Sunday, September 27, 2015

Standard versus Gold-Standard Shaves

A one-pass, with-grain shave is really
a standard shave.
I took a standard shave this morning; that is, a one-pass, with-grain shave. With my Gillette Slim set to five out of nine, the razor was aggressive enough to give me a pretty good shave from my jaw line up. This is what I would call a standard shave.

Of course, to optimize my single pass, I used slow oblique strokes and an anti-raking stroke pattern.

The other so-called standard shave, the oft-referred-to standard three-pass shave is what I might call a path to the gold standard. A gold-standard shave is baby smooth or nearly so. Additionally, to be a gold-standard shave, it should be wound free and low irritation.

Baby smooth is the gold standard,
and this usually requires multiple passes.
Many men can't go for a gold-standard three-pass shave often because it can be abusive to sensitive skin. That's why my normal daily shave is two passes with some extra touch-up strokes. This provides me and many other daily shavers with a sustainable, rewarding shave -- and by sustainable, I mean a shave that can be repeated day after day without accumulating ever-increasing insult to one's skin.

Today I supplemented my standard shave with a few extra clean-up strokes against the grain under my jaw line. This is an area in which it's difficult to get a close shave in a single with-grain pass. So some re-lathering there and a few additional strokes against the grain can quickly smooth out this problematic area.

My lower neck, which is an area that some men don't have to shave because their beard doesn't extend that low, could also benefit from clean-up strokes after a standard shave, but that is the most sensitive area of my beard, is easily injured with wounds or irritation, and today was deserving of minimal insult to recover from previous day's shaves. So I left it alone after my single-pass standard shave.

Yet, if I take a standard shave, which I have done for most of my adult life using twin-bladed cartridge razors, I can still get an adequate shave that will look good for the early part of the day, and will look good enough for the later part of the day. This is also true for my standard shaves with a double-edge razor.

I should probably also add that for some men (like me), it's virtually impossible to get a truly baby-smooth shave with a single-bladed instrument. There are areas of my beard where the hair is coarse and with a grain at such an angle that to shave it baby smooth would produce unacceptable wounds and irritation. The only way that I can get baby smooth in those areas is to rely on the hysteresis of the multi-bladed cartridge. The problem with that is that I then begin to accumulate ingrown hairs. So I prefer to stay with the old-school razor, and accept a nearly-gold-standard outcome.

Where my beard is more manageable -- that is, where the grain angle is not so extreme, it's pretty easy to shave baby smooth every day with my trusty double-edge razors.

Happy shaving!


  1. What do you mean by "where the grain angle is not so extreme"?
    BTW, I've also settled on a one-pass standard shave. Works great, gives an acceptable shave, but not too hard on the skin.

    1. By "extreme grain angle" I mean that the hair grows out close to parallel to the skin surface. The opposite of extreme grain angle would be where the hair grows out perpendicular to the skin like a lone tree standing upright in a field. Where that is the case, I can get a close shave very easily. Where the grain is more extreme, it's more difficult, nearly impossible, to get baby smooth without significant insult to my skin.