In the classic war film “Dirty Dozen” the film’s name is coined in a key scene: as the motley convicts are being trained they are forced to shave in cold water. Fed up with the unequal treatment between them and the guards they refuse to shave until hot water is provided, banding together as a team for the first time. Rather than giving in to their demands they are instead told by their commanding officer that they’ll be spending the time normally used for shaving doing more training. As they aren’t going to be clean shaven, they are thus called the dirty dozen.
I never understood why cold water was an issue to them, while I didn’t use it myself I didn’t use particularly warm water either. Virtually every shaving guide I’ve seen says that hot water should be used, and so that’s what I’ve primarily used since adopting double-edge (DE) shaving. But on rare occasions I’ve seen suggestions that cold water could be equally effective, including a post on Art of Manliness.
Though we live in a world where for many hot water availability is the norm, there are plenty of reasons a cold shave might be the only option. Perhaps the water heater is broken, there was a power outage, you’re out camping, zombie apocalypse, or the tank isn’t big enough to provide hot water for everyone who needs to get cleaned up. There’s all sorts of reasons that being used to cold shaving would be beneficial.
So I decided to give it a try, and for the last few days I’ve been used cold water before, during, and after my shave. The results have been very encouraging.
The shave itself does not seem to be suffering substantially. While I do think it is slightly rougher, the difference is very small. For day to day shaving purposes, where I’m just trying to get cleaned up and out the door, it is perfectly acceptable. In fact, there seems to be less irritation and slight bleeding from where the blade has cut a bit too close. That seems to be the trade off: slightly less smooth, but slightly easier on the skin.
I have noticed one problem with cold water shaving though: lather and hair gets stuck easier in the blade and razor. I think this is due to the temperature thickening the lather, and even running it under the tap meant that much of it wouldn’t come out easily. So, I came up with a cheater solution: I would use hot water to rinse off the blade, breaking down the lather that had built on it, then cool it back off with cold water before shaving again. While that might not be a pure cold water shave, it made it loads easier.
Finally, the cold water seemed to give a better lather. Perhaps, as above, that’s because the cooler lather was naturally thicker, but for whatever reason it seemed to apply thicker and last longer. I’m going to be very tempted to keep up the cooler lather, if nothing else.
Refreshing wise it was different experience than warm, but not necessarily bad. I think of the two warm water was slightly more enjoyable, but cold definitely gave a good invigorating feeling. I think it probably boils down to whether you’re the type to splash warm or cold water on your face, or what type of mood you’re in. While I normally loathe cold water, I found it a brisk and enjoyable change of pace.
Will I switch over completely? Probably not, but I’m not going to rule out doing it either. Rather, like different razors, soaps, aftershaves, and creams, I think it’s going to be a valuable option in deciding what shave I’m in the mood for that day. I’ve found it to give a great, enjoyable, and refreshing shave. What more can you ask for?