The Compass  /  Grooming  /  Upgrade to Your Best Shave

Upgrade to Your Best Shave

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According to Gilette, 106 million Americans shave nearly every day. And if you’re like most guys, you’ve been doing it the same way for years. It’s easy to fall into a rut and continue to do harmful things to your face because, well, that’s how you’ve always shaved. But it’s time to have your face face some facts. You’re not getting any younger and that fresh-faced young kid who first started shaving under his pop’s tutelage is not so fresh-faced anymore. Sure, you know how to shave, but everybody can use an upgrade every now and again.

Some of you are probably thinking, “I know a thing or two about shaving.” Great! But even the best shaving routines can be upgraded. We’ve highlighted some of the most common shaving practices from the “let’s just get this over with” crowd to the American Psycho style obsessives, and we’ve got an upgrade for everybody.


Most guys fit into this category. The Speed Demon just wants to get his shave done and get on with his life. His shaving routine is pretty straightforward:
Prep: He washes his face with whatever bar soap is on sale at the drug store.
Lather: He squeezes his shaving foam out of a can, quickly rubs it between his fingers and slathers it on.
Razor: Using a multi-blade cartridge razor, he takes a few swipes and he’s off.
Post: Ask him about using after shave and he’ll reply “How is that different from cologne?”

Pros: The Speed Demon definitely accomplishes his primary objective, to get his face free of hair as quickly as possible.
Cons: Aside from the beating he gives his face his wallet is taking a beating too. When you add up the cost of new cartridges and cans of shaving cream every couple of weeks, he’s investing a lot of money into a mediocre shave.


Since speed is clearly this guy’s number one priority, we’re not going to suggest he do anything that might add time to his shave (although using a good brush,  some quality shaving cream and an affordable but solid cartridge razor set would go a long way towards improving his shave). Instead, we recommend using an unscented, alcohol-free after shave like Nivea for Men Sensitive Post Shave Balm to stop razor bumps and protect and moisturize his skin. Unscented after shave balms won’t interfere with colognes and take under 10 seconds to put on. Even the speed demon can afford that kind of time.


Always Use Protection

Taking care of your skin doesn’t need to take a lot of time. An after shave balm made without fragrances can literally save your skin.

Seen here: Nivea for Men Sensitive Post Shave Balm


This guy is part of the new generation of men who are in touch with their feelings…or just allergic to all the crap that’s in most of the shaving products you find on the rack at the drug store. So he’s customized this shaving routine to protect his fragile face:

Prep: He uses an all-natural face wash in the shower every day before taking a blade to his face.
Lather: He uses an unscented shaving cream so as not to irritate his skin.
Razor: He uses a cartridge marked “Sensitive” for his razor and uses a very light touch.
Post: After shaving he reaches for a bump fighting sensitive skin balm.

Pros: The Sensitive Guy’s methods of keeping razor bumps and breakouts at bay works quite well as long as he sticks with unscented products for sensitive skin.
Cons: The Sensitive Guy has given up on ever getting a truly close shave.


The permanent five o’clock shadow can be a good look on some guys but if you want to get a real clean shave and you’ve got sensitive skin, a cartridge razor just won’t cut it. You need to step up to the safety razor and try wet shaving. Wet shaving will give you a closer shave with less irritation because the superior single blade of a heavy safety razor like the Merkur Heavy Duty Safety Razor seen below will cut your stubble in one pass, rather than using a bunch of inferior blades and having to press on your skin.


Stay Sharp

A double-edged safety razor gives you a close shave one quality blade instead of scraping up your skin with three, or even five, inferior blades.

Seen here: Merkur Heavy Duty Safety Razor


This man has reclaimed his grandfather’s shaving technique using a good old-fashioned safety razor and some shaving soap in a mug. We have to admit this shave is pretty badass, but even this guy could use an upgrade.

Prep: He starts his shave off with a hot towel treatment after stepping out of the shower.
Lather: He takes working up a lather to new heights. With a badger hair brush that’s been soaking in hot water, he swirls soap in a mug and, after a minute, voila, a rich cream is ready to be applied.
Razor: Most Old School Gents have opted for a double-edged safety razor. Some even use a straight razor.
Post: Aftershave is synonymous with Old Spice Classic but brands like Gilbert Henry Bay Rum give the red and white bottles a run for their money with these gents.

Pros: The shave is closer than an inside pitch from Pedro Martinez. Oh yeah, and did we mention: he looks like such a badass when he’s shaving!
Cons: It can take him upwards of 10 minutes to complete a shave. Few of us have the time to shave this way everyday.


It doesn’t get much better than the Old-School Gent when it comes to getting a close shave, but one area for improvement is pre-shave. Some old-school shavers skip the pre-shave oils to avoid their added fragrances and chemicals. Others are less worried about the damage these oils can do to their faces than the damage these oils can do to their fine (and expensive) bristles on their badger hair brushes. Our rec: aside from helping your beard stand up before shaving, The Pre-Shave from Castle Forbes is oil free and water-soluble, so it won’t destroy your $200 silver tip brush.


Prepared For Anything

Even the throw-back gentleman can step up his pre-shave game with this water soluble prep that won’t ruin a shaving brush

Seen here: The Pre-Shave from Castle Forbes

Could your shave use an upgrade? Leave a comment telling us about your routine and we’ll give you some tips.

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35 thoughts on “Upgrade to Your Best Shave”

  1. Paul Le says:

    My beard is like Bluto’s

  2. Larry Phillips says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this post with us, It’s very inspiring when you are thinking you need to shave 🙂

  3. Ben Cividino says:

    Had wet shaved for years using a Fusion cartridge until my wife bought me a no name butterfly DE. Felt like a real badass using it but was constantly cutting myself. Upgraded to a Merkur long handle and Feather blades and instantly saw an improvement. Have been using this set up for about 6 months now and of course I have to up my game and become even more badass by moving to a straight. However the whole thought of honing and stropping was a deterrent until I discovered the Feather SS line of disposable blade straight razors. These are not to be mistaken for shavettes as they are much closer to a traditional straight. Purchased their Japanese style non folding Kamisori style razor and let me tell you it is something else. Oh did I mention I use it to shave my head, not my face, as I rock the full beard! While it is nerve racking to start off, man do I ever feel and look like a complete badass while shaving with a Kamisori.

    Feather SS Japanese straight Razor
    Merkur long handle DE
    Badger Brush
    Proraso Green Shave cream
    Crown Shaving Co Aftershave

    1. Black Lapel says:

      That’s a serious kit, Ben. If shaving were a video game, shaving your head with a straight razor would be the highest level. Bravo!

  4. Vintage Straight Razors says:

    Nice blog ! thanks for sharing this.

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Just doing our part to help dapper gents look their best!

  5. protrafficbooster says:

    Everyone loves what you guys are usually up too. Such clever work and reporting!
    Keep up the wonderful works guys I’ve added you guys to our blogroll.

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Many thanks, protrafficbooster. If that is your real name 😉

  6. Mr. Elvin says:

    It is all about upgrade to your best shave blog post. i really admire to see & read that summary…thanks to share it..please keep sharing. there are some pics & info about shaving brush, cream, and razor..thanks to share it..

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Sure thing, Mr. Elvin.

      Keep it close!

  7. Adam says:

    Stumbled across this a bit late, but here’s my take…

    In the last year, I’ve sworn off the mach 10 butcher shop routine on my face, primarily due to the amount of irritation and ingrown hairs. For about 6months before that, i had timidly waded into the wet shaving realm (brush and shave soap, but still the mach whatever fusion….), which helped a little, but was still getting some irritation… From there I went to the double edged razor (haven’t invested in a straight razor yet, one special occasions when I need a straight razor shave, or want the manly spa treatment, I’m lucky that’s I’ve got a couple of great old school barbershops that do an exceptional job near me…), starting with a very mild razor and blade, but due to the coarseness of my stubble, I ended up going more aggressive. The irritation diminished significantly, but I still had little bumps around my neck/adam’s apple. After doing some reading, I opted to swap my best badger brush from an Edwin Jaegger synthetic silver tip brush, and the results were instsnat. First off all the brush functioned well above an beyond my previous best badger brush (hydrates the cream well, lathers better and faster…), and secondly the little bumps were gone within a few shaves (turns out I was reacting to the badger hair in the brush…).

    Current kit includes:
    – Merkur Futur Adjustable DE Razor (usually dialed in the 3.5-4 range) with Feather Blades
    – Edwin Jaegger Synthetic Silvertip brush
    – Geo F. Trumper Coconut Oil shave cream (don’t let the price on the tub scare you, it works amazingly, and I’m going on 8months of at least 6x/week shaving on one tub)
    – Geo F. Trumper Coral Skin food (as an aftershave, you can also use it as a pre-shave treatment for an extra buffer to irritation).

    1. Black Lapel says:

      That’s a hell of a transformation, Adam. Your current shaving set sounds legit. It sounds like the badger hair has badgered you for the last time!

      Also, you bring up a great point about the tub of shaving soap. If you think about how long it will last you, the prices are never as bad as they sound.

      Happy shaving!

  8. Chris says:

    What do you suggest for guys that are prone to get ingrown hairs, is a close shave really a good idea?

    1. Black Lapel says:

      That depends on what a close shave means to you, Chris. Most guys think dragging as many blades as a certain company that will remain nameless except on the side of the stadium where the Patriots play sees fit to sell you across your face, pressing firmly and tearing away a thin layer of skin. In that case, yes, a close shave is a bad idea for a guy who gets ingrown hairs.

      Upgrading to a single blade razor and changing to a low-pressure shaving technique, however, will result in a close shave AND combat ingrown hairs. One sharp blade and a heavy-handled razor plus good technique (prepping your skin with hot water and preshave oil, making a good lather with a quality cream and a brush, slow, steady strokes of the blade, with the grain, and cold water after you’re done) will go a long way. See your dermatologist if you still have problems with ingrown hairs and if none of the above helps, rock the stubble.

  9. Belgand says:

    While I believe a straight razor shave is the only proper way to shave it’s a bit wasted on me because a real man has a full beard, so no shaving for me.

    However, no matter how bad you think it can get when I did shave in the past it was far worse than even you mange to describe: once every several days (my beard grows in slowly) with my girlfriend’s extra-girly razor (the only one in the house with cartridges that might get replaced once every several months) and without soap, shaving cream, or often even water. No ingrown hairs or razor burn though and a close enough shave to last for a few more days. Turns out my skin can take enough of a beating to land it in an old Timex ad.

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Ah the bearded man…we haven’t forgotten about you. Soon we’ll do a piece on facial hair and offer up maintenance suggestions. It sounds like you’ve been blessed with tough skin. Of course, the wear and tear of a dry cartridge shave on your entire face might leave you looking like something out of a slasher movie, but for just edging up a beard you can get away with this.

      Still, why “get away” with something when you could go full-badass and use a straight razor to shape the edges of your beard?

  10. Pravish Kuttickat says:

    I always shave after my shower. I use Gillete Fusion power and their shaving gel. For after shave, NIVEA. Is this combination right? What is your opinion of having a shave after the shower?

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Shaving after the shower is good for a guy who uses a wet shaving or straight razor approach because the steamy bathroom creates a good environment for getting a skin ready for shaving. The tools for wet shaving and straight razor shaving aren’t good for the shower, though. For those who use a cartridge razor, shaving IN the shower can be a time saver, but it’s not necessarily better than shaving afterwards.

      As for the combination “right” is a word we don’t like to use too much around The Compass. It’s right if it works for you. That said, there’s certainly room to improve.

      Your Upgrade: Since you’re shaving after the shower anyway, you might as well use a brush and cream rather than the shower-friendly but generally ineffective canned gel. A good shaving cream and brush will get your beard standing up and ready to be cut, leading to a closer shave with fewer passes from the razor. A combo we like is an Escali 100% Pure Badger Shaving Brush and a Taylor of Old Bond Street Sandalwood Shaving Cream Bowl.

  11. Paughco Springer says:

    Dovo cut throat or a Merkur DE, I switch between the two at times. It has become a pleaser to shave instead of a dreaded morning ritual.

    1. Black Lapel says:

      NICE! That’s our kind of guy. You’re routine sounds so good there’s little room for upgrade but here goes…

      Your upgrade: Getting someone else to do it for you. The best bet is a local barber but, nationwide, Art of Shaving offers in-store straight razor shaves in their Barber Spa locations, so treat yourself!

  12. Mike says:

    Check out StraightRazorPlace.com. I’m a member and when I first started shaving with a straight, this was the place to go.

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Yes, one of the best ways to get up to speed on straight razors, when you’re just getting started is to find a community like this.

      Your Upgrade: To step up your community game, try introducing your friends, from the real world, not the interwebs, to straight razor shaving and create your own community of like-minded shavers.

  13. I upgraded to wet shaving about a year ago. I’d tried everything (including multiple electric razors) and always had trouble with being able to shave daily without pain and irritation. Wet shaving with a DE (merkur HD short handle) and a brush with some real shaving cream (instead of the crap in a can) made all the difference in the world. Multiple passes, zero pressure. Pretty hard to get irritation with such sharp blades and no pressure!

    Would never EVER go back to cartridge shaving. Yikes.

    Here are the best intro to wet shaving videos available:

    Part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xjhIy9rgWQU
    Part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y4ezJNJfygw
    Part 3: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wPLfCyGMm9o


    1. Black Lapel says:

      Wet shaving sets you free, Chris, free from blade inflation, free from mediocre shaves, and free from pain and irritation. We endorse it!

      Those vids are thorough and helpful, thanks for passing them along.

      Your Upgrade: Maybe not for everyday but you could pick up a straight razor like this one from Dovo to step your weekend shaves.

  14. Kyle says:

    Post is right on the money, as always. Funny you mentioned the “grandfather’s ritual.” I swore off the new 5-blade MACHete razors after finding my late grandfather’s old Gilette safety razor. Far better shave, worth getting to the office a few minutes late.

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Nice, Kyle! We’re sure your grandfather would be proud.

      Stay sharp.

  15. Joel Ramirez says:

    The speed demon
    – Can also do a mid warm shower shave
    I’ve found that this is a nice compromise almost like a ghettos Turkish shave. Investing in a. Hand mirror, 3m hang anywhere hooks and a can of barbasol, yes barbosol but its not for your face. For about 7-10 bucks you create a shave friendly space in your shower area that can be hidden if you dot like the aesthetics or your significant other doesn’t like it. Apply a smudge of the barbasol on the mirror smear and clean off pre shower and it won’t fog up so you can shave easily. Regardless of the steam you’ll have a clear mirror. Also shea moistures body soap and bar soap are pretty good at lathering and lots Of good oils or your face. When I’m a hurry I just use jojabba oil from trader joes( 8bucks) and my merkur long handle with dovo platinum blades( the blade makes the razor) toss in the sink run hot water over both and you have a quick close shave.

    -The sensitive guy
    -try variety packs of razors for the safety razor find which one works for you just like any two faces are the same no two brands of razors are the same.
    – invest in a good brush
    – jojabba oil really helps the gliding of the razor if you get lots of bumps but have good form try it.

    – The old school gent

    If you have the time and money skip the safety razor and go for a hollow carbon steel straight razor silver hair badger hair brush good prep warm prep, quality soap, and quality post shave care.

    1. Black Lapel says:

      You, sir, are a gentleman and a scholar! This is all great advice.

      The Barbasol hack is genius and way more fun than one of those fogless mirrors. The shower/shave combo is a great time saver for the Speed Demon. Good point about finding the right razor for the Sensitive Guy. And who could argue with an upgrade to a straight razor for the Old School Gent? Not us.

      P.S. Love the “ghetto Turkish shave” reference!

  16. Allen says:

    Stay cutting edge – check out Harrys.com or dollarshaveclub.com (I have tried both and prefer Harry’s). Lots of new options out there right now – and lots of folks tearing down old walls of business!

    1. Black Lapel says:

      We always recommend wet shaving with a safety razor, but if you’ve got to go cartridge, Harry’s is a good option indeed (note the link above to one of their sets).

    2. Definitely will not be using dollarshaveclub. I need something better than a cartridge razor, and cost isn’t the only factor for me.

      1. Black Lapel says:

        Yes, we generally think of cartridges as a last resort too, but we must admit, the original Dollar Shave Club video had us rolling on the floor with laughter, so they get points for that.

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