Friday, January 22, 2016

Subtle Elements of a Good Shave

Piggy backing on my previous article, I will share that this morning I had a very good shave: close and comfortable, despite the following things:
  • No shave brush
  • Eighth shave with the blade
  • No warm water used
  • Fairly minimalist pre-shave prep
What I did do that made for a good foundation for the shave, were the following things:
  • Rapira Platinum Lux blade, which seems to be fairly compatible with my face -- especially after a handful of initial shaves and daily post-shave oiled-palm stropping
  • Vintage c.1948 Gillette Tech razor -- often a good option, in my opinion
  • Pre-shave cool-water face wash with sensitive-skin bath gel
Little things that made a difference, I think, include the following:
  • I used an ever-so-slightly smaller blade angle with the razor. Let me explain: every razor has a range of effective cutting angles, within which the blade can have a larger angle in relation to the skin surface, or smaller angle. Within that range for the Tech, I used it at the smaller end of that blade-angle range, making less of a scraping cut and more of a slicing cut. This effect is enhanced when one uses oblique strokes.
  • Even though I did not use a shaving brush to make lather and simply face lathered with my hands, the soap (my own proprietary formulation) was effective. This despite the flat, non-fluffy lather of a hand-lathered soap. Though a deep, fluffy lather does not provide the mythical cushion, its real benefit is that a deep, fluffy lather does help to slow the drying of the soap layer at the skin surface. So when a flat, non-fluffy lather is on the beard, its all-important moisture content will decline fairly quickly. To counter act this, one simply re-applies moisture with the free hand as one progresses through the shave addressing those areas that have been lathered for a longer time.
  • Rather than robotically making a given number of passes, instead I lathered only once and shaved my beard in regions, using the minimum number of strokes and directions needed in each region to get a close, safe shave. I have mentioned this technique a lot in the past month or so and you can read (click here) about this regional uni-shave.
  • I should also mention (as I have many times before) that I now routinely use an anti-raking stroke pattern, which you can read about (click here).
Really, my shave today was remarkable: nearly baby smooth, next to no irritation, no wounds -- incredibly rewarding to the hand, especially after applying both a balm and moisturizer that have no residual stickiness or greasiness. Hope your shave was as good as mine.

Happy shaving!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Shaving Iconoclast

An iconoclast is one who questions cherished beliefs.

I guess I'm an iconoclast, and here are a few of the beliefs I've questioned in regard to wet shaving:
  • A wet shave should be done with warm to hot water. My experience has told me that not only is this not true, I believe that hot water removes oils from the skin that make it more dry and sensitive. There have been Internet videos with well-known guys (at least one, anyway) shaving with ice water. I myself prefer cool water right from the tap. It saves me running a lot of water down the drain waiting for it to run hot, and it doesn't wash away as much natural skin oils.
  • A hot shower or steaming, wet towel is best to prep the beard prior to a shave. Nah, it's about moisture, not temperature. Get your stubble saturated and it'll be fine. Really.
  • A good shaving soap has a deep lather that provides cushion for the blade against the skin. This is silly. You're cutting hair with a blade, not pole vaulting. Actually it's the slipperiness of the soap combined with water that makes for a smooth shave. Even a really good shave soap, if it isn't combined with sufficient moisture, isn't going to give a very good shave. In fact, on the other hand, I've gotten a reasonable standard shave (one pass, with grain) with no soap or lather -- just letting water from the shower rain on my beard as I shaved. (Okay, I don't do this often, but I've done it.) I do take standard shaves on occasion with just bath soap and water -- but no more than one pass.
  • A DE razor shaves better than two-, three-, four-, five-, six-, or seven-bladed modern designs. Well, a DE shave can be more economical, and more environmentally friendly, for sure. Opinions will vary on this one. For a standard shave (that is, one pass, with grain), multi-bladed cartridges may give a slightly better shave. For a really close and good shave, the DE holds its own in terms of closeness and (lack of) irritation -- that is, when properly used.
  • A three-pass shave, with grain, then across grain, and finally against grain, is the proper way to shave with a DE razor. Uh, no, there isn't a proper way to shave. It's what works best for the individual. Some guys (me, for example) can't do a three-pass shave every day or my face will eventually end up raw. I often do the equivalent of a two-pass-plus shave, but actually no longer do discreet passes. I use the regional uni-shave approach that I wrote about weeks ago.
  • You must always thoroughly clean, rinse, and dry your shave brush after your shave. Gee, don't think so. Ever since I first read the vintage Gillette advice from the 1920s that recommended not rinsing the soap out of one's brush, I pretty much haven't done so. I lather and then hang the brush upside down with the lather still in. Works fine, no problems, less soap required, brushes are doing fine, thanks very much.
  • Rubbing the beard with your shave brush while lathering exfoliates the skin. This is one of the silliest beliefs that seem to persist. This is a myth foisted on silly women from the "experts" in the beauty industry. Well, that is unless you lather with a sandpaper shave brush, or perhaps a loofa shave brush -- anybody use a wire wheel in an electric drill? None of these are recommended, but in those cases, yes, you are exfoliating as you lather. However, the good news for those of you who believe that you should exfoliate, well, you are exfoliating when you scrape that sharp metal thingy.... you know, the razor blade, across your skin. You are definitely exfoliating when you do that, so don't worry there, Nancy.
Anyway, I'm sure I've got more where those came from, but I can't think of them just now. So for the moment I'll sign off and wish you....

Happy shaving!

Friday, January 15, 2016

What Shaves Better...

Which shaves better: disposables or double-edge razors?

Of course, it's a trick question similar to asking what drives better: Ford or Chevy? Of course, the answer depends on many other variables beyond vehicle manufacturer such as type of road, what is being transported, and the other individual factors that matter to you.

Same with razors.

If a man is just taking a standard shave, which is a single with-grain pass, and is using a light touch (that is, not pressing the razor excessively against the face, and just letting the sharp blade do the work) the shave is likely to be safe but probably not too close irrespective of what gear is being used. At least that's been my experience when using razors with between one and three blades in the shave head.

Which brings up a point: the four-, five-, six-, and even seven-bladed razors appear to be designed for the man who will only take a single pass in his shave. For some men this is a matter of expediency; they don't want to take the time to cover real estate twice. (Yet many of us know that touch-up strokes for a closer shave don't have to take much time -- or even a distinct second pass. See my article on the regional unishave.) Other standard-shave takers aren't even aware of the possibility of safe second passes; many think this is a formula for in-grown hairs.

I suppose that if a man is determined to take only a single pass, then a multi-bladed razor with more than three blades might give a better shave. (In my limited triple-blade experience, three blades aren't much better than one for a single pass, and may be more irritating when used for multiple passes or multiple strokes in the same spot. I have no experience with more than three blades.)

If I limit my discussion to single-bladed options such as a DE razor compared to the Bic Sensitive disposable, then it depends on DE choices. With razor-and-blade combinations that are well suited to my skin and beard, I can get a more comfortable, more effective, more face-friendly shave with my DE gear. If I choose a razor-and-blade combination that is poorly suited to my face, the Bic will give the superior shave.

I must also come back to the point that DE shaving is a more ecologically-responsible choice. If one deposits used DE blades in a steel recycle bank and then follows through and recycles them, there is very little that ends up in a land fill. I know that there are grizzled guys out there who are scoffing, believing that disposable razors pose no significant ecological burden. But of course, one has to look at the big picture. If millions of men (perhaps billions) are using disposable razors, then the ecological burden is significant. The whole idea of routinely and constantly using any disposable product is incredibly stupid and irresponsible unless the product is easily and quickly degraded into harmless, common, earth-friendly materials -- and how many disposable products meet those criteria? (Hint: virtually none.)


So make mine old school, please. Any day I'll take a vintage Gillette Tech or a Merkur 15C open-comb razor with a Personna Platinum-Chrome blade (the red label), thanks very much.

Happy shaving!

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Carry-On Traveler's Razor Options: Bic 3 Vs. Gillette 2

Following up on yesterday's article, today I shaved with the Bic Comfort 3 disposable and just used
water and bath soap as shave lubricants. The purpose of this type of trial is to find good alternatives when traveling very light; that is, just taking airline carry-on luggage with minimalist packing that requires the least gear and with the lowest weight.

The Bic Comfort 3 disposable is a fixed head (non-pivoting) triple-bladed design with a lubricating comfort strip. Today was my second shave with this particular razor, but unlike the first shave, which was done with shave soap, today's shave was conducted using bath soap.

The touchstone for today's shave is similar shaves with the Gillette Custom Plus Pivot (Gillette CPP) -- a two-bladed, pivoting-head design with a comfort strip. I have found this Gillette razor to offer a good, low-risk shave without the need to use specialized shave soap; bath soap will do when traveling light.

So this morning I tried the same on-the-road bath-soap process with the Bic Comfort 3 (Bic C3) that I have used with the Gillette CPP; that is, just lubricating my shave with water and bath soap.

Bottom line was that the Bic C3 was slightly inferior to the Gillette CPP in the following ways:
  • Even though the Bic had fewer shaves on it, it tugged noticably. It was as though the blades weren't as sharp right out of the package or degraded much more quickly after the single preceding shave.
  • The Bic shave was more irritating, leaving a more lingering burning sensation when bath soap is used instead of shave soap.
So my verdict at this point is as follows: the Gillette CPP is a better travel razor than the Bic C3 when one is going to travel extremely light and only rely on bath soap with water as a shave lubricant. The Gillette disposable can provide a very close shave with less irritation when one makes the necessary strokes from various directions. However, if one is not concerned about a close shave and is willing to only take a standard shave (that is, a single with-grain pass), then both razors can perform about equally. Even under those single-pass qualifications, I would suggest that the Gillette is the better razor because it can be purchased less expensively.

Happy shaving and may your luggage always be light!

Friday, January 8, 2016

Bic Travel Razors?

My current project is revisiting some of the disposable razors of my pre-DE days. The purpose of this is not to switch back to less-ecologically-responsible disposable razor habit, but rather to explore travel-razor options when it isn't practical to pack DE blades such as when traveling by airplane and only carrying on luggage.

Recently I wrote a piece on the Gillette CustomPlus Pivot razor, which is a two-bladed, pivoting, disposable razor with a lubricating strip.

My razor this morning was the single-bladed, non-pivoting Bic Sensitive, which I have long used back in the old days.

Yesterday's razor was another Bic, but this one was a first for me; it was a triple-bladed, non-pivoting Bic Comfort 3.

What is interesting to me is that these fixed-head Bics both shave remarkably similar to my DE razors. I don't get a great shave in a single pass but, just like my DEs, I can get a good shave in two or more passes. (Though, actually, I use my regional uni-shave process, rather than several discreet passes.)

The Gillette CustomPlus Pivot is, in my opinion, a good travel razor because I can get a good, close shave just using my regional uni-shave process along with hand or bath soap and water as a shave lubricant.

As far as the Bic razors go, I used to regularly shave with the Bic Sensitive and just bath soap and water, but in those days I was only taking a standard shave; that is, one pass with the grain. So  I know that's readily done. In the days ahead I'll be going for a closer shave with the Sensitive and bath soap.

Likewise, I will be testing the Comfort 3. As I suggested the other day, a triple-bladed razor is new to me, and my sole shave with this three-bladed monster was with my own Grandad's shave soap. I've yet to give a triple-bladed disposable a go with just generic bath soap and water.

If I had to choose today, I know the Gillette CustomPlus Pivot would be a fine carry-on razor. Soon I'll report out on the Bics.

Happy shaving!

Sunday, January 3, 2016

New-Year Notes

Recent Shaves

I have been using all of the techniques that I've discovered in the last few months, which are as follows:
This combination of techniques has been giving me the most consistent, best shaves that I've seen.

This morning's shave was another good one. Near baby smooth, low irritation, minimal wounds (a couple of pin-point weepers, which is not uncommon for me when I get a close shave).


My current-favorite razors have continued to stabilize to just two: the Merkur 15C open comb, and the classic, vintage Gillette Tech c.1948. Because I'm doing uni-shaves, which lack full-face discreet passes, it is not practical to use a finishing razor; a uni-shave calls for a one-razor approach. So I've been tending to use the 15C for the first four shaves with a new blade, and then after that switching to the Tech for the remaining shaves of the blade's life.


My current blade happens to be a Lord Platinum Class, and today was the eighth shave. I must repeat myself by saying that today's shave with the used Lord PC blade in the c.'48 Tech razor and the techniques listed above provided a really nice shave.

Other Products

After today's shave, I had a splash of generic witch hazel, then a touch of alum block on the pin-point weepers. After that I used some Neutrogena after-shave balm for sensitive skin (which is my favorite because of its effect as well as its bouquet) for a soothing, pleasant-smelling touch, and then capped that off with a sealing, non-greasy, unscented moisturizing lotion.


The Art of Shaving Store

It has been said regarding public relations that one shouldn't care what is said as long as they get one's name right. If that's true, then the Art of Shaving chain should like my comments.

They have a small double-edge-razor section, which in my local store seemed limited to a few Merkur and Muhle razors. Their blade selection is also limited. In my opinion, razor and blade options are both woefully inadequate.

Their products are pricey; no bargains there. This is understandable since they have to pay rent not merely for retail space in a shopping mall, which is usually expensive; but they have to pay for space in the most exclusive, high-end shopping mall in my geographical region. This is likely even more expensive.

I envision that those who frequently spend money in this store do so for one or more of the following reasons:
  • They are impatient and don't want to wait for products purchased via the Internet to arrive.
  • They have so much money that they don't really care about getting good value for their dollar.
  • They are ignorant (that is, uninformed) about the variety and value of products available via the Internet.
  • They are lonely and desperate for personal contact with the nice-looking ladies who work in these retail stores.
I also found the store to be propagating misinformation. For example, one of their displays said that King Gillette invented the safety razor in 1901. News flash:
  • The safety razor was invented long before 1901.
  • King Gillette invented the first practical, disposable double-edge razor blade and the related design for the DE razor, not the safety razor.
I was also told that a benefit of a double-edge shave is that it is less irritating than a multi-bladed cartridge-style razor. For me, this is patently false. For example, used properly, even a lowly Trac-II style razor gives an excellent, non-irritating shave -- so much so that I can use common bath soap or even just water alone as a shave lubricant to get a close, comfortable shave. However, to do so requires some skill, which I acquired through DE shaving. I must admit that I have no experience with triple-bladed (or more) razors, so those might be more irritating, though I doubt it. They also didn't mention that disposable razors are less ecologically responsible and much more expensive than DE shaving, in which the razor is not discarded and the blades can be recycled.

If I go back to my local Art of Shaving store, it will only be to flirt with that pretty clerk.

Happy shaving (and flirting)!