Whether you just ran out of shave soap or you’re looking to “shave” a few dollars off of your budget, you might be wondering, can you shave with just water?
You can shave without water if you properly prepare your face with a warm towel or steam, use a sharp, single-blade razor, keep your face wet throughout, and follow up with skin-protecting aftershave or balm. Without shaving soap or cream, there is an increased risk of cuts, nicks, or other skin irritation after a shave.
Let’s take a closer look at the role that shaving soap plays in your shave and how to best shave using just water. For instance, should you use hot or cold water?
What happens if you shave without shaving cream?
Can you shave your face with just water? Or, can you shave your legs with just water?
While shaving with shaving soap can be a luxurious and relaxing activity, you might not always have access to your preferred soap such as when you’re on the road.
Without the lubricating properties of shaving soap, there will be more friction between the razor blade and your skin as it works to cut through the hair. This excess friction increases the chances that you will get cuts, nicks, or other skin irritation after a shave because you’ll be forced to use more pressure with the razor.
In general, having to use more pressure with any kind of blade is a recipe for disaster. That’s why people get more cuts with dull kitchen knives – they have to press down harder!
With that said, it is possible to get a clean shave using just water. To prove it, I personally skipped using shaving cream with this morning’s shave to help provide the tips below.
But first, let’s look at the role of shaving soap in your shaving routine.
Does shaving cream or soap help make a shave better?
Whether you’re using self-foaming shave soap or a traditional soap and brush, the goal of shaving soap is to lubricate the skin.
According to Melissa Kanchanapoomi Levin, an MD, and a board-certified dermatologist, shaving soap creates soft skin and soft hair during the shaving process. In turn, this reduces friction when the razor moves across the skin and hair follicles, reducing razor burn and irritation.
Additionally, using a shave soap will reduce the possibility of the skin getting dry and inflamed. This is all thanks to the emollients that are used in a wide variety of shave soaps.
When a razor moves across the skin, it’s not just hair that is being removed. Shaving removes the top layer of skin and dead skin cells.
Think of emollients as moisturizers that protect your skin and lock in moisture once that top layer of skin is removed.
But can you really shave your face without shaving cream?
Potential benefits of shaving with just water
Shaving with just water can do a few things for your face — but mostly your wallet.
The two biggest benefits of shaving with just water are that shaving without soap allows maximum visibility of the hair, and it allows you to save on the cost of shaving soap or cream.
The first is visibility.
With shaving soap lathered up on the face, it can be difficult to see hairs through the soap. Whether you have darker hair or lighter hair, seeing the individual hairs is definitely helpful, especially if you are trying to shave around a beard or need to clean up lines on your face or neck. Plus, you won’t need to lather up again if you miss a spot.
Some people even notice skin-related benefits.
One shaver took to Reddit to describe their water-only shaving experiment. The shaver described having “much more supple and healthy” skin post-shave when using just water in the detailed post. Additionally, the shaver added that these results happened after they shaved multiple times without shaving soap.
For people allergic or very sensitive to scented shave soaps, shaving with just water might provide a long-term solution.
For anyone on a tight budget or looking to save money, skipping the soap may be an appealing option.
How to shave your face with just water
Like any shave, you’ll want to follow some basic best practices when shaving with just water.
But, unlike shaving with soap, you’ll need to take some extra precautions when shaving with just water to avoid unnecessary nicks, cuts, or irritation.
It’s also important to note that not all hair and skin are created equally. Depending on the texture and thickness of your facial hair, you may need to adjust the following shaving routine. People with sensitive skin should also take extra caution when shaving without shaving soap.
Be sure to follow this guide step-by-step if you want to shave your face with just water.
Step 1: Select Your Razor
For shaving with just water, I highly recommend a safety razor, also known as a double-edge razor, or even a special single-edge razor.
Basically, we want to make sure that there is only a single blade against your skin at any one time.
Cartridges or multi-bladed razors are not recommended for shaving with just water. During the shaving process, the hair can get easily clogged in a cartridge razor, and they are more like to pull and tug on the hair.
Normally, shave soap helps the hair slide off the razor blade. Without that additional lubrication, the hair can become trapped between the razors in the cartridge.
Straight razors and safety razors offer the ability to quickly wash or wipe the hair off of the razor blade. This ensures the hair doesn’t interfere with the blade’s effectiveness.
You’ll also want to make sure that you are using a new, fresh blade or at least one that is super sharp to avoid tugging.
A common shaving myth is that using a dull or old blade will result in fewer cuts and nicks. In fact, it’s actually the opposite. Using a new, sharp blade ensures that the blade cuts the hair as quickly as possible with as little pressure added.
Step 2: Shower before shaving
The easiest way to shave with just water is to take a nice, warm shower. Warm water aids in removing some initial oil and dirt off of the face.
While pores don’t actually change size on your skin, the warm water aids in cleaning dirt, salt from sweat, and other grime that may build up on your skin, providing a smoother surface for your razor..
If you don’t have time to shower, you can use a warm cloth or splash hot water on your face to simulate the shower’s heat, use a hot towel, or even a little steam from a sauna.
Step 3: Exfoliate the Skin
Exfoliating the skin before shaving without soap is crucial.
Exfoliating is the process of washing and removing dead skin from the surface of your face. This process opens up the pores and can clean dirt and oil in the hair follicle when paired with a cleanser.
If possible, try using a cleanser that contains an alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) or beta-hydroxy acid (BHA) when preparing for your shave with just water.
Both alpha- and beta-hydroxy acids remove dead skin and dirt from your face. However, BHA is oil-soluble. This allows the acid to cleanse deeper into the pores and remove oil.
To exfoliate, place a dab of cleanser on a wet towel. From there, make sure your face is wet before you apply the cleanser to your face. Lightly scrub your face and rinse off with warm water.
Step 4: Shave slowly and intentionally
When shaving with just water, make sure you take your time. You’ll want the water temperature to be warm but not hot. Make sure you can tolerate the temperature on the back of your hand. If it hurts, the water is most likely too hot.
Ensure that your face is always wet with warm water. Water will be the only source of lubrication when shaving without soap. If you feel like your skin is drying up, make sure that you reapply warm water.
Begin to draw your razor with the grain of the hair you want to shave.
- To determine whether you’re shaving with, across, or against the grain, try running your hand across your facial hair.
- Does one way feel smoother? That’s going with the grain. This is the direction your hair grows.
- Does one way feel rough or prickly? That’s going against the grain. This is the opposite direction your hair grows.
- Across the grain is somewhere in between the two.
When shaving with just water, always shave with the grain.
As you draw the razor across your face, you’ll feel the tug of the razor at your hair follicles.
There’s usually a “glide” of the razor across the face and hair in a standard shave with shaving soap. This is due to the lubricating nature of shave soap.
When shaving with just water, you won’t feel this same glide. Most likely, you’ll need to take smaller, slower draws of the razor.
- Start by shaving the flattest or least angular parts of your face.
- Always shave with the grain
- Use smooth and short strokes
With every couple of passes with the razor, clean the razor under running water. This will remove the hair from the razor and allow the blade to shave without obstruction.
Step 5: Post-Shave Maintenance
Once you are satisfied with your shave, splash cold water on your face. While cold water doesn’t “shrink” your pores, it can reduce irritation and possible acne or razor burn.
After your skin has been rinsed in cold water, dry it with a clean towel. Try to wipe the towel going with the grain of your hair. Alternatively, you can dab the towel against your face.
Finally, take a few seconds to apply a moisturizer or aftershave to your face. You may notice that your skin feels tighter or drier due to having shaved with just water. The product you use will depend on your skin type and past experience – go with what you feel comfortable with!
Since shaving without soap removes the ability for emollients to lock in moisture, your post-shave routine must involve a moisturizer.
Can you shave without hot water?
Shaving without hot water is certainly a viable option, but there are some important factors to consider.
When using hot water in a water-only shave, you soften and relax the hair follicles with the warmer water.
Cold water makes the hair follicle brittle and stiff. As a result, you may find that shaving with cold water could allow you to get a closer shave with less irritation but might cause more discomfort while shaving.
Since no two faces are made the same, you’ll need to experiment with different water temperatures to find the most comfortable shave.