GROOM Industries and the Ritual of Shaving

After reflecting on my own history with shaving and wondering if other men have experienced the same milestones and frustrations as I have, I chatted with Julien Blanchard  – co-founder of Montreal’s Les Industries GROOM – to learn about the culture of shaving, the importance of selecting the right tools for the job, and the common mistakes men make when shaving their facial hair.

 


{GROOM Industries and the Ritual of Shaving}

 

Disclaimer: The products mentioned below were provided to me at no cost for editorial consideration. All opinions are my own. The interview with Julien Blanchard was conducted via email in July 2019.

 

Shaving is one of the most basic parts of a man’s routine. And yet it’s not a topic that’s discussed with any depth, even within the beauty and skincare worlds. But one thing that many men have in common is that they developed their shaving routine by trial and error. As anyone with facial hair knows, this can lead to using products that aren’t right for your skin and experiencing irritation and ingrown hairs. How exactly do most men learn to shave? And – with so many types and formulas of products and tools available – how do we know what to use?

 

Traditions Only Get You So Far

When I first started exploring the topic of shaving, I asked friends and acquaintances where they learned to shave.  Most of their answers lined up with my own: “I don’t know; I just… started.”

Growing up, I would see the tools my family members used when shaving. For my dad, it was an electric shaver.  For my grandfather, it was razors and shaving cream. But while I saw the devices and the products, it was only by chance that I would be able to observe the actual process of either man shaving.

This seems similar to what many of my friends experienced. We just watched our fathers or family members and did what they did, or we did what we assumed was the right thing to do.  Only a handful of my friends that said that their father actually gave them a lesson on the proper way to shave; most of us just had to figure it out on our own.

 

Misbe-shaving

Since my father used an electric shaver, that’s where I began. I got an electric shaver as a graduation gift, and used that for years. At some point, I tried a razor, and felt a big difference in how it shaved. From that point on, I started using a disposable razor, and I never went back.

My personal favourite shaving tool is a 5-blade razor. Over the years, I’ve learned the shaving technique that works best for my skin, but I haven’t had much of a routine other than that. Thanks to some drag queens I chatted with once about getting the smoothest shave possible, I learned to use hot water on my face beforehand, shave, and to follow that with a nice moisturizer.

Aside from a razor, I didn’t see a need for particular shaving products. And most of the men I spoke to about shaving seemed to feel the same indifference. Many of them just buy what’s on sale, use the products they’ve seen male family members use, or they receive a gift and go with that. Very few really put much thought into what they use to shave; they described shaving to me as “just something they do” when they need to, with what is easily accessible.


GROOM to the Rescue

Since I had never found any shaving products I truly loved, I was really excited to check out GROOM. Their environmentally-friendly products are made in Canada using high-quality natural ingredients, and their philosophy of respecting tradition, employing ethical practices, and striving for elegance is something I really can stand behind.

I tested a selection of GROOM products in different combinations, and discovered that my favourite ritual consisted of applying shaving cream ($21) with the brush ($49.50), then following with aftershave ($26).  After using GROOM products for a few weeks, my skin feels smooth, fresh, and healed.

Using the brush, cream, and after-shave has completely changed my shaving practice. The hydrating formulas and the invigorating fragrances make for a great start to the day. Using the brush turns the shaving cream into a rich lather, raising the hair follicles and stimulating the skin. This results in a much closer shave than would be possible without using products. And the aftershave contains ingredients like witch hazel, aloe, and bee propolis extract to help close pores, moisturize skin, and soothe any inflammation.

Another favourite GROOM product of mine was the body wash. I will definitely be repurchasing this! It has a slick, luxurious feel when applied, lathers up nicely, and rinses off easily. The scent is a blend of cedar wood, lime and eucalyptus. I like a good fragrance in my shower products, and this body wash has a fresh, herbal, masculine aroma that puts a smile on my face every time I use it.

If you are looking to add to your daily shaving and grooming practice, I would highly recommend trying out GROOM and their Canadian-made, natural products. You won’t be disappointed.

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Max (left) and Julien (right), co-founders of GROOM Industries. Image courtesy of Luxine PR.


10 Questions with Julien Blanchard, co-founder of Les industries GROOM

 

  1. What inspired you to get into the men’s grooming industry? What niche did you want to fill? 

It has been a winding road from the beginnings of GROOM to what it is now. The initial motivation was rather simple: cover our needs for specific products as my fellow co-founders and I had freshly-grown beards and moustaches to groom. It was a serendipitous decision, since barbershops and beards were just about to make the huge comeback we’ve seen, allowing for a humble but decisive lift-off for the newly founded company.

As the project became more serious, it dawned on us that the world of cosmetics was too often a deceiving one: fortunes are invested into broadcasting half-claims and invading shop shelves while mass-producing cheap, over-engineered products with questionable (if not downright toxic) ingredients.

Our mission is now to provide customers with effective but ethical products, as well as to raise awareness of our decisions as consumers. Because those decisions have a huge impact on what toxic by-products get released into nature… or not.

 

  1. What sets GROOM products apart from those of other brands?

We aim to combine straight-forward ingredients with exceptional performance, while also committing to ethical business practices. This means staying clear of all ingredients that create polluting by-products, are derived from petrolatum, are resilient when released into the ecosystem, or are known to contain toxins. It’s appalling how omnipresent these ingredients are in cosmetics! We strive to create products that have a superior performance to – and are cleaner than – market equivalents. Taking care of oneself should be compatible with taking care of the planet.

 

  1. Is there a “right way” to shave? 

Yes, there is! Everyone’s face and hair is different, so you need to understand yourself (Hello, Socrates!), and keep in mind some general principles.

  • Hair is softer when wet;
  • Soap further softens hair (we have both a soft and a hard soap available);
  • You should shave following the direction in which you hair grows (“following the grain”). This is not always from top to bottom! If you need make a second pass, go across the grain, not against it;
  • When shaving, less is more (fewer blades, fewer gadgets on your razor, fewer pressurized cans). A safety razor and a shaving brush go a long way.

 

  1. Broadly, are there particular grooming products or shaving tools that are better suited to specific skin types or hair texture?

Not all hair types behave the same way. There is great injustice between straight and curly hair! The curlier the hair, the more prone it will be to cause ingrowns, which can be a nuisance. A few tricks for preventing these would be to exfoliate the skin once or twice a week (using a horsehair glove or loofah can help),or include a preventive step to your shaving routine and apply shaving oil before your cream or lather. Straight hair is usually pretty straight-forward.

 

  1. What’s a mistake you often see or hear of men making in their shaving or grooming? 

Using cheap, heavily-marketed products does you no good. Pressurized cans of shaving products mimic the feel and texture of natural lather, but they’re absolutely packed with irritating, synthetic ingredients. Cartridge razors are oddly designed, so we naturally apply too much pressure when using them. And also, the “more blades, less irritation” rhetoric simply doesn’t make sense: one blade is all you need to do the job. (I’m an advocate of the safety razor over the straight-blade razor.)

 

  1. What are things to look for when purchasing a razor? 

Most safety razors will last a lifetime (longer, actually!). This doesn’t mean you should break the bank and get the priciest you can find, however. Solid materials, good manufacturer reputation, pleasurable design – that’s all you need. With a bit of patience, this will be a piece you will fall in love with at every shave.

 

  1. What shaving or grooming item is worth splurging on? 

Once you have the safety razor, apply the same logic to finding a shaving brush ; it doesn’t need to be expensive, but get a decent one that is attractive to you. It is the tool with which you will turn bland soap or cream into lather from the heavens. In that respect, it is a solid ally in your grooming routine. Unlike the razor, brushes eventually need replacement (they gradually lose hair), but using it will allow you to use much less of your shaving product, and get more fun out of it too.

 

  1. What ingredients are important components of grooming products? What ingredients should consumers avoid? 

There is an astounding diversity of ingredients in grooming. For shaving creams and gels, you should avoid propelling gases in pressurized cans (ending in -butane or propane) and harsh surfactants (ingredients that will lather or foam up, usually present as “sodium lauryl sulfate”, “sodium laureth sulfate” or anything ending is -sulfate). In aftershaves, avoid something that has too much alcohol in it (high up on a short list of ingredients), or contains harsh conservative agents such as methylisothiazolinone, which can cause various allergic reactions to a number of people. Look instead for ingredients of natural origin (vegetable oils and butters).

 

  1. What’s one piece of advice you would give boys or men about developing a shaving practice? 

Shaving is something you will do countless times in your lifetime. Develop an interest for it: in no time it will switch from chore to fun. It’s an ancient ritual accomplished with noble tools. Take pride in it, and it will likely give you pride in yourself.

 

  1. Your website mentions that GROOM is inspired by the tradition of men’s grooming. What role do you see tradition playing in the development of a young man’s shaving practice?

In shaving – as in many things where long traditions exist – something very special has occurred over time. The basic need for hygiene has gradually taken on meaning and become a ritual. Despite the never-ending production of “new” razors and “revolutionary” additions to them, we remain attracted to the old tools and ways. I like to think this is because it speaks of our relation to our self. Performing the ritual of shaving connects us to our cultural definition of masculinity. There is something pristine in this principle that connects our body to our self and to our culture. For a young man, stepping into this tradition is entering a vast community that transcends time and distance.

 

 

Huge thanks to Julien for providing such incredible answers to our questions! Happy GROOMing, everyone!  

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