Thursday, October 16, 2014

An Open Letter to DE Razor Sellers, Reviewers

I read lots of on-line reviews of DE razors, and most offer little useful information. Many will contradict one another. For example, one reviewer will characterize a razor as being mild, while another reviewer will call the razor aggressive, saying it ripped up his face.

You may be thinking, sure, mileage varies. But this is not the issue. The issue is accounting for all the variables, and providing as much objective information as possible.

The all-important side-view close up:
This is an example showing an inexpensive razor with a rather
large blade exposure -- a potentially harsh and face-risky shave.
(I never shave with this one.)
A picture is worth a thousand words...

When reviewing a DE razor, objective information begins with photos of the razor head -- and, to be useful, these photos must include a blade in the razor. The most important photo view is a side-shot close-up showing the blade exposure (how the blade sits in relation to the cove of the top cap and safety bar), the blade-bar gap (for straight-bar razors), and the blade angle in relation to the shaving plane, which is formed by the top cap and the baseplate.

The side-view close-up can tell a lot. Just yesterday I was comparing side views of my Merkur 33C to my Lord LP1822L, which have similar shave characteristics. Yet their blade exposure and blade-bar gap are clearly different. Still, when one examines these photos and gives it some thought, it isn't surprising that they shave similarly, despite the differences top-cap and baseplate cross section as well as in the way the blade sits in the razor head.
Lord LP1822L (above)
Merkur 33C (below)

The LP1822L seems to have a larger gap, which would increase shaving capacity and potential for harshness, nicks, and irritation. But the difference in the baseplate and top-cap profiles also limits the blade exposure in the LP1822L, which tends to off set harshness potential of the blade gap.

The point is that one good photo can be worth more than a thousand words expressing some subjective opinion.

And on the subject of words, please describe razors in terms of their objective design characteristics. Instead of talking about a razor's aggressiveness, discuss its shaving capacity and its potential harshness due to its design. If you don't know how to do that, please read my article on picking the right razor for you, part two. In it, the characteristics that determine razor capacity and potential harshness are clearly laid out.

Further, if you are going to discuss the subjective character of a razor's shave, you must also include the blade that you are using as well as the character of your skin and beard. If you name the blade, readers can determine its general relative sharpness, and its general smoothness due to its coatings. If you accurately describe your skin and beard, readers can adjust your comments to account for similarity or difference in your skin and beard as compared to their own.  You should include the following characteristics:

  • Tightness of your skin: extremes would be hard and tight like a large salami versus loose and floppy like the muzzle of a blood hound
  • Skin topography: is your face round like a basketball, or contoured with dips, creases, and angles?
  • Skin sensitivity: could you shave comfortably with broken glass, or does your skin get irritated when you simply admire your morning shave too frequently by rubbing with your hand?
  • Beard character: dense versus sparse; wiry and tough to cut versus soft, weak, and yields to a butter knife
In summary, if you are going to take the time to describe a razor for sale or to give others a heads up, then make your description useful. Make it as objective as possible. Include photos of the mounted blade. Address as many of the relevant variables as possible. Avoid shaving mythology. Don't repeat something just because you've read it often. Make your review count.

Happy shaving!

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