The Ultimate Shave - Ludlow Blunt
We sought out a shaving masterclass from grooming expert Russell Manly of Ludlow Blunt…
Taking shaving advice from a man whose salt ‘n’ pepper beard stretches well past his buttoned shirt collar may not strike you as an immediately sensible thing to do. But Russell Manly is no bearded pretender who doesn’t know one end of a razor from the other – he’s the pioneer of New York’s retro barbershop movement (that’s an actual movement in case you didn’t realize) and go-to man for all matters grooming. We caught up with him to get the lowdown on the ultimate wet shave and find out what we’ve been doing wrong all these years.
“So the main change with shaving over the past century was the invention of the double bladed safety razor, which made affordable home shaving available to the masses and arguably started the beginning of the demise of the local barber shop,” explains Russell.
“Shaving is somewhat of an enigma to the majority of men. We aren't taught it, most fathers don't show their sons how to do it, and most have probably been doing it badly all their lives.”
So what makes a good shave?
Firstly, everyone's skin and beard hair is different, so recommending a particular blade or product is impossible. The process, however, to help gain a smooth, comfortable and painless shave is fairly standard.
Here are the critical elements to abide by…
1. Hot water. Lots of hot water – or better still hot water and steam. Shaving after a shower, not before, is best as the heat opens the pores allowing for a closer shave.
2. Exfoliate. Use an exfoliant as this is especially helpful to guys with coarse stubble, as it removes dead skin cells and lifts the stubble, in turn improving the outcome of the shave.
3. Shaving brushes. These date back to the 1700s and were made from ivory, porcelain, wood or tortoise shell. Badger hair is best for its ability to absorb hot water and when used with a shaving soap creates the rich, creamy lather needed to soften the beard and aid in the blade passing smoothly across the skin.
Boar bristle or synthetic brushes do a poor job by comparison, but all brushes create a far richer lather than using just your fingers.
4. The blade. Made of tempered steel with a treatment coating, the best blades are from Germany, Russia and Japan. As I mentioned, everyone's different so a blade that works for one guy may cut another to ribbons.
Start with a mild blade and remember, two blades are adequate – the industry's gimmicks of four, five or six blades are not necessary. It's important to rinse the blades in between each stroke to remove the hair and cream that clogs them up – not doing so results in more passes over the same area and leads to skin rash or ingrown hairs.
Never shave against the grain. This pulls the beard hair harshly up and away from the skin leading to burning and ingrowing hairs too. Go with the grain and if you decide to apply shaving cream for a second shave, go gently across the grain this time.
5. Cold water. When you’ve finished shaving, apply cold water. This reduces the chances of irritation and closes the pores which eliminates shave spots.
And there you have it – shaving, solved!
To learn more from the pros, try out an expert shave at Ludlow Blunt in Williamsburg.