Sunday, December 21, 2014

Shaving Technique: Buff It Up

No, this is about shaving, not buffing your shoes!
Because of my easily-nicked, sensitive skin, I prefer to shave with moderately-mild-shaving razors such as the Merkur 33C Classic or the Lord L.6 razor head (which comes as part of their LP1822L razor). A key design characteristic of these razors is the negative blade exposure. This means that the blade edge is below the shave plane of the razor head, safely within the protective enclosure formed by the razor top cap and safety bar.

The good news about razor heads with a negative blade exposure is that they can offer a low-irritation shave and low tendency to nick. The bad news is that it is much more challenging to get the perfect baby-smooth shave.

A typical excellent shave for me is nearly baby smooth and has just the slightest sensation of stubble when pressing very firmly against the skin and rubbing against the grain.

I have found that with these mild razors, the safest and shortest path to an excellent shave is using buffing strokes for all three passes: with grain, across grain, and against grain. If I'm really pressed for time, the buffing stroke also lets me optimize closeness when limited to a single pass.

I think buffing strokes, when properly executed, are safest for a couple of reasons:

  • They tend to be short in length
  • Buffing strokes are reciprocating; that is, they are a cut-and-return, back-and-forth stroke. The return part of the movement, the non-cutting, return stroke, if done with the razor against the skin, drags some water-laden shave soap with it. This allows the forward movement of the buffing stroke, the one that does the cutting, to glide more smoothly, comfortably, and safely.
To repeat a point from the second bullet above: this buffing technique keeps the razor against skin for the entire duration of a series of buffing strokes.

Therefore, the more positive the blade exposure of the razor you are using, the more careful you should be with this buffing technique until you understand its nuances on your face with your chosen razor.

Happy shaving!

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