Friday, May 27, 2016

Quick and Clean: One Pass ATG Redux

I have returned to experimenting with against-the-grain shaving, and with such good results that this method, to be described below, is now the one I use on most mornings.

The basis of this shave has a few key aspects:
  1. Lather once. I prefer face lathering, but this is not material. What is fundamental is that I use my brush to lather my face once and only once. However, I do re-apply used lather from the underside of my razor and additional moisture (water) as necessary when making additional clean-up strokes.
  2. The strokes that I make in my solitary, main pass are largely against the grain of my beard, but not perfectly against grain. The grain of my beard in most areas is slightly skewed off vertical, though it is primarily vertical. That is, in my lower neck has grain that runs generally upward but not perfectly so. This means that if I make razor strokes directly downward, they would be for the most part against the grain, but not precisely so.

    My upper neck and under my jaw are pretty much the opposite; making perfectly upward strokes are for the most part against the grain, but not perfectly so.

    My upper lip has grain that is pretty much downward, but I rarely shave this area against the grain. I usually do this with cross-grain strokes.

    The rest of my beard has grain that is pretty much downward, meaning that against-grain strokes would be upward.

    I tend to make my main-pass strokes either directly upward or downward (as described above), rather than perfectly against grain, because the contours of my face and neck generally make these vertical strokes less likely to wound.
  3. Though I lather once and make a single against-grain pass (or equivalent), I do make touch up strokes from various directions including directly against grain.
  4. The most important aspect of this one-pass, against-grain shave is that the strokes -- specifically the first strokes in any beard region -- must be made SLOWLY, and WITH EXTREMELY LIGHT PRESSURE OF RAZOR AGAINST SKIN. To do otherwise is a formula for wounds.
  5. I pick blade-razor combinations that are optimal for my sensitive skin. This generally means pairing a razor to the day's blade that is my favorite compromise between safety and closeness. 
My outcomes with this process have been quick, close, and low insult. I recommend that you give it a try, but pay especially close attention to point 4, above. 

Happy shaving!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

A Better Way to Apply After Shave?

What's the easiest way for a product seller to sell more product? If your first thought is getting more customers, this can be difficult and expensive. However, if a product seller can manipulate existing customers to over use product? Ahhh, now maybe we're on to something.

Remember the old shampoo-use directions printed on the back of every bottle: Lather, rinse, repeat. Repeat!!! Brilliant!!! Even though that first lather and rinse may get the customer's hair clean, that repeat part causes the customer to use twice the product every time he or she washes his hair.

So how are we shown to apply after shave in all the old TV commercials? Oh yeah, right, you cup your palm, pour after shave into it, rub palms together, then rub all over shaven face.

But what's really going on here? The dispensing of lotion or balm into one's palm may dispense too much from the container; this is especially true if the seller makes the dispenser opening too large and the product is watery and alcohol based. The rubbing of the palms may cause some of the product to evaporate before it ever reaches one's face. All in all, a brilliant strategy to get customers to waste product and thus increase sales.

A better after-shave-application strategy for runny lotions is to put a finger or two directly over the container opening. Then invert the container so that some lotion is transferred to the finger(s). Then apply those fingers directly to a section of the just shaved face. Repeat this process until the entire area has been treated with the lotion.

For thicker gels and balms, a different though similar approach is to apply a smaller-than-usual amount of product to your supinated palm (that is, your upturned palm). With a finger or two of the opposite hand, dab the tips in the balm and apply the product to a section of one's face with the finger tips. Repeat this finger-tip-application process until one's entire face has been treated with the balm.

If you try this process, you'll likely save a bit of hard-earned dough by making your inventories go further, last longer.

Happy shaving!

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Razor Rotation: A Bad Idea for Some....

Tuning my blade-razor combinations has been a big help in perfecting other details of my morning shave.

The blade-razor tuning began with turning a common phrase and concept on its head. The phrase commonly used is razor rotation. For those of us with sensitive skin, the whole idea of rotating through razors is just so wrong!

This is because this razor-rotation approach implies several ideas, and of these, there is one key thing that is just not true for me and for many like me, who have sensitive skin:

  • With a given blade, there are several razors in one's possession that will provide an optimally-close shave. This is true. I can take most of my razors, and by altering my shave process to work best with each one, I can get an extremely close shave.
  • With a given blade, there are several razors in one's possession that will provide a comfortable, wound-free shave. This is true. Generally speaking, with any given blade that I have used, I can get a comfortable shave with many of the razors in my humble assortment. However, it is equally true that with many of these instruments, I may have to limit my shave to a single with-grain pass.
  • However -- and this is a big however -- generally speaking for a given blade, there is only a single razor that affords the best combination of closeness and wound-free comfort.
Therefore, it makes little sense to rotate through my razors on a day-to-day basis. Let's say that I'm using a SuperMax Titanium (SMT) blade for example, and I might use that for seven shaves. Using the razor-rotation approach, I might take my seven shaves using my Weishi 9306, Merkur 33C, Gillette Tech (c. 1948), Lord LP1822L, and my Rimei RM2003. With the Weishi and Merkur razors, I'll get a comfortable shave, but one that is difficult to achieve my preferred degree of closeness. With the Tech and the Rimei, the shave will likely be close but is likely to have a few weepers; this becomes increasingly true if I were to use more aggressive razors such as my Merkur 37C slant. The LP1822L is really the best razor to pair with the SMT blade -- at least for my mug. 

So in this example, if I took a new SMT blade and rotated through the razors mentioned in the preceding paragraph -- Weishi, Merkur 33, Tech, Lord, Rimei, and Merkur 37 -- my shave outcomes would likely be 1) not close enough , 2) not close enough, 3) some avoidable wounds, 4) ahhhh, just right, 5) some avoidable wounds, 6) some avoidable wounds, and 7) not close enough (using the Weishi again). So by rotating through my razors for this blade, over the course of the week I would get one good shave, three shaves that were not as close as I prefer, and three shaves with more wounds and irritation than I think acceptable. Doesn't sound too ideal to me...

A better approach is to not rotate through my razors, and instead choose the best instrument for the blade. In this case, I might use the Lord LP1822L for the first six shaves (and maybe all), or I might go with a slightly more aggressive razor for the final shave. In any case, done properly, I would get seven good shaves.

So looking at this rationally, for me (and others with sensitive skin and skin contours) rotating through razors while using a single blade is kind of counter productive.

That's not to say that having multiple razors is a bad idea. As I've written before, different blades definitely perform differently with different razors. For example, although my LP1822L is my best razor for the SMT blade, my Merkur 33 is the go-to razor for a Personna red-label blade. Also, different shaving processes may call for different blade-razor combinations. For example, a quick standard shave (that is, one pass, with grain) using the SMT blade might be optimal with the Merkur 37C slant or my Gillette Slim Adjustable set to six, while my normal shave process recommends the LP1822L.

I do acknowledge that if your beard surfaces have the contours and firmness of a bowling ball, then perhaps the razor-rotation approach is workable. But for those of us with sensitive, contoured skin surfaces, the idea of rotating through one's stable of razors doesn't make much sense. 

Happy shaving!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Rediscovering the Lord -- the Lord LP1822L Razor, That Is

In my continuing quest to explore the nuances of razor-and-blade combinations, it is a continual balancing act with closeness of shave on the one hand and risk of skin insult on the other.

So this week, when I took out a fresh SuperMax Titanium blade, I immediately began by pairing it with the Merkur 33C Classic razor. This way I could compare it to my preceding shaves with the Personna red in the same 33C. Not surprisingly, the SuperMax shaves were as comfortable but perhaps not quite as close.

Here is pictured the razor head from the Lord LP1822L razor
paired with the handle from the Merkur Classic razor.
I find that the choice of handle is immaterial to the quality of the shave.
I eventually put the SuperMax blade into my c.1948 Gillette Tech after trying it in my Merkur 15C open comb (see preceding article), and found the Tech-SuperMax combination just a touch aggressive.

Then I remembered my Lord LP1822L razor. This razor is often incorrectly identified as shaving just like the Merkur 33C. They are similar in design, but have one salient difference: the blade-bar span in the Lord LP1822L's razor head is significantly wider. This larger blade-bar span allows the LP1822L to shave closer but with a bit more risk of weepers and cuts.

Yet when this razor is paired with the SuperMax Titanium blade, I can get a truly excellent shave. It does come with the predicted additional risk, but as long as I remember to take slow, deliberate strokes throughout my shave, I can get near-baby-smooth results -- absolutely top-drawer outcomes.

These observations are fundamentally a subtle case for having a small stable of razors to optimize choice of blade. For those like me with sensitive and highly-contoured skin to be shaved on face and neck, the following razors are my fewest-razor recommendations for those who take the equivalent of multi-pass shaves and seek optimally-close, comfortable outcomes:

  • Merkur 33C Classic razor for the sharpest of blades
  • Lord LP1822L razor for more moderate blades
For those who can accept a larger stable of razors on hand, I might add the following:

  • Weishi 9306-F razor as an alternative mild razor for the sharpest of blades
  • Post-WWII Gillette Tech for moderate blades and those with smoother skin contours or less delicate skin for moderate blades
  • Rimei RM2003 razor as a slightly more aggressive instrument than the preceding Tech
Happy shaving!

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Merkur Open Comb & SuperMax T Update

My second shave with the current SuperMax-Titanium (SMT) blade was very similar to its first shave of yesterday. This despite being transferred from the Merkur 33C Classic razor of yesterday to the Merkur 15C open-comb razor of this morning's shave.

In fact, yesterday's shave may have been just the slightest bit closer -- even though I tried my best to using my normal routine to get a close, comfortable shave.

Today's shave was as comfortable and safe as this blade's maiden outing, but on the planes of my cheeks, was not quite as stubble free when rubbed against grain with my hand.

So as I suggested yesterday, the third use of this SMT blade will be in my c.1948 gold-toned Gillette Tech. Stay tuned.

Happy shaving!

Friday, May 6, 2016

The Combination to Unlocking a Great Shave

The Combination is Crucial

The combination of blade and razor is a crucial factor in getting a great shave.

Case in point: my Merkur 33C Classic razor gives me a top-drawer shave when combined with a Personna Platinum (red-label) blade -- comfortable, safe, and close; but when I put in a SuperMax Titanium blade, the shave is still safe and comfortable, but not nearly as close.

So with this morning's SuperMax blade, I have transferred it to my Merkur 15C open-comb razor for tomorrow. This razor seems to me to be just slightly more aggressive than its cousin, the 33C, so I'll see if that is enough to elevate the closeness of the shave without causing undue insult to my sensitive and vulnerable skin.

If not, then it will go in my vintage post-WWII Gillette Tech.

I'll report out on this in the near future.

Lather Too

In my opinion, there is much misinformation and misunderstanding about shave soap and the lather it can make.

Probably still available on the Internet are photos and verbal praises of thick lather -- so-called lather porn. Downright silly, in my humble opinion.

Frankly, one doesn't need thick lather to facilitate a great shave. I've proven this many times by face lathering with my fingers, not a brush. When I eschew the brush and make lather with my hands, the result is a thin, creamy lather that works just fine -- that is, as long as I use a high-quality shave soap or cream. The thin layer of finger-lathered soap does tend to allow moisture to evaporate if it sits too long, but the obvious solution to that is to simply add more water to the lather with one's fingers prior to shaving a low-moisture area.

It is my opinion that the best soaps and creams for shaving do make slick, creamy lather. A thin, frothy soap seems to lack the body to be protective, even if it is a slick product. I have found that slick, creamy soaps -- even when on the skin in extremely small amounts -- will facilitate a good shave as long as there is sufficient moisture present as well. It is this characteristic of which one takes advantage when making finishing and clean-up strokes near the end of a shave. By simply adding a bit of water to a visibly nearly-lather-free area, one can make touch-up strokes with impunity for that optimally-smooth outcome.

Happy shaving!