By GreenUp! Community Blogger – Tice
Following my previous post on Double Edge Safety Razors, we’re now going to talk about how to get a great shave using the time honored (yet long unadvertised) tradition of using a shaving brush and mug. Many years ago as a young kid and having divorced parents, I would shop with one parent to buy gifts for the other. While I don’t know my exact age at the time, my mom and I went and bought my dad a shaving mug, brush, and soap for Christmas one year. I never thought about it in my adult years until I discovered the information I recently learned that I’ve been sharing with you. I even found the 1927 Mercedes mug that I bought for him on a few online stores that sell vintage items! I remember my dad used that combination for many years because he enjoyed it so much. I guess years of branding and heavy advertising for current products kept me from using the same method, plus I’m sure I wouldn’t have been patient enough to take the time to do it right. Now that I have made the switch, I will never go back to lathering canned chemical goo by hand to my face!
Again, before I get started with the product info, I want to be clear that men or women can use a mug and brush, and you do not have to spend a lot of money to have a decent setup. I urge you to be creative and have fun with this! Make it fit your personal taste and budget. There really is no wrong way to do it! Not only can a razor be a show piece in your bathroom, but a mug and brush make fantastic conversation pieces. It’ll even help you spread the word!
Shaving brushes typically are made of nylon, horse hair, boar bristle, or badger hair. Prices range from $3 to $800, so you’ll have to do some homework on your own to determine what type and price will suit you best. Nylon or synthetics are the only vegan or hypo-allergenic choices available. Please take the time to read this link about brushes from Classic Shaving. It will truly educate you fully on shaving brushes and it will provide all the details you’ll need to help you make an educated purchase. I believe this is one purchase where you should consider spending a little bit more because chances are you will get what you pay for.
When I did my own research to find a suitable product (before knowing of the resources I’m sharing with you), I purchased a Van der Hagen shaving set which included the mug, pure badger brush, brush/razor stand, and shaving soap. The brush shed a hair or two for a while in the beginning (as will most budget brushes), but now the hair loss seems to be minimal if any at all. You will also find that the brush may have a natural scent to it (think wet animal), so you may want to give it a wash with shampoo, but if you don’t it will take a few shaves to lose it. Once I learned the proper lathering technique, I created a really super thick lather with the soap and I love it! The set also looks awesome on my bathroom counter and I’m definitely pleased with it. If you’re on a tight budget, you can get a Herban Cowboy boar bristle brush for less than $4 here. If you want a badger brush on a budget, check out this Tweezerman brush. There are plenty of brush choices here, so sort them by price and find one that suits your style and budget. I have only used the VDH brush so far, so I don’t have any input to give you for other brushes, however there is a lot of information from users at Badger & Blade. There is one important thing I’d like to add regarding brushes, and that is to be sure you get a stand for it. Some brushes come with a stand, and mine came with a clear acrylic stand that I can hang my brush and razor on. They are sold separately as well. It is important that you rinse the soap out of your brush after each shave, shake out the excess water, and hang it with the bristles or hair down to properly dry. That will also keep certain handles from getting damaged, especially wood. If you’re the adventurous type and want to restore a vintage brush, pick up an old shaving brush (sometimes you can get one with a vintage mug as a set), a new knot, and learn how to restore them here.
Now that we’ve covered the brushes, let’s take a look at shaving mugs and bowls. First things first, you don’t have to buy a mug! A coffee mug or small bowl will work fine. I wanted something that was designed for shaving and that looked cool, so that’s why I went with my set. You can get a great vintage shaving mug on any budget at antique stores, thrift stores, Ebay, Etsy, and Ruby Lane. I think the classic USA made Old Spice mugs are pretty cool, and I have one being shipped to me now. If you’d rather buy new, there are plenty of new shaving mugs readily available to purchase. You may also want more than one, and I will tell you why momentarily.
A couple of notes as we get started with the soaps, creams, and gels. You will no longer have to buy the canned products, so you will have less waste (packaging is typically minimal and recyclable), and again, these items will be based on budget, performance, and scent preference. Expect to pay anywhere between $3-$30 for these items, but regardless of price, they will last a long time! Some products are organic, some are vegan, and there are hundreds of brands and scents to choose from. You can buy handmade boutique soaps on Etsy (check out this post where I asked about soaps from that site), you can buy from small soap companies, or you can even get corporate soaps. These soaps will be so much better for your skin and I firmly believe you will enjoy shaving this way. I can’t guarantee it, but I think it’s probable that you will never go back to the canned creams and gels either!
The reason I had mentioned you may want more than one mug to work with is because many people like to have a rotation of soaps and creams (some people rotate razors too!). I have 3 in my rotation now, and a friend is sending me a fourth for the mix. I currently use my Van der Hagen soap, which is the puck style that sits in the bottom of the mug. I have Taylor of Old Bond Street, which is a cream in a tub that you mix a very small amount in a bowl or a mug. Lastly, I use Dr. Bronner’s Magic Shave Soap Gel, it’s packaged in a plastic tube, and I mix about a teaspoon sized amount of that in to a small bowl with my brush as well (not the best lather though and it requires a lot of re-application throughout the shave, but it has an icy cool mint sensation that I enjoy). If I had to recommend only 1 that I currently use, I’d say go for the ToBS. I’ve heard great things about D.R. Harris & Co., which you can get soaps with their own covered wooden bowl (they sell refills too), Mama Bear, St. Charles Shave, and Proraso. Even the Van der Hagen I use has been suggested for new ‘wet shavers,’ and it is fairly easy to find. Another interesting thing about shave soaps, creams, and gels, is that people sell and trade used ones because they either have too many, they don’t like the scent, or it irritated their skin. I think this is a great idea, because it’s not being wasted, and you can recoup some of your investment. You can also pay it forward to someone else if it doesn’t work for you.
I’ve helped you prepare to purchase the tools of the trade, but I’m not going to provide details how to use them. If you decide to pursue shaving with a mug and brush, please follow this link here to learn techniques how to use them. I hope you found this information useful, and my next entry will cover straight razor shaving, including the tools necessary to perform the task. Again, I am here for you to answer any questions, provide recommendations, or give you stores to choose from if you would like. You can also send me a link to anything you’re thinking of buying if you want an opinion on the item itself or to find out if it’s a good deal. If you’re already using a mug and brush or are ‘wet shaving,’ I encourage you to share your story or provide feedback as well on the blog site, but again you can contact me personally at firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy Shaving!