Shaving 101

Shaving 101 by John Allan

Shaving is an integral part of every man’s routine, yet when I talk to people, many are not really happy with their shave. Some think it takes too long in the morning others feels it is not smooth enough, and hence it seemed to be logical to talk about the act of shaving after we tested a Double Edge Razor (very smooth result, time intensive) and two electric razors from Philips & Braun (not as smooth, but much faster).

Today, John Allan will tell you about his shaving experiences:

First and foremost, men have to remember one of the main ingredients for an incredible shave – TAKING YOUR TIME.I meet many men and as I see it, there are mainly three types of men:

Shaving 101

Facial Scrub

Facial Scrub

The 101 man feels he has no time, or just doesn’t care. He wants a good shave, but he wants it fast. If he doesn’t already shave in the shower, I recommend he starts. This guy needs a slick shave and the shower steam will provide him with the moisture that his beard needs. Just add a thin layer of pre-shave solution or conditioner onto the skin to reduce razor drag and experience a fast, clean shave

Shaving 102

This chap knows that if he wants a better shave, he needs better tools. He upgraded from a one blade razor to a five. He went from an aerosol can of shaving cream to a tube or the classic tub. His pre-shave prep allows him to shave at the sink. He understands the cool, calm, and conditioning benefits of a cooling after-shave. He might feel strapped for time like most guys, but one piece of advice he should take before he shaves against the grain is to  re-lather.

Pre Shave Lotion

Pre Shave Lotion

Shaving 103

 This guy is almost me. He takes shaving seriously. He gets up earlier in the morning so he can prep his beard. He believes that pre-shave, such as my slickwater solution is essential. He carries his own razor. He may also carry a silver tip badger brush to apply his shave cream. If he has a tough beard, he should begin by using John Allan’s scrub to start the process. This exfoliates dead skin and lifts the follicles to help prevent ingrown hairs and avoid skin irritation. His post shave is personal. He believes in the three-step program: pre-shave solution, Shave cream, and after-shave remedy. It’s the perfect shave.

My Favorite Shave

This is the closest you can get to the classic old school shave. This is Vito. This is Brando. This is as authentic as you can get. At night, when all is calm, I pour a glass of scotch, take a sip and turn on Willie Dixon blues.

The Shave

The Shave

I apply hot water to my face to open the pores and exfoliate with scrub. I rinse clean and apply a steaming hot towel to my face. After the hot towel is removed, I take another sip. Then I pour about a quarter size of slickwatersolution in my hand and work it in to my beard, usually rubbing against the grain. This solution will create a barrier against the blade and reduce nicks and irritation.

Lathering with Badger Hair Brush

Lathering with Badger Hair Brush

I take my time. Now comes the shave cream, the badger brush and my razor, shorty. I dip the brush in the tub of shave cream and apply it on to my face in a circular motion to lift the hair follicles to get as close a shave as possible. I shave with the grain, first. (Every face is different, so take a close look at your facial hair and look what directions it grows in).  Then apply another steaming hot towel, re-apply shaving cream, and shave in the opposite direction. Once I am done, I rinse my face well and apply a cold towel. I allow my skin to
calm for a minute, finish my drink and apply my acai infused aftershave remedy to soothe, protect, moisturize and repair my skin, because basically it just underwent a thorough peeling.

As you can see in the pictures, John Allan uses Gillette razors at his store because that’s what most men are used to. However, personally I am an avid opponent of Gillette razors because they take about as much time as a double edge razor and provide and inferior result, especially if you have thick hair. I would say a shave is en par with an electric razor but Gillette takes much longer. Therefore I either use a DE razor for quality or an electric razor for speed. Besides, Gillette is more costly than both

So,  what kind of shaving type are you? What is your routine and what kind of razor do you prefer?

16 replies
  1. Richard
    Richard says:

    I stopped reading after I saw him using a regular gillette razor.
    A traditional safety razor or a straight razor is the only way to go!

    • Sven Raphael Schneider
      Sven Raphael Schneider says:

      Richard, I think he does not use a Gillette himself, however they do at the store where the pictures are from. I asked him about that in the interview and he says that’s what his customers demand…

  2. Carmine Leopold
    Carmine Leopold says:

    I’m a young man (25) with a fair complexion and straight hair, alas european, so I have to shave relatively often but it is easy for me (compared with someone that would grow a thick, curly beard). I shave every two days when I head to the office.

    My routine is the following: fill the sink with scalding hot water, drop my bar of turkish shaving soap into it. Then I go into the shower, do my usual bit and exfoliate my face with a softish loofah (peelings are too rough on my skin and dry it too harshly, I’m a sensitive man). when I come out I comb my Hair out of the face and rub the soap between my hands, resulting in an okayish foam, wich I apply to my face against the grain with my soapy hands, repeat 2-3 times till everything is soaped up. Then I wash my hands in the still rather hot sink, drop the soap again, take a single blade disposable razor and shave the face with little strikes with the grain, discard the whiskers after 4-5 drags in the sink, continue till once around. Then I wash my face with the warm water from the sink. then I apply soap once again (lathe up in hand, distribute to face), this time it becomes super smooth and thick. now I go against the grain, again little drags and much rinsing in the sink. at the end I roughly trim my ‘stache and the sideburns and wash my face with cold water ( to close the pores). Afterwards I apply a unisex face lotion with urea to my whole face ( I loofahed my face before, remember) and presto. wash sink, discard razor, put soap into soap tub. Costs me around 6EUR a month.

  3. John W. Browning
    John W. Browning says:

    I too was astonished that he used a Gillette in his business. I was furthermore shocked that his customers want that. Nothing beats the treat of a luxury shave via straight razor by a skilled technician. While I am sure Mr. Allan’s establishment is top quality, I doesn’t seem to have the feel of a Barber Shop (judging by the website)
    I use both a a double edge (the Gillette Superspeed I started with many years ago) and a vintage John Primble Blue Grass straight (my Grandpa’s). Along with Grandpa’s shave mug, a puck of Taylor of Old Bond Street and a H.I.S. Deluxe shaving brush, I truly enjoy the act of shaving. If more folks would slow down and enjoy the act of shaving with a quality double edge like a Merkur or the sort, they would save money, get a better shave and get a little Zen in the process.

  4. F Gabriel
    F Gabriel says:

    One seldom sees a self-advertising piece so spectacularly backfiring as this one: besides the banalities about “how to shave”, the whole thing takes a decisive turn into farce when Mr Allan unveils his drinking habits while shaving. If the man really throws down a scotch (in the morning, Mr Allan?) in-between passages, then it is probably for the best that he shaves with a Gillette: God knows what could happen if he were allowed to use a proper, grown-up double edge razor. If he were to imagine himself more like James Bond than “Vito and Brando”, and go for a dirty Martini instead of a scotch, then besides the “Gillette only rule”, somebody should also remove the toothpick from the olive.

  5. Duncan
    Duncan says:

    My routine is quite similar – I usually shave immediately after showering, so I’ve already scrubbed my face. I fill the sink with very hot water (pre-heating my shaving bowl at the same time), moisten my chosen soap (I use traditional hard soaps from D. R. Harris or Taylor of Old Bond Street), then sit my brush (best badger rather than silver tip, sadly) in my bowl to soak the bristles. While it’s soaking, I apply a steaming hot flannel to my face – my beard’s already softened from my shower, but it feels too good to leave this step out. I then apply a few drops of pre-shave oil (from Truefitt & Hill), then work up a good lather in my bowl and apply it to my beard with a circular scrubbing motion. I shave with an Edwin Jagger long-handled DE razor and Astra Platinum blades. The first pass is with the grain, second pass against the grain, and the third pass is across the grain. I re-lather between each pass obviously – one tip here is to float the shaving bowl in the basin of hot water to keep it warm. After shaving I rinse thoroughly with hot water, then rub a natural alum block over the shaved areas. Whilst the alum dries on my skin I clean and dry my shaving tackle. Then I finish off with a cold rinse, pat dry with a warm towel, and apply a moisturising aftershave balm – currently I’m using Edwin Jagger’s Sandalwood. I don’t tend to use alcohol-based aftershaves on my face, but on occasion I might splash on a little something from D. R. Harris…

    The whole process takes me about 25 minutes.

    I would have to agree with John about the Gillette though – when I pay for a shave, I want the best, and that definitely means a straight razor. Although to be entirely honest, the actual shave is probably the least important part of a barber shave for me…

  6. Sven Raphael Schneider
    Sven Raphael Schneider says:

    Thanks for sharing your routine Duncan. In regards to hot towels, I use a wash cloth, make it wet and put it in the microwave – very easy, quick and does the job.
    In order to keep the lather warm, I use a seperate bowl with hot water and put the mug in it. because it would not float in the sink. Besides sometimes sinks are too little.

    Personally, I would only pay for a shave with a straight razor. The best I ever had were in Turkey and Egypt – you get a massage as well, and they literally burn of the fuzz – it is quite an experience.

  7. Justin
    Justin says:

    Like the others, I recoiled when I saw the Fusion being used. I think we understand that it’s stores only, not Allan’s personal habit.

    I was also taken aback somewhat by the plugs of his own products– it reminded me of those instructions on some food boxes where they recommend a particular brand of oil or eggs or something!

    I’ve lost almost all of my desire to get into straights since I started using my Muhle R41 tooth comb DE razor. This thing is considerably more aggressive than even a slant Merkur is. Yet it rewards the patient user with a shave the is absolutely amazing. I’ve managed to get almost 18 hours of baby-butt smooth from an R41 shave. I’m using Astra SPs, but have used Feathers (great blade, a litte too risky with the R41) and also Derbys (avoid– they are junk in an R41– not sharp enough).

    I make do with an inexpensive Semogue and some Proraso mixed with Mitchell’s Wool Fat. I think it’s rather luxurious at a pretty reasonable price. MWF is some amazing stuff.

    I’ve only been using an R41 for about 10 months, but I’m very pleased and not interested in other options.

    • Sven Raphael Schneider
      Sven Raphael Schneider says:

      Justin, thanks for sharing your two cents! I think the eggs are a good comparison and I was surprised to read it as well. As with so many things in life, there is not just one way to achieve things.
      I have not heard of the Mühle R41 but I wonder why it is more aggressive. Have you tested it side by side with the slanted Merkur HD?

  8. Jamie
    Jamie says:

    Having just come across this article, I thought I’d share my routine and the issues i have with shaving.
    Since i started shaving in the early nineties, i got caught up in the ‘blade wars’ offering closer and closer shaves with more and more blades on each razor. Id always suffered quite badly with ingrowing hairs and I beleive this only made the situation worse. It led me to spend most of the naughties scratching my face every couple of days with a beard trimmer so I didnt have to endure a wet shave at all. Not an ideal situation but a compromise for comfort.

    However, now my job now dictates that I actually look reasonably presentable in the office and since im pushing the mid thirties, I need to make myself look a little more diginified. I have an issue though.

    As a rower seriosuly into his sport I spend a great deal of time on the river and while the summer months are not so bad, in the winter the combination of cold temperatures and sweat can play havoc with your pores and skin. Also having morning outings to complete before work means that shaving can sometimes decend into a bit of a scrabble.

    My solution is a result of expediency and habit. Its led me to a workably happy medium beween looking groomed and spending the half hour I have between water session and work equally on my ablutions and breakfast.

    I fill the sink with hot water (this also serves to warm my hands as well when the mercury dips below zero). I thoroughly massage my face with the hot water to soften my beard, sometimes using shaving oil as well if I feel my skin is raw from the elements. Following this, I dip my badger hair brush in the water and lather up from the trumpers soap I use. Its my one concession to ‘luxury’ thorughout the process. I use the cheapest bic blades – usually the five for a quid variety. I find I can actually get a pretty smooth shave from them and I also dont feel bad when they go blunt.
    I finish off by splashing my face with cold water before dabbing dry with a towel.

    Id be very interested to know what sort of blade you might recommend for someone who needs a quick safe shave.

  9. Kral
    Kral says:

    I have tried electric razors, I would have been better with tweezers. I tried cartridge razors and was unhappy with all the in-grown hairs. I also had that issue with the DE razors but to a lesser extent. I went full circle and now roll with a full on straight razor and couldn’t be happier. To anyone looking for a relaxing ritual I say go for it and bring the edge of skill and danger back to your ritual.

  10. Colin Richard
    Colin Richard says:

    I believe people are severely mistaken when assuming that using a safety razor takes extra time for a shave. I am in the military and some mornings only have minutes for a shave due to work and such. The time it takes me to attain proper lather using a brush and cream in a bowl, apply on my face, and shave, is only a matter of minutes. If i am stretched for time even more so I will apply the cream to the brush directly and build the lather on my face. Doing either of these presents me with a very good shave in no more than 10 minutes, 5 if I am hurrying. The key is practice, after but a few weeks of shaving with a safety razor I had attained the same speed as I would with any modern razor. Now on weekends I will admit that I spend more time and care taking multiple passes to assure the absolute highest standard of shave, but you can make the activity available to any working man stretched for time.

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