Saturday, August 9, 2014

Considering the One-Pass DE Shave

I began using double-edge (DE) razors, brush, and shave soap instead of the multi-blade razors and canned goo, or electrics, for three reasons: 1) they have a smaller negative environmental impact, 2) they can be more cost effective (that is, less expensive) in the long run, and 3) I never liked the noise or the feel of shaving with an electric.

Early on, I found that electrics were not for me.
Yet what really hooked me on DE shaving was the closeness of the shave when more than one pass is done -- for most of us, that's usually three passes in the quest for the perfect shave. (I admit I was also intrigued by the complexity of the process; that is, the number of variables that are involved in the shaving ritual.) When I use a normal, straight-bar DE razor, I can get a very close shave in three passes. If I use my slant-bar DE, I get about the same result in two passes.

The problem for some of us is that no matter how good our shaving technique, our tools, our shaving soap, our lather, our pre-lather preparation, and our post-shave care, our skin is going to get irritated when shaved with multiple passes every day. I repeat: I'm not talking about everyone, but just some of us with more sensitive skin, potentially getting some face and neck irritation if we make multiple passes in every single daily shave.

So this begs the question: how close does one's daily shave have to be? If you want to merely look neat, this can often be accomplished in a single pass. With a single pass, you certainly won't be baby-bottom smooth, but that isn't necessary for the average day, whether at work or simply out in the world. Of course, if you're going to be rubbing your cheeks against that special someone, then it may be time for the closest shave. But if the issue is just looking neat for your coworkers, customers, and the person you pass on the street, then the eyeball test of your shave is completely sufficient.

Frankly though, it was hard for me to seriously consider not making multiple passes because of my addiction for the very close shave. But in the interest of science, I have had this hypothesis about the one-pass DE shave being good enough on many days, and I finally committed to doing the experiment.

Yesterday, I had a one-pass shave using my Merkur 37C slant-bar razor and a blade nearly a week old. Baby-bottom smooth? No. It was neither BBS nor even close feeling except when rubbed in the direction of my shaving strokes. Yet it looked fine, completely acceptable. In fact, it was as close and looked the same as the results that I accepted every day for years when shaving with the multi-blade cartridge systems. And merely using cold water for the entire shave and a good shave soap (my SS#10A) left my skin completely unphased: not the slightest sign or symptom of irritation. Not the least bit of additional pre-lather preparation or post-shave care was necessary. Even in the late afternoon, my shave still looked acceptable.
The two razors used in this two-day test. Straight bar on the
left, slant on the right. Tomorrow I may try a butterfly-door-
style razor under the same conditions.

Today I did a one-pass shave with my Merkur 33C Classic (with the heavier Chinese handle), which is a normal straight-bar razor, using a slightly-used Dorco ST-301 blade. For this single pass, to get as close as possible, I did the entire shave using oblique strokes, which in some ways (but not completely) simulates the effect of the slant-bar razor by increasing the stubble-munching capability of the razor and the effective sharpness of the blade.

I got another great-looking shave, which was smooth to the touch in the direction of my shave strokes. I used the same ritual as yesterday: cold-water splashes; creamy, flat, cold-water lather; single pass (but, as I said above, today with the straight-bar DE and oblique strokes); and a cold-water rinse. Today, just for fun and to smell good, I used an after-shave balm, but not to soothe my skin, since no soothing was necessary.

So unless you have the heaviest and densest of beards, the one-pass shave may be adequate for your daily shave; it certainly is for mine. What do you think?

Happy shaving!


  1. Yes, a single pass with a safety razor gives results good enough to go to work.

  2. I have started the one-pass with my Schick E2 Injector and I'm amazed how adequate the result is. Its perfect for the everyday shave and my face feels great!

    1. It's interesting that you would mention the injector razor. That is one test shave I could get excited about even though I've sworn off buying more DEs, already having way more than I need or use. The two razors that I do use regularly are the Rimei RM2003 and the Merkur 33 Classic. They are different but have in common that they both work well on my sensitive skin.

  3. I like a one pass DE shave, all though it's tempting to go for more passes. However, I don't like shaving irritation and the one pass shave agrees with my skin more. An efficient/aggressive DE can provide a reasonably close shave in one pass. I don't like that pulling feel I get when shaving against the grain either.

  4. Nice article. I personally love electric shavers because I feel like they don't irritate my skin as much as regular razors.