Wednesday, August 23, 2017

A Shave Across Time

Think 1963 Hardware....

With thoughts of my article the other day on the standard shave and some options, this morning I used my venerable Gillette Slim adjustable for today's shave. Though the Slim is far from my favorite razor, it is an adjustable, and I thought I'd use the mindset of an early 1960s gent, and see what kind of a shave I could get with just a standard shave.

My thinking was (and still is) that the Gillette adjustables were designed with the standard shave in mind; that is, one (pass) and done. So I took my Derby Extra blade with seven previous shaves on it, set the Slim on its mid-point setting of five, and mounted up for today's shave.

19th-Century Beginnings

My prep this morning was far from 1960 though. It started with my usual splash of unheated water -- an idea that I first got from a 19th-century text on shaving. The idea of the cool-water shave was put forth as eliminating the need for servants to have to heat water. And so it came to pass: no servants heated my shaving water this morning.  ;-)

Early 20th-Century Pre Shave

To clean my skin and help to soften my whiskers by saturation with moisture, I took out my jar of classic Noxzema cream. Noxzema was first sold in 1914 as a no-exzema skin cleanser.

Using generous amounts of cool water and a small scoop of Noxzema, I washed my face. I added a second application of water, but not really with the intention of rinsing. I merely wanted to ensure that my whiskers were adequately wet.

21st-Century Shave Cream

Today was a no-brush shave. I pulled out my tube of Cremo shave cream and, as I did with the Noxzema, rubbed it into my whiskers with my wet hands.

Cremo shave cream was trade marked in 2011.

Although I do generally prefer to use a shave brush, I also appreciate the cooling menthol of Cremo (which is also available in several scents and formulations) -- as well as its lubricating qualities. I also like no-brush shaving creams for traveling when I don't want to pack a brush. Wasting no time, I picked up the Slim and began my standard shave.

The Shave Process

I made my pass with vertical strokes -- largely with grain. The setting may have been just a touch aggressive; I got about four small weepers. Next time I try this, I'll use a setting of four.

The outcome of my standard shave was satisfactory, but not rewarding. So I rinsed and applied more Cremo. Then I dialed the Slim back to a setting of one and took a second pass, also with vertical strokes, but this time in the opposite direction from the first pass -- largely against grain. The exception to this was on my upper lip, on which I shaved with horizontal strokes.

Still not quite satisfied, I just added a bit of water to the residual cream on my neck and took several clean-up strokes directly against the grain on and under my jaw line.

The result was a pretty good shave. The weepers were a disappointment, and I applied alum to shut them down.

A Modern Post Shave

After I cleaned, dried and stowed my shaving hardware, I rubbed on a splash of common drugstore witch hazel to which I had added both peppermint and menthol. I went and enjoyed another cup of coffee for a few minutes while that dried.

Then I returned to the bathroom and applied a splash of Shea Nation citrus after-shave lotion, which is a nice summer option. After that dried I decided that my skin needed a bit of pampering so I took one final step.

Some time ago, on the suggestion of one of my readers, I stopped at a dollar store and bought a bottle of lotion intended both as an after-shave and general moisturizer. Without any fragrance to speak of, one of its salient features is that it dries leaving skin smooth and not sticky. I've used this on and off for quite some time, but recently improved it by adding menthol.

So I used this menthol-augmented lotion as a final application to my beard and around my eyes as well.

Closing Thoughts

I think that the old Gillette double-edge adjustables were designed to allow users to dial in the setting that could optimize their daily standard shave. Bear in mind that these were pre-shaving-hobbyist days, in which shaving was merely a requisite daily utilitarian chore. Of course, they also offered the additional benefit that if a closer shave were desired, the user could adjust the razor as needed for subsequent passes beyond the standard shave.

Modern adjustables obviously offer the same option but with the added benefit of having a slightly smoother shave character. Also, as hobbyists have experimented, many including me will often dial up the aggression of the razor setting as the shave progresses beyond the initial pass.

That said, on those days when I simply want the best good-enough shave that I can get in a single pass, I would certainly reach for one of my adjustables and dial in a fairly aggressive setting.

Happy shaving!

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