazy cost of cartridges, by far the most annoying thing about cartridges, IMO, is blade clogging. I mean really, how many times do you need to bang the razor on the sink to try and clear the blockages? With a DE razor there is no banging. No swishing. Simply dunk it in the water, and the blade is clear. Nice hey!
In terms of shave closeness, I’d say with good technique you can achieve a similar result. But the cartridge will result in more irritation. That’s because you have multiple blades that you MUST use whichever direction you are shaving.
DE shaving is also far better for the environment, being non-disposable.
DE razors for beginners
Not all razors are equal. The design of the razor head and the weight of the razor dictates the type of shave it will achieve. Common terms used to discuss DE razor design are aggressiveness, and blade gap. A beginner doesn’t want an aggressive razor. Blade gap indicates the distance between the safety bar (the portion of the razor head below the blade) and the razor blade edge. An aggressive razor has a large blade gap.
The most common DE razors are butterfly type, or a three-piece. A butterfly type razor has a knob at the bottom of the handle, that when you twist, it opens flaps at the top of the razor head - which look a little like a butterfly if you use your imagination! You can then put the blade into the razor, and screw down the flaps again to secure the blade. A three-piece DE razor is just that, a razor that breaks down to three pieces. These three pieces are the handle, the base plate of the head, and the cap of the head. The three join together by a screw on the handle that goes into the cap – thereby securing the blade and the baseplate between. A three-piece razor has less parts, and is easier to clean. Some prefer a butterfly razor for ease of blade changes.
It’s largely personal preference between these two main styles – as long as the razor blade is secured and aligned perfectly in the head. That’s a big if! There are many razors about that due to poor design or machining tolerances simply do not align the blade in the head perfectly. And this has the potential to cause cuts and frustration. You want a razor that automatically aligns the blade perfectly every time.
DE razor blades
At The Bayview Informer, have spent quite some time researching razor blade sharpness. Be sure to check out the linked article if you want to understand how blade sharpness can differ across blades, particularly as the blades are used.
For a beginner, there is the potential for irritation and cuts as you learn technique. For that reason, a blade that is smooth to use, and not too sharp is a good starting point. Voskhod is a perfect example. If you can use a Voskhod without irritation or cuts, and are looking for a sharper blade, then a German produced Wilkinson Sword is a sensible next step.
Think it’s just shaving cream, and they are all equal? Think again! Shaving with a sub-par cream can make or break your shaving experience. It affects closeness of shave, as well as he tendency to cut or irritate. A great brand for shaving cream is Proraso. They are not expensive, and you get a large tube that will last a long time for a very reasonable price. If you are looking for a budget option, Gillette Pure also does the job well. I suggest beginner’s use a shaving cream rather than a puck, as achieving a good lather is a simple process with a cream.
There are many variations in shaving brushes. They all feel different to use, as well as lathering differently. So what to look for? In the past, boar brushes were the rage. And they were expensive. Today synthetic brushes are their equal, and cost is minimal. A generally preferred knot size (diameter of the bristles at the base of the brush) is 24-26mm. Less, and the brush can be floppy. More, and the brush can hog the lather.
DE razor shaving technique
Let’s discuss DE shaving technique - without writing a thesis!
The two most important things to keep in mind are blade pressure and shaving direction.
I’ll start with blade pressure. With a DE razor, you want to use minimal pressure. It’s almost as if you are letting the razor rest on your skin through the weight of the razor. If you dig in with pressure, you probably will get away with it using a mild razor, but with a more aggressive razor you are asking for trouble. The blade should glide across your skin.
The next big one is shaving direction. For some reason, most people think you should shave from the top downwards. Forget that. You want to shave in the same direction as the growth of your beard. And that direction can change across your face and neck. Seriously, take a few minutes to rub your hand over your stubble and feel which way the hairs grow. If you are lucky, it doesn’t change directions much. If you are like me, the direction constantly changes! And for each of these changes, you need to adjust your shaving direction to accommodate. This is called shaving ‘with the grain’. Note that with a DE razor, you most likely need to do more than one shave (termed a ‘pass’). For example, you may lather up, shave, then re-lather and shave again. Many DE shavers will perform 2-3 passes. Once you have mastered shaving with the grain without irritation– which could take weeks or months – you can then consider adding shaving passes where you shave say ‘across the grain’ or ‘against the grain’ to achieve a closer shave. Most people can’t shave against the grain as the first pass without cutting themselves.
A final point worth discussion is the angle to hold the razor. It’s different to a cartridge razor. And the exact angle varies between DE razors. So it’s a try and see scenario. Non-aggressive DE razors will have an obvious angle where it shaves best. So give it a go, and the angle will become clear soon enough.