Wet Shaving Guide - All You Ever Wanted to Know

If you fancy trying, or are thinking about changing to wet shaving, then this page will make a very useful guide for you. We explain the razor options, soap, cream and gel options and offer some very useful tips for the perfect wet shave.

Thanks for taking your time to read our information on wet shaving. Here at the Shaving Emporium we are a group of people who have a lot of experience with shaving and grooming of all kinds. Wet shaving has been around for a very long time, and is in fact starting to make a comeback in the United Kingdom. In this article we take you through the various options available to the would be wet shaver.

Wet Shaving Explained - What is Wet Shaving?

When people think about wet shaving, an image is almost instantly conjured up about a man's face, covered in lather ready for a blade to shave their face. However, there is a lot more to it than that. For sure, some men have been doing this for many years, but many women also use wet shaving for their legs and even under their arms.

Men are also starting to do this, and including their parts of their bodies.

So wet shaving is really all about preparing the skin, applying a lubricant and then shaving with a blade.

  • Skin preparation - This is about applying hot water to the area that is going to be shaved, or simply put, wetting the skin. For most men that is simply washing the face and neck area with warm water. For ladies and men this is about wetting what ever area is going to be shaved. The essence of a "wet shave" is the "wet" part. The skin needs to be wet with hot water as that lifts and softens the hairs on the skin. (Barbers use hot towels for this purpose) A great time to shave is just after a shower where the steam has also raised and softened the hair.
  • Protecting the Skin - Applying a good quality soap, cream, or gel does several important things. It softens and raises the hairs and it also protects and moisturises the skin. This is vitally important for a cut and nick free shaving experience. Applying this with a shaving brush is better than apply it by hand as it pushes the lubricant into the bristles and hairs that are going to be shaved off.
  • Picking Your Preferred Razor/Blade - Below we explain what types of razors or shavers are suitable for wet shaving. We would recommend the DE safety razor as that does the best job and is also the most economic method. The various options all work but some are just much better than others.
  • Shaving Technique - When starting out most beginners will get this wrong and make mistakes. The good news is that with just a little practise, you can easily master the technique.

Key Benefits of Wet Shaving

Isn't it easier to just buy an electric shaver and have a shave? It probably is though we would ask you to consider the following information.

  • Skin Care & Protection - When applying a protecting lubricant to your face, or whatever area of the body you are shaving, you are caring for your skin and also moisturising the skin. That keeps the skin hydrated and healthy
  • Closer Shave - Using a razor with a blade will always give a much closer clean shave than an electric shaver as long as you regularly changed the blades
  • Reduced Shaving - Many men shave in the morning with an electric shaver (dry shaving) but will need to shave again that evening if they are going out. With wet shaving one shave a day really does last all day
  • Speed - At the start this will be a little slow, but once the technique is mastered, then this type of shaving is very quick.
  • More Fun - It is just great fun to try different brushes, creams, soaps and blades and find out the perfect combination for you. When men start with this type of shaving they really do enjoy the whole process.

What Do You Need for Wet Shaving - Wet Shaving Products & Supplies

If you have decided to give this type of shaving a try, then you do have a few options. We have listed those options below with an explanation of each shaving type.

Razors

Jagen David B30 Butterfly Double Edge Razor Safety Razor Review

Lather

no 8 rated shaving soap

Brushes

Progress Vulfix 404 Grosvenor Mixed Badger and Boar Bristle Shaving Brush review

Accessories

Best Way to Shave for Men and Women

Below you will find a lot of information on the art of wet shaving. We present you with the various options that you will need to get started.

Razor Choices for Wet Shaving

There are four types of razors that can be used for a wet shave. Just remember a wet shave is where the face and neck is washed with hot water. After that, a soap, cream or gel is applied to soften the hair and protect the face, and then some type of blade is used to remove the hair.

1. Double Edge Safety Razors

These are the best choice for anyone starting out and considering a wet shave. Have a look at the image to the right, where you will see an image of a very classic looking double edge (DE) safety razor.

This type of razor accommodates a razor blade that has two edges. The head also has a comb to help protect the skin, and is also where the blade can be changed when required.

These are for us the best choice. They are also the most economic choice as a razor like this lasts for years, and all you need to do is replace the blade after every 5-6 shaves. The blades are cheap to buy unlike the more expensive cartridges or disposables.

2. Straight Razors (Cutthroat)

These are mainly used in barber shops for what is called a traditional wet shave. Barber will use these usually as part of a hot towel shave. Some men, and especially those who have used a DE safety razor, do make the transition to a straight razor.

This is better known in the UK as a "cutthroat" razor. Sounds frightening we know, but delivers an excellent smooth shave, and is great fun to use.

There are two types; a fixed blade or a disposable blade type that uses razor blades. We would not recommend the latter for beginners. The fixed blade is the better of the two, though does involve a little more maintenance as you have to sharpen it.

3. Disposable Razors

These would be our least favourite option. That said, they remain the most popular choice for many men and women in the UK. They come in two different types which are the throw away disposable razor or the cartridge razor.

Disposable Razors

These are made by brands like BIC and Wilkinson Sword and typically there are about 20 in a packet. You will get about 5-6 shaves per razor and then you just throw it away and use a new one.

Cartridge Razors

These have a handle and a head. The head is attached to the handle using a cartridge that will contain the blades. When those get worn, you then replace the cartridge. Examples are the Gillette Fusion5 and Wilkinson Sword Xtreme.

4. Electric Razors (Wet/Dry)

Electric razors used to be what are called dry razors or shavers. In other words they were used directly on the skin with no lather or any type of lubrication. Those are still used every day by many men.

However manufacturers now make what are called Wet/Dry electric razors. That means they can be used for normal dry shaving, but they can also be used on wet skin that has had a soap, cream or gel applied to it.

Many people are now starting to use these as their preferred choice.

Most of this type are cordless and can be used in the shower. Just be aware though that some can not, and are still sold as wet/dry, because you can rinse and clean them under the tap.

Lather Choices for Wet Shaving

There are a number of ways to create a lather. This lather then can act as a lubricant and offer protection to the skin. The choices include shaving soap, shaving cream, shaving gels and shaving foam. We have explained each of these in more detail below.

Shaving Soaps

A lot of shaving and grooming companies make shaving soaps.

There are both hard soaps and softer soaps. Both work well for wet shaving, and the hard soap, although harder to lather, will last a great deal longer than soft soaps.

To get a good lather you will need to use a shaving brush (shown below) and whip up a nice creamy lather. It really doesn't take long and is quite a fun thing to do.

Most of these will have a very mild scent such as Sandalwood, Eucalyptus or Menthol. There are some without scent though. so plenty of choice.

Shaving Cream

Shaving cream comes ready to use, so you can either apply this by hand or by brush.

We still however recommend using a brush to apply any type of shaving cream. It just works better and creates a nice lather that is easily pushed into the bristles and the skin.

Shaving cream is slightly more expensive than a soap, and some people just prefer it for convenience. Typically it comes in jars and you can buy refills for these jars when the cream runs out.

Some manufacturers will sell this in small tubes, where the cream is squeezed out.

Shaving Gels

Gels are a popular choice and again these are a very convenient and easy to use choice. These are applied by hand and rubbed into the hairs on the face, or whatever area you are shaving.

These are also rubbed into the skin, and when you do that, then a nice cream starts to develop, which is ideal for shaving.

Gels can come in small tubes and in cans. They are affordable and are used by both men and women.

Shaving Foam

This is the only wet shaving we would recommend that you avoid. We have tested all of these and never found a really good one. Typically these are foams that come out of a spray can.

They look rich but we found them to be full of air and offered very little protection to the skin. Some manufacturers have recently started adding Argan oil to these, and some buyers do seem to like this option.

They are not the best option, but they are easy to pick up in supermarkets and chemists throughout the country.

Shaving Brush Options

You can apply shaving creams, gels and foams by hand, but is very difficult to apply a quality shaving soap by hand. All of these lather making products are always better applied using a good quality shaving brush. Just below we discuss the different types and offer advice as to which ones you should pick.

We would like to point out that most shaving brushes are made from either boar hair or badger hair. To get that hair these animals do have to die. Most manufacturers now offer a synthetic (man-made) shaving brush where the hair and handle is made from a synthetic material. Other manufacturers have started to use horse hair that is taken from the tail or mane.

Boar Hair Brush

These are the best choice for anyone who wants to use a soap rather than a cream or gel. The boar shaving brush is quite firm so it catches the soap better, and makes it easier and faster to create a lather.

They are also the best choice for men with tougher skin as the hairs of the brush can really get to work on the tougher hairs on the face. The hair is taken from the wild boar, hence the name.

This is the type of shaving brush that you will find in almost every barber shop throughout the United Kingdom.

It is also worth noting that boar shaving brushes are cheaper than either horse, badger or synthetic hair brushes.

Badger Hair Brush

For longer than we care to remember, badger hair has been the go to material for shaving brushes. Yes this hair does come from the badger, and the animal has to die to get this hair.

For that reason they have started to fall out of favour, and have been replaced with either horse hair (taken from the tail or mane) or by synthetic man made hair brushes.

The badger hair does come in different qualities, and is still very popular with many wet shavers. There are 4 types of badger hair which are pure, best, super and silvertip.

Those are grade by quality of the hair with pure being the most basic and cheapest, and silver tip being the highest quality and the more expensive option.

Horse Hair Brush

As mentioned above a few shaving product companies have started to move away from hair from either the boar or the badger. They now use hair taken from either the mane of a horse or from their tail.

No injury comes to the horse as a result. 

The reason that badger hair and boar hair were so popular was because that type of hair was good at keeping water in the brush, which helps a lot when lathering a soap. Horse hair also does a very similar job.

shaving brush made from horse hair

Related Information

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Synthetic Hair Brush

We have explained why this type of man made hair is now popular, especially with vegans. Initially, that type of hair was poor quality and quite scratchy on the face.

In recent years that process has become a lot more refined, and now these types of brushes work really well, and are starting to become extremely popular. Those who don't like the idea of an animal having to die to make a brush, will much prefer this synthetic brush option.

As you can see from the image to the right it is hard to tell the difference in the look of the brushes. Their popularity is very much on the rise.

Wet Shaving Accessories

There is an interesting range of wet shaving accessories. We have listed those below, and we know that these make great gifts for wet shavers of all ages.

Safety Razor & Straight Razor Blades

If you use a safety razor, or a straight razor that has replaceable blades, then you will know the importance of buying good quality razor blades.

The standard sized razor blade will fit almost every DE safety razor.

For the straight razor (cutthroat) you can either break a standard one in half, or you can actually buy half blades in packs.

If you slick on the link to the right, you can find out which blades online buyers rate the highest.

Safety Razor & Shaving Brush Stands

There are a wide range of shaving brush stands available on the UK market. These are used to allow your shaving brush to dry properly.

Most often these are sold as dual purpose. The first is of course to hold the shaving brush, but on the other side there is a place to also hold the safety razor.

These look very attractive in a bathroom, or even on a dressing table.

They are available from a range of brands and in a wide variety of shapes and styles.

shaving brush and razor stand

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  1. Top 5 Shaving brush stands
  2. Shaving bowl and razor stands

Shaving Soap Mugs

We have already mentioned shaving soap and one way of lathering that type of soap is to use a very traditional porcelain or ceramic mug.

Years ago men would have used these regularly, and many men also used old tin mugs to make the lather. Today they look a great deal more sophisticated.

They typically come in a mug shape and will almost always have some type of handle. These are a popular gift for many wet shavers who use a shaving soap. The alternative to these is a bowl.

shaving mugs uk

Related Information

  1. Top 5 Shaving mugs

Shaving Bowls

Some men prefer the look of a shaving bowl to that of a mug that we have described above.

Like the mug these bowls come in different styles ranging from wooden to ceramic, chrome and stainless steel.

They can be used to lather up soap or cream and as such make a great gift idea for many men.

traditional shaving bowl

Related Information

  1. Top 5 Shaving bowls

Pre & Post Shave Creams

We have already mentioned shaving creams and those should be used when wet shaving. There are also what are called pre-shaving or post-shaving creams available.

Buyers like these especially if they suffer from nicks or cuts after having had a wet shave. Some beginners do have very sensitive skin, and there is also the skin getting used to a blade.

These creams are great to apply afterwards as they reduce the sting and the itch caused by nicks and cuts. They are also excellent for razor bumps.

preshave and post shave creams

Related Information

  1. Top 5 Shaving Pre and Post shave creams

Wet Shaving - Beginner Mistakes

This type of shaving does take a bit of practise to get it right for your skin. Most likely there will be some cuts, nicks and rashes along the way. In this section we point out those basic shaving mistakes that most beginners make, when starting to wet shave.

Lack of, or Poor Preparation

We have seen this mistake over and over again. People splash some warm water on their face and then reach for the soap or cream. That really does nothing for a good shave, and in fact will makes the shave rather rough on the skin. For a successful shave hairs on the skin need to be softened and raised.

Hot water or steam from a shower will do that, if applied and left to do its work. After all that is why professional barbers use a hot towel. The effect of a hot towel is to soften the hair and raise it up. Now we also know that you may not always have time to do that, but be sure to use hot water, and let it stay there for at least a minute or two.

Using Cheap Low Quality Soaps, Creams, Gels or Foam

Picking up a can of shaving foam in a supermarket is a really bad idea. It will be relatively cheap but we have always found that a low price does mean low quality. It is a much better idea to spend a little extra on a recognised brand with a good track record.

We would recommend either a proper shaving soap or cream, and if you prefer a gel is next best. Here at the Emporium we don't recommend shaving foams.

Pushing on the Razor - Too Much Pressure

Pushing the razor into the skin is a classic mistake made by beginners and even experienced wet shavers. This happens for a couple of main reasons:

  1. They are using older blades - A razor blade is good for about 5-6 shaves and then it should be replaced. People tend to use them for too many shaves
  2. They have been used to a different type of shaving - other types of shaving usually involve pushing the shaver or razor into the skin
  3. They have been used to disposables in particular - if people have been using those cheap lightweight plastic disposables then there is a requirement to press those into the skin to get a close enough shave.

All of the above make people push a safety razor into the skin. However, the weight of a good quality razor is all that is needed and you should never push or apply pressure to a safety or cutthroat razor, when shaving.

Shaving Against the Grain

If you look closely at a hair or a group of hairs, you will notice that they grown in a certain direction. When wet shaving you should always shave in the direction of that growth. Shaving in the opposite direction is called shaving against the grain.

That can tend to pluck hair and also cause ingrown hairs, which is never a good thing.

Holding the Razor Incorrectly - Wrong Angle

We now know that you don't need to apply pressure to a good quality razor. We also know we should shave in the direction of the hair growth. The final step is to hold the blade at the right angle.

Many new users tend to hold the blade almost vertical to the skin. It is always more effective and safer to hold the blade against the skin at a 30 degree angle.

Repeating Passes (Strokes)

Almost every wet shaver is guilty of this. They make a shaving stroke and then repeat it. You shouldn't really do that as you are now shaving on top of unprotected skin. This is more of a habit than anything else. You will find with a good quality razor and a sharpish blade, that one pass (stroke) is always enough.

If you have to do a second pass for any reason, then always apply a soap or cream to the skin before doing the second pass.

Shaving on Unprotected Skin

Most people will apply some form of soap, cream or gel to their skin. It is very important to really rub this in properly on each and every part of the area to shave. People are good at doing this generally speaking, but we would stress that attention needs to be paid to all of the area.

As an example, when men apply soap or cream to the face they are good around the chin and mouth area, as that is where most men will concentrate on first. When it comes to the cheeks or the neck, they can get a bit casual.

Also when the shave is complete, they may find a part that they missed, and most men will quickly pass the razor over that to get rid of it. That is a bad idea, and they should always apply some lather before doing that.

How to Wet Shave - Step by Step Guide

Step 1 - Proper Preparation

Most people will apply some form of soap, cream or gel to their skin. It is very important to really rub this in properly on each and every part of the area to shave. People are good at doing this generally speaking, but we would stress that attention needs to be paid to all of the area.

As an example, when men apply soap or cream to the face they are good around the chin and mouth area, as that is where most men will concentrate on first. When it comes to the cheeks or the neck, they can get a bit casual.

Also when the shave is complete, they may find a part that they missed, and most men will quickly pass the razor over that to get rid of it. That is a bad idea, and they should always apply some lather before doing that.

Step 2 - Applying the Soap, Cream or Gel

Most people will apply some form of soap, cream or gel to their skin. It is very important to really rub this in properly on each and every part of the area to shave. People are good at doing this generally speaking, but we would stress that attention needs to be paid to all of the area.

As an example, when men apply soap or cream to the face they are good around the chin and mouth area, as that is where most men will concentrate on first. When it comes to the cheeks or the neck, they can get a bit casual.

Also when the shave is complete, they may find a part that they missed, and most men will quickly pass the razor over that to get rid of it. That is a bad idea, and they should always apply some lather before doing that.

Step 3 - The Wet Shave

Most people will apply some form of soap, cream or gel to their skin. It is very important to really rub this in properly on each and every part of the area to shave. People are good at doing this generally speaking, but we would stress that attention needs to be paid to all of the area.

As an example, when men apply soap or cream to the face they are good around the chin and mouth area, as that is where most men will concentrate on first. When it comes to the cheeks or the neck, they can get a bit casual.

Also when the shave is complete, they may find a part that they missed, and most men will quickly pass the razor over that to get rid of it. That is a bad idea, and they should always apply some lather before doing that.

Step 4 - After the Shave

Most people will apply some form of soap, cream or gel to their skin. It is very important to really rub this in properly on each and every part of the area to shave. People are good at doing this generally speaking, but we would stress that attention needs to be paid to all of the area.

As an example, when men apply soap or cream to the face they are good around the chin and mouth area, as that is where most men will concentrate on first. When it comes to the cheeks or the neck, they can get a bit casual.

Also when the shave is complete, they may find a part that they missed, and most men will quickly pass the razor over that to get rid of it. That is a bad idea, and they should always apply some lather before doing that.

Alternatives to Wet Shaving - Dry Shaving vs Wet Shaving

We mentioned earlier in this guide about dry shaving. This is the main alternative to wet shaving and is usually the good old trusted electric shaver. You can plug that into a wall and have a quick shave and be done with it. It is fast and it is convenient. It will never be as close as a wet shave, but for many men, it is good enough to get them through the day.