Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Re-learning How to Shave

ure, I did Gillette.  Then, after getting tired of paying $4.00 per replacement cartidge and being forced to upgrade handles again and again, I moved onto the disposable ones.  The trick was to find disposable blades that didn't have the fake aloe goo in the pad.  They became harder and harder to find, and eventually, it was time to bouge it up a bit.

For Christmas last year, I finally asked for a "real razor" from Lee's Razors.  These are the "safety razors" that Gillette killed off in the 1970s with their less complicated product line.  (Which they've since destroyed with their 2, 3, 4, and now 5 blade razors).  It's what our fathers used to use, and their fathers, etc for a lot of years.  As the gentleman in MiN Soho said, "Men have been shaving for a long time, and they had it pretty well figured out before Gillette came along."

The concept is simple enough.  A simple metal razor, double sided, that takes a single, double sided razor blade.  The blade has a guard, so as to be safer than the scary-looking "straight razor".  To change the bade, you unscrew the handle, take off the top, slide out the old blade and add a new one.  The handle and guard, being made of steel, last forever.  The blades, at about $0.15 to $0.25 per are cheap to replace.

Selecting the handle and guard parts are wholly based on personal preference.  There are ones with short handles, ones with long handles, ones with wide or narrow heads.  To choose one, it's best to go down to a store (like MiN) and handle them in person.  I ended up with the Merkur 33C made in Germany (retail price $30.00).  Next, you'll need blades.  I've tried blades from three manufacturers:  Merkur, Wilkinson, and Personna.  I liked the Merkur blades the best - they lasted the longest and provided what I thought was a closer shave.

Next, you need to make a hard choice about shaving cream.  If you go anywhere near the spray can crap like Barbasol, you're doing your skin a great disservice.  You might as well be shaving with vinegar or rubbing alcohol.  That stuff is all industrial chemicals.  Instead, you should choose between "brushless" (comes in a tube or a bowl, and you smear it on your face, or hard shaving soaps that require a bush and are like a hockey puck.  That puck will last you a very, very long time, so don't bother making a decision based on price.  If you're going the brushless route, try Kiehls "Close Shaver's Squadron" cream in a tube.  It's a good product with a very faint and pleasant smell, and it works quite well.

If you choose the hard shaving soaps, you're in for a treat; there's a hoard of them available in plenty of variety.  You also get the pleasure of shopping for a shaving brush, a topic that I'll leave for a separate post.

Technique:  This is where it all comes together.  The first time I tried shaving with this new combo, I got rid of all the hair as well as a few layers of skin.  You can't treat this like shaving with a disposable, there's an actual art to getting this right.  If you DO get it right though, you'll be rewarded with the best shave ever.  Here's a few simple tips that I learned after the first go at it.  They're simple, and if you mind these you'll be just fine.  For additional help, take a look at the Shave Den online community.
  1. Make sure your face is fully wetted (soaked) with warm water.  It takes about two minutes for hair to fully absorb water.  After a shower is fine.
  2. Lather up with shaving cream.  Brushless or otherwise is fine.
  3. Use the widest angle you can.  This means keeping the razor at a constant angle as far away from 90 degrees as possible, while the blade still touches your face.
  4. Do not press on the razor!  Let the weight of the razor be your guide on how much pressure should be applied.
  5. If you don't get all the hair in the first pass (as is typical) then lather up and do it again.
This requires some time and patience in the morning, perhaps as much as 15 minutes.  But like winding your watch in the morning, it's a lovely routine to use to get your day started.  Give it a try!

--A

Merkur 33C Razor, Merkur blades, amd Dr. Harris & Co hard shaving cream.

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