Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Constantly Seeking the Perfect Shave

I usually get a very close daily shave. What eludes me with an consistency is both a close shave and one that is totally irritation free. As I wrote yesterday, I don't get actual razor burn, which is characterized by visible patches of irritation or bumps; but I do get temporary burning sensations in certain areas.

Years ago I tried different electric razor technologies, but found them noisy and generally unpleasant in terms of the shaving process and clean up. I felt as though I was using an appliance rather than proper tools for skin and hair care. Nope, electric is not for me.

So I stuck with wet shaving all these years -- mostly with multi-blade disposables, of course, until I saw the light and experienced the satisfaction of a single-blade shave using a double-edge razor.

I know that I have sensitive skin, but I also suspect that the close shave every day may be a burden on my skin that is a bit too much to bear without at least minor consequences. Not long ago, I had a barber -- that is, a professional, who shaves others as well as himself with a straight razor -- question the fact that I shave every day, clearly meaning that it's a practice he doesn't even do himself due to the toll it would take on his skin. Still, I shave every day -- and look forward to it.

My early attempts to combat skin irritation (as well as actual razor burn from early-on poor shaving technique) involved using a pre-shave oil. I recently returned to the practice as a test, applying oil just prior to every face lathering; yet I found it had little impact other than making the shave oilier and slightly messier.

I switched to cool-water shaving instead of warm or hot water. I do believe this has had a positive effect in reducing skin irritation, and I continue to use cool water as part of my daily ritual.

I am perfecting my own shaving soap, which is currently very good. It is truly rich, slick, and creamy as well as having a bit of super fatting and an added ingredient for skin soothing.

Recently I went to using the slant-bar razor every day. However, I have again pulled out the Merkur 33C with its stock handle (not the heavier Chinese handle -- I can get a fine shave with the razor as it comes from the factory) and am back to alternating razors. This is, in part, to better nail down which blades are optimally matched with which razors.

The use of the alum block has been a good addition to the ritual. It calms irritated spots and at the same time highlights (via the immediate and transitory application burn) those areas that need more TLC (tender, loving care).

I tried applying aloe-vera juice to my face after the alum block, much like one might use aloe-vera gel to calm a minor burn. However, this after-shave aloe application seemed to provide no benefit.

I also mix a couple of drops of vitamin-E or Jojoba oil with my after-shave balm, and this might be slightly helpful. [UPDATE: I now for the most part skip after shave balms, which I no longer find necessary.]

On some days a final application of Aveeno moisturizing lotion can be soothing and helpful. [UPDATE: I now for the most part skip after shave moisturizers, which I no longer find necessary.]

Things I'm going to try going forward include the following:

  • Skipping the witch hazel and just rinsing after the alum block with cool water
  • Most frequently using two-pass shaves, leaving the three-pass shaves for those occasions when I really need that extremely close, newborn-smooth shave. I keep returning to three-pass shaves because I find the smooth outcome is so rewarding, so satisfying; but I really need to get over this.

What's your experience? What do you think?

Happy shaving!

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