What Is Wet Shaving? (With Benefits & How To for Beginners!)

Shave enthusiasts around the globe love to discuss different shaving methods. Browse message boards and you’ll see different opinions on the best way to get the closest shave. Let’s look at the benefits of the wet shaving method.

Wet shaving is simply shaving using a razor and water. Wet shaving can be accomplished today with a safety razor, disposable razor, or an electric razor, although a traditional wet shave typically refers to a shave accomplished through the use of a straight or safety razor and a shaving cream or soap that has been lathered using a shaving brush.

Read on to learn about the benefits of wet shaving and how to get a close shave using different razor methods.

What is traditional wet shaving?

Shaving has been part of a man’s routine for centuries. From tweezers formed out of clamshells to the modern electric razors, some type of hair removal has existed since the Stone Age.

Traditional wet shaving refers to shaving with water and a sharpened single blade like a straight razor or safety razor. The traditional wet shave also requires shaving tools and products like a shaving bowl, badger or boar bristle brush, and shaving soap or cream.

Shaving with a straight razor while using water and lather became widespread in the late 1600s. This was the primary shaving method until the safety razor was invented. Safety razor use still incorporated the traditional wet lather method of shaving. 

While straight razors aren’t used much today, the safety razor wet shave has gained in popularity. This traditional shaving method is a throwback to days gone by when shaving was an experience instead of a chore.

Wet shaving vs dry shaving

If we use the term “wet shaving,” is dry shaving a thing too?

Yes! While not as popular as wet shaving, some men prefer a dry shave.

Wet shaving refers to the process of shaving with a razor and water. Dry shaving refers to the process of shaving with a razor without using water or cream. Most dry shavers use an electric razor, but it can be performed with a blade razor.

Dry shaving with a blade razor may save a little time but can do a number on your skin. Razor burn, redness, and nicks and cuts can result. That’s why most men choose to use the wet shaving method when using a blade razor.

What are the benefits of wet shaving?

Shaving can be harsh on your skin if you don’t provide some moisture.

Wet shaving provides many benefits to the skin:

  • Softens hair – Warm water softens the hair before the shave.
  • Closer shave – Using water to work up a lather with shaving cream or soap, provides the slip necessary to get a closer shave than you can achieve with dry shaving.
  • Less irritation – The addition of water and lather also helps protect the skin against irritation.

The mixture of warm water and foamy lather creates a perfect canvas for a smooth shave. These elements soften the hair which aids in cutting the hair closer to the skin.

The friction caused by a sharp razor hitting dry skin can cause skin irritation and make it easier to cut yourself.

Wet shaving products

Daily shaving doesn’t have to be a mundane chore. The right tools can make it a pampering experience.

Today’s wet shavers use a multitude of products to achieve a close shave. Shaving soaps, creams, brushes, bowls, and safety razors are the most common tools.

Let’s look at the products needed for a successful wet shave.

Shaving soaps or creams

When attempting the perfect wet shave should you choose a shaving soap or a cream? It’s up to you!

Shaving soaps and creams are mixed with water to create a shaving lather. Shaving soap is a hard consistency while the cream is soft. While informal, a product with the consistency between a cream and soap is often referred to as a croap.

Many men prefer shaving soap because soap pucks tend to last a very long time. Others prefer shaving cream because it takes less time to work up the perfect lather.

If you can’t decide, there’s another option: croap. A croap is a mix between a soap and cream consistency. Some men keep all three options on hand and alternate depending on time and mood.

Shaving brushes

What do boars, badgers, and horses have in common? All three animals grow hair that can whip up an awesome shaving lather! Brushes also provide the extra benefit of exfoliation.

Shaving brushes are used to load and lather the shaving soap or cream and apply it to your face. They whip air and water into soap or cream to create lather. Natural bristle brushes are made from badger, boar, or horsehair. Synthetic bristle brushes offer a vegan option.

Badger brushes are considered top-level. The bristles hold more water and can work up a rich lather. Boar bristles are less expensive but still perform very well. Horsehair is another option, but users give mixed reviews on efficacy. 

If you are allergic to animal hair or are looking for a vegan option, synthetic bristle brushes come in a variety of textures from stiff to fine.

Fun Fact: A 2017 historical review by the CDC found that American and British soldiers during WWI were infected with anthrax. The culprit? Horsehair shaving brushes! Horses became infected from contaminated soil and passed the infection to soldiers.

Shaving bowls

Shaving bowls provide a receptacle for mixing water and soap or cream. Wood, plastic, metal, and even stone bowls are available.

A shaving bowl is used to hold the shaving soap or cream lather. Some soaps and creams come already packaged in a bowl however some shavers prefer to use a separate bowl to work up the lather. Warm water is placed in the bottom of the bowl and the soap or cream-loaded brush swirls around the bowl to work up a lather.

If you really want to take your shaving bowl to the next level, you can purchase a shaving scuttle. This is a double-walled bowl usually made of heat retentive ceramic. The bottom portion is filled with hot water and the upper portion is used to hold the lather. The result is a luxurious warm lather that lasts throughout your shave.

Want to know if you really need a shaving bowl? Read this article!

Safety razors

Safety razors became popular because the traditional cutthroat razors could be dangerous. The safety razor added a guard feature to protect the skin while still using a single, sharp blade.

Safety razors are reusable razors with interchangeable blades. The blades can be single-edged or double-edged. A safety razor includes a guard that helps protect the skin from nicks and cuts.

In recent years, the safety razor has seen a resurgence in popularity. Shaving enthusiasts prefer the closeness of a single-blade shave over that of multi-blade disposables.

How to wet shave with a safety razor

Safety razors were invented in Sheffield, England in the 1800s. This allowed men to easily shave at home instead of visiting a barber. 

Wet shaving with a safety razor is a traditional way to shave. It pairs water and lather with a sharpened single blade. The shaving process can be broken down into pre-shave, shave, and post-shave steps:

Pre-shave

When using a safety razor, a sharp blade should be inserted into the razor first. Before the shave, start with a clean face. Load the shaving brush with your preferred soap or cream and work into a foamy lather.

  • Load blade into razor
  • Clean face
  • Load brush 

Shave

Apply the lather to the face with a shaving brush. Make a first shave pass across the grain. Avoid going against the grain as this can result in nicks and cuts. For some men, one pass with a safety razor is enough. If not, make a second pass with the grain or direction of hair growth.

  • Lather face
  • Make first pass across grain
  • Make second pass with grain

Post-shave

Once you’ve reached the desired smoothness, rinse your face with cold water. The cold water closes up the pores to prevent bacteria from entering. Follow up with your favorite aftershave balm or lotion.

  • Rinse face
  • Apply aftershave

How to wet shave with a disposable razor

Disposable razors appeared as a quick convenience item. Canned aerosol shaving creams and gels soon followed. Some shavers gravitate to the faster shaving methods, but others choose to pair the disposable razor with more traditional lathering elements for a hybrid shave experience.

Wet shaving can be done with a disposable razor. Disposable razors typically contain multiple cutting blades housed within the razor head. The wet shaving process includes pre-shave, shave, and post-shave steps similar to a safety razor shave:

Pre-shave

Clean the face with warm water either in the shower or at the sink. Load your shaving brush with soap or cream and work into a foamy lather in a bowl.

  • Clean face
  • Load brush 

Shave

Apply lather to your face. Make a pass with the razor going with the grain of hair growth. Apply more lather and make a shaving pass across the face going against the grain. Use caution while going against the grain. This second pass will result in a closer shave.

  • Apply lather
  • Shave with the grain
  • Apply more lather
  • Shave against the grain

Post-shave

Rinse your face with cold water to close pores. Follow up with your favorite aftershave balm or lotion.

  • Rinse face
  • Apply aftershave

How to wet shave with an electric razor

The electric razor, invented by Jacob Shick, was mass-marketed in the 1930s as electricity became more widespread. These razors provided an alternative to the traditional wet shave method. 

Electric razors are often used without any type of water or lather, however, they can be used as part of a wet shave routine as long as they are waterproof.

What electric razors offered in convenience, they sacrificed on closeness since the hairs are sucked up into perforations before being cut off with tiny blades. Today, most electric razors are waterproof so they can be used with lather to get a closer shave with less irritation. 

Follow these steps for a close, electric razor wet shave:

Pre-shave

Always begin with a clean face, preferably washed with warm water to soften the hair and prep the skin. Load the shaving brush with soap or cream and build a creamy lather. 

  • Clean face
  • Load brush 

Shave

Apply the lather to your face. Run the electric razor over each area while stretching the skin with the opposite hand. This allows you to get a closer shave.

  • Apply lather
  • Stretch the skin while using shaver

Post-shave

Rinse your face with cold water and follow up with your favorite aftershave. The heat from an electric shaver can warm the skin so avoid aftershaves that will compound that heat; instead, reach for a soothing balm or lotion that will moisturize and cool the skin.

  • Rinse face
  • Apply aftershave