The Case for Cold Water Shaving

by Brett on March 24, 2010 · 138 comments

in Dress & Grooming, Shaving

When I watched the HBO series Band of Brothers, I was struck by how the soldiers, ill-supplied, freezing, and wearily dug into the snowy trenches of Bastogne, still made time to shave. The clean shaven face was and is military policy. Even today, US soldiers, although they must do without hot water and baths for months at a time, still try to get in a daily shave. It might seem like a strange policy to civilians, but requiring the men to be well-groomed is believed to be important in preserving the men’s sense of discipline and the esprit de corps.

Shaving with cold water seems like a hardship, a practice that must be endured in Spartan living conditions. After all, it’s wet shaving doctrine that a man must always shave with hot water. It not only feels nice, it softens the beard and supposedly gives you a more comfortable shave.

But what if that advice is wrong? What if it’s actually better to shave with cold water, even when you’re not fighting the Battle of the Bulge?

Well, according to a bunch of authors in the 19th century, cold water shaving is indeed superior to shaving with hot water.

Published in 1833, The Young Man’s Guide offered advice for men coming of age on various facets of life. The author devoted one section to personal grooming. Along with the typical advice you’d expect to hear (bathe daily, change your clothes) the author suggests that men give up shaving with hot water and mirrors in order to save time. Here’s what he says:

Sir John Sinclair asked a friend whether he meant to have a son of his (then a little boy) taught Latin? ‘No,’ said he, ‘but I mean to do something a great deal better for him.’ ‘What is that?’ said Sir John. ‘Why,’ said the other, ‘I mean to teach him to shave with cold water, and without a glass.’

My readers may smile, but I can assure them that Sir John is not alone. There are many others who have adopted this practice, and found it highly beneficial. One individual, who had tried it for years, has the following spirited remarks on the subject.

‘Only think of the inconvenience attending the common practice! There must be hot water; to have this there must be a fire, and, in some cases, a fire for that purpose alone; to have these, there must be a servant, or you must light a fire yourself. For the want of these, the job is put off until a later hour: this causes a stripping and another dressing bout: or, you go in a slovenly state all that day, and the next day the thing must be done, or cleanliness must be abandoned altogether….How many a piece of important business has failed from a short delay! And how many thousand of such delays daily proceed from this unworthy cause!’

Another 19th century writer also advocated cold water shaving. In 1838′s Present to an Apprentice, Sir J. Bannard tells readers:

Always shave with cold water. Barbers use warm, because they have to accommodate themselves to the habits of those whom they shave. The use of cold water saves much time and trouble— tends to preserve the smoothness and beauty of the skin; and when you have accustomed your face to it, you will shave as easily with cold water as with warm.

In Cottager’s Monthly Visitor, a monthly magazine from 1822, the editor writes:

Do not lose time by waiting for hot water. Cold is better after you once get accustomed to it. Hot water makes the face delicate and tender, the very cause why shaving is a painful operation.

And finally, in a book called Shaving Made Easy, the author argues that the idea that a soft beard gives a better shave is a bunch of bunk and that hot water should be avoided:

A hair, as is well known, is a tube composed of a hard fibrous substance, growing from a bulb or root, which secretes an oily matter.
This oil works its way up through the hair, and by permeating all parts, renders the hair soft and pliable. Now in this natural oily condition, it is very difficult to cut the hair with a razor, and it becomes even more difficult if the beard be made still softer by the application of hot water. Many do this, and it is no wonder they find shaving difficult. When this is done, the hairs become soft and limp, and the razor will either slip over them entirely, or else cut partly into them, bend them back and shave them lengthwise, all the while pulling and straining them at the roots, and making the process of shaving most painful.

Why You Should Consider Shaving with Cold Water

The reasons for cold water shaving given by the above authors can be summed up in 4 points:

Saves time. Granted, getting hot water in the 1800s was time consuming and labor intensive. You had to gather wood, start a fire, and wait for the water to boil. Fast-forward to today and all you have to do is turn on a faucet. But even then, it can take a bit of time for the water to warm up. So on those days when you’re running late and every second counts, using cold water can shave some time off your routine.

Allows you to shave when hot water isn’t available. I think we’ve all had those moments when hot water just isn’t on tap: the heater breaks, your wife uses up all the hot water while showering, you’re fighting in the mountains of Afghanistan, or you’re traveling abroad and staying in a place without such luxuries. But when you have to be cleaned up and ready for work, inspections, or a date with an exotic local woman, you can’t skip out on shaving simply because you don’t have hot water.

Cold water gives a better shave. The argument here is that a soft beard is hard to shave, while a stiff beard is easier to cut. Hot water makes your beard soft; cold water keeps the whiskers stiff. Thus, cold water renders a better shave.

Cold water leaves the skin looking healthier. We’ve written about this in our post about the James Bond Shower. Hot water tends to dry out skin. If you want a nice looking mug, use cold water.

My Experience Shaving With Cold Water

I had to shave with cold water several times when I lived in Mexico. Sometimes I ran out of gas before the end of the month and was forced to bathe and shave with cold water (not fun in the winter time). That was over 5 years ago and ever since I got back to the States, I’ve been a strict hot water shaver. But after reading the old advice given above, I decided to experiment with a cold water shave.

After getting over the shock of using ice cold lather as opposed to a nice, warm, soothing one, I have to say the cold water shave wasn’t that bad. The experience wasn’t too much different from hot water shaving and was more invigorating, waking me up.

I did notice that my razor tugged on my whiskers a bit more than when I shave with hot water. But according to Shaving Made Easy that’s to be expected. Hot water softens whiskers, causing the blade to slip over them  instead of cutting them. With cold water, my whiskers remained stiff, thus allowing the blade to cut every single one. It’s like the poor man’s Lectric Shave.

The end result was a surprisingly close shave with just one pass, and my skin felt great. My face often feels puffy, irritated, and dry after shaving with hot water. Not so with the cold.

Will I convert completely to cold water shaving? Maybe. Old habits die hard, but the benefits might entice me to cross over. At the least, I know it’s a viable option when hot water just isn’t available.

For more experiences on cold water shaving, check out this thread at Straight Razor Place.

Do you shave with cold water? What’s your experience with it? Thinking about making the switch to cold water shaving? Drop us a line in the comment box!

{ 138 comments… read them below or add one }

1 David Young March 24, 2010 at 1:01 am

http://www.archive.org/details/shavingmadeeasyw0020th

Published in 1905 and available for free, shaving made easy gives detailed instruction on cold water shaving.

2 Ian March 24, 2010 at 1:10 am

“Put the razor in cold water, not hot, because metal does what in cold? That’s why I’m telling you! It contracts.That way you get a first-class shave every time.”
-Johnny Caspar, Miller’s Crossing

3 max.elliott March 24, 2010 at 1:11 am

The primary reason for post WWI clean shaven faces is that a gas mask does not achieve a proper seal against a hairy face.

4 JamesBrett March 24, 2010 at 1:30 am

i live in tanzania, and am often without warm (much less) hot water. of course it’s not usually so cold here, so showering with cold water isn’t a great inconvenience. but shaving was a bigger jump for me. these days, though, i shave when i want to shave, warm water present or not. i’ve suffered no ill effects, though i guess, to be honest, i’ve not noticed any benefits either — except that i am able to shave when i like.

but shaving my legs… different story completely. i only do so on days i’ve got warm water.

5 Jason March 24, 2010 at 2:07 am

I love this site. I really do. But cold water shaving? That is crazy. It is asking for irritation and ingrown hairs. I shave my face and head each and every day with my Grandfather’s Double Edge Safety razor, lathering with a brush and a shaving mug, so I’m not some Gillette fan who has never tried different things. I have a very coarse beard, and extremely sensitive skin, so I have done a lot of experimenting.

Hard beard hairs = bad shave. They drag and blunt the razor and cause razor burn.
Soft hairs = easier shave. A shaving brush lifts them, and the soft hairs cut like butter.

It is however important to do the final rinse with the coldest water possible; it closes the pores and helps prevent razor bump.

I’ve learned some great ideas from this site (like cold showers – I love them!) but this is not one of them.

6 Daniel V. March 24, 2010 at 2:23 am

I have to very much disagree with Jason, who seems to believe that his experience must hold true for everyone else. I have shaved with cold water for a decade and I’ve never had any problems with it whatsoever. I get a great, clean, non-irritating shave. I would recommend giving it a go to anyone. Maybe if you have sensitive skin, it won’t work for you, but give it a try and see.

7 Brett McKay March 24, 2010 at 2:36 am

Ditto to what Daniel said. I’ve tried cold water shaving several times and the only effect was a nice, close shave. No irritation or ingrown hairs. I wouldn’t recommend anything to people that I hadn’t tried myself and thought was crazy.

8 Bryan S March 24, 2010 at 2:56 am

I’ll give it shot this week. Curious to see how it affects the softening of my soap puck though and if lathering will be more difficult.

9 Brew March 24, 2010 at 2:59 am

This proposition blew my mind. Tomorrow morning starts with cold-shaving.

10 Joshua March 24, 2010 at 3:07 am

I’ve always been told lather with warm water to open the pores and increase the absorption of the moisturizing lather. But rinse your razor in cold water. Because a cold razor is more dense and holds its edge longer.

11 Johnny Darko March 24, 2010 at 3:08 am

Ever since i was young, ive always washed my hands with cold water. Always. This is because from the time i was potty trained til i was about 5/6, the hot water tap in our bathroom didnt work.

So naturally, i began shaving with cold water too. And up until reading this article, didnt even realise that people even used hot water to shave.

Im gonna have to give hot water a try.

12 ish March 24, 2010 at 6:08 am

the best way to shave is get a hot towel, wrap it around your neck and face and keep it on their so it softens up the skin, then get cold water and use it to shave, the hairs should stick out due to the cold water and the skin should be more contracted due to the sudden change in temp. needs to be very hot and very cold for best results.

also cold shave after a hot shower works well too.

13 Guy March 24, 2010 at 6:58 am

I’ve done both hot and cold water, either way I get a good shave. In the navy sometimes we didn’t even have time to lather up……that got to be irritating :) however I’ve also found the type of water you have plays a role in how close a shave you get. I’ve always gotten better shaves in “soft water” vs hard water.

Guy

14 Sir Lancelot March 24, 2010 at 6:59 am

Like Jason, I have a very coarse beard, so in my case cold water shaving means painful, inefficient shaving.

15 Scott Leak March 24, 2010 at 7:05 am

Very interesting post. I used to do cold-water shaves (without soap) out of a helmet during my early Army days (early 80s), and it always worked well. Very little blood. I got more nicks later when I changed to hot water. The best shaves have been with cool water and a very thin coating of ordinary soap (e.g., Ivory, Dial). Sharp blades are absolutely essential, though. Nowadays, I go electric, unless I have several days’ worth; then I use a safety razor.

16 mdbostnmt March 24, 2010 at 7:42 am

Shaving is one of the things that has always bugged me about the military. When I look back at pictures of those soldiers from the War of Northern Aggression, I see healthy, beautiful, dignified beards on not only the likes of Stuart, Jackson, and Lee, but on the faces of the rank and file as well. Long live the beard!

17 The Geek March 24, 2010 at 7:56 am

My chemistry teacher at school reckoned cold water shaving is always more effective because the blade is sharper when cold than when hot: the molecular structure of the metal contracts when cold, becomes more rigid, making the leading edge of the blade even thinner, harder and therefore sharper. Maybe that’s why nobody likes ‘the taste of cold steel’ – although it might’ve been preferable to double chemistry on a Friday afternoon.

18 DaveR March 24, 2010 at 8:03 am

I havew always shaved with cold water. Or more accurately, I use warm water to get the cream/gerl on, and from there – rinsing the blade, cleaning up afterwards, etc. – it’s cold water.

19 Greg March 24, 2010 at 8:25 am

Hell, back in the 80′s in the US Army, many of times we either had no water to spare for shaving or no time to use water. Just carve off the camo makeup with what ever blade was available and get on with your business. Always had to stay shaved, since we were a Chemical Warfare unit and just about lived in our protective masks. Back on post to save time I started shaving in the shower, using the water temp of the day, either scalding or freezing. I still shave in the shower to this day, without a mirror.

20 Patrick Jones March 24, 2010 at 8:28 am

Like a few other folks, I’m a warm lather, cold rinse guy. I have tried warm/warm and cold/cold, but find this combination works best for me and my safety razor. I will say this though: sharp blades and a good soap have always made a far bigger difference than the temperature of the water for me.

21 Frank Rosquin March 24, 2010 at 8:30 am

I recently started shaving with a safety razor, and a brush/lather soap. I’ll give this a try as well. Can’t know until one tries, right?

22 Joe DeGiorgio March 24, 2010 at 8:57 am

Great post. I may give it a try as I love the idea of no longer having to wait for the sink water to run hot…

23 JC March 24, 2010 at 9:01 am

When I first started shaving, I always used cold water as this is what my dad taught me to do. We possess very thick beards so shaving is painful regardless of whether or not we use hot or cold water. However, I can say that shaving with cold water does leave my skin feeling smoother longer than when I use warm water. Time to go back to shaving with cold water before the hot shower.

btw, I am sort of new to the site and I love it.

24 Scott Fureman March 24, 2010 at 9:06 am

I usually shave with cold water and have for the last several years with no ill effects. I’ll even shave “dry” when necessary. It is for that reason I plan to invest in a straight razor and learn to use it properly. Dry shaving is very hard on the blades and even an expensive disposable is only good for one shaving session. I suspect a good straight razor and leather strop should do the trick nicely.

25 Nathaniel March 24, 2010 at 9:26 am

Having been a cold water shaver for some time before finally switching back to hot water, I’ve found that, at least for me, shaving with cold water left my skin more irritated and there was a greater likelihood for zits and blemishes than with hot water. This may not be quite as bad now that I’m older and pretty much out of the acne period of my life.

26 Will March 24, 2010 at 10:16 am

My family has that Young Man’s Guide! Interesting! The main reason given for cold-water shaving seemed to be not waiting for the servants (!), as noted. The author also suggested not using a mirror (!), and I have the unproved but strong impression it was because he thought looking in the mirror would make you vain.

27 Clark Kent's Lunchbox March 24, 2010 at 10:21 am

I used to shave like this all the time in the Army. Had to sleep with my canteens in my sleeping bag just to keep the water from freezing. Good, bad or whatever, it sure as hell would wake you up at 4:30 in the morning. Plus, being an officer, it set an example of discipline for the troops. Can’t say as I cared much for doing it but, eh, what choice do you have.

28 James March 24, 2010 at 10:39 am

If I don’t wake up before 6:30 it’s guaranteed that I”ll be out of hot water after my shower. Needless to say I’ve shaved with cool water a few times in the past year. I didn’t notice much of a difference in terms of shave quality, but I did in comfort. That said, I’ve never tried cold water shaving for an extended period of time, which is probably what it’ll take to judge it properly. Hmm… this could give me reason to sleep in a bit later.

29 James March 24, 2010 at 10:45 am

By comfort I meant that I like my warm lather and the cold was a bit uncomfortable… The shave went rather well considering the water was cold.

30 Roy Crane March 24, 2010 at 10:58 am

When I was a very young teen, just learning to shave, I was at a 2 month Boy Scout Camp (with REAL tent living), which made heating water a pain in the tuchis. As a result I ONLY shaved with cold water and steel (no lather). Once I got home, I continued the practice for convenience. I am now 47 years old, and can count the times I have shaved with hot water or lather on one hand. My family thinks I’m nuts, but I don’t guess I’ll ever change.

31 Lee March 24, 2010 at 10:59 am

When you are talking about metal being made functionally denser by cold water, or functionally expanded by hot water, that sounds like pseudo-science to me. If the water coming out of your tap is actually cold enough to make the metal behave differently, during that brief exposure, it would seem likely to cause freeze damage to your skin. Likewise, going in the opposite direction, if the water coming out of your tap is hot enough to cause steel to expand functionally during brief exposure, you probably couldn’t stick your hand in it long enough to get it to your face… Wanting to provide some useful input here, instead of just contradiction, in my experience, the thing that keeps the blade of any kind of disposable razor sharp, longer, is rinsing and drying it off thoroughly after each use. Steel doesn’t like to be “rode hard and put up wet”…

32 Gus March 24, 2010 at 12:08 pm

The cold water in the helmet or canteen cup in the military is usually by necessity. Noise and light discipline plays a part as well. If you shave before dawn ina patrol base they will see your heat tab fire. Stand to is a practice of being at 100% security 1/2 an hourbefore the sun rises to 1/2 hour after. Then you move at least 1 click away in case you have been spotted.Going back to Rogers Rangers that is when the “French and Indians attack” and the Koreans did as well. Add your camo paint a little slice of hell was added. You get used to it ,but, take hot water when possible. I often express to those who ask about my safety razor how much better it would have been to use for this thsn the double blade gillette I used back then. Using a brush and safety razor have been my habit for at least 15 years and I am not going back.

33 Steve March 24, 2010 at 12:47 pm

The Art of Manliness Blog shouldn’t ever use the term “clean shaven” because the corollary to that is “dirty unshaven.” Do you think it’s part of feminist propaganda to vilify a distinctively masculine trait (beards) and imply that to have one is “dirty?” (Remember…NO facial hair is “clean.”) Why is it no big deal to have hair on your head, eyebrows, arms, legs, etc.? Well, because none of those is distinctively masculine. That’s also why in corporate and ecclesiastical (& military?) worlds the beard has become a symbol of rebellion. Anyone else feel this way?

34 Gus March 24, 2010 at 12:47 pm

I got curious, had to try it at home instead of in the field. My skin feels soft and my shave is smooth. I might try this for a while.

35 Trelowsaurus March 24, 2010 at 12:56 pm

I’ll keep my beard, thanks.

36 Brian March 24, 2010 at 2:20 pm

I’ve shaved cold and can’t say that I really enjoyed it, did notice that my face wasn’t as dry as normal though. But I can vouch for shaving without a mirror. I shave every morning in the shower to save time. I figure I have been shaving this face for the past 20 years, it hasn’t really changed that much, so I should be able to do it with my eyes closed.

37 Greg March 24, 2010 at 2:36 pm

I’ve always heard that cold water keeps the blade sharp while your shaving. hot water expands the blade dulling the edge. But for the face, the hotter the water the better as the hair cuts better, and the pores open up to release em.

38 Brian Burnham March 24, 2010 at 2:45 pm

My guess for this is that there are so many variables e.g. type of skin, type of whiskers, ambient temperature, water temperature, mineral content of the water, type of shaving soap, type of razor, sharpness of the razor that coming up with a technique that will work for all, or even for most, men would be next to impossable. I say find what works well for you and stick with it. I’ve done both the warm and cold water shaves and find that warm works better for me. I also like to take my time with shaving and make it a bit of a ritual. My life is hectic enough that I don’t want to try to speed anything else up.

39 Paul March 24, 2010 at 2:50 pm

The reason for being clean shaven on operations in the modern military is primarily to ensure that you get a good seal with your gas mask. Most chemical companies insist on beardlessness for the same reason.

40 Michael March 24, 2010 at 2:54 pm

Steve,

I don’t think that Clean Shaven means that hairy is dirty. Certainly AOM has promoted the bearded look on more than on occasion, from the Van Dyke to the Mountain Man. In this case I believe that clean is using definition 7 from Webster’s online:

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/clean
7 a : characterized by clarity and precision : trim b : even, smooth c : free from impedances to smooth flow (as of water or air)

When I think of a clean shave, I think that “clean almost austere lines” and “even, smooth” are more what is referenced.

So shave or don’t shave, but if you’re going to shave, be sure to do a good job and get a clean (even, smooth, free from impedances) shave.

41 Salvador Curiel March 24, 2010 at 4:03 pm

Will give it a try. Speaking of shaving, I learned a way to make your blades last longer. You get your razor and slide it down a portion of your jean’s pant lag. Then you do a 180 on the razor and do it again. The texture of the jeans keeps it sharp. Not only making your blades longer, but also keeps it sharp for that clean shave.

42 Dave March 24, 2010 at 4:18 pm

I’m a warm water shaver who doesn’t bother to shave at all if I don’t have time to really work my beard over completely as I lather up with a good badger brush. I’m talking about spending at least three or four minutes working the lather into the beard. That, I’ve found, is the single most important step to getting a very close shave with no irritation, razor burn, etc. Oh, and never use your blade more than twice. Don’t cheap out when it comes to dragging very sharp metal over your neck, that’s what I say.

By the way, what’s the deal with the LEFT-RIGHT confusion in your How To Tie a Tie video? Were you shooting into a mirror?

43 Brett McKay March 24, 2010 at 6:16 pm

@Dave-

I actually reversed the video on purpose, so that way people can follow along as if they are doing it like I am. Otherwise, they would have to look at what I;m doing and then reverse it in their minds. It’s supposed to be less confusing, at least that was the intent.

44 Andy March 24, 2010 at 6:22 pm

OK, I’ll admit I’m a bit skeptical, but I’ll try it just because it’s hard to argue against experience. But I doubt I’d ever do a cold water shave simply because I didn’t want to trouble my servant to build a fire “for that purpose alone”.

45 Eamon Bisbee March 24, 2010 at 6:33 pm

I tried a cold water shave this morning. I couldn’t tell if it was a closer shave or not, but if nothing else it helped me wake up. Very refreshing as well.

46 Michael Faulkner March 24, 2010 at 7:11 pm

Tried this today and it worked alright for me. It’s not a monumental change but I think I’ll be doing this from now on. I mostly like the idea of doing something that contradicts what I’ve always known. Little things like that make life more interesting.

47 Steve C March 24, 2010 at 9:29 pm

There’s actually a scene in the dirty dozen where all the men in the prison camp are about to riot because the commander expects them to shave with cold water! Screenwrite should have done his homework (re: the gas mask point). In fact all the “dozen” are bearded in the inspection part: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bJJHSsLhE24

48 Aaron March 25, 2010 at 12:09 am

I guess I was lucky in that I taught myself to shave and wasn’t told by someone else the “proper way” to shave. I actually started out dry-shaving when I was first learning to use a razor, but after I lost my peach fuzz, it started getting too painful to do with anything but a brand-new blade. I also started shaving in the shower and learned from the start to shave by feel instead of a mirror. I’ve never used shaving cream, so the water running over my face provides a little bit extra lubricant and it also speeds up the process of getting ready in the morning. Especially now that I’m living in a dorm and it’s less practical to shower and shave separately. Anyways, getting back on topic, when shaving out of the shower, I prefer to use cold water because it helps prevent razor burn. Since we didn’t have time to lather up in boot camp, that was how most of us shaved – using cold water.

49 saiko March 25, 2010 at 1:43 am

Wow…. I don’t know how I came across a this website but its great..!!!
I’m 24 and still trying to figure out what it really means to be a “MAN”…….

seriously…
My dad left us when I was 4….

I really didn’t have any male figures to look up to…. (I still don’t)
Had to figure stuff out on my own…… :)
Nothing but aunts….. older sisters…. and female friends of my mom….

I had to learn to how to shave by myself and from what I saw on TV…… :|

50 Carlo La Duca March 25, 2010 at 3:40 am

Hi,

I tried it this morning, hot shower, then cold, then off to almost ice-cold shave. Closest and most irritation-free shave ever for me. Also extremely invigorating. It’s a keeper for me.

51 Sebas van den Brink March 25, 2010 at 5:04 am

One thing about beards and the military; the Dutch military once allowed men to grow beards. This was back in the 70′s. But they did have to shave whenever there was a gas attack to be expected. Moustaches were and are okay, but the curtain has to go if you want the gasmasks to fit properly. You don’t want no mustard gas, now do you?

52 CP March 25, 2010 at 10:22 am

After reading this post yesterday, I decided to go for it this morning, and I must say, this is THE BEST shave I have ever had in my life. I have fast growing, thick, dark facial hair and it always looks like I have a five o’clock shadow. Shaving in cold water and with cold foam was the trick. My face was smoother and I had no razor irritation after shaving. I think this will be my new routine.

53 Brian March 25, 2010 at 10:54 am

Been in the US Army for 14 years and have had many cold-water shaves. After being in the field and in places with a high number of troopers, warm water is a luxury and cold water showers/shaves are a pleasure-especially after a hard work out.

54 Matt C. March 25, 2010 at 11:26 am

I tried cold water shaving this morning, and had almost no skin irritation and a cleaner shave. I think I’m sold.
I have to confess, I still use a modern Gillette and Barbasol, but I am looking for a safety razor at antique shops.
Also, the new email format is great!

55 S. Young March 25, 2010 at 12:38 pm

I tried this this morning; one of the best shaves I’ve ever gotten. I have a pretty thin beard and my neck can be pretty sensitive, but it actually seemed less irritated using the cold water. Cold water streamlined the shaving, although it was harder to work up a good lather.

For reference, I shave after my shower (which ends with a cold rinse) using a double-edge razor, soap, brush, etc. Maybe this doesn’t work for everyone, but it’s worth giving it a try.

56 Jonathan Krull March 25, 2010 at 1:14 pm

I’ve shaved with cold water as well as dry. Once while working 18+ hr. days a buddy and I shaved dry in the vanity mirrors of a car with disposable bics with a splash of Scope for aftershave. I wouldn’t recommend it for daily use, but it does the job. Hurt like hell though.

I agree with those who say that it’s a personal thing. Different faces/beards respond differently to different techniques. Definitely have to agree that the ability to shave without a mirror is a skill that’s underrated.

57 Sketchhead March 25, 2010 at 2:47 pm

I have a very tough beard and very sensitive skin. I usually shave with hot water, but just now I gave cold water a try. Result: way more cuts than usual and a burning skin. Also a less smooth shave. I might have to try it again a few times..

58 Josh Allen March 25, 2010 at 3:46 pm

I have always heard that shaving with cold water is not to be done. Hot water opens the pores of the skin and makes shaving easier. I might have to give cold a try anyway. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

59 rufusmcbufus March 25, 2010 at 4:13 pm

I don’t shave and I am more manly than all of you combined. Suck it.
-rufus

60 Phil B March 25, 2010 at 5:54 pm

Just tried it this morning and it was:
a) quicker
b) smoother
c) no rash or irritation to speak of
d) afterwards i was awake!
I’m 50/50 on carrying on but we’ll see….

keep up the good work, phil

61 Kurt March 25, 2010 at 8:19 pm

I’m going to have to disagree unfortunately. In my experience, softer whiskers cut more easily and create less drag than do stiff ones. Cold water shaves have left me with the worst razor-burn I have experienced. Also, by using hot water to open up the pores, I find that I will get a much closer shave. I always use a cold water rinse after shaving however, to help tighten the skin back up, and invigorate myself.

@Ian who wrote:
“Put the razor in cold water, not hot, because metal does what in cold? That’s why I’m telling you! It contracts.That way you get a first-class shave every time.”
-Johnny Caspar, Miller’s Crossing

Sure, metal does contract when it is cold, but the micron or two that your razor blade is going to contract is not going to make it any sharper, or give any better of a shave.

62 Dano March 25, 2010 at 11:05 pm

I’ve always shaved with cold water, since about my second time shaving back in secondary school. It’s gotten to the point where using hot water just feels awkward. I hardly ever use shaving cream, either, and my shaves take little time and my face is adjusted to them.

63 Prometheus March 26, 2010 at 12:50 am

I usualy use an electric razor, but when I use a blade, it’s generaly with cold water. I’ve never noticed much of a performance difference between hot and cold, but getting hot water can be a bit of a burden while hunting, camping, or whathaveyou, and it’s become a habit.

64 The Manaconda March 26, 2010 at 1:26 am

I tried shaving with naught but ice cold water recently, and I must admit that I’m not all too impressed. Likely a result of my extremely stiff beard hairs, and the fact that I was shaving a 1 day growth, when my beard is at its toughest, even the skin on my cheeks was rough with small protruding hairs. I use a parker safety razor with Derby blades, and the quality of the blade may influence the shave as well, however I doubt I will ever try cold water shaving again. I wish the best of luck to others trying this out, however.

65 London March 26, 2010 at 3:01 am

@Lee

It’s undisputed science that steel expands and contracts with temperature changes. But the change in thickness is fractional, so it depends on how thick it is in the first place, namely, not very. Therefore any change would be completely negligible.

66 Kris March 26, 2010 at 5:23 am

I tried cold shaving this morning and I can only echo the other comments saying it’s a bit of a shock to have cold lather on your face but it did work damn well!

It’s good to know if you don’t have access to hot water (i.e. at work or camping) then you can still keep trimmed.

67 Clint March 26, 2010 at 8:47 am

I’ve been shaving with cold water since the last 3 years, mainly because of the unavailability of hot water. I face no issues.

68 Chris March 26, 2010 at 10:15 am

just shave with hot coffee… you always have a cup of hot coffee handy in the morning.

69 Jesse March 26, 2010 at 10:20 am

I normally shave in the shower but I didn’t have time to take one this morning before leaving but badly needed a shave. I remembered reading this a few days ago and so I stood at my sink and had myself a cold water shave. It’s a lot smoother than the shower shave and with about half the number of razor strokes.

I’m a believer.

70 JustCallMePeter March 26, 2010 at 12:05 pm

Shaving is a total scam foisted on us by Gillette and all those advertising shaving scam artists! When you think about it, shaving takes up a lot of money and time while at the same time risking cuts and infections, all for the sake of making us look less like men and more like women. I say we dump the razor and take up trimmers, that way we can do our heads and beards in one fell swoop.

71 11forlife March 26, 2010 at 2:33 pm

A personal account:

I’m in the US Army, and was at an FTX (Field Training Exercise) last year at Ft. Benning.

I shaved before I left on Friday morning. On Sunday morning, a Master SGT approached me and ask me harshly, “Did you shave this morning?”

I replied, “I forgot to bring any shaving cream, but I started to dry shave anyway, Sergent.” He says, “Then why do you still have **** on your face? I ought to drop you for push-ups.” “Well, Sergent,” I replied, “to be totally honest, I remembered that I like push-ups a lot more than dry shaving.”

He stared at me for a solid ten seconds, then just said “as you were” and walked off.

72 blonf March 26, 2010 at 4:43 pm

Have tried both H&C, saw no real difference between the two except H is more confortable. I am sure cold shaving has to wear out a blade faster since the hairs will be stiffer and harder than with hot, taking the blade edge off sooner. I would much rather keep a blade in use longer, which saves more money over just using cold water.

73 Erik March 26, 2010 at 7:14 pm

Wouldn’t it be possible for cold water to soften the beard hairs anyway? It merely needs to remain in contact with the hair for long enough. (Admittedly, waiting ages for a cold lather to soften your beard undermines the whole ‘cold shaving is faster’ thing …)

74 Krish March 27, 2010 at 5:30 am

I suspect that the benefit of cold water is partly in vasoconstriction, minor cuts are less likely to bleed so you can get away with a closer shave.

75 B March 28, 2010 at 4:21 am

I am pretty much new to the world of wet shaving. Not long ago, I purchased a DE safety razor, a shaving brush, and soap. Today was the first time I tried a cold water shave, after reading this article. I really enjoyed the fact that it gave me a closer shave, it was quicker, and I don’t have any irritation. However, I won’t give up the hot water shave just yet. I do enjoy the feeling of it. I will be switching back and forth between the two.

76 Matt March 28, 2010 at 6:35 am

just a quick question, i had my first attempt with a cold water shave, worked rather well if i’m honest. thing i’d like to know is i did it without soap and lather. should i have done? or would there be very little difference?

77 Will March 29, 2010 at 12:59 pm

Perhaps most importantly, shaving with cold water will keep the edge of your razor sharp much longer than hot, which will dull it much faster.

78 David March 29, 2010 at 3:41 pm

I was a national serviceman in South Africa’s border wars and one of our rules prior to going on ops (Counter Insurgency patrols) was no shaving and no bathing because in a bush, the smell of shaving cream and soap is unnatural and easily picked up from hundreds of yards away…

Perhaps this explain why American soldiers are so poor at fighting counter insurgency wars….. although I have seen SEALS with huge beards in Afghanistan… perhaps they are learining

79 Tyler Logan March 30, 2010 at 4:41 am

Nice post. To be honest, I’ve not even considered shaving with cold water. Advantages sound good though, good enough to give it a try for a few weeks. Thanks.

80 James March 30, 2010 at 5:45 am

I’ve been trying the cold water shave since I read this article, I must say it feels like I’m getting a closer shave with less irritation and time spent. Another added benefit is that my skin feels less dry and has become less prone to greasiness thus giving me less spots! I’m a believer, now I intend on changing all my personal cleaning rituals to cold water.

81 Sean March 31, 2010 at 1:52 pm

You should shave w/cold water only if you’re in the tropics. For some reason this works.

82 Tom April 1, 2010 at 1:53 am

I’ve been shaving that way for about a week and I’m never EVER going back. Quicker, closer, even less painful. My skin loves it, my wife loves it, everyone wins.

83 VrySnky April 1, 2010 at 8:55 am

95% of the time I shave while in the James Bond shower with no lather of any kind… and no mirror; I like doing things by “feel”; I think it makes my senses a little keener… of course I don’t keep a beard or anything to trim, so I have it a little easier.
The other times is when it’s been a few days… usually start with hot before lathering up and then rinse my blade and face with cold as I go.
I would say though, that it is like most things, very dependant on the person doin it. When friends and I travel, they are always fighting over the sink cause they need hot water and have to be “all up in” the mirror… they still ask how I get it done in the shower…of course I’ll NEVER volunteer to give them a lesson =]

84 PV2 Williams April 2, 2010 at 12:59 am

Cold water doesn’t open the pores like hot water does, so you’ll have less irritation and puffiness/blotchiness after a shave with cold water. During field exercises you often don’t get much sleep, and you always have to shave with cold water. I always liked this though, as you said, it’s invigorating and it steels your mind for the day ahead.

85 Geoff April 4, 2010 at 6:55 am

I hate wasting time getting ready for work in the morning. I would rather get ready in 15 minutes and take my time reading the paper, than reversing those things.
I have shaved in the shower for 10 years straight and it works perfect. I stole a hand mirror from an old girlfriend. Took down one of the hooks off the shower rod and hung the mirror on that. It is level with my face. I clean first in the shower, allowing the steam of the shower to soften my beard…then I just lather up and get a quick good shave. It takes a minute at the most. If your mirror gets foggy, just rub a little shaving cream on it and it creates a film that blocks fog.

86 Roderic April 6, 2010 at 12:22 pm

Ditto on the primary reason that the military requires a clean-shaven face:
Without it, the gas mask cannot achieve a proper seal on the face.

However, it does also help in the area of getting everyone to look alike and makes the Army Regulation a lot simpler to write – imagine writing all the paragraphs for goatees, bar-handle mustache’s, chops,… :-)

87 Roderic April 6, 2010 at 12:28 pm

In answer to David, the “national serviceman in South Africa’s border wars”

True enough, (especially around animals) you don’t want a lot of perfume-like smells about you when out in “the bush”. However, this is not why SEALS are wearing beards. They wear beards to blend in with the locals and because the locals will accept them better because of the beards. The “average” Soldier cannot do this because the average Soldier doesn’t fight in small self-sustaining teams. You’ll only see this in Special Forces or Seals.

88 Ken April 8, 2010 at 3:45 pm

First off, I love this site. But I find it interesting that you are such a proponent of shaving. Isn’t it true that us and European societies are the only ones where men are not distinguished by their beards? Feminism has men shaving so that men and women look more like each other to blend our roles. I am just not sure I am into the whole shaving thing.

89 george April 11, 2010 at 12:02 pm

If anyone has seen teh Cohen brother’s movie Miller’s Crossing a character says “I always tell the barber to use cold water when I shave. It constricts the molecules in the blade.” When he said this it made sense to me. If the metal molecules on the end of the razor (the blade part) constrict wouldn’t that help the blade stay sharper, longer? maybe not, but i’ve been doing it for years now.

90 Dan April 11, 2010 at 1:03 pm

Gave it a try, wow, very nice shave. Less irritation, and closer. I’m hooked.
Can anyone recommend a good safety razor?

91 Ali S. April 12, 2010 at 3:43 am

I’ve always been one to start my shave with a shower and then let the hot water soften the stubble and then lather it up for about a minute or two and then shave with hot water. I think I’ll give the cold shower thing a try…seeing it that I am training myself to join the Canadian Armed Forces and being out in the field and jury rigging a shave kit with cold water…I’d like to get used to cold water first! :P

92 K April 18, 2010 at 8:29 pm

Plenty of folks have commented on the “gas mask seal” aspect… but that’s not the final reason to shave in the miltary. Folks are overlooking head and facial injurys. If you have a head/face full of hair it becomes harder to attend to a wound there… muchless keep the area clean and free of infection (lice, oil, dirt, sand, etc). The military is purely utilitarian in its approach… the appearance of professionalism and the like is all cultural.

As to hot or cold water… or dry shaving… it’s all comfort. If your dainty face can’t take a shave without shaving cream or lotion… then apparently you need cream and lotion. Simple fact is, when the cards are down you use what you have and deal with it.

93 B Menard April 22, 2010 at 8:30 am

After reading this article I gave the cold shave a shot. For the first couple of days, it was a real shock to the system, but after a couple of weeks, I’ve realized that it works better. The whiskers are easier to cut and there is definitely less irritation. Thanks!

94 Ali S. April 26, 2010 at 5:34 pm

Update: Just been using a the Cold Shave Method for a good week or so and the results are amazing! I have a cleaner and easier shave now! Less pulling of the hair and a much closer shave so I don’t have the old dark stubble like look.

95 Jesse H April 29, 2010 at 3:44 pm

I have been using NO WATER AT ALL for the last few years, I am half spanish and half black, so i was used to getting razor bumps. After I tried once with no water, I have never gone back. No water = No bumps for me!

96 Yancey May 6, 2010 at 2:09 am

I am often forced to shave with cold water when traveling in SE Asia since the sinks in hotels in small towns are cold water only. I have had good results using shaving oil. I used use Somerset’s oil but now I use an oil mix from a local soap making shop that is a little thicker and made for after bath application. I use with hot water here in the states but I will give cold water only a try for a couple of weeks and see what happens. It also works without water but in my mind not as well.

97 Kurt May 8, 2010 at 2:45 am

I’ve actually always used cold water for shaving (currently 23 years old, been shaving since I was 13 <–had to start shaving daily once I turned 15, or I'd grow a full beard very quickly). For some reason the use of a warm razor irritates my skin *shrug*

I didn't even realize the use of a warm razor was the preferred method.

98 Alvaro May 11, 2010 at 9:52 pm

Gave it a shot, worked like a charm. Anyone wants to buy an opened can of Barbasol? Got no use for it anymore :)

99 Bart May 18, 2010 at 8:12 pm

After reading this article I did the cold shave twice. Both times I received what seemed like just as good of a shave as a hot shave. I think I’ll probably do this through the summer months, especially when I shave in the mornings.

100 Big Mike May 20, 2010 at 6:45 am

People shave with water?!

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