Saturday, November 15, 2014

Weekly Shave Review: SuperMax Titanium Blade and SS#11P1

This is the eighth of my weekly shave summaries This week I have used a SuperMax Titanium blade, which is manufactured in India and listed in some places as have a coatings of titanium, in others a coating of PTFE (that's polytetrafluoroethylene, a.k.a. the brand name,Teflon), and still other sites list both titanium and PTFE coatings. The packaging doesn't specify a coating.

Like last week's blade, I've also mentioned  these SuperMax blades previously (though never in a proper review article), but I wanted for one more week to extend my break from my weekly series with blades that are new to me. This week my reasons for the familiar blade do include a respite from the unfamiliar blades, but also, more importantly, I'm testing a new shave soap.

My soap is the first pre-production run of the formula and process that I call SS#11P1. It is derived from my final prototype soap, which was SS#10C. Comparing the production of the two soaps, their formulas are almost the same in terms of fat and oil components of the soap and post cook fat additives for gentleness on skin. The primary differences are a deviation in the respective types of alkali used to make soap as well as the process of production.

These SuperMax blades are each double wrapped in an inner waxed-paper wrapper, than over that is a printed, unwaxed-paper wrapper, and packaged five blades in a cardboard box as shown. I like the double wrapping is a bit of overkill, but think the cardboard boxing on the five pack is good, encouraging putting used blades in a blade bank for eventual recycling.

[Reminder about my skin type: I have very sensitive, thin skin, somewhat loose (on the neck when shaving horizontally), with lots of angles and dips -- paired with a moderately tough beard. It's challenging to get a close, comfortable shave. Shaving gear must be chosen with care.]

Unless otherwise specified, all shaves this week were with my minimalist beard preparation. That is, pre-shave prep was limited to splashes of cool water on my beard, cool water brush soak (when using a natural bristle; a synthetic bristle only needs to be wetted, not soaked), a shave soap, and a cool-tap-water shave. As I implied above, all shaves this week used shave soap SS#11P1.

What I Learned this Week:
The SuperMax Titanium blade may not be quite as sharp as some of my other blades in the cache, so it sometimes takes a bit more work to get a close shave in the Merkur 33. But when in the Lord L.6 razor head, which is just a bit more aggressive owing to its slightly-larger blade-bar gap and slightly-less-negative blade exposure, it can be a little better match, and I can get a slightly closer shave in three passes.

My latest shave-soap formulation that yields a dense, creamy-slick lather has been working well; I think this formulation is a keeper for those with sensitive skin who want an all-natural, slick, protecting, fragrance-free product.
Merkur 33C razor
I kicked off this week using the beard prep of a minimalist shave, shave soap SS#11P1, a new SuperMax Titanium blade right out of its double wrapper and inserted into the Merkur 33C. Took a three-pass shave with an extremely fussy third pass -- lots of buffing and j-hooking -- which was probably the equivalent of a third and fourth pass. The result was a very close shave, and the alum revealed only a little irritation on the entire neck -- much less than anticipated. The SuperMax blade seemed to require more work to get a very close shave (so am I seeing a subtle difference in sharpness of the SuperMax?), but was smooth -- and the shave soap was clearly protecting well. I re-opened an under-jay nick from yesterday, and had the most minor weeper on my chin. Both disappeared during the after-shave process. Washed the alum off with Noxzema and water, then a final after-shave lotion supplemented with a couple of drops of vitamin-E oil.

Lord L.6 (a.k.a. LP1822L) razor head
on the heavy, fat MR3B handle.
Thinking about this first shave of the week leads me to wonder.... if the SuperMax is just a tad less sharp than some of my other regular blades, perhaps I should next put it in the Lord L.6 razor head, which is just the slightest bit more aggressive than the Merkur 33. The combination may be a step closer to the ideal shave. That's on deck for tomorrow's shave.

Minimalist bear prep followed by SS#11P1 and the SuperMax Titanium blade in the Lord L.6 shave head. The shave soap whipped into the best lather so far using my badger brush and about five bristle-tip additions of water. Three passes -- the third only being slightly fussy in my most difficult areas -- yielded a shave as good or better than yesterday. I was right about pairing the Lord razor head with the SuperMax blade (see the notes from yesterday, above). One small weeper on my lower neck disappeared after cool water rinses. I didn't need alum for soothing, but did apply it anyway as an irritation indicator -- of which there was some under my right jaw line and on my lower neck. Water rinse to get most of the alum off (because it creates a coarse precipitate when the Noxzema mixes with the alum directly), then a Noxzema-and-water wash, followed by a balm-and-vitamin-E finishing coat. A superb shave -- maybe one of my best ever!

Today was a second shave with the Lord-SuperMax combination to ensure yesterday's shave wasn't just a fluke. A three-pass shave with a bit of extra fussing on the third pass again yielded a very close shave, but which was marred by one nick on my neck and several small weepers. I didn't use alum after the shave, and the nick and weepers disappeared with the water rinse, followed by the Noxzema-and-water wash. To finish the shave, I applied Neutrogena balm supplemented by vitamin-E oil. A very close, smooth shave that is very rewarding to the hand.

Gillette Slim close up -- on its most
mild setting, one.
Learning from the last two outstanding shaves, I thought the SuperMax might also pair well with my Gillette Slim Adjustable razor. With its slightly positive blade exposure -- even on its most mild setting -- the Slim might have just enough (or too much?) additional attack to compliment the characteristics of the SuperMax-T blade. Using my favored setting of one, the most mild setting, I took a three-pass shave to test this razor-blade combination. I noticed that the Slim doesn't provide as much audible feedback as the Lord -- probably due to its smaller blade reveal (that is, how much of the blade can be seen when looking straight down on the razor top). And three passes wasn't enough. I did a fussy fourth pass, which left me smooth but quite not as close as the last two shaves. Worse though, my face was generally irritated -- and I didn't need alum to show me -- and with a few weepers possibly re-opened from yesterday. Today I did an alum rub not to reveal irritation, but to try to calm things down, and, of course, got that initial burn from the alum on all the irritation. Then a water rinse followed by a Noxzema-and-water wash felt soothing: the eucalyptus and the fatty acids in the Noxzema can have that effect, which lasted for a full five minutes or more after I dried off. Approaching ten minutes after the shave, my skin had an invisible irritation burn. So I went back and applied balm supplemented with vitamin-E oil.

The fifth shave with the blade occurred today paired with the Lord L.6 razor head. This will test whether yesterday's harsh shave was due to the blade suddenly degrading or due to the razor and too many shave strokes. A straight-forward three-pass shave was comfortable but with one nick (I think I shaved off a tiny skin bump) and several weepers, three of which took a touch of styptic. The end shave was good but not baby smooth with the hand against the grain. It was low enough in irritation that I finished the shave with only a Noxzema-and-water wash to have that cool eucalyptus feeling and smell along with that slightest, pleasant "sealing" layer that Noxzema seems to always leave behind. In total, the shave today was good but not spectacular. Low irritation, and totally close enough. I suspect that I'm seeing subtle differences in the blade -- meaning that this particular SuperMax T blade is not quite as sharp or smooth over the course of the week as some others such as the St. Petersburg (location of factory) blades. (The St. Petersburg blades include Polsilver, Astra, and several Gillette blades.)

Today with the Merkur 33 to see if a three-pass shave can shave similar to yesterday. I got an excellent shave after just a bit of fussing on the third pass. There were about four small weepers that disappeared after water rinses. No alum or styptic today. Just a post-shave wash with water and Noxzema. No after shave balms or lotions either. A close (but not completely baby smooth against the grain), irritation-free shave that is very pleasing to the hand. 

Closed the week with the seventh shave on the SuperMax T blade in the Merkur 33 razor again. Three passes and a bit of touch up gave a comfortable shave. The only after-shave treatment today was to rub on some Noxzema cleansing cream and rinse it off with water. The shave was as close as usual with the 33; that is, not baby smooth, but close and pleasing to both hand and eye.

For next week it looks to be the Personna Platinum (red label) blade, which is made in Israel.

Happy shaving!

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