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Wet vs Dry Shaving

Written by Advice Team on August 10, 2017

Unless you sport a full on beard, shaving is something that every man has to do on a fairly regular basis. In fact it is estimated that men spend over 35 days (that’s over 840 hours) shaving during their lifetime, so it’s fair to say that for most guys it’s a big part of their grooming routine.

How and when you shave and with what tools is the subject of lively debate. Some men swear by a traditional wet shave, others choose to let an electric shaver do the hard graft. But which is best? Here’s our summary of the biggest pros and cons of each approach.

The Wet Shave Wet shaving includes the use of water, a manual razor and a shaving product to achieve a super smooth finish. New to wet shaving? Find out how to wet shave like a pro.

Pros:

Closeness
The main argument in favour of the wet shave is that it gives a closer, smoother result. Without a doubt wet shaving will deliver the closest finish possible, especially if you push the boat out and go for a traditional full wet shave using a shaving brush, a quality pre-prep lather and a traditional razor. If you’re more of a modern man, branded manual razors on the market today use state of the art technology and multiple blades to get as close to the skin as possible without damaging it. Fresh blades combined with a quality pre-prep product, which softens the stubble making it easier to cut, is the best way to get closer to your skin and deliver a smooth result.

Experience
There is a something special about the ritual of a traditional wet shave. We’re not talking about a quick once over with a cartridge razor here; we’re talking about filling your sink with steaming hot water, using a shaving brush to create a superior lather and taking the time to shave slowly and deliberately with a specially crafted razor. There is arguably no activity more masculine than a proper wet shave and there’s something intrinsically luxurious about taking the time and effort to do properly. With the huge choice of quality wet shave products available in the market, you can get all the tools you need to achieve the perfect wet shave in the comfort of your own bathroom, easily and cost effectively.

Exfoliation
There’s nothing quite like the feeling of a freshly wet shaved face and no it’s in your head. When you shave with a razor the blades remove the very top layer of dead skin cells, literally exposing fresh, new, smooth skin. With wet shaving you can achieve the same result as you get using a facial scrub without the extra effort - win win.

Cons:

Ongoing Cost
When it comes to wet shaving the cost of always having sharp blades on your cartridge razor* is a major downside. For best results, cartridges should be swapped every 3-4 shaves, so you’ll be looking at a continuous investment to maintain performance. Although the razors themselves are relatively inexpensive, buying packs of replacement cartridges every few weeks can begin to mount up. When you wet shave it’s vital to use a quality shaving product; a cream or soap to create a rich lather. A good lather provides a protective layer between the blade and your skin, allowing the razor to glide smoothly across the face which will help reduce razor burn and redness and deliver a far more comfortable shave. Again the cost of products can add up over time.

*If you opt for a traditional double edged blade razor then it’s the other way round; the initial outlay is more costly, but replacement blades are cheaper.

Nicks & Cuts
An unfortunate downside to wet shaving is nicks, cuts and grazes. There aren’t many guys who haven’t ended up walking around the house with tissue paper stuck to their face at one time or another and you’re pretty much guaranteed to take a chunk out of your face once in awhile. Modern cartridge razors use five or more blades and have mobile heads that are able to follow the contours of the face, which helps, but even so small cuts are still common. Traditional razors are even more difficult to master so unless you are a dab hand expect a few cuts along the way. If you have do nick yourself treat the cut with an alum block when rinsing to help heal the skin.

Razor Burn & Irritation
Shaving in any format can cause skin irritation, but wet shaving is the biggest culprit, especially for men who have sensitive skin. When you shave you literally drag a blade across your skin so you a level of mild irritation is inevitable. Redness and discomfort post-shave is usually the result of shaving cream ingredients, using a blunt razor or poor technique. Fortunately, by improving your shaving technique, ensuring your tools are up to the job and spending a little more time and effort on your shave, you can reduce the risks of razor burn and irritation.

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The Dry Shave

Dry shaving is the use of an electric shaver, the likes of Braun, Panasonic and Philips to achieve a fast, comfortable shave. Not quite sure how to achieve a great result with an electric shaver? Learn how to shave like a champion.

Pros:

Speed and Convenience
Without a doubt the biggest benefit of using an electric shaver is speed and convenience. Little to no preparation is needed, making it a quicker, easier, mess and hassle free option. Because it can be done anywhere and you don’t need to use any creams, gels or foams, dry shaving in the perfect option for when travelling or for men always on the go.

Less Irritation
Dry shavers cut the hairs above the surface of the skin, which unlike wet shaving means that they do not remove a layer of skin on each pass. This means that the majority of men suffer from less irritation when dry shaving as compared to when wet shaving. Some men do experience some mild irritation when they first start to use an electric shaver but this normally only lasts 2 -3 weeks so stick with it.

Versatility
Some guys prefer to fluctuate between a clean shave and stubble, and electric shavers give this versatility. Electric shavers can be used not only for achieving a clean shaven finish, many of them come with adjustable features and trimming functions that allow you to control the length of the hair, making them the best solution if you want to have freedom to change your look. Just because they’re packed with technology, it doesn’t mean an electric shave has to be a dry shave only. Many of the high-end branded models can also be used in the shower, or with water in the sink to get the best of both. Check that your model is wet and dry before throwing it in the sink though!

Cons:

Not so Close
Modern electric shavers are incredibly high performance, but they cut the hair above the surface of the skin, so no matter how good your shaver you are never going to get as close a shave as you will get with a proper wet shave. But with the right tools, a good pre-prep routine, a well-honed technique and a little bit of perseverance you’ll achieve a clean, close, comfortable shave.

Maintenance
Electric razors do require a cleaning routine and ongoing maintenance to keep them in good working order. Some shavers come with their own cleaning station which makes cleaning super easy. If not check out our article on how to clean your electric shaver, and refer to your owner manual for the best routine for your model. In terms of maintenance, replace any broken or damaged parts straight away and replace all cutter parts every 18-24 months for ongoing performance.

Upfront Cost
A quality electric shaver is going to require an initial investment of anything between £30 and £300, so it is more expensive initially than a cartridge razor. But it is worth bearing in mind that if properly maintained it will last for many years, so in the long run it is cost effective. If you’re are going to purchase an electric shaver, then it’s best to go for quality above all else so go for the best model you can afford. Make sure you do plenty of research and read plenty of reviews to ensure you’re getting a product that you’ll be happy with. If you need a hand our best electric shavers, ranked and rated article is a great starting point.

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There’s no right or wrong when it comes to shaving - it’s all down to preference, skin and hair type, lifestyle and budget. Some men are avid followers of one method or the other but many men prefer the occasional wet shave for its luxurious feel and skin care benefits, followed by daily maintenance with a quality electric shaver in between. Whichever route you go down, as with most things in life, preparation is key for both wet and electric shaving and if you fail to do so properly, then your skin will suffer so get your routine nailed.