This month GQ and Sam Schube caused quite an uproar in the wet shaving community with their “How to Shave Face” article featuring a nine-point system for improving your shave. Unfortunately, the article is not available on GQ.com just yet, but, as soon as it is, I’ll be sure to post a link here. My immediate thought after reading this article was, “man, I have to write a response to this.” After discussing it with a few folks on Instagram, I was certain I had too. What I would like to do is go through each point put forth by GQ and Schube, and offer my thoughts and any alternatives if applicable.
1. Repeat: Shaving Is Skin Care
I couldn’t agree more. As Schube states, shaving keeps your skin remaining smooth and soft. I would just like to add that shaving also exfoliates your skin keeping it healthier by removing dead skin cells too.
2. Slow Down, Samurai
The article points out that it is important to avoid shaving first thing in the morning while you still have that just-woke-up puffiness. Again, I totally agree. I like to sweat a little and get my blood flowing before I shave, so I usually do it after some coffee, breakfast and a workout.
3. Shaving Starts with a Shvitz
Here’s where I first disagree with the author. Instead of shaving in the shower or right after, I recommend waiting about ten minutes or so after your shower to shave. This allows your skin to cool off, but your facial hair will remain hydrated and soft, allowing the blade to slice those whiskers more easily while keeping your skin intact. I learned this from Joseph Abbatangelo of ItalianBarber.com on the Moustache and Blade Podcast. If you know anything about ItalianBarber.com or RazoRock, you will know that Joseph is highly recognized as a studied expert in the field of traditional wet shaving.
4. Believe in Peak Oil
I don’t disagree with the concept of pre-shave oils, I just don’t use them. I personally think they’re not a product for everyone. Using any type of oil on my face tends to result in breakouts, and, as such, I don’t recommend them for for anyone with normal to oily skin or combination skin. The only pre-shave product that I use regularly is the Proraso Pre-Shave Cream, on which you can read more here.
5. Choose Your Weapon
Okay, just no. This item is my major bone of contention. Here Schube recommends either using the "latest and greatest" multi-blade cartridge monstrosity from Gillette or a $350 electric razor from Philips Norelco. I feel bad for the author here because I am convinced that these might not be his choices, but GQ courting some of it’s major advertisers. I will put my Merkur Slant or Merkur 34C and a Feather blade up against either of these any day of the week.
6. Try a More Loving Lather
“Steer clear of Dad’s trusty foam.” Good...good. “Dove Men+Care” No. You almost had me, Sam. Just take a look at this ingredient list. I don’t want Tetrasodium EDTA, PEG- 14M or Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate anywhere near my skin. Why avoid the can of foam and then opt for a tube of industrial chemicals instead? Instead grab a tube of Musgo Real shaving cream or a tub of Cella shaving soap. Both have a much shorter and simpler ingredient lists and will last much, much longer, all while providing a better shave. Sure, you will need a brush too, but something like the Semogue 1305 is a great value, and will last years.
7. Master the Angle of Attack
Finally, we’re back on the same page. Wet shaving is all about angles and pressure. Finding the right angle and using as little pressure as possible will give you the best shave of your life.
8. Study the Map of Your Face
This one is crucial. Everyone’s facial hair grows in a little differently. There are commonalities, but you should take the time to study your own beard to know the pattern of the grain. Knowing this will help you to make that first pass with the grain and subsequent passes across and against the grain for that baby butt smooth shave we’re all looking for.
9. Never Go “Home Alone”
Sure some aftershaves can burn your face like Macaulay Culkin in “Home Alone”, but it’s probably more related to the chemicals in the aftershave rather than the alcohol. Bay rums like the extremely popular Captain’s Choice Bay Rum contain alcohol and produce a slight burning sensation, but it’s more of a soothing feeling than a chemical burn feeling. Other alcohol-based aftershaves like the line from Fine Accoutrements have no burn at all, just a nice cooling effect from the menthol. Additionally, having used both of these products extensively, I can say they are some of the best products I have used on my skin. I have found that the aftershaves that are the most drying and abrasive are the ones whose ingredient list is longer than this post.
Do I have a bias? Sure. Am I a supporter of single-blade shaving? Absolutely. However, the main reason I am is because it produces a better result. Want more convincing? Check out my post on the five real reasons to switch to double-edged safety razor shaving. I enjoyed the article and I appreciated the portions devoted to preparation and technique. However, I think the article fell flat on the steps involving product recommendations. I am a current GQ subscriber and will continue to be one, but, like any resource, I will apply my own thoughts and experiences before following any advice blindly, and you should too.
Have you read the GQ article? What did you think? Leave a comment or reach out on social media.