Sunday, June 25, 2017

Prickly Pear Pre-Shave Jelly: Shave #1

Previous Pre-shave Product Opinions

In a previous article, I wrote about a terrific shave that included using a special pre-shave soap and lather booster. This positive experience has led me into a new area of exploring a few pre-shave products that I have on hand.

As you may know, I've used pre-shave oil with ambivalence. Early on in my double-edge (DE) adventures I used and ultimately rejected shave oil as being just too messy. This can be especially true if one finds the ideal combination of razor, blade, and technique because they can render shave oil unnecessary.

When I began with straight razors, however, that was a game changer. I have felt that the benefit of shave oil -- both during and after the straight-razor shave -- tips the scales more in its favor. Recently my use of shave oil has been on top of a layer of thinly-lathered shave soap, which has become my preferred method of its use.

Unique Pre-shave Samples Arrive

Then enter Douglas Smythe of Phoenix Artisan Accoutrements* (PAA). Based on reading the PAA web site, watching some of the "I'd Lather be Shaving" (sic) videos on YouTube, and from using several of his products (including the double-open-comb DE razor and various soaps, lotions, and balms), I've really come to respect his flair for product design and development. (So much so that PAA is now an affiliate organization to Shave Like Grandad.)

He has been periodically sending samples of some PAA products. One of the products about which I was initially most skeptical was the subject of today's article: the mentholated Crown King Prickly Pear Pre-Shave Jelly (85% organic). But after the really rewarding shave the other day when using one of PAA's pre-shave soaps, I thought that the pre-shave jelly might be worth exploring.

A Modified Shave Process

The first thing I did before using the pre-shave jelly was to look up how-to-use information on the PAA web site because there are  no instructions on the two-ounce jar that I have. The usage procedure is to ensure the beard is wet, then apply a layer of jelly, then lather with preferred soap or cream. Since I'm a confirmed face latherer (as opposed to a bowl latherer), I figured that rubbing a stick of soap over the jelly layer might remove too much of the jelly, so I pulled out a lathering bowl and made lather in that rather than on my face. This allowed me to gently apply lather over the jelly, thereby better preserving the jelly layer on my beard and skin.

The Shave

Because this shave was the first of a series of pre-shave-product tests, I used the shave process that I had previously decided to use for the duration of the trials:

  • Gillette Slim razor, which as you may know is not my favorite
  • Razor settings of 1 for the first, largely-against-grain strokes and 4 for subsequent largely-against-grain strokes in the same geography -- except for my upper lip which largely received most strokes on a setting of 1
  • Beard wetted with splashes of cool tap water
  • Application of shave jelly
  • Shave soap lathered with cool water
  • Largely a one-lathering shave, though I might re-apply soap and additional water as necessary if some areas dry out 
  • Post-shave application of mint witch hazel
  • Post-witch-hazel application of aftershave balm

The cooling mentholation of the product was significant and pleasant. I got a close shave with a couple of weepers in familiar places. I attribute the weepers to the basic razor design combined with the aggressive (for me) setting of 4 that I used for much of the shave. The weepers were minor, however, and required no treatment -- disappearing without need of alum block or styptic pencil.

What was salient about the shave is that the combination of mentholation, the aloe ingredient, and other oils in the jelly apparently had a significant soothing and mild anesthetic effect. Not only was the shave very comfortable despite using a razor I don't particularly like and a blade with double-digit shaves on it, the after-shave sensation was extremely low irritation. In fact, my skin felt so good that after my witch-hazel rub, I neglected to apply aftershave balm!

Impressions and Going Forward

My immediate reaction was a desire to use the shave jelly for my next shave. However, since my up-coming shaves are a series of pre-shave trials and comparisons, I will remain disciplined and use the other pre-shave products on hand before I rotate back to the jelly.

In all, I am very impressed with the first-use of this pre-shave jelly. I'm not only looking forward to using it again with my DE razors, but am also anticipating an eventual trial to evaluate its effects on straight-razor shaves.

Stay tuned for more pre-shave-trial reporting. Happy shaving!

*affiliate organization

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