One of the hardest lessons about taking on a new challenge is that it’s difficult to measure how much learning is required to become proficient at it. As Malcom Gladwell’s principle of deliberate practice states, one must spend 10,000 hours on something to become world-class in any field. I can’t say that I have spent 5.2 working years of my life wet shaving, but I have encountered many learning opportunities along my journey. If I could turn back time, here are several things I wish I would have known when I got started.
DON’T LET ONLINE DECISION MAKING CRIPPLE YOU
The great thing about shopping online is that you have options, which conversely is also a bad thing. There are often way too many options available. Combing through websites, reading reviews and cross-referencing YouTube videos can be extremely overwhelming. This can quickly cripple your decision making and may also prevent you from taking action.
My suggestion is to find and buy a starter kit, as they are often carefully curated for a beginner’s success. Find one from a trusted source, whether it be a brick and mortar store or online and go for it! Once you get started using your kit, you can then upgrade your gear after if you feel the need to. You can go à la carte, but then you have to research each item and component, which can take up valuable time. Just buy a starter kit and save yourself the time.
IT’S NOT THAT SCARY
Have you ever created a scenario in your head that was far worse than what it ended up being in reality? That was safety razor shaving for me. I have to admit, I was really nervous and a bit scared for my first shave. I had fears and anxiety of mishandling the exposed razor blade and visions of slicing my jugular on the first pass. I can say that those ultra-focused 46 minutes for my first shave were well worth it. The truth is that it’s not that scary. If you are focused, careful and plan for success, you’ll absolutely be just fine.
IT’S EASIER THAN I THOUGHT
I was quite concerned that safety razor shaving would have a steep learning curve, but it turned out to be way easier than I thought. I think a lot of this came from the fact no one I knew was shaving with a safety razor, which made me think… if it was easy, wouldn’t everyone be doing it? I now know that it was all hype in my head. With the right tools, technique and practice, safety razor shaving is actually quite easy.
MASTER LATHER BUILDING FIRST
Before your first shave, I suggest you first master your lather building separately and not in conjunction with a shave. If you can’t get your lather right, your shave may be uncomfortable and that could do more harm than good. I regret not doing this when I got started. I suggest spending an evening or two building lathers, rinsing your brush and then starting over.
After 7-8 tries you should see big improvements. I am quite certain this is where the famous saying lather, rinse repeat came from. All jokes aside, this will also give you a chance to get a feel for how thirsty your soap or cream is. Once you feel your shave lather looks like the ones in the shave videos, then you are ready. I would highly recommend you postpone your first shave until you get your lather perfected first. Also see my Lather Building Tips article.
CHANGE ONLY ONE VARIABLE AT A TIME
This may be the most important thing. In the beginning it’s easy to get excited and you may have the desire to acquire lots of cool shaving gear, soaps, etc. I say don’t. In the beginning stick to one razor, one brush and one soap.
FIND YOUR RAZOR BLADE OF CHOICE
Most kits come with a variety of blades. This is so you can test them and determine which blade brand is best for your skin and razor. I feel that determining your preferred razor blade is an important step, one that is often overlooked.
To achieve this, it will require testing various brands, for more information check out my Safety Razor Blade Testing article. Once you have this completely figured out and you have determined your choice razor blade brand, then move into trying and experimenting with other soaps, razors, brushes, etc.
LEARN YOUR GROWTH PATTERNS
This is more for the fellas and this one sure got me. I remember bypassing this suggestion in the beginning because I thought it was a bit nerdy and unnecessary. Boy was I wrong and I regret letting my ego get in the way. After a couple of months I was still getting a bit of irritation from time to time on one area of my neck. Upon seeking advice from others in the community, everything pointed to mapping my facial hair growth patterns. I caved and did it and let’s just say it immediately changed the game. My redness and irritation was gone forever. I now feel that mapping your beard grain is an essential part of the process and a step that shouldn’t be skipped.
Learning and perfecting anything in life is a continual improvement process. I view safety razor shaving as four essential components, each that should be mastered:
- Mastering the Razor and Brush.
- Determining your Razor Blade of Choice.
- Perfecting your Lather.
- Learning your Growth Patterns.
Take your time to master each section and your will be well on your way to the perfect at home shave!