Table of Contents
- An Introduction To Shaving Kits
- What Does A Shaving Kit Contain?
- Can I Take My Shaving Kit On A Plane? Is It Allowed In Cabin Luggage?
- Shaving Kits Make Great Gifts
- Quality Shaving Kits Make Shaving Fun
Last updated on: February 7th, 2020
An Introduction To Shaving Kits
Traditional straight-razor wet shaving has exploded in popularity in recent years. The artisanal experience of carefully applying a traditional lather and carefully using a precise instrument to effortlessly trim both hair and stubble alike is unique and more-or-less impossible to match with other shaving methods. Not only is straight razor shaving fun, it’s also incredibly effective at taking any type or length of hair and removing all traces of it from your skin.
Wet shaving is very much an involved multi-step process, however. You can’t get the results you want by immediately applying a straight razor to your dry skin or even your straight-out-of-the-shower skin. The wet shaving process involves oil, cream, and balms. In addition to these products, you’ll need a special shaving brush and a container to mix your lather in. This can make shaving pretty tricky to get into.
Shaving kits give you all of these products together in one package. While the exact contents vary, shaving kits usually contain a brush, shaving cream, and a selection of oils, balms, and aftershave. This means that all you have to do is pick up a straight razor and supply a bowl (or teacup) to make your lather in. In other words, shaving kits are the perfect way to start your foray into the world of wet shaving.
This isn’t to say that shaving kits are a bad purchase or gift for someone who already has a brush and some shaving cream. Instead, they’re a great way to try out a new shaving cream, after shave, and pre-shave oil. They’ll also give you an opportunity to try out a new brush. While your shaving brushes should last you a pretty long time with proper care, there’s certainly nothing wrong with picking up a spare every once in a while.
Other Types of Shaving Kits
Wet shaving is not the only option available to remove hair from the body, however. While you’re less likely to find a carefully presented gift set for an electric shaver, you can still find grooming kits with a shaver, multiple heads, and sometimes a travel bag. You won’t get an artisan shave by using these products, but they’re still very handy to have around the house. We’ll go over the benefits of an electric shaving kit over a wet shaving kit a bit later on.
What Does A Shaving Kit Contain?
The contents of a shaving kit will vary based on both the brand you choose and the particular product you buy. In general, however, you’ll get a brush, shaving cream, and a selection of oils and balms. Here are some things to look for when you’re selecting a kit.
1. The Brush
The best shaving brushes are often fairly expensive. This is because they’re carefully crafted out of real animal hair and have durable handles that will stand up to many years of use. A high-quality badger brush can last for upwards of a decade with proper care, meaning that getting a more expensive kit with a slightly nicer brush is usually a good idea.
Natural brushes come in three major types: boar, horsehair, and badger. Boar brushes are coarse and somewhat stiff, meaning that they’re great for lathering and pushing your shaving cream around on your face. On the other hand, they’re not particularly comfortable, especially at first. Even after you’ve broken in a boar brush and it’s begun to soften, it won’t be as soft as a badger brush. Boar brushes tend to be pretty cheap. There are lots of very nice boar brushes available for less than $20.
Horsehair brushes are somewhere in between boar and badger brushes. They’re stiffer than badger but softer than boar. They’re also priced somewhere in the middle, with quality brushes available for less than $50.
Badger brushes are softer than the other options and available in multiple grades. Listed from softest to hardest, the grades are pure badger, best badger, super badger, and silver tip. As each grade gets softer, it gets progressively more expensive but also more durable. Silver tip shaving brushes can last for more than three times as long as a regular pure badger shaving brush.
No matter which grade you choose, badger brushes are the softest natural brushes you can find. Most people find them much more comfortable to shave with than the other types of natural brushes. Badger brushes range in cost from about $40 (for an entry-level pure badger brush) to over $150 (for an artisan silver tip brush).
Synthetic brushes also exist. They’ve gotten a lot better in recent years, to the point where some synthetic brushes can rival natural brushes in terms of both feel and performance. Unfortunately, there’s no easy standard that you can use to tell how good a synthetic brush will be before you buy it. You’ll have to rely on user reviews, your friends’ recommendations, your personal experience.
There’s certainly nothing wrong with getting a shaving kit with a cheap brush, especially if you already have one that you plan to use. If you want a nice synthetic brush, however, expect it to add at least $40 to the cost of your shaving kit. That might seem like a lot, but a high-quality synthetic brush will be softer than most badger brushes while being PETA-approved, less irritating to your skin, and easier to maintain.
2. The Lather (Cream / Soap / Gel)
You want a high fat, high glycerin soap in order to form the right base for your lather. Both of these qualities are absolutely essential: you need fat to help lubricate your skin so the razor slides across easily, and you need a lot of glycerin to hydrate your skin and lock water into the lather. The difference between a block of shaving “cream” and shaving “soap” is that the cream will already have water locked in, making it easier to work up a lather. On the other hand, shaving soap will last a lot longer.
Unfortunately, many brands don’t make the levels of fat and glycerin in their soaps and creams easily accessible. You’ll have to look up a review or use a third party site to compare different products.
One other thing you can look for is a soap that’s been milled multiple times. Milling is a process that helps your soap make a rich, creamy lather. If you can, spring for something that’s been triple milled.
Gels accomplish the same thing as soaps and creams (lubricating and hydrating your skin) via a slightly different method. With gels, the best thing to do is simply to look up reviews and draw from your own experience shaving.
There are usually scents and other additives in all of these products. You’ll wash away most of the smell as part of your shaving process. In other words, what scents you want is very much down to preference. Do be wary of how a scent is added: essential oil scents are very different from chemical ones. You can also pick up products infused with things like Aloe Vera (to reduce irritation and promote healthy skin) and other plants, herbs, and chemicals.
Most shaving kits don’t come with a razor. This is because kits are designed for straight razor shaving. The razors you use for this are very cheap (less than $30) and last pretty much forever. In other words, razors are somewhat like screwdrivers: you can get one that feels a bit nicer in your hand, but you shouldn’t rush out to try every screwdriver you can find and you probably don’t need more than one.
If your kit does come with a straight razor, make sure it takes disposable blades. This will make it very easy to keep sharp (and hygienic!) over its lifetime. You can sharpen a fixed blade yourself, of course, but it’s a bit of a pain if you’re not already experienced in sharpening your own blades.
4. After Shave
Alcohol can disinfect your skin and gives your aftershave a unique sensation, but it’s best to look for an aftershave with the lowest amount of alcohol possible. You’re usually after a balm or gel, not a lotion. Try to find something with a good mix of pleasing scents (you’ll leave this on your face, so other people will smell it) and soothing additives. Ingredients that keep your skin moisturized (like glycerin and natural oils) are always good.
Shaving Kit Additions
High-end shaving kits come in a few flavors. In addition to the basic items above, you can find kits with other important accessories.
- Shaving Kit With Bag
If you’re getting a nice shaving brush and a selection of oils and soaps, why not also get a bag to keep them in? These kits come with a handy container that you can use to organize your bathroom or make traveling easier.
- Shaving Kit With Stand
Shaving brushes need a bit of care to withstand the rigors of everyday use. A stand will help you keep your brush dry in between uses while being easily accessible on your counter.
- Shaving Kit With Brush And Bowl
Many men don’t mind using a teacup or kitchen bowl to soak their brush or make their lather in, but it’s nice to have a dedicated container for these tasks. The bowls in these kits look a bit more bathroom appropriate, too.
Straight razors are great for removing hair. They’re terrible at trimming it. A kit with a trimmer is perfect for anyone who wants to maintain a beard or mustache (or sideburns) while keeping part of their face clean shaven.
Other Kinds Of Shaving Kits
- Safety Razor Shaving Kit
Theoretically, there’s not a lot of difference between a straight razor and a safety razor. In both cases, you’re using sharp blades to separate hair from your skin. This means that you can use a straight-razor shaving kit with a safety razor, or vice versa.
That said, safety razor kits definitely exist. Some of them are targeted at the same crowd that uses natural brushes and traditional shaving soaps, so they’re not too different than a straight razor kit. Others are simply an aerosol shaving gel packaged with a few cheap plastic safety razors. Be sure to get a kit that matches the amount of time and effort you plan to spend shaving.
- Straight Razor Shaving Kit
The gold standard of shaving kits, these kits often don’t contain a razor at all. They’re suitable for all types of shaving. They’ll include a lather (usually a shaving soap or cream), and a selection of balms and oils. Most kits these days also include a brush. If you’re getting a shaving kit for a serious shaving enthusiast, make sure you get one with a really expensive or really cheap brush. They probably already have a nice shaving brush so you’ll need to match its quality if you actually want to use it. Even kits with cheap brushes can have nice soaps, balms, and oils, however.
This is the type of kit we’ve been talking about for most of this page. Be sure to check out the information above and below for more tips about what you should look for in a straight razor shaving kit.
- Old Fashioned / Vintage Shave Kit
Straight razor shaving hasn’t evolved too much over the years. While a “vintage” shave kit might choose to use more old-fashioned soap or a natural brush instead of a synthetic one, there’s theoretically not a lot of difference between a normal straight razor kit and a “vintage” shaving kit. Be aware that aftershave use changed fairly dramatically during the 1980’s, so any authentic “vintage” kit will have a high-alcohol aftershave that might dry out or irritate your face.
One notable difference is that “vintage”-tagged shaving kits tend to come with things like razors, stands, bowls and bags more frequently than “straight razor” shaving kits. If you want these things in your kit, consider adding “vintage” to your search terms.
These kits are pretty different from what we’ve been talking about so far. Rather than coming with lots of products to put on your face, they’ll instead come with an electric shaver and multiple heads, blades, and tools that you can use with it to get the shave you want. It’s a good idea to keep one of these around in your house in addition to any other shaving kits you might purchase. This is because straight razors (and safety razors) don’t trim hair very well. If you ever decide to let your facial hair grow out a little, an electric shaver will make shaping and maintaining it a breeze.
- Travel Shaving Kit
There’s a huge range of travel shaving kits, from kits marketed to people who travel but don’t spend a lot of time shaving to full-on traditional shaving kits that are designed to be extra portable. The high-end kits will include a bag, razor, and a brush. The products in these kits are sometimes a bit smaller than the ones in normal kits, but not always. Brushes, razors, and even balms and creams aren’t very big.
Don’t freak out about the lack of a bowl in your travel kit. Most hotels have coffee makers and cups in the room, so you can simply borrow a coffee cup to make your lather in. You may want to find a travel kit with a brush stand, however.
- Shaving Kit Gift
The best gift for a shaving enthusiast is one that matches their style of shaving. Do a bit of research first to find out what they like and how they shave. If you get a traditional shaving kit for someone who uses an electric shaver each morning, for example, they might not get a lot of use out of it.
As was mentioned earlier, if the shaving kit does include a brush, try to get one that’s really expensive or really cheap. The recipient might have their own brush, so a more moderate midrange option might simply be a waste of money. An expensive brush can replace their existing one or serve as backup, while a super cheap one can simply be ignored while the rest of the kit is used.
- Luxury Shaving Kit
Most straight-razor style shaving kits have artisan soaps, creams, balms, and oils, giving the recipient a luxurious shave experience. In other words, you’re totally fine picking up a shaving kit without “luxury” in the name.
If you’re looking for something on the higher end, try looking for a kit with a nice natural brush, high-quality soaps, and balms with genuine essential oils. These kits might be a bit pricier, but they’ll give a wonderful shave each time.
- Army/Military Shaving Kit
Straight razor shaving is particularly effective at keeping your personal appearance up to military standards and can reduce bumps and redness after you’ve shaved. In other words, a standard straight razor shaving kit is perfectly fine for military use. Replacement razor blades are often cheaper than disposable razors overseas, making this method of shaving perfect for people who are deployed.
Time, water, and mirrors may prove troublesome to find for some servicemen, so you may want to include an aerosol-based gel (to lather faster) and a portable mirror with your kit.
- Shaving Kit For Beginners
There’s very much a learning curve when it comes to straight razor shaving, but you shouldn’t go out of your way to purchase a different set of tools to learn with. In fact, dull blades can increase the danger you’re in while you shave since you’ll have to make more passes at a more aggressive angle to actually remove hairs. Instead, focus on finding an affordable kit with all of the basic elements. If you decide that traditional shaving is something you want to stick with, you can upgrade to a more expensive brush and a fancier shaving cream.
Can I Take My Shaving Kit On A Plane? Is It Allowed In Cabin Luggage?
If your shaving kit includes a straight razor, you can’t actually bring the razor blades themselves on the plane. You can leave the blades in checked luggage and keep the handle with you in your carry on, put your kit in your checked luggage, or simply switch to a different shaving solution for the duration of your trip. The rest of your kit (brush, stand, bag, balms, creams, etc) should be totally TSA-approved.
You can also just buy disposable razor blades when you reach your destination if you don’t want to put them in your luggage at all.
Shaving Kits Make Great Gifts
If you’re ever at a loss for what type of gift to get for a man in your life, consider a shaving kit! They’re great for your dad, boyfriend, or husband. You can get a shaving kit for Christmas, as a birthday present, or for any other occasion. These personal gifts will get lots of use and will make your favorite man look and smell great.
Quality Shaving Kits Make Shaving Fun
Straight razor shaving is fun and effective. It’s a great way to ensure that you have smooth, hairless skin each morning (or night) and delay the onset of 5’o’clock shadow for as long as possible. The tools you get in a shaving kit will help make the shaving process as pleasant and enjoyable as possible. Whether its for yourself or an important man in your life, an extra shaving brush and a set of balms, oils, and shaving cream won’t go amiss. Instead, it’ll give you (or someone else) an opportunity to try new scents, a great new shaving soap, or a comfortable new shaving brush.