Wednesday, July 2, 2014

My Shaving Ritual

My daily shave routine is geared toward getting a close, comfortable shave despite my sensitive, sometimes dry, and fragile-in-places skin. This is what I do:

Shave prep: Because my daily routine tends to lead to showers later in the day, I don't shower prior to my morning shave. Because of my somewhat easily-dried-out skin, I usually don't even wash my face and neck with soap or hot water. I splash on cool water from the cold-water tap. I don't even massage the water into my beard because all that rubbing on the stubble is irritating.
My slick 'n creamy custom shave soap (specially formulated for sensitive skin), with an inexpensive Tweezerman badger brush in the background.

With my beard wet, I use one of two rather inexpensive brushes on a given day. (I don't rotate these; I just choose based on my daily impulse; I really have no preference because either one is completely adequate for the task.) One brush is the Van Der Hagen boar, which has longer bristles bound in a thick knot, and which has softened and become quite pleasant to use. The other is a Tweezerman badger, with its shorter, slightly-less-dense, softer bristles. I wet the chosen brush with more cool water and, when I'm not testing a new soap formulation, use my own puck of custom shaving soap. It has no artificial-chemistry-set-type additives, and is specially formulated to be non-irritating and a bit moisturizing. It provides a slick, creamy, natural lather that gives a good shave and has no added fragrances or essential oils to offend the olfactory or chafe the cheeks.

I might splash a bit more water onto my face to ensure it's well wetted, then load my brush with soap from the puck, make lather in the soap bowl, and then face lather for a minute.

Razor and blade: When I'm at home and not traveling, I alternate daily between the two razors I've often written about: both Merkur brand, the 37C slant and the 33C straight-bar head on a heavier Chinese handle.
My two regular razors: The razor at right with the knurled handle is the two-piece Merkur 37C slant bar; at left is the Merkur 33C head with an inexpensive, but heavy Chinese handle.
I choose a fairly sharp, coated blade: coated for smoothness, sharp for a close shave without pulling or dragging. As I've written, my main inventory of daily blades includes Personna Blues (USA), Astra SP (Russia), and Dorco ST-301 (S. Korea).

Shaving techniques: With a straight-bar DE such as the Merkur 33 (or the Wilkinson Sword Classic, when I'm traveling), I tend to use oblique strokes. This opens the blade-bar gap a bit for a better bite at the stubble, and increases the cutting efficiency of the blade edge. I usually do a three-pass shave, unless I have some skin irritation, in which case I limit the passes to two. With the slant razor, I normally get a close shave in two passes, and I keep the strokes direct; that is, strictly square to the shave head, so as to use the slant of blade in the head exactly as designed by the manufacturer.

I do quick rinses of the face between passes, which helps keep stubble out of my brush and soap. It also gives me a chance to feel the progress of the shave to know areas that need special attention.
Some (mostly) post-shave products: Foreground: RazoRock alum block.
Second row: Gillette after-shave gel (left) and home-made pre-shave oil.
Third row: Nivea, Neutrogena, and Gillette sensitive-skin balms.
Back row: Jojoba oil and an irritation-reduction after-shave liquid.

After shave: I do a last rinse with cool water after the final pass. Then I use my alum block on the damp skin to head off any post-shave irritation and to close any minor weepers that I might have caused through occasional carelessness due to any long, quick, cavalier strokes. The alum stays on my face as I rinse and dry my razor, palm strop the blade, and put it in the other razor for tomorrow's shave. Then I'll typically use a splash of witch hazel -- the inexpensive stuff from the drug store -- and while that dries, will clean up and store the soap bowl, brush, and related items no longed needed for this shave.

[UPDATE: Since I started using my shave soap formulation #6 as well as making better lather (less foamy), generally my ritual now ends with the alum block, then a final water rinse. No witch hazel; no after-shave balm. Only occasionally will I finish with a bit of Aveeno moisturizing lotion.]

When the witch hazel is largely dry, I will use one of several post-shave balms, sometimes adding a few drops of Jojoba oil to the dab of balm in my hand prior to application.

That's it. Happy shaving.

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