When you started wet shaving back in your teens, you probably didn't think to use a shaving brush. Squeezing some foam or gel out into your hand and then slapping it onto your face probably seemed perfectly fine.
Except it wasn't. Shaving turned out to be a painful experience that often left red irritation on your neck, a feeling of the skin burning and possibly razor bumps.
Ask any experienced wet shaver, and he will tell you that the lather is the key to a good shave. And a good lather can only be made — or "built" — and applied with a shaving brush. It's a simple process:
First, wet your skin with warm water. This will moisten and soften the skin. Shaving after a hot shower is even better.
2. Use cream
Use a shaving cream — not a foam or a gel. The cream will lubricate your skin better and provides a better "cushion" between blade and skin. Creams can be a little harder to find in the shops, but it's not impossible. Body Shop makes a good one.
3. Build lather
Put a bit of the cream in one hand (or a mug), add a bit of warm water to your brush and now "build" the lather by whisking the cream. The lather will get much richer and creamier this way than if you just used your hands. A perfect lather feels like very rich whipped cream — creamy but not foamy. Add a little more water if it's not creamy enough.
Now gently apply the lather to your skin with the brush. Using your hands you'd only be able to apply a superficial layer, but by "brushing" it on, the lather will get into all the little nooks and crannies, and most importantly the brush will lift the whiskers from the skin and suspend them in the thick lather — leaving them moist, smooth and ready-to-cut. Spend a minute or so brushing your face.
5. Clearing skin
As an added bonus, the brush also acts as an exfoliator, scrubbing the face and removing dead skin that could otherwise clog the razor — and leaving the face fresher and better hydrated after the shave.
By using the shaving brush with a cream, you have achieved a superior lather — and have better prepared your skin for the shave — than if you had used your hands.
You should instantly feel the difference if this is the first time you have used a brush. The blade, or blades, will run over the skin much more easily and is much less likely to painfully get "caught" in a whisker.
The shaving operation itself being so much smoother, you are also much less likely to see rashes or bumps form later than if you had not used a brush.
Apply a non-alcohol based after-shave cream after rinsing your face, and you're highly unlikely to see any at all. Your face will also feel a lot better.
Shaving brushes are about being kind to one's face — and maybe bringing a bit of old-world pampering to one's bathroom.