Monday, June 26, 2017

Pre-shave-trial notes and DE-Blade Maintenance

Regular readers of Shave Like Grandad will know that I'm in the earliest stages of evaluating some pre-shave products.

There are several key aspects to evaluations such as these:

  • Methodology
  • Sample size 
  • Unavoidable subjectivity

Sample Size

One can no more reliably evaluate a product from a single shave any more that one can predict a potential World Series contender from watching a single baseball game. So rather than continuing to offer my observations following each test shave with a product, I may offer weekly summaries -- which still may be a bit too frequent and reflect too small of a sample size.


I've committed to keeping my shaving methods (described in yesterday's article) consistent. One problematic aspect, however, is the blade.

I could have chosen to use a new, fresh blade of the same brand and model for each shave, but that is horribly wasteful. I can't do that. So I'm taking the other reasonable option. That is to use the same blade for its full useful life and cycle through the pre-shave products as the blade ages.

Certainly this will potentially change the shave character from day to day irrespective of the pre-shave product. So this renders more questionable one-shave comparisons of different products. However, small sample sizes have the same effect. So I'm going to cycle through the pre-shave products and look to comparing my overall impressions rather than just those from a single shave.


No matter how I try to be objective, there's no way for me to objectively measure the quality and lack of irritability of a shave. So we just have to accept that, ultimately, the conclusions that I form are merely impressions, not hard fact.

False Starts and Restarts

So this pre-shave-product comparison actually kicked off yesterday with my first use of the Scentsless (sic) pre-shave soap and lather booster. Due to my enthusiasm to start the trials, I lost my head and didn't follow the explicit usage instructions for this pre-shave soap. I did not wash and rinse my beard with the soap and then reapply the soap against the grain before lathering with my regular soap. Instead I washed as directed but did not rinse, and simply lathered over that un-rinsed pre-shave soap.

This first start was also combined with the fact that I retired my previous blade after 15 shaves and used a new blade for the kick-off pre-shave trial. The bottom line was that the combination of my least favorite at-hand razor (the Slim), a new blade (SuperMax Titanium), and the imperfect application of the pre-shave soap yielded a shave that was irritating. So I scrapped that trial and did a re-do this morning.

Today's shave with the Slim, the second-use blade, and the correct application of the pre-shave soap yielded better results. How that compares to other products and other shaves as the blade is used through its life cycle will be determined in time.

Reminder of My Blade Care

By the way, keep in mind that after each shave, I rinse clean and then press dry (using toilet tissue) my DE blades. Then with dry hands I palm strop each side of each edge of the blade for an equal number of strokes -- usually two, but sometimes as many as four.

I do believe that this careful drying and stropping of the blade leads to greater longevity. The reasons for this certainly include diminished micro-oxidation at the blade edge due to reduced moisture. Also, there may be some micro-straightening of the shave-inflicted micro damage to the blade edge.

Stay tuned for periodic updates as these pre-shave-product evaluations continue over time.

Happy shaving!

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Prickly Pear Pre-Shave Jelly: Shave #1

Previous Pre-shave Product Opinions

In a previous article, I wrote about a terrific shave that included using a special pre-shave soap and lather booster. This positive experience has led me into a new area of exploring a few pre-shave products that I have on hand.

As you may know, I've used pre-shave oil with ambivalence. Early on in my double-edge (DE) adventures I used and ultimately rejected shave oil as being just too messy. This can be especially true if one finds the ideal combination of razor, blade, and technique because they can render shave oil unnecessary.

When I began with straight razors, however, that was a game changer. I have felt that the benefit of shave oil -- both during and after the straight-razor shave -- tips the scales more in its favor. Recently my use of shave oil has been on top of a layer of thinly-lathered shave soap, which has become my preferred method of its use.

Unique Pre-shave Samples Arrive

Then enter Douglas Smythe of Phoenix Artisan Accoutrements (PAA). Based on reading the PAA web site, watching some of the "I'd Lather be Shaving" (sic) videos on YouTube, and from using several of his products (including the double-open-comb DE razor and various soaps, lotions, and balms), I've really come to respect his flair for product design and development. (By the way, we have an arms-length relationship in that, though I have received several samples of PAA products, I don't receive any remuneration for any positive comments I may publish, and I'm certainly under no obligation to promote these various products. I simply call 'em as I see 'em.)

He has been periodically sending samples of some PAA products. One of the products about which I was initially most skeptical was the subject of today's article: the mentholated Crown King Prickly Pear Pre-Shave Jelly (85% organic). But after the really rewarding shave the other day when using one of PAA's pre-shave soaps, I thought that the pre-shave jelly might be worth exploring.

A Modified Shave Process

The first thing I did before using the pre-shave jelly was to look up how-to-use information on the PAA web site because there are  no instructions on the two-ounce jar that I have. The usage procedure is to ensure the beard is wet, then apply a layer of jelly, then lather with preferred soap or cream. Since I'm a confirmed face latherer (as opposed to a bowl latherer), I figured that rubbing a stick of soap over the jelly layer might remove too much of the jelly, so I pulled out a lathering bowl and made lather in that rather than on my face. This allowed me to gently apply lather over the jelly, thereby better preserving the jelly layer on my beard and skin.

The Shave

Because this shave was the first of a series of pre-shave-product tests, I used the shave process that I had previously decided to use for the duration of the trials:

  • Gillette Slim razor, which as you may know is not my favorite
  • Razor settings of 1 for the first, largely-against-grain strokes and 4 for subsequent largely-against-grain strokes in the same geography -- except for my upper lip which largely received most strokes on a setting of 1
  • Beard wetted with splashes of cool tap water
  • Application of shave jelly
  • Shave soap lathered with cool water
  • Largely a one-lathering shave, though I might re-apply soap and additional water as necessary if some areas dry out 
  • Post-shave application of mint witch hazel
  • Post-witch-hazel application of aftershave balm

The cooling mentholation of the product was significant and pleasant. I got a close shave with a couple of weepers in familiar places. I attribute the weepers to the basic razor design combined with the aggressive (for me) setting of 4 that I used for much of the shave. The weepers were minor, however, and required no treatment -- disappearing without need of alum block or styptic pencil.

What was salient about the shave is that the combination of mentholation, the aloe ingredient, and other oils in the jelly apparently had a significant soothing and mild anesthetic effect. Not only was the shave very comfortable despite using a razor I don't particularly like and a blade with double-digit shaves on it, the after-shave sensation was extremely low irritation. In fact, my skin felt so good that after my witch-hazel rub, I neglected to apply aftershave balm!

Impressions and Going Forward

My immediate reaction was a desire to use the shave jelly for my next shave. However, since my up-coming shaves are a series of pre-shave trials and comparisons, I will remain disciplined and use the other pre-shave products on hand before I rotate back to the jelly.

In all, I am very impressed with the first-use of this pre-shave jelly. I'm not only looking forward to using it again with my DE razors, but am also anticipating an eventual trial to evaluate its effects on straight-razor shaves.

Stay tuned for more pre-shave-trial reporting. Happy shaving!