Friday, June 30, 2017

Pre-Lathering-Product Feedback -- My Last Six Shaves

Shave Software

For all my shaves during this prep-product evaluation period, I've used the same soap, which is a non-mentholated, no-mint-content, no-aloe-content, rather generic but adequate product that has a sandalwood scent. The only products that have varied has been the pre-shave, pre-lathering products from Phoenix Artisan Accoutrements (PAA),* which are as follows:
Also, for the record, I've gone back to cool-water shaves. I simply repeatedly wet my beard with cool tap water prior to using shave-prep products.

After the shave I applied peppermint witch hazel (~14% alcohol), then after-shave balm, PAA's Black Bot balm.

Shave Hardware

Today was my sixth shave with the SuperMax Titanium blade, all shaves paired with my Gillette Slim adjustable razor. All shaves were pretty much one lathering, with the equivalent of two against-grain passes followed by touch-up strokes as necessary. The settings on the Slim were 1 (mildest) for the first against-grain strokes and 4 (moderate) for the remainder except on my upper lip, on which I used the setting of 1 for all strokes.

Bear in mind that I've chosen to use the Slim for all these shaves because it is not well suited to my skin. No matter the setting, it gives me a rather harsh, irritating shave. Therefore it may be the ideal razor with which to evaluate the effect of shave-preparation products. When I compare this razor to the other DE razors at hand in my bathroom, all the others provide a much more comfortable shave. My other at-hand DE razors -- that is, those that I choose to keep in the bathroom for regular use -- are as follows:
  • Parker Variant (adjustable)
  • Ming Shi 2000S (adjustable)
  • PAA Double Open Comb
I only keep the Slim around for sentimental reasons because it was my father's last DE razor.

Product-Use Processes

For every shave I've wetted my beard adequately. After that, the process varies according to pre-lathering product: soap or gel.

For the pre-lathering soaps, I rub the puck on my wet beard and wash my face per the usage instructions. I let the soap stay for a few extra seconds while I set out some shaving gear, then rinse with cool water. After that, and again according to the usage instructions, I rub the pre-lathering-soap puck on my beard in against-grain strokes. Then similarly, I rub the sandalwood shave-soap puck on my beard and face lather with a wet brush.

For the pre-lathering gel, with my fingers I spread a thin layer of the gel over my entire wetted beard. That too I let stand for a few seconds as I set out shaving gear. Then I bowl lather the sandalwood shave soap. (I bowl lather because I don't want to remove the gel layer from my skin by wiping the sandalwood soap on my beard to face lather.) Then I apply the shave-soap lather to my beard on top of the gel layer.

For all products I let the pre-lathering product sit on my beard a few extra seconds to accomplish the following objectives:
  • The lather or gel can help ensure adequate moisture in the hair prior to the shave -- meaning the hairs are adequately softened.
  • The key ingredients such as menthol and aloe have extra time to sit on the skin, which may help to maximize their efficacy. In particular this is noticeable with the mentholated products. As the first few seconds went by after their application to my beard, I could feel the increasing sensation of coolness, which brings with it a slight anesthetizing effect.

Blade Usage

I went through two cycles of pre-lathering-product rotation because my blades tend to mellow with usage. This is particularly evident in the Slim adjustable. The first shaves with a fresh, sharp blade can be the most irritating. As I use the blade for more shaves, which I always complete with rinsing, pressing dry, and palm stropping, the blade seems to get conditioned, providing the smoother shaves during the middle and latter parts of its life cycle.

Though each shave therefore has a blade in a slightly different phase of its evolution from sharp and harsh (in the Slim, that is) to more seasoned and therefore less harsh, the transition is subtle enough that I can get a sense of the effect of each pre-lathering product.

Conclusions to Date

The most obvious conclusion is that, for me, products with menthol have a calming effect on shave outcome. Prior to this trial, I was well aware that one of my favorite shave soaps (and a good value, too!) is a mentholated soap from Pyrate Cove Soap Works. So it isn't surprising that I had my greatest affinity to the two mentholated pre-lathering products, Ice and the Prickly Pear Gel.

Of those two mentholated products, I prefer the Ice pre-lathering soap primarily for the following reason:  I can face lather without concern of diminishing the pre-lathering-product's effect. I much prefer the greater simplicity of face lathering -- including when using hard-soap pucks, which are surprisingly well suited to the face-lathering process.

That said, if one is comfortable with bowl lathering, then the gel can be a good pre-lathering product to use. It is available with or without menthol to suit one's personal preferences.

The Scentsless pre-lathering soap may be a good option for those who prefer non-mentholated products. 

I will continue to use these and other products, but going forward will use shaving instruments that are more comfortable for me including the afore-mentioned DE razors, but also with my straight razors. The usage with the straights may be the more interesting of the long-term trials because my DEs are such comfortable shavers. I'll let you know at some point how future shaves go.

Happy shaving!

*affiliate organization

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