Common Shaving Problems: Hard Water and Insufficient Lather

A sharp straight razor, brush and soap

As a wet shaver, you consciously anticipate several variables – the type of razor, the sharpness of the blade, the type of shaving cream or soap, etc. All of these pieces add up to a wet shave that suits your tastes. But have you ever considered the hardness of your water? When it comes to traditional shaving, the quality of your water has everything to do with the shaving experience and outcome.

Read on to see how hard water affects your shave, how to test for hard water, and how to remedy the situation.

What is hard water, and why does it affect shaving?

Hard water is water with high mineral content, formed when water percolates through deposits of chalk-containing minerals such as calcium and magnesium. It’s what causes soap scum and buildup on your faucets and shower heads.

If you combine hard water with shaving soap, you’ll notice a distinct lack of lather because of the minerals in the water reacting with the soap. Insufficient lather, of course, causes the blade to pull and tug at your beard rather than giving you a crisp cut.

Hard water’s affect on shaving is not as obvious if you use a shaving cream, since shaving creams already contain some water.

The ideal water for wet shaving is distilled water, which contains lots of free water (i.e. water not keeping other things in solution). Only a small amount is required for a complete shave.

How do I know if I have hard water?

To test if your water is hard, simply purchase some distilled water and try shaving with it; if you get a much better lather, you probably have hard water at home. Also, you’ll know if you have hard water if you notice slimy soap scum that clings to your sink after you shave.

In addition to producing lackluster lather, hard water can actually ruin your shaving brush and razor because the minerals will cling and erode.

Tip: Make sure that you’re lathering correctly – press your brush firmly into the soap and stroke for 20-30 seconds until all the bubbles are gone and you end up with a thick lather.

What can I do if my house/apartment has hard water?

That depends on how much time and money you’re willing to invest. For a quick and cost-effective solution, you can purchase a gallon of distilled water for about $2. It only takes about ½ cup total to soak the brush, wet the bar, wash your beard, and rinse, so that gallon can last quite a few shaves.

If you want a long term solution, you can install a water softener.

Alternatively, if neither of the above solutions sounds that great, you can always use shaving cream, which is much easier to lather than hard soaps. Our customers have given high praises for Taylor of Old Bond Street Luxury Shaving Cream Bowl.

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Infographic: Moustache 101 and Moustache Styles

According to a Workplace Mustache Study by the American Mustache Institute (AMI), moustache acceptance in workplaces is higher than ever. And with whiskers being a centerpiece of the hipster movement, moustache styles in every permutation have flourished. If you proudly wear a moustache, we recommend checking out the infographic below, which gives you an informative review of the art of owning a moustache.

From selecting a quality local moustache wax maker to famous celebrity moustaches (Tom Selleck’s Magnum P.I. chevron is a natural choice for this list), this Moustache-o-Graph infographic covers how to own the ‘stache, and own it well.

While we’re on the subject of moustaches, do you prefer to be moustached, bearded, or clean shaven? And would you consider growing a beard or a moustache if you’re currently clean shaven? We’d love to know in the comments below – or let us know your thoughts on Facebook or Instagram.

Happy Barbershop Music Appreciation Day!

That instantly recognizable close harmony, those dulcet ringing chords – barbershop quartet music is a centerpiece of American Music, and today we honor this genre with Barbershop Music Appreciation Day. Despite the popularity of barbershop quartet music, its origins are still unclear, though one strong opinion is that the style originated in its namesake – barbershops.

Barbershop music has appeared on shows like The Simpsons (remember the Be Sharps?), Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, and Family Guy, as well as adopted by musical acts like The Beatles and The Beach Boys. Even Disneyland has its own famous barbershop quartet, called the Dapper Dans.

To celebrate this distinctive American music genre, we’ll be taking a look at its history and sharing some of our favorite barbershop tracks with you.

Will you be celebrating this holiday?

Timeline

Origins – Late 19th Century

Theory 1

In the later half of the 19th century, U.S. barbershops served as community gathering centers where African American men would socialize. While waiting their turn, they would harmonize, vocalizing folk songs, spirituals, and popular songs. From these impromptu gatherings sprung a new style that consisted of unaccompanied, four-part, close-harmony singing.

White minstrel singers later adopted this style, and in the early days of the recording industry their performances were recorded and sold. Songs like “Hello, Ma Baby” and “Sweet Adeline” were very popular between 1900 and 1919 but eventually faded into obscurity in the 1920s. (Wikipedia)

Theory 2

Some researchers argue that barbershop quartet music is a tradition invented in the 1940s by the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barbershop Quartet singing in America, (SPEBSQSA) while determining the rules for singing contests. The group related barbershop music to several musical features popular around 1900, including quartet singing and the barbershop chord. (Wikipedia)

Revival – 1938

Tax lawyer Owen C. Cash wanted to save the barbershop style from the threat of radio, so he founded the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barbershop Quartet Singing in America (SPEBSQSA). The lengthy name was designed to poke fun at the multi-initial names of Roosevelt’s many New Deal agencies. They later renamed themselves the much more palatable Barbershop Harmony Society.

Today thousands of quartets and choruses are registered with the society.

Female barbershop music exists too – on July 13, 1945, Edna Mae Anderson of Tulsa, Oklahoma invited her friends to her home to sing. Their husbands were members of the Barbershop Harmony Society. On that evening, they formed the Sweet Adelines, which is now an international organization for female singers.

Discography

A few videos featuring some excellent Barbershop music. If you’ve got more tunes  you’d like to add to the list, leave a comment below or give us a shout out on Facebook.

Storm Front – Lida Rose

The Music Man – Barbershop Quartet

Old School – Little Town in the Old Country Down / I Want a Girl

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Shaving Your Beard for Summer? Read This First

While your beard once seemed like a good idea when the leaves were falling and 70% of your wardrobe consisted of long-sleeved plaid shirts, we’re willing to bet it’s feeling a little more stuffy now. When it’s hot and humid outside, the last thing you want is an extra layer of insulation. So around this time of year, many men make the decision to do away with their winter coats.

But before you touch that razor, there are a few considerations you should take into account. Since you spent at least couple of months growing that thing, unfortunately you can’t just shave everything off and expect your face to look exactly as it did pre-beard.

To ensure a seamless transition into a smooth, clean-shaven summer, read on for tips on how to shave your beard off with minimal discomfort, with a few portions abridged from Mike Gilman, founder of Groominglounge.com, via Men’s Journal.

What to expect: Differently colored skin under the beard

Solution:

Should you get a fair amount of sun exposure pre-shave, there’s a chance that once your beard comes off, the skin underneath will look ghostly pale in comparison. The only short-term solution may be cosmetics – Gilman recommends borrowing your wife’s tinted moisturizer for a day to blend the two skin zones together.

If you’d rather not go near the vanity, we suggest you suck it up for a day or two – the lighter skin will pick up pigment once you spend some time in the sun.

What to expect: Having to trim before you shave

Solution:

You shouldn’t take off your beard in one go. In fact, if your beard is longer than half an inch, trying to do so could give you lots of nicks and cuts, because the razor will fill up with long hair and end up pulling on your skin and hair. To make things easier, first whittle your beard down with scissors or a trimmer. This will make your razor far more effective, and save you some collateral damage.

What to expect: Prep work for the smoothest shave possible

Solution:

The best time to shave is right after the shower, when the natural steam will open up your pores and make your hair softer. Always shave with the grain, and use a razor that won’t tug on skin – we recommend the Merkur 34C HD Chrome Plated Safety Razor or the Dovo Best Quality, Half Hollow Carbon Steel, 5/8”, both of which are top-rated razors on RoyalShave.

Gilman says to “choose a quality shaving oil to ensure a smoother razor glide and less friction.” Our recommendation? Proraso Pre-Shave Cream in Menthol and Eucalyptus never fails to soften your beard, and can actually be used after your shave as a moisturizer.

What to expect: Dry skin after your beard comes off

Solution:

For a while, the skin that was under your beard will be drier than the rest of your face. So the first couple of post-beard shaves can be tricky. To minimize irritation and inflammation once you put razor to face, use a thick, lather-rich shaving cream (like Taylor of Old Bond Street Luxury Shaving Cream Bowl) and finish with a hydrating post-shave product (like Piccadilly Shaving Co. Sandalwood Aftershave Cream).

Feel free to overcompensate with post-shave creams and lotions, since your dehydrated skin will drink them right up. Try to avoid aftershaves with alcohol as they’ll sting and dry out your skin even further.

And if you’re one to think ahead, when fall rolls around in a few months, apply beard oil to your beard daily. Beard oil is your most effective tool for moisturizing your beard and the skin underneath, so your entire facial hair region will be in good shape. Try Grave Before Shave Beard Oil, which moisturizes and prevents dandruff.

What to expect: Unwillingness to part with the beard

If you’re attached to your beard, there’s no need to completely do away with it. Gilman suggests going to a barber for a comely trim, so you can have your beard without breaking into a sweat constantly.

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