The nick-less, blood-less shave

Emeril Tracy does it the old-fashioned way and manages for the first time in his life to emerge unscathed.

Blood and shaving. For me, the two are inseparable. And they have been, from the moment in mid-adolescence when I first touched a razor (single-edged, as I recall) to my suddenly no-longer-smooth-as-peaches skin. The razor, plus a can of Rise, which was permanently ice cold,as if it had been stored with the cucumbers in the refrigerator, was unceremoniously presented to me by my father. He added a word or two of dutiful advice: shave with the grain of your beard (what “beard?”); use hot water; let the blood coagulate – it’ll be much easier to clean off afterward.

The blood was there from the beginning. Every morning, a new shape in a new place. A slash; an asterisk; an exclamation point; a dot: the whole field – cheeks, chin, neck – punctuated withred marks, like a book report worked over by a mean-spirited English teacher. “You flunk,” it proclaimed to the world.

I bloodied dozens of my mother’s towels, later, dozens of my own. I blamed it on the water. The razors. Perhaps it was all a reflection of my personality: too impatient, too rushed. I took yoga to learn a few breathing exercises to slow myself down. Still, every morning:blood. I took to shaving on alternate days. I looked like a criminal, a slob. After years of this routine, it was my brother (younger, an upstart) who finally took pity on me and gave me a shaving brush and a wooden shaving bowl, with its own bar of milky, mildly almond-scented soap.

Almost instantly, the morning chore metamorphosed into a pleasure. No more blood, not a nick, not a scratch.


Every article I’ve ever read on shaving the old-fashioned way with a brush and a bowl just talks about how nice it feels. The real benefit is the way it prevents cuts, nicks and bleeding:

  • Wet your face with hot water.
  • Dampen and heat the brush, preferably a badger-hair brush, which retains water particularly well.
  • Swirl the damp brush in a shaving bowl, working up a lather.
  • Lift your beard by working the brush across the skin in a circular motion, against the grain.
  • Start shaving, re-lathering as necessary.

11 Ways to Improve Your Shave

1–Eshave Shave Soap & Bowl, Available in Lavender, Avocado & Linden, and Mandarin.

2–Coates Shaving Cream, Available in Almond, Lavender, Lime, Rose, Sandalwood, and Tea Tree.

3–Simpsons Special Best Badger Shave Brush, Available in various badger hair grades, sizes and shapes.

4–Eshave Shavebrush

5–Bloom Soften Up After Shave Gel

6–Eshave After Shave Soother

7–Eshave Alum Block

8–Karin Herzog After Shave Lotion

9–Weleda After Shave

10–Weleda After Shave Balm

11–Essensa After Shave Lotion Cool Nature