Sunday, December 20, 2015

The Region-Oriented Uni-Shave

Expanding on my last article, I'd like to discuss breaking away from the constraints of one-direction passes such as with grain, then across grain, then against grain. The alternative is to shave one's beard by sections, rather than passes. This means lathering up as usual, but instead of shaving the entire beard in a pass, one starts with a section of the beard such as the lower neck, and shaves that until it achieves the desired closeness, then moves on to the next section. One moves methodically from region to region on the face until it is entirely and adequately shaved.
Shave by regions, not by passes.

To make this region-oriented process work, one needs an active non-dominant hand (the one not holding the razor). I'll call that the free hand. The free hand is constantly checking the closeness of the section being shaved. It is also used to constantly add a bit of water (which is trickling slightly from the tap) to the region being shaved since adequate hydration is key for a comfortable shave. This moisture adding is important because the regions shaved later in the shave may dry out just a bit, and, also, subsequent clean-up strokes in a given region may also benefit from added moisture to replace that removed by preceding razor strokes. The free hand also swipes lather from underneath the razor head and re-applies it to the face as necessary as an alternative to rinsing the razor during the shave.

This uni-shave approach is very pragmatic. Properly done it only requires lathering once. It is less structured, which can save time perhaps, but more importantly, is outcome oriented; it focuses on outcome (closeness of shave) rather than process (number and direction of passes).

The Merkur 15C razor head with, just for fun, a vintage
Gillette handle
I also find that the uni-shave is more skin friendly. Maybe this is just due to my nature (combined with my uber-fragile skin), but here's the effect the uni-shave has for me: because I'm focusing on the quality of shave in a given, limited region of my beard, I tend to shave more mindfully of the effect of each stroke. This is contrasted by my tendency, when making a full-beard pass in a single stroking direction, to lose a bit of focus on the effect of each stroke on my skin, and instead attend to issues of geographical coverage -- that is, how much of the given pass is completed.

This morning, for example, I used my trusty Merkur 15C open-comb razor head with a gold-toned vintage Gillette Tech ball-end handle. In that razor I had an 8th-use Astra SP blade.

I find that the mild-shaving 15C is a good compromise between closeness and skin risk. It is a good razor for my sensitive skin.

So this morning I shaved the following regions in this order:

  1. Left lower neck
  2. Right lower neck
  3. Left under jaw line
  4. Right under jaw line
  5. Chin & lower lip
  6. Left cheek
  7. Right cheek
  8. Upper lip
In each region, I shaved with grain, then against grain and then with any additional touch-up strokes necessary to get the desired finished trade off between closeness and irritation.

The result was a very good shave indeed. Happy shaving!

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