Provoking ThoughtA comment on yesterday's article by Thad Launderville got me to thinking....
I had not considered the exfoliating effect of cumulative close shaves -- especially when the depth of the exfoliation is not limited by the safety bar of a mild DE razor.
In fact, I've generally not given much thought to exfoliation at all. Oh, I knew the reality that scraping (even gently) a sharp blade across one's skin would remove dead skin cells of the upper layer of the epidermis. This is unquestionably true.
I also knew that much talk of exfoliation by things like a shaving brush was closer to nonsense than bedrock fact. Certainly any exfoliation of dead skin cells by a wet shaving brush is going to the removal of those that were already hanging on by a thread -- so to speak.
Premature Retirement of the Straight?However, Thad got me to thinking that maybe I'd given up on my barbers' straight razor, the Parker SRX, a bit prematurely. A more appropriate reaction to yesterday's shave might be to continue to use the straight, but not every day. My inexpert use of the straight -- even for just a first pass of a shave -- may remove too much of the top layer of skin cells, which may leave my skin overly susceptible to injury on subsequent passes with any razor and on subsequent shaves in the next day or two.
Rather than letting my shavette gather dust from disuse, a better approach might be to use it more judiciously. After all, do most guys shave daily with a straight razor? My guess is no. Did men shave every day with a straight back in the day, when a straight razor was their only option? Again my guess is no. And to Thad's point, the straight razor -- especially one equipped with a sharp, new disposable blade -- may exfoliate to a degree that the skin loses too much of its protective layer of dead skin cells.
This is Why We Buy AdjustablesSo today I took out my Parker Variant, dialed it down to a mild setting and got a close, comfortable shave despite no overreaching, no baby-bottom-smooth aspirations (though, actually, the shave turned out very close nonetheless). A key aspect of today's shave was its lack of irritation, which is the underlying point of this article. Using the adjustability of my favorite shaving instrument combined with the discretion of good judgement, I shaved hair but not many layers of skin cells.
Tomorrow I'll use the Variant again either on the same mild setting, or, depending on my mood, I may dial it up a bit for those sections of beard that I feel are ready for a bit more attack -- but maybe not. After all, today's shave was totally-adequately close, and really not irritating.
In a few day's I'll return to the straight to keep developing my skills including a lighter touch so that I do better shaving and less extreme exfoliation. That is likely to be my plan for the near future at minimum: first pass with the shavette once or twice per week. The rest of the time, take full advantage of the comfort and adjustablity of the Parker Variant.