Thursday, June 12, 2014

For Beginning DE Shavers: Suggestions on Shaving Gear and Supplies

What I would do if I could start DE shaving again for the first time:

Low-cost option: If I were unwilling to invest a lot, I would buy the Lord LP1822L (formerly L6) razor for about $14 and shave with that. The L6 has a shaving head like but slightly more aggressive than the Merkur 33C Classic razor, which is mild shaving but aggressive enough to get a close shave. Upgrade option: In addition to the Lord razor, consider ordering the "Nonslip Long Handle Stainless Steel Shaver Double Edge Safety Silver Tone Manual Razor" for about $6, throw away the two-piece shaving head, and put the heavy handle on the Lord shaving head for an even better shaving experience.

[UPDATE ON THE LOW-COST OPTION: Consider a Rimei RM2003, which can be purchased for anywhere between $4 and $10. It is a mild-shaving razor, if you can get one that is defect free.]

More expensive, deluxe option: I would order the Merkur 33C Classic razor for about $33.
Reasoning: Both of these razors (Lord & Merkur) have about the same blade reveal, exposure, and angle. In other words, the razor heads shave about the same. The Lord is lighter and has a longer handle made of aluminium, which may be less durable than steel. (See this article [click here] on handles and gripping a razor.) The Merkur is heavier and, properly cared for, may become an heirloom. It is a mild shaver, though, and many will like it, but many will complain it's too wimpy. There are many other fine razors, but I think obsession with gear leads to razor-acquisition disease. I have not recommended twist-to-open razors because I, personally, find they tend to give me a slightly harsher shave (of course, opinions vary). I did not recommend other highly-regarded razors such as Edwin Jagger because their handles all appear to be smooth, meaning potentially slippery when wet.

I would order a quantity of coated blades such as Personna Blue, Astra Super Platinum -- even Dorco 301 -- and learn to shave well with those. After several months, when my technique was better and I could get a close, comfortable shave with my start-off blade, I would then decide if I needed sharper blades or if I could get away with less-expensive or less-sharp blades such as uncoated stainless or other, known-milder brands.

[UPDATE: I would recommend keeping things simple: consider ordering 100 Dorco ST-301 blades, which are both Teflon and platinum coated. They're a good blade that can be a good one to learn on.]

I would not buy a sample pack of blades or the equivalent for at least the first 90-120 days. Put your trust in developing technique, which will improve over time if you pay attention to what you are doing and could be doing. Then later tune the quality of your shave with blade choice using sampler packs.

I would begin with a boar brush such as a Van Der Hagen brand for about $6. Yes, boar is a bit stiff at first, but over time will soften. Yes, an inexpensive brush will lose some bristles. However, learn to make great lather and shave for a while. See if you enjoy the process and the results (I do). Then when that first brush finally wears out, you can decide what kind of brush you would next like to try -- but remember that more expensive isn't always a good value; diminishing marginal returns often come into play.

Shave soap/cream:

[UPDATE: In a more recent post (click here) I have revisited this issue of Williams soap after having used my own rich, slick, and creamy formulations. I just couldn't use the Williams anymore. If you're learning to shave with shave soap, you might as well use a good one; and remember that quality isn't always reflected by price. Today after a first trial of the product, I would instead suggest the Arko brand shave stick. That said, I originally wrote the following in this article:]

Start with Williams brand -- especially if you can buy it locally for about $1 -- or Van Der Hagen brand if you can buy it for less than $2. Then learn to use them. I find that with little effort they can make a fine shaving lather. Don't directly sniff a new Williams puck, however, which many find has too strong a bouquet. Instead, make the lather and enjoy the scent of that; the puck smell mellows over time. If those aren't available or are too expensive, consider other often-recommended, low-cost options such as Arko or Palmolive shave sticks, but learn via the Internet how to use them correctly (I haven't used these, but they are often highly recommended, as are Proraso products).

Over time, when your first puck/stick/tube is gone, you can experiment with other products as you desire -- maybe a fine, all-natural, thick-slick-&-creamy shaving soap. (I'm fine tuning my formula; check back for more information.)

Shaving mug/bowl:
If you are using a soap puck, I would recommend a 5-inch-diameter (approximately), plastic bowl about two inches deep. Target sells these as cereal bowls for 99 cents for two; also check your local dollar stores for similar bowls. Rough up the center of the bottom with sand paper so the water-softened, pressed-down puck can grab the bowl and won't swirl around after first use as you make lather.

If you are using a cream, you can go with the plastic bowl, or you can go to a local pet shop and buy a stainless steel bowl for about $3 or so.

[UPDATE: Or you can just use a re-purposed greek-yogurt container, which is about 3-1/2 inches in diameter at the top. If you get the right brand, you can cut and peel off the label and have for free a simple, white cup in which to make lather.]

If you are using a shave soap in stick form, you don't need a bowl at all. Just rub the stick on your wet face, and use your brush to make lather there.

Post-Shave Products:
Styptic: Buy a small, inexpensive styptic pencil for less than $2. At first you may need it to treat nicks and cuts. It's much better than dabs of toilet paper on your face and neck.

Alum block: An alum block rubbed over a damp face can seal small nicks, has anti-bacterial properties, and more importantly, will soothe irritated skin if you, as a newbie, are pressing too hard (usually due to a dull blade), making too many passes over the same real estate (usually due to sub-optimal razor angles), or just have sensitive skin (as I do). Initially applied, alum has a little burn to it if your skin is irritated at all, but that quickly passes as it works its magic. I like RazoRock brand, which I find to be a great value.

After-shave balm: Generally, most recommend a balm without alcohol. Least expensive in my area is Gillette brand for sensitive skin (white container) for about $3.50. If you add a drop or two of oil to your balm (I add Jojoba oil), you can get away with the $2.50 Gillette balm with alcohol (blue container).

Total costs (low end):
$9 - razor (Wilkinson)
$10 - blades, quantity 100 (might as well; cheaper than buying four packs of five blades)
$6 - brush
$2 - soap puck
$1 - plastic bowl
$2 - styptic pencil
$7 - RazoRock alum block
$4 - after-shave balm
        $43- total cost

UPDATE: Total costs (high end):
$43 - razor (Merkur 34C Heavy Duty)
$10 - blades, quantity 100 (might as well; cheaper than buying four packs of five blades)
$6 - brush
$2 - soap puck
$1 - plastic bowl
$2 - styptic pencil
$7 - RazoRock alum block
$4 - after-shave balm
        $75 - total cost

Of course, opinions vary. This is mine. What do you think?

Happy shaving!

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