I am someone who hated shaving, I was a once a month shaver for quite a few years and at best a weekly shaver since high school. Shaving was not something I enjoyed, that changed about 10 days ago when I bought a Van Der Hagen Men’s Luxury Shave Set at Wal-Mart. They also had a Van Der Hagen Safety Razor that came with a pack of blades. Now this purchase wasn’t entirely on impulse. Some of the guys on a local car message board I read had started a thread about getting started with straight razors, I was not at all interested in that. However one guy posted a link to a great blog posting How to shave like your grandpa that planted a seed in my mind. When I saw this kit in the store I had to have it.
Shave set from Wal-Mart
I have since found quite a few other shaving blogs with a wealth of information. I will share my 3 favorites with you,
About the Van Der Hagen Shave Set
I found that the glycerin soap didn’t seem to work well with my skin, perhaps its my lathering technique that was failing but it didn’t seem to provide enough protection and my face was pretty irritated for the first couple of shaves. That doesn’t mean it won’t work for you, everyone is different. Its a shame because this soap smells amazing, I wish they made a cologne with this scent. The included mug seems like its of pretty good quality, its easy to hold onto. No complaints there. The Wal-Mart set seems to come with a lower quality boar hair brush. It looks like the set on Amazon.com comes with the higher quality badger brush. Its my understanding that badger hair is the way to go as its softer and holds more water.
To counter the water holding shortcoming of boar I stick my brush in a mug of warm water before getting in the shower. By the time I get out its well saturated and after a few shakes to clear the excess, holds just enough water for a great lather. I also fill the sink with about 2″ of warm water and set the mug in that, this will warm the mug so your lather is nice and warm when you apply it to your face. Shaving after a shower is an odd concept to me though logically it makes sense, the warm water will help to soften your beard and make it easier to cut. The plastic brush/razor stand is no frills acrylic but does what its intended to do.
Brush and razor in the included stand.
Brush and lather
The Van Der Hagen safety razor and Double Edge (DE) blades
The Van Der Hagen Safety Razor is a butterfly type meaning that unscrewing the end of the handle opens up the razor in a manner similar to bomb bay doors on a military aircraft. The alternative is a 2 or 3 piece razor where the top unscrews and lifts out of the handle. I don’t know enough to say if one design has an advantage over the other. The razor seems to be of decent quality, the nickle finish seems consistent across the entire razor with no noticeable light spots.
About 2 days ago I noticed a flaw in this razor, the blade protrusion is greater on one side than the other. I noticed this because the shave felt different depending on which side I was using, one side was noticeably more aggressive. That said, now that I am 10 days in I seem to be able to get a great shave. I switch between the two sides and don’t favor either. As a beginner would I buy this razor again? YES, It is at least half the cost of a higher end razor. If you aren’t sure this is for you by all means buy the Van Der Hagen, its a great razor the price. Will I likely replace it in the future with a Merkur? YES. But for no other reason than I tend to like upgrades LOL!
Looking back the included blades are probably a little aggressive for a beginner. I think they are on the sharp end of the spectrum for blades and WILL irritate your skin when you are first starting. Check out the article on choosing a blade at Shaving101.com. Blades are something that are a personal choice, what works for person A wont work for person B. Its generally recommended that newbies pick up a Blade Sampler
to find out what works for them.
Proraso and blade sampler from Amazon.com
Since I couldn’t seem to get a lather that would protect my face with the included glycerin puck I ended up ordering some Proraso Eucalyptus & Menthol Shaving Cream. This stuff is amazing, it doesn’t smell as good as the Van Der Hagen soap but it feels great and protects very well. The menthol and eucalyptus give you a nice cooling/tingling effect.
Proraso comes in 4 types, each available as a soap (tub) or cream (tube)
- Green – “Refreshing and Toning, suitable for all beard types.”
- Red – “Soothing and Nourishing, suitable for thick and course beards. Sandalwood scent”
- White – “Prevents Razor Burn, suitable for sensitive skin that tends to irritate easily. Fresh fruity scent”
- Blue – “Protective and Moisturizing, suitable for anyone wanting a close and comfortable shave. A modern fragrance with scents of fern and spicy base notes of amber and musk.”
I think I will also end up trying the RED since my beard is very thick in the goatee area, but oddly not anywhere else.
If you are interested in Wet Shaving please do some reading and determine if its something you really want to do. It is not a process that can be rushed, plan on taking 10-15 min for a good shave, if you dont have time to do it properly then don’t. Rushing will only lead to pain. Amazingly even though Wet Shaving takes exponentially more effort than my previous shaving routine I must say I thoroughly enjoy it, its almost like a meditation time where nothing else matters. Its hard to explain why its enjoyable. As I learn and develop a good technique I will add more postings on the subject. Thank you for reading!