The Smallflower Wet Shaving Glossary

The average man spends something like 3,000 hours shaving over his lifetime. This can seem like a lot, so many people rush through the action. Who wants to spend their precious time in the morning lathering up, shaving over spots multiple times, and pampering their skin afterward? It’s enough to make anyone want to reach for the electric shaver!

However, there’s a growing community rebelling against this go-go-go mentality of shaving. Wet shaving enthusiasts believe that taking the time to slow down and give yourself a great, close, and smooth shave is very much worth the extra effort. Wet shaving encompasses all the methods of shaving that involve water and, in increasing numbers, those who want the precision and quality of a more traditional shave.

Not familiar with the world of wet shaving? It can seem a little daunting to dive into for first-timers. That’s why we’ve created this glossary for all the new terminology you’ll encounter as you explore.

Aftershave Balm/Splash

Weleda Aftershave Balm

Aftershave is a product applied after shaving that most often contains some sort of antibacterial or astringent ingredient to cleanse and protect the face. Common ingredients include alcohol, witch hazel, or tea tree oil. Splashes are runnier and more liquid in consistency, making them a good pick for oily or acne-prone skin. Balms are creamier and better suited to dry, sensitive skin.

Aggressive

The term “aggressive” refers to the efficiency of the shave a razor offers. Aggressive razors offer a closer, smoother shave, but are recommended more for wet shaving veterans, because it’s easier to nick yourself and cause irritation with one.

Wet shaving vets and those with thicker, coarser hair may favor a more aggressive razor, because there’s a bigger gap between the blade and the safety bar. This allows more hair through, saving time for the shaver.

Alum Block/Stick

An Alum Block or Alum Stick is made from a chemical compound called aluminum potassium sulfate. Once wet, it creates an astringent and antiseptic liquid that you can pat onto your face to soothe irritation and stop bleeding from any nicks. It’s totally odorless, so it doesn’t interfere with the scent of Aftershave or cologne.

Edwin Jagger Antiseptic Alum Block

Badger Hair

Badger is one of the most popular choices of hairs for use in shaving brushes. It’s favored because, unlike many animal hairs, it retains water rather than expelling it, and this is crucial for creating a great lather. It comes in four varieties:

Pure Badger is the most common and most affordable type of badger hair brush. It’s made from the hairs on the body of the badger, which vary in length and can cause the brush to be uneven. Therefore, a lot of Pure Badger brushes are trimmed to fit, so the end of the brush become blunter and exfoliate the skin more.

Best Badger is collected from a smaller portion of the body, mostly the belly. It holds onto more water than Pure Badger, creating a richer lather.

Simpsons Chubby CH1 Best Badger Shave Brush

 

Super Badger is found only on the back of the badger and is much finer and softer than Best or Pure Badger. Super Badger brushes tend to be more densely packed than others since the hair isn’t as thick. Because of this, Super works well with dense shaving creams.

Silver Tip is the rarest type of badger hair. Collected from the back of the neck, it’s the softest and finest of the four. It has the best water retention as well, making for a truly luxurious lathering experience.

 

Bay Rum

Bay Rum is a specific scent of Aftershave that consists of bay leaf, spices, and Jamaican rum. It has its roots in the 16th century when sailors in the West Indies created it to mask body odor at sea.

Captain's Choice Bay Rum Aftershave

Blade

Big Ben Super Stainless Steel Safety Razor Blades

The blade is the part of the razor that cuts the hair. To do this, there must be at least one sharpened edge, known as the Cutting Edge. Normally there are just one (Straight Razors) or two (Safety Razors) edges.

Boar Hair

Like Badger Hair, Boar Hair is a popular choice for making shave brushes. Boar is a bit stiffer than Badger Hair, but softens over time with use. Boar hair is less rare than Badger, so it’s considerably cheaper, so it’s a good choice for the shaver on a budget. Its stiffness can also be a benefit for those who like to exfoliate with their brushes.

Dreadnought Avenger Boar Bristle Shaving Brush

Cartridge Razor

Edwin Jagger Imitation Ivory Mach 3 Cartridge Razor

These are the razors that we’re most familiar with in the mainstream, the kind you see in TV ads and in most bathrooms around the country. They were developed in the 1960s to have a more ergonomic handle and an entirely disposable top (AKA cartridge). They usually have from two to five blades in each cartridge.

DE Razor

A DE, or Double-Edge, Razor is a type of Safety Razor that, as the name implies, uses blades with two cutting edges that can be changed out as needed.

Rockwell Razors Stainless Steel Rockwell 6S Adjustable Safety Razor

 

Grain

The grain of hair refers to the direction in which is grows. You’ll most commonly see this expression used in the form of “With the Grain” or “Across the Grain”, meaning in the direction of growth or across the direction of growth. For example, it’s recommended that you complete your first Pass shaving with the grain (shaving in the same direction that the hair grows).

Grind

The Grind of a Straight Razor refers to the overall shape and design of the blade. Usually it’s used to describe the width of the cutting edge and the hollowness of the blade. Hollower blades make Honing easier, while less hollow blades offer a closer shave.

Honing

Click here to learn more about Smallflower straight razor honing

When a straight razor becomes dull or starts to drag against the cheek, it needs to be sharpened. For a quick fix, you can always try Stropping, but for a long-term fix honing is the way to go. Honing is accomplished by passing both sides of the blade over a series of sharpening and polishing stones. If you don’t feel like attempting the process yourself, Smallflower offers honing services for customers. Read more about it here →

Ingrown Hair

Normally when hair grows, it travels upward and out of the skin. Ingrown Hairs happen when the hair grows sideways instead, causing irritation and little red bumps. Shaving can cause ingrown hair because it makes the tip of the hair sharper than normal and therefore more able to get back under the skin after growing out. Sharper razors with fewer blades lessen the risk of ingrown hairs.

Injector Razor

A type of single-edge safety razor, the Injector comes with a convenient blade-reloading device for super-easy replacements. The device was created to make loading the razor less dangerous for beginners.

Schick Blade Injector

Lather

Many modern shaving creams are housed in spray cans and create an instant foam the moment they leave their containers. Wet shaving enthusiasts tend to prefer Shaving Soaps and Shaving Creams, which have to be whipped into a foam with a brush. The foam that’s created is referred to as the Lather.

Mild

As opposed to an Aggressive shave, a Mild shave is less efficient, but also much less likely to cause irritation and cuts. Since there’s a smaller gap between the blade and the safety bar, these razors exert less pressure. It may require several Passes to complete a shave with a Mild razor, and you’ll have to clean it out more frequently than with an Aggressive razor.

Because they’re considerably easier to use, Mild razors are recommended for those who are new to wet shaving and those with sensitive skin that’s prone to irritation.

Pass

The term Pass refers to one complete cycle of shaving and removing the shaving cream from your face. It may take several passes with re-lathering to get a complete shave. It’s recommended that for the first Pass you shave With the Grain of the hair to minimize irritation.

Pre- & Post-Shave

Taconic Unscented Pre-Shave Oil

Many shavers believe that the most important part of shaving is the prep and aftercare. There are many products out there that help soften and condition hair before shaving so you can get a close, irritation-free shave every time. Post-shave products help to cleanse and soothe skin after the fact, to avoid irritation and leave the skin feeling soft and smooth. These come in many formats, from oils to cream and balms.

Razor Burn

Razor Burn is a term used to describe a certain type of irritation that occurs after shaving. Dull blades or incomplete cleaning of the razor are often the culprit, since these can cause tugging or displacement of the hair follicle. To avoid Razor Burn, use a sharp blade every time you shave and make sure to use a shaving cream with a smooth, rich lather. Exfoliating before a shave is another great prevention technique.

Safety Razor

Safety Razors were developed late in the 19th century as a way to make self-grooming easier than with the traditional Straight Razor. Safety razors include a handle, head, and a space to load either a Single-Edge blade or a Double-Edge blade. The head of the razor uses a buffering device to separate the blade from the skin to minimize irritation and lessen the chance for cuts and nicks.

Merkur Chrome Long-Handled Razor

SE Razor

The SE Razor, also known as the Single Edge Razor, is a razor containing a blade with only one cutting edge. The most common SE Razors are Straight Razors, but there are also Safety Razors designed for use with only one cutting edge.

Shave Bowl/Mug

Hand Made Shave Bowls Buffalo Horn Palm Shave Bow

When using a traditional Shave Brush and Shaving Cream, you’ll find that you’ll need somewhere to fluff up the cream to create a lather. If you don’t want to have to use your hands or lather directly onto your face, a Shave Bowl or Shave Mug is a saving grace. Whip up a Lather in the bowl or mug and simply rinse it out at the end for a mess-free shave.

Shave Brush

Whether it’s made from Badger, Boar, or Synthetic Hair, a shave brush is an important piece in a Wet Shaver’s arsenal. When wet, the Shave Brush helps bring the Shave Soap or Shaving cream to a lather to spread across the skin.

Shaving Cream

Shaving Creams are a popular choice for those new to wet shaving, since they have a soft, smooth consistency that lathers easily. They resemble a lotion or pomade in consistency more than their aerosol instant-foam cousins and you’ll need a Shave Brush to help whip them up. They’re slightly messier than a Shave Soap, needing a Shave Bowl or Mug (or your non-dominant hand) for lathering.

Geo F. Trumper Coconut Oil Soft Shaving Cream

Shave Soap

Kell's Original Vanilla Bean Shaving Cake

As with a Shaving Cream, Shave Soaps are used to create a lather to shave with. They tend to be a little harder to whip up and therefore are better for use with a stiffer-haired brush. Many shave soaps come with their own handsome carrying pots. You can eliminate the Shave Mug or Bowl with Shave Soaps by lathering straight in the pot.

Shave Stand

When you want to display all your goodies in an organized, aesthetically pleasing way, a Shave Stand has you covered. These handy contraptions usually have space for a razor (Straight or Safety) and a Shave Brush. Stands keep your stuff off the counter, helping to keep everything hygienic and properly dried.

Edwin Jagger Chrome Double-Edge Razor 3 Piece Gift Set

Shavette

Dovo Shavette Straight Razor

The Shavette looks almost exactly like a Straight Razor, but it has a replaceable blade. Instead of Honing the blade to make it sharper like with a Straight Razor, with a Shavette you simply remove the dull blade and insert a new one.

Straight Razor

When you think of the razors in an old-timey barbershop, you’re probably picturing a Straight Razor. Also known as Cutthroat Razors, these have just a handle and a blade, with nothing in between to protect the skin. As a result, these razors can be difficult to use and take lots of practice to master. Once mastered, though, straight razors yield incredibly close and smooth shaves.

Feather Artist Club DX Wood Handle Folding Razor

Strop

Bison English Bridle Strop

Straight Razors require daily maintenance, and part of that is Stropping. A strop is a long, thin piece of leather that is sometimes backed with another material like cotton. To Strop, you add a bit of oil to the leather and the pass the blade across its length. It’s recommended to complete around 50 to 60 passes before each shave. This maintains the cutting edge of the blade and helps lengthen time between Honings.

Styptic Pencil

Similar to Alum Blocks, Styptic Pencils contain aluminum minerals. These minerals help constrict blood vessels to stem the flow of blood from small cuts and nicks that occur while shaving.

Col. Ichabod Conk Styptic Pencil

Synthetic Hair

If you have animal allergies or are looking for a cruelty-free version of a shave brush, Synthetic Hair is for you. Unlike animal hair brushes, Synthetic Hair doesn’t need to be soaked to pick up enough water for lathering, and it dries very quickly, making it a great choice for traveling. They’re more durable and consistent, but can be springier than their animal counterparts.

Muhle Handmade Synthetic Bristle Black Shave Brush

Thanks for checking out our glossary of Wet Shaving terms. If you have any more questions or need any advice or guidance, our Customer Service department is always happy to help. You can reach us at (800)-252-0275 Monday through Saturday, 9AM to 6PM Central. You can also contact Customer Service through email at customerservice@smallflower.com. Best of luck in your Wet Shaving adventures!

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