Monday, July 31, 2017

Contemplating RAD: Razor-Acquisition Disorder

I happened to catch a YouTube video recently on TheShaveBusta channel in which TheShaveBusta discusses his five or six traditional straight razors, as well as how he intends to acquire more.

This video got me to ruminating on acquisition disorder, which is a common shaving-hobbyist malady -- certainly one that I've dealt with. I decided I'd share some of my thoughts with you today.

When I was wrestling with my double-edge (DE) RAD, I took a hard look in the mirror and tried to be brutally honest with myself about what was underlying this compulsion to acquire new razors.

For me personally, I think that my RAD always had its roots in my fundamental lack of complete satisfaction with my shaves. I enjoyed the DE-shaving process and I enjoyed the fundamental economy of the DE hardware and making lather from soap. I also came to really enjoy a quality shave outcome -- especially a close shave. But my compulsion to acquire ever more DE razors was really about trying find that better mouse trap. Similar to Goldilocks' search for porridge that was just right, most of the razors that I acquired over time were either too baby-bear mild or too papa-bear aggressive. I never could find my just-right DE razor. The outcome was a burgeoning stable of razors, many of which I liked but didn't love.

Oh, I do understand the variety-is-the-spice-of-life and I'm-a-collector arguments supporting acquisition disorders, but in my case, that didn't really apply. At least it wasn't really the primary reason for my razor procurements.

Further complicating my RAD was my underlying, conflicting interest in simplifying my life by reducing the burden of having, storing, or working around unnecessary things. Also, the thrifty part of me recognized the absurdity of having double-digit quantities of razors, when I actually only need one good one. After all, where's the economy in having (and paying for) over a dozen redundant shaving instruments?

Okay, okay, I know; I'm a shaving hobbyist, so I might get a little leeway in having variety in my shaving gear, but there is a reasonable limit.

And I think I've found that limit with my DE razors -- and all my razors, actually. As far as DE razors go, my Parker Variant is the razor I'd have if I could only have one. I acquired my Ming Shi 2000S just to see if it was any good and to explore the Merkur Futur design without laying out big bucks. However, that one turned out to be a very nice option, so I decided to keep that close at hand as well. The Phoenix Artisan Accoutrements' double-open-comb razor, I acquired unintentionally, but it's interesting and functional enough that it's the third leg supporting my DE-shaving platform. Three DE razors are more than enough variety to keep me interested.

Parker Variant ADJUSTABLE Double Edge Safety Razor and 5 Shark Super Chrome Blades - (Satin Chrome)  (Amazon link)

I do also have a fourth DE razor that is essentially a keepsake: my father's Gillette Slim Adjustable. I shave with it on special days in homage to dear departed dad, despite the fact that I really don't love its shave character. Ironically, this razor was my first DE and the one that set me on my quest to find the optimal DE razor, which the Slim clearly wasn't, and which led me down the RAD rabbit hole.

But then I tried the straight-razor experiment. This began with a barbers' razor, then another -- all in the academic interest of exploring the straight-shaving discipline and the two major barber-razor designs (sliding push type and pivoting clasp type). This did not lead to RAD. Instead I kept the barbers' razor that I liked best and allowed someone else to acquire the other. I have zero inclination to get other barbers' razors; the one I have is just fine: my Parker PTB, which I've mentioned many times in previous articles.

I finally came to the point that triggered my interest in traditional wet shaving many, many years ago: the traditional straight razor. This, too, has been a successful experiment. I'm now shaving (part of the time) with the shaving implement that is the most ancient (that is, ignoring stone-fragment blades) and the most ecologically responsible.

But to take us back to where this article began, with TheShaveBusta's professed interest in acquiring even more traditional straight razors.... well, whatever dude. Yet I don't get it. Even the variety-is-the-spice-of-life thing seems to wear thin when contemplating acquiring more than a half dozen straights. After all, the shave character of a straight is largely dependent on the user, not the design of the blade -- although I do acknowledge some design differences that can offer a slightly different performance experience.

I, personally, have no desire to acquire more razors than I have. For me, it's the just-right quantity. Three nice-shaving DEs for variety -- two adjustable and one unique open-comb design (the PAA DOC, double open comb, that in its way is a bit adjustable as well. As for my straights, I've a very pleasant-to-use vintage traditional straight and a much-enjoyed shavette for when the vintage straight needs honing or just for a change of pace. The Gillette adjustable, as I said, is merely still at hand for sentimental reasons.

When I try to fully understand both my own previous DE RAD and others' RAD -- particularly when it comes to straight razors of the same general design (that is, barber or traditional), I tend to suspect that the acquisition compulsion is a type of not-quite-healthy psychological stimulation. It is kind of like a constant Christmas season as one contemplates, then orders, then anticipates, then uses, then becomes bored with new gear and accessories -- at which point the cycle repeats. When I meditate on my own and others' shopping impulses, I get a glimpse into those poor souls whose homes fill up with unnecessary stuff because of their compulsive buying on TV shopping channels and via Internet sellers.

Maybe our psychological stimulation is another characteristic of our time: many choices, disposable income, and, just maybe, a bit of boredom in our daily lives. I'm not here to judge, so to each his own. It's a relatively harmless compulsion, this RAD -- as long as you have the income to buy, the space to store, and a spouse who tolerates your disorder.

So what do you think? Have you contemplated your own RAD with complete honesty? Is it just variety and experimentation that fuels it, or in part is it something else that we may not want to fully recognize? I'm interested to hear any thoughts on the issue. Comments are most welcome.

Happy shaving!

Sunday, July 30, 2017

SOTD: Best Straight-Razor Shave to Date!

As the headline suggests, today I got my best straight-razor shave in memory. It was a two-pass shave that was close and low insult. That doesn't mean perfect, however. I did have about five pin-point weepers that disappeared with the application of alum (not styptic).

Here are the details of today's shave:

  • Face prep: 
    • Splash and light rub with cool tap water
    • Application of Phoenix Artisan Accoutrements' (PAA) Scentsless pre-shave soap, which was then lathered with wet hands
    • Application of vitamin E skin oil directly over the Scentsless lather; (then I set out the remaining accessories for the shave, towels, TP [on which to wipe used lather from the razor], shave soap and brush)
    • Application (by rubbing) of shave-soap puck rubbed directly on pre-lathered, oiled beard
    • Face lathering with cool tap water using my Omega Syntex brush
  • The shave:
    • First shaving pass in the downward direction irrespective of beard grain
    • Second pass sideways (ear to nose or nose to ear) on cheeks, lower lip and chin; downward on upper lip and lower neck; upward on upper neck and below jawline
  • Post shave:
A really rewarding shave! Hope yours was as good.

Happy shaving!

Friday, July 28, 2017

SOTD and Adding Menthol to Balms/Lotions

How to Add Menthol

A  touch of menthol can take an aftershave lotion or balm from good to great. Here's how I add menthol to my post-shave liquids, gels and balms.

Menthol crystals under mint leaves.
The gear that I use is as follows:
  • Menthol crystals -- I bought two ounces via eBay for just a few dollars including shipping (from China)
  • A small plastic container in which to dissolve the menthol. I use a re-purposed yogurt container. Because the menthol is dissolved using heat (generated in a microwave oven), the plastic should be designated as recycle code #5, which is very heat tolerant.
  • The liquid/lotion to which the menthol will be added
A key point to keep in mind is that adding menthol to products is like adding salt to food: add gradually because once you've put it in, you can't take it out.

So here's the method:
  1. Put a few menthol crystals in the dissolving container.
  2. Add a small quantity of the liquid/lotion to which you desire to add menthol.
  3. Nuke in your microwave oven for about four seconds.
  4. Check to see that the crystals have dissolved; if not, nuke for just a few seconds more.
  5. Add a bit more liquid/lotion to mentholated sample in the cup and mix.
  6. Return the mentholated sample into the main container of liquid/lotion. Mix thoroughly (I generally shake the container).
  7. Check for sufficient mentholation in the end product. If not enough, then repeat this process until you are satisfied with the degree of mentholation.


After two daily shaves with my straight razors, I thought I'd go for an open-comb shave. So I used my double-open-comb razor (DOC) from Phoenix Artisan Accoutrements (PAA). I really like this razor for a one-lather shave that uses on any given patch of beard razor strokes from virtually every direction to help ensure a close shave.

The double-open-comb razor with its unique combed top cap, which retains lather and moiture,
and re-spreads it when reciprocating (buffing type) strokes are used while shaving.
Link to PAA here.

I had a cool-water shave, but prepped my face with a pre-lathering of PAA's Scentsless pre-shave soap. I left the wet lather on rather than rinsing off, and rubbed on my Bay Rum shave puck for face lathering with my Omega Syntex brush. I've found that though the Syntex brush is rather stiff initially, over time it has softened nicely. It's a nice brush for everyday use or for travel.

I find this DOC to be both face friendly and a capable shaver. Today I paired it with a third-use Personna blue blade, and snugged the razor slightly less than completely snug. This makes it a touch more aggressive, while still retaining its basic low-irritation character, and, of course, the lather-conserving nature of the open-comb top cap.

The PAA double-open-comb razor. The combed top cap retains lather and moisture,
which facilitates reciprocating (buffing-type) razor strokes.

After I finished the primary shave, I wetted my hands and checked for satisfactory closeness. In those areas I wanted to improve with some finishing strokes, the added moisture combined with the residual lather on my face to enable comfortable and effective final clean-up strokes with the razor.

The result lived up to pre-shave expectations being both close and comfortable.

Happy shaving!

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Shave of the Day x 2

Today's Shave

Just moments prior to writing this, I took a fresh Shark half-DE blade, corked it with two strokes in a real cork, and took a 1-1/2 pass shave with my barber-straight razor, my Parker PTB. The PTB is Parker's push-type design, which is used by many barbers. The push-type design can be a bit tricky to load the half-DE blade until you get proficient from practice, and I suppose that discourages many hobbyists, who may not be patient enough with the instrument to become comfortable with it. However, I love my push-type razor. Parker makes this design with both black or white scales. Other manufacturers also make push-type barber straights.

If you may lack the patience to load push-type barber straights, there is always the fan-loading design, which Parker and many other manufacturers offer. I've included some Amazon links below for the Parker razors, but you can use those to navigate to Amazon and then search for any product that you like including other barber straights.


I, personally, like the lightness and resulting excellent feedback of the push-type designs: the PTB (black scales) and the PTW (white scales). Preferences vary, of course, and some may like the heft of the heavy, all-stainless, fan/clasp design of the Parker SRX. Lighter clasp-type designs from Parker are the SR1 and SRB, which have plastic scales.


Deviating from my normal routine, today I started with my left hand shaving the left side of my beard -- as opposed to my normal habit of starting with right hand doing right side. I started on the left today just to ensure extra caution with my left hand; normally when I start with my right hand I can sometimes get excessively confident and then make some stupid error.

I used all downward strokes today, and the half pass was primarly on my under-jaw, upper neck, and chin areas.

Baby-smooth outcome? Ha ha, hardly. But a comfortable shave good enough for the day ahead, and rewarding in the technical accomplishment of another straight-razor shave without incident. I capped the shave with just a splash of common witch hazel that had peppermint and menthol added. I may add a splash of after shave for some pleasant man scent.

Yesterday's Shave -- Beware Hungry Shaving

Yesterday I used my vintage straight razor and had a similar shave to today's. I did make a couple of minor errors creating very subtle linear cuts, which disappeared with application of styptic and remained invisible throughout the day and after.

(For those of you who are interested in a premium, American-made, traditional straight razor, I've put a link, above, to one of several offerings from Parker. Their traditional straights all have the same high-quality blade but vary in the type of scales. And by the way, the seller offering Parker products on Amazon has an excellent reputation for customer service and customer satisfaction. I know this because I've dealt with them several times, and they've always been extremely responsive to my questions and issues.)

I did have an excuse however, for my mediocre shaving technique. I was extremely hungry during yesterday's shave -- so much so, in fact, that the hunger hormones circulating through my system created a bit of a tremor in my hand. This is not the ideal circumstance when shaving from the high wire without a net.

Because of that situation, I ended my shave after only one pass. I was relieved to get through without serious incident. There is a lesson in this, which is don't shave when extremely hungry.

Back from Europe

I didn't announce it, but I've been MIA from this blog for a couple of weeks due to my visit to several northern-European capitals: Helsinki, Stockholm, and Copenhagen.

Because this included plane travel between all the cities, and I only fly with carry-on luggage, so therefore I could not bring any removable blades or vintage straights, so I used disposables with either one or two blades in the razor head. (I find that more than two blades in a disposable razor is overkill.)

Also consistent with my light-packing travel philosophy, I only brought a small piece of shave soap, which I face lathered with my wet hands; I did not bring a shave brush.

Despite my Spartan shave kit, I was not the ugly American because I was never scruffy and unshaven.

Happy shaving!

Monday, July 10, 2017

Razor Rotation

I rotate through my stable of at-hand razors because each one offers me some type of enjoyment, but each provides a slightly different type of pleasure.

Close Shaves

When I want the pleasure of really close shaves, the nod goes to my double-edge instruments. In particular, my two adjustable razors, the Parker Variant and the Ming Shi 2000S (the imitation Merkur Futur) are my choice. They are favored because they have the ability to start conservatively, but I can dial up the aggression as needed to shave as close as I dare.


Comfortable Shave

I like the original Double Open Comb (DOC) razor from Phoenix Artisan Accoutrements (PAA) for those days when I want a good shave but am not obsessed with ultra closeness. The DOC can provide a very close shave -- especially if one takes advantage of its responsiveness to a little less snugness of the handle to make it slightly more aggressive. However, its most salient feature, the combed top cap, combined with its basic mild shave character makes it easy to get a comfortable, face-friendly shave.

(For those who want the lubrication benefit of the DOC design in a more aggressive razor, you might look to PAA's premium, stainless-steel Evolution DOC razor. For those with a more modest budget but who still like a medium aggressive razor with some of the benefits of a DOC, there is always PAA's Prismatic Safety razor, which has a scalloped top cap rather than a comb top cap.)

Technical Challenges

Though my two straight razors don't quite provide the technical challenge of free-climbing El Capitan, they do provide the challenge and satisfaction of shaving like great, great grandad. I've written many times that I don't get a baby-smooth shave with my straights, the vintage 5/8" or the modern Parker PTB, but I get a good-enough shave. More importantly to me, I also get the lingering satisfaction of using the most manly of shaving implements. Even as I'm performing the shave, the proficient use of the straight razor gives a significant degree of in-the-moment pleasure.


Lather, Rinse, Repeat

Do modern hair shampoos still have directions to lather, rinse, repeat? Long ago, shampoo sellers figured out that by instructing their customers to shampoo twice at each use, they might sell twice as much shampoo.

On a related note, I've become fond of PAA's pre-shave soaps. (Just this morning during my vintage-straight shave, I prepped with the unscented pre-shave soap, Scentsless!) How pre-shave soap relates to vintage shampoo directions is that the instructions for pre-shave soaps often suggest using the soap to wash the beard, then rinse, then re-apply the soap prior to lathering with one's choice of shave soap. This struck me as pretty much being lather, rinse, repeat.

So I started skipping the rinse and repeat part. I simply wet my beard, then apply the pre-shave soap and lather with wet hands, adding plenty of water to hydrate my whiskers. Then instead of rinsing, I finish setting out my shaving implements, which gives a bit more time for the soap and moisture to soften my whiskers. Then I shave-soap lather directly over the pre-shave-soap lather. This process is similar to old canned-shave-foam instructions, which suggested washing the face with regular soap, but then simply applying the canned lather directly over the soapy beard.

Using this modified approach, my pre-shave prep hasn't suffered a bit.

A Few Garage-Sale Razors Remaining

If you're open to trying what may be a good value, take a look at my remaining garage-sale inventory.

Happy shopping!

*All links in today's article are to affiliate organizations.

Friday, July 7, 2017

One Nutrient that Will Likely Benefit Your Skin

Our skin takes a beating. In addition to wind and sun, we take things up another notch with our daily scraping with sharpened steel.

Moisturizers and balms are fine as far as they go, but they are limited in the benefits that they offer.

It's always good advice to stay out of the sun. If you can't, then wear sun protective clothing and sunblock as appropriate. Sun damage isn't reversed or prevented by the application of mere sun oils or butters, for example.

A little-known fact is that many people get plenty of omega-six essential fatty acid (EFA) but not enough omega-three EFA. In the USA, our primary source of more-than-enough omega-six EFA comes from all the soybean oil and other inexpensive vegetable oils such as corn oil that we consume in commercial foods such as restaurant meals and processed foods such as salad dressings.

Our sources of omega-three EFA is much more limited. Most do not get enough to offset and balance their intake of omega-six EFA. Our omega-three-EFA deficiency does have many effects, and one of those is in our skin. Folk with an omega-three deficiency will have skin that feels rather papery -- a bit dry and smooth -- while those with adequate omega-three intake will have skin that feels more velvety.

This velvety feeling is lubrication that comes from within rather than topical applications like moisturizers or balms.

Common sources of both EFAs include Canola oil, which would be fine if that was our only source of EFAs. Other less-known balanced EFA sources include hemp oil and a proprietary blend of oils known as Udo's oil. However, most of us need more omega three to counterbalance our excessive omega six intake, not a balance of both EFAs.

Walnuts are a good source of omega-three EFA. The best source, in my opinion, is ground flax seeds. They are rich in omega-three EFA, are relatively tasteless so they can be added to almost any dish (especially hot soups, stews, and cereals -- but after cooking is the best time to add), and make an excellent thickener when desired. I recommend ground flax seeds rather than whole flax seeds because the whole seeds are difficult to break up by chewing, and, unbroken, are likely to pass right through you without yielding their precious omega-three oils.

I add ground flax seeds to my breakfast oatmeal every morning -- along with a lot of other stuff including cinnamon, some cooked legumes (for extra protein, soluble fiber and other good stuff), raisins, various berries, blackstrap molasses (for iron and calcium), unflavored gelatin (for the amino acid, glycine), raw sunflower seeds, chia seeds, sometimes other nut pieces such as raw cashews or pecans, oat milk, and kefir (a fermented diary beverage rich in healthy bacteria to benefit the gut microbiome).

If you get in the habit of a daily dose of a couple of heaping tablespoons of ground flax seeds, you may eventually see an improvement in the texture and health of your skin.

Happy shaving!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

So Many Samples, So Little Time

The fallout from the Maggard Meet in May (2017) continues as I enjoy the products and samples that I've received as a consequence of my attendance.

Lately, of course, my attention has been drawn to the fine products from Phoenix Artisan Accoutrements (PAA).* (In fact, I was so impressed with their range and quality of offerings that they are now an affiliate vendor to Shave Like Grandad.) I have some updates on a couple of their products.

The Black Bot Aftershave Balm continues to be one that I both purchased and use regularly. I really like the fragrance and the moisturizing qualities of this product. However, I've become aware of a regular reaction from this and some other moisturizing products (from other manufacturers/vendors) that I have applied after my shaves. It's likely just me and my particular skin chemistry, but with these types of products, when used after my shaves, cause the areas receiving the moisturizer to temporarily (for a minute or two) flush reddish and produce a mild "warm-sting"* sensation that is different from the sting that one might get from applying a dilute alcohol treatment or a mentholated product. *[UPDATE: I originally described the warm-sting sensation as "hot burn." After my morning shave, I decided this was an overstatement, and I didn't want to mislead.]

Thinking that I might have an unusual sensitivity to glycerin, I did a little half-baked experiment in which I washed and dried my face with hand soap, and then applied pure glycerin to an area of my cheek. Although I did get a mild sensation (which could be only in my imagination), there was not the temporary flush or mild "warm-sting" that I get from some other applications. So I would tend to rule out glycerin as the culprit ingredient.

I've sought expert input on this issue and will report out any findings. In the meantime, I found a related product via a product sample that I really like. Not surprisingly, it's another Black Bot product from PAA.

Black Bot After-shave Jelly (mentholated) from PAA

Having the same fragrance as its sibling balm, this jelly has an added menthol ingredient. I have used this for a couple of shaves, and went to order a bottle. I couldn't find it on the PAA web site, and have inquired about its availability. As soon as I'm able, I'm going to order some.

This product provides the additional temporary coolness of mentholation and doesn't give me the temporary and mild "warm sting" of some other balms or moisturizers. [UPDATE: It gives the familiar cool sting common to mentholated products.]

I'll report out on what I learn about its availability as well. [UPDATE: Looks like this Black Bot Aftershave Jelly will be available in the fall of 2017.]

That's it for today. I'm going to have a shave now.

Happy shaving!

*affiliate organization

Monday, July 3, 2017

The Risk and Rewards of Mentholation

If you've read my recent posts, you know that I like mentholated shaving products. This includes pre-shave products, shave soaps and creams, and post shave products as well.

I've gone so far as to order some menthol crystals to experiment adding them to my generic witch hazel -- perhaps with menthol alone and perhaps in combination with peppermint oil.

Why do I love menthol? Let me count the ways:
  1. It has a pleasant cooling sensation.
  2. It has an interesting, pleasant scent.
  3. It has a slight anesthetizing, soothing effect.

So what's not to love?

Well, let's get real: though menthol has the preceding rewards, it doesn't work miracles. If you are using a razor, blade or shaving technique that is going to be rough on your skin, then menthol might mitigate the sensation of the skin insult for a time, but it won't eliminate it.

For example, after my week of shaves with the Gillette Slim and despite my use of mentholated products, I was happy to switch to back-to-back shaves with razors that are much more comfortable on my skin. I still happily used mentholated products for these recuperation shaves, but the outcome was ultimately more skin friendly because I was using shave hardware that was more suited to my needs.

Then today I had a straight-razor shave using my Parker PTB barber razor and a second-use Derby Extra half-DE blade. My objective was to get merely a good-enough shave for the day, while enjoying the pleasure of shaving with a straight razor. So I took a one-pass shave.

Here's the rest of the story:

The mentholated pre-shave soap and the mentholated shave soap did in fact have a soothing, anesthetizing effect. My technique was pretty good; I didn't have a single what I would call nick or cut. I did, however, have a few minor wounds, weepers: small scrapes that ultimately leaked a bit of blood -- even though I didn't even feel them when they occurred.

All four weepers were small. two went away with a touch of alum. Two required a touch of styptic pencil (which is not the same as alum, though many seem to not understand that fact).

My point is that the risk of using mentholated products may be that they reduce the sensory feedback just a bit. It's possible that I could have felt my blade shaving just a bit too closely and perhaps avoided the weepers had I reserved my use of mentholated products for after the shave.

So the next time I pull out a straight razor for a shave, I'll use non-mentholated products for pre-shave treatment and the shave soap itself. After the shave, I'll happily apply products containing menthol. For my DE shaves, I'll continue to freely use mentholated products before, during and after the shave according to my whim.

Happy shaving!