Saturday, November 1, 2014

Weekly Shave Review: Gillette Silver Blue Blades

This is the sixth of my weekly shave summaries This week I have used a Gillette Silver Blue blade, which is manufactured in Russia. The packaging is silent on coating, if any; but some sellers say the coating is PTFE (Teflon), while others say it is platinum (I am inclined to guess that it's PTFE, but that's just a guess -- it could actually be both).

Like the Gillette 7 O'clock-black blades of last week's trial, these are each double enclosed in translucent wax paper inside their blue-and silver-printed, unwaxed-white-paper wrapper, and packaged five blades in a cardboard box as shown. Again just like last week, though the double wrapping on the blades may be a bit excessive, I like the simple cardboard boxing, which, by not providing a slot for used blades in a plastic container, encourages the user to put the used blade in a blade bank for eventual recycling rather than in the landfill.

All-natural shave soap #10C whips to a slick creamy
consistency reminiscent of high-quality,
but lower-density soft-serve ice cream.
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, which is why I use Merkur razor heads (the 33C mostly but also the 15C -- and recently, the Lord LP1822L) as my main instruments. The handles that I pair with these razor heads are either the stock factory handle or a fatter, heavier handle from a currently-discontinued Maggard MR3B razor. Other variables in my week-long blade-evaluation shaves often include different shave soaps and post-shave skin treatments.

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 shave soap, and a cool-tap-water shave. The shaves this week were with both the Merkur 33C and the Lord LP1822L razor heads, either paired with the factory handle or a heavier, third-party handle.

What I Learned this Week:
Of the blades that I've evaluated in the past six weeks, the Bluebird and this week's Gillette Silver Blue blade are ones new to me that seem to be the best for my skin and beard, with the Bluebird having the edge by a hair (puns intended). These two shave similarly to the Personna Super (blue wrapper/box, USA manufactured), and the Astra Superior Platinum (another Russian-made blade), both of which are in my regular inventory. Given that the Silver Blues are significantly less expensive than the Bluebird blades, the relative cost would break this early tie and give the nod to the Silver Blue blades as the ones I would next order, if I had to today to supplement my large-inventory cache of available blades.

The blades in the also-ran category are the Gillette 7 O'clock Black (from India) due to perhaps less durability, and the Polsilver Iridium, which seems to be sharper than I need for my beard and skin. 

The Lord LP1822L razor head gives me a slightly closer shave with less work than the Merkur, but requires more care to avoid minor blood shed. So as a daily shaver, the Merkur 33 continues to be the best overall compromise for me. I am considering trials with the Lord razor of one- and two-pass shaves.

I am still enjoying a Noxzema cleansing-cream face wash post shave (though not necessarily every day), which leaves a subtle, protective-feeling coating on my skin as well as a fragrance that I've come to like. When appropriate though, I apply a moisturizer or balm after.

Next week's blade looks to be the Korean-made Dorco ST-301.
Merkur 33C razor.
As is my custom, I started this week with the stock 33C razor, Arko shave stick, minimalist beard prep, and the blade of the week, the Silver Blue. Took a three-pass shave. The first pass was a delight. Could have stopped there if I chose to settle for good enough. Second pass opened a small weeper on my problematic lower neck, which is thin and ultra sensitive. Third pass resulted in a close shave, but with a few additional weepers on the lower neck. All but one disappeared with cool-water rinses. No perceivable irritation at this point beyond the weepers. Alum block revealed irritation on lower neck, which was no surprise. A touch of styptic on the one remaining weeper was followed by a post-shave Noxzema wash for the residual coating it leaves as well as the characteristic Noxzema bouquet. Despite the first-blade-use minor weepers, I really liked this blade for this morning's shave.

Lord LP1822L shave head paired
with the Maggard MR3B handle.
The same set up as yesterday except for the razor: second-use Silver Blue blade in the Lord razor head with the heavy Maggard handle. I'm paying more attention to this shave since I realized that the Lord razor head isn't a direct copy of the Merkur 33 at all though they have given similar shave impressions in the past. Also like yesterday, I used the Arko shave stick with my typical minimalist shave prep. The three-pass shave was marred slightly by cockpit error; on the tricky second pass I gave myself a minor cut under my jawline (no post-shave treatment required), and on the third pass I nicked my upper lip, which took a touch of styptic. No weepers, however. Aside from my errors, the shave was largely irritation free, both before and after the alum rub. The shave was also very close. I finished the shave with a water-and-Noxzema face wash. I think that the larger effective blade gap of the Lord-razor head may account for the close shave as well as the minor cut & nick. This week I'll repeat the shave again using the Lord head, but instead of the heavy, fat Maggard handle, I'll pair the Lord head with the stock Merkur handle.

Frankenrazor II: the Merkur 33C razor
head with the Maggard MR3B handle.
Frankenrazor II this morning with SS#10C and the third-use Silver Blue blade. Three-and-one-half passes gave a close shave. Alum rub post shave revealed expected irritation on my mid and lower neck, where I fussed to try and get a very close shave. A couple of minor weepers in that area, which disappeared with initial rinsing. Used a post-shave water and Noxzema wash. Overall the shave was close, not baby smooth. I am seeing a pattern that the Merkur 33 razor head is clearly a compromise, sacrificing the absolute closest shave (which is not necessary anyway) for the health and comfort of my skin.

Lord LP1822L razor head on the
classic Merkur 33C handle.
The fourth-use Silver Blue blade was in the Lord razor head paired with the classic-sized Merkur 33 handle for this morning's shave. I again used my proprietary SS#10C shave soap with minimalist beard prep. Today was the first shave with my just-arrived Omega Syntex brush as well, on which I wrote a separate article. Three passes with a final fussy half pass on my entire neck resulted in a close shave, but with a bit of blood under my jawline that took a touch of styptic, and irritation on my neck as revealed by an alum rub. (Believe it or not, after all this time, I'm still perfecting my shaving approach to my troublesome areas of under jawline and mid and lower neck.) The blade performed very well, and the Lord razor head also performs well. It gives better auditory feedback than the Merkur 33, and with its unique blade gap, gives the potential for an easier-to-achieve close shave -- although that comes with the risk of nicks and weepers, if one gets careless as I sometimes (perhaps often) do. After a Noxzema-and-water face wash, my shave was close and comfortable except for minor lingering irritation on my lower neck, where I shaved against grain in the second pass, which was an unfortunate lapse in judgement. After my face dried thoroughly, I applied, first, Gillette after-shave lotion for sensitive skin (in the white container), then, Gillette after-shave conditioning gel (in the blue container). This calmed things down quite nicely, leaving a superior shave that is quite pleasing to the hand, and remained so throughout much of the day.

Arko shave stick lubricated this day's shave, face lathered with my new Omega Syntex brush. The plan was for the fifth-use Silver Blue blade to be in the Gillette Slim Adjustable razor, but I couldn't do it; I didn't want to face another potentially harsh shave that the Slim always seems to provide. (I will shave with it for another evaluation, however, in the near future -- I promise.) Instead I returned to Frankenrazor II: the Merkur 33C razor head and the handsome black and chrome Maggard "big-boy" handle. Face lathering with the Syntex brush felt a bit more coarse, but not enough to discourage the use of the brush. It also held a surprising amount of lather, which was more than adequate for a three-pass shave. Today I was more careful than usual on the third pass, but not fussy. The end result was a close shave that, after the alum rub, indicated a bit of irritation under the jaw line and upper lip, but not much irritation. After I cleaned up my instruments, I washed off the alum with Noxzema and water. A pat dry with a towel finished the shave. After about 30 minutes, when the excess moisture had fully evaporated, I applied some nice-smelling balm. I will repeat this shave tomorrow with the only difference being the shave soap, which will be SS#10C.

A repeat of yesterday's shave except with SS#10C instead of Arko -- also implying a bowl lather rather than a face lather with the Syntex brush. Again, it was noticeably more coarse against my skin, but not a deal breaker. I did a final, extra half pass below my jaw line and on my neck, which was the only place that the alum rub indicated irritation. Two minor weepers disappeared with the rinse and alum rub. Like yesterday I washed the alum off with Noxzema and water. After all the post-shave moisture evaporated from my skin, I was left with an exceptional shave, smooth, not dry, and pleasing to the hand. No additional balms or lotions required though I did choose to put a moisurizer-sunscreen on about 90 minutes after the shave.

Side note: Moving too quickly at the end of the shave, I knocked Frankenrazor II off the counter with my arm (actually the sleeve of the sweat shirt I was wearing), but, fortunately, I attenuated its initial impact using the top of the moccasin that I was wearing, off of which it then bounced a few inches to the tile floor. I'm thrilled that there was no apparent damage to the razor. 

Returning to home base, completing the circle, for today's shave, I finished the shave week as it began with the stock Merkur 33C razor and the Arko shave stick. Today's shave was with no fussing, and three passes plus a bit extra on my mid neck. Because the weather has turned unusually cool resulting in a lot of indoor heating, I skipped the drying alum rub. So I used cool water rinses to wash off the remaining lather residue and to calm the two small weepers on my lower neck. Then I applied Neutrogena after-shave balm with two added drops of vitamin E oil for a moisturizing and protecting layer.  It was a close shave but not quite baby smooth and not quite as close as the Friday. A comfortable shave to finish the week.

For next week it's on to the Dorco ST-301 blade, which is manufactured in Korea, and is from my regular large-inventory rotation.

Happy shaving!

No comments:

Post a Comment