Shave Diary, Week of 8/23/15

Posted: August 29, 2015 in Shaving Articles
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8/23/15:

I picked up some Burt’s Bees Natural Shave Cream today. I figured I needed to branch out a little from Proraso, and it seemed to have the cleanest ingredient list I could find at Target. I’m not going to go on endlessly about it here, as I’ll create a review for all the bloviating, but it is interesting stuff. As far as I can tell, it would be a stretch to actually call it a soap. It doesn’t seem to really have a saponifing ingredient. It doesn’t lather. It really doesn’t do anything with a brush except disappear into it, never to come out.

I researched it a bit, and it looks like it’s a cream/lotion type stuff. You just put some on your face and go. No lathering, no brush, etc. I’ll have to try a shave with it to see what I think. One thing I can say is that it smells really good. If it works well, it might end up being a good travel shave cream, as I wouldn’t have to carry a brush to use it. I had thought that I could probably just shave as before when out on a trip, but the more I get into traditional shaving, the less appetizing that seems. I’m really over the canned shave creams, gels, etc. I’m pretty much over the cartridge razors, as well, even though I have no really animus for the Fusion razor. It served me well for years. I found the cartridges to last a long time before becoming too dull to shave well, so the frequent complaint about outlandish cost never seemed to be a valid concern for me. The jamming with hair part – totally valid, however. Anyway, I’m considering getting a light, smally DE razor for my travel shaving kit, and if the Burt’s Bees stuff is good, and obviates the need for a brush, that’ll do nicely.

I also picked up some face/post shave lotion from a company called Every Man Jack. It seems like pretty good lotion. Pretty clean ingredient list, and it works. I have used it on my hands and arms, as well as my legs and feet so far. I believe that it’ll work fine on my face, but I haven’t been in need of moisturization thus far today.

One of the interesting things that getting into DE shaving has done for me is to teach me more about what the ingredients in soaps and skin care products do (to some extent). Learning about Parabens, for instance. There are a lot of products that I pick up, glance at the ingredients, and put right back down now. The quality of the stuff I’ve been putting on my face, and the quality of my shaves, has had an effect on my face, I think. I mean, I’m in no danger of getting voted the sexiest man alive. I’m still just as old, fat, and lame as I was. Still, I think that my face feels tighter and my skin feels healthier than it was. Perhaps it’s all mental, an example of confirmation bias. Except about the great shaves. That’s totally legit.

It’s really late at night, and I should probably be in bed. More to come.

***
(later that day)

Tried the Burt’s Bees cream. It…is weird. I will cover that in a seperate review. The Gillette Silver Blue worked well for the second shave. The Every Man Jack post shave lotion continues to impress. It works on both face and body equally. I gabbed too much already for this day’s shave. I’ll leave it at that.

***
8/24/15:

I did my third shave with the Gillette Silver Blue blade tonight. I used Burt’s Bees natural shave cream as a preshave (to good effect), then followed with Proraso Green soap. I used alum as my astringent and finished with Proraso Green pre/post shave, as something non-shave related had given me some irritation on my neck.

Pleased with the Gillette Silver Blue blades. I think they’d be a viable option for a lot of people. I will probably give my face a day off tomorrow, and then start in with the Gillette Platinum later in the week.

***
8/25/15: Off day thoughts

I should have taken the night off last night and done the final for the record shave with the Gillette Silver Blue blade later. I went into the shave knowing that I had some irritation on my neck, and that was foolhardy. I have had a livid red patch on my neck today, not specifically in my “trouble spots” but at the front of the neck, at the fold. This irritation was there prior to the shave yesterday, and I really aggravated it with the brush and the razor. I should know better. My zeal outvoted my wisdom yet again.

In any case, I’m going to have to put aside my test of both the Burt’s Bees cream and the Silver Blue blades, at least in part. Since I had a serious irritation, I have to retest both products to see if I can exonerate one or both of them. I still stand by most of what I have written on the test of the two products, but I now realize the importance of testing ONE THING AT A TIME. Scientific method. Change one variable only.

I’ll be able to test the Burt’s Bees in the capacity of a pre-shave, as I already have what I feel is reasonable data as a primary shave lotion. I won’t do that during the three shave duration of a blade test, as I don’t want to skew and possibly throw doubt into the process. I don’t have another Silver Blue blade, so I’ll have to buy a five pack at the end of the test and give it another shot (provided that I carry through and feel that formal tests of every blade I can lay hands to with one or more razors is still fun at that point).

Anyway, I’ll need to leave the skin to heal for another day or two. I have a Gillette Platinum loaded, as that’s next on the docket for testing. It’s possible that I’ll put that on hold, however, if my skin appears to need a break from the slings and arrows for a few shaves. If I need to do a few one-pass shaves to allow my skin a break, I’ll go with the Parker 99R with a proven Personna blade in there, so that I won’t squander blades of which I only have limited samples of on shaves outside the formal test parameters.

***
8/26/15:

Although I still had some residual razor burn (or whatever that was, as I really can’t directly tie it directly to anything that happened during my shaves), I went ahead and shaved tonight.

However…I was wise enough to revise my expectations for this shave. No testing of anything, no going for the smoothest shave ever performed by the hand of man. No, tonight was about getting my stubble tidied up with the minimum of drama and the minimum of additional irritation.

With that in mind, and since I’d already loaded the AS-D2 with the next test blade, I performed my first shave with the Parker 99R since the purchase of the Feather razor I’ve been so enamored of.

I loaded a new Personna Lab Blue blade into the Parker, put a liberal amount of Proraso Red pre-shave on my face, and let the brush take in some warm water. I loaded up a rather small amount of Proraso Red soap (less than 20 seconds loading), and proceeded to put as thick and creamy a lather on for the first pass as possible. I went in with the idea that, if there was any sting, I was only doing one pass.

The Parker 99R has very different dynamics than the Feather AS-D2. The Feather is shorter and lighter. It has a narrower handle and a wider, shorter head. It requires a different angle. It lances across your face like it’s rolling on teflon bearings. It isn’t very resonant as a design, so the sound of the cutting is muted. By contrast, the Parker has a much more communicative shaving noise, and requires a bit more care, especially on the first pass. It responds the best to a very light touch (don’t push it to go faster than it wants to), as well as very frequent swirls in the water. I shave with somewhat large bowl of warm water at the ready, so this is easily done.

Since I’ve been DE shaving, I have typically fallen into the trap of going for a super close shave every time, sometimes taking days off shaving in order to let my face recuperate. Prior to my most recent irritation issue, I’d shaved three days in a row. Perhaps the breakdown wasn’t anything to do with equipment or even technique. It may have simply been a tactical blunder on my part. If I’m going to shave daily, it’s likely that I’ll need to go for good shaves, rather than ultra baby smooth shaves. Shavers gotta learn stuff.

So, then, I went at my face with the Parker. Carefully. With all due circumspection. I did only one pass below the fold on my neck, where the bulk of the irritation was, and I isolated that area, going over it in granny gear. After that went well, I went for a cross grain pass from ears inward to the goatee line (it’s acutally a Van Dyke, but whatevs). This pass also went well, and I avoided going below the fold of my neck a second time.

This tactic allowed me to shave to a perfectly reasonable level without additional irritation. DFS level, as they say in the shave game (Damned Fine Shave, I believe). Mission accomplished, crisis averted, and so on.

Lessons learned: I still like the Parker, and find it efficient enough with the Personna blade to do a non-critical but good shave in two face friendly passes. Still really think highly of the Personna blades. I will have to test them in the AS-D2 in the fullness of time. I’m sure they’ll be fine, and may well be the blades I use in that razor when I’m in the midst of a testing cycle with the Parker.

I’ve been looking at other razors, as well (trying manfully to keep from tipping right into the obsessive collecting phase of the hobby). I’m intrigued with the slant bar and open comb razors, and the siren song of getting a solid shave in one pass. Then there’s the intrigue of my straight razor, which I’ve currently had on the back burner…and all the soaps!

But I digress from my previous digression. I finished the shave with Captain’s Choice Sandalwood, to go with the scent of the Proraso Red. I really, really like that aftershave. It’s more expensive than the bargain stuff, sure, but man, it’s a really great scent and goes on just as an aftershave should.

Wow, that was a long and rambling string of nonesense. Sorry for that, reader(s).

***
8/27/15:

Maintenance shave. Yep. That’s what I’m going to call a good, comfortable, careful shave that I do when not going for anything critical. I’m also calling this out: I’m going to change the parameters for the Parker razor review series to a three pass shave. A full four pass is not necessary or, in most cases, prudent. There is a reason that no one talks about doing four formal passes. It’s not necessary unless your razor is really not doing the work, and it just creates too much wear and tear on your face. A nice three pass is more than enough. You can get a good shave from two passes. If you just want to knock the worst of the stubble off, a one pass shave with a good DE razor is still going to get you as close as most other methods, and pretty fast.

I shaved with the Proraso Green and finished with Rite Aid store brand Aqua Velva, and the Parker, with the Personna blade. Good shave. Meant to do a two pass, but ended up doing a three, again being careful on my neck at and below the crease. When we put aside all other subjective criteria, the combo I used tonight delivered a great shave. It would be difficult to actually get much closer, and it was an enjoyable, comfortable shave. There is no need to spend outlandish amounts of money on your gear. The 99R can be had for $32 and change on Amazon at the time of this writing, the Personna blades are around 12 cents a piece, the shave soap and preshave are somewhere around the $10 mark each, the brush is less than twenty (sometimes a lot less). The cut price AQ aftershave was $5 and change. You’re talking around 80 bucks all together (Us money as of the date above, barring fires, floods, and alien invasions). Not bad. Hey, even if you get the most expensive razor, blades, aftershave, and soap, you’re still going to have a difficult time spending $400. It’s nice to have hobbies where “the best” is within the reach of most people.

Yes, I like the Parker. It feels nice and does a good job. It requires a bit more patience and care than the Feather, but it is in no way a death machine. Other than a few known trouble spots, I haven’t cut or nicked myself any more than I would have with a cartridge since the switch over. Almost all of those issues were from poor technique. The irritation I’ve gotten has been more from frequency of shaving, rather than damage inherant to the system.

And the Parker is just one of many high quality but reasonably priced razors on the market. Even within the Parker linup, there are several that might interest you more than the 99R. With Merkur, Edwin Jagger, Muhle, and other brands to choose from, there is probably a razor that would be the very thing for you, regardless of what your personal needs and aesthetic impulses might be.
***
8/29/17:

I was looking around an antiques shop yesterday, and I came across a Gem Micromatic “Bullet Tip” razor that was in great condition. Gem razors are single blade/single edge razors. This one is twist to open with a closed comb. These are very different in mechanics and blade angle to a normal safety razor. They take a blade that looks much like a window scraper razor, like you’d see at the hardware store. But…don’t use those. They’re not sharp enough to shave well. I found some blades at Rite Aid (Super Single Edge – I’m told they’re made by Personna/ASR).

After oiling up all the pivots yesterday and using my alcohol/lemon oil bath to make sure there were no contaminants on the old razor (Circa late 40’s), I tried a shave this morning.

Now, the angle of this type of razor puts the cap almost on your skin. I found I need to raise it off the skin by about 15 degrees to get the razor to bite.

My first foray is a qualified success. I got a reasonably comfortable shave, reasonably close. I did get a bit of irritation in some known trouble spots, but I put a coating of Every Man Jack post shave on my face, and the redness appears to have been banished.

Here are my thoughts on the Gem. It’s very comfortable to hold and quickly feels natural in hand. It’s the product of smart engineering, no doubt. It is easy enough to use and works fairly well. I am sure that fine tuning on the angle and discovering how many chances I can take with this razor will be something that will improve comfort. That, and I have to stop going without pre-shave. My early theories on pre-shave kind of scoffed at it a bit, but the more I do traditional shaving, the more I think that, for my skin, a preshave is a great idea. I should have used one today, but decided to put the Gem through the paces like it was a blade in for review. The Proraso White still did a good job, don’t get me wrong, but a little preshave conditioning would not have gone amiss. You only have to look at how much blade is exposed on a Gem to know that, if you become cavalier, it might get abrasive. No cuts or nicks, however. My issue of late has purely been with irritation/razor burn in a couple trouble spots.

Even if I don’t become a complete convert to the single edge razor game, spending a total of $30 to have a chance to shave like they did in 1948, with a beautifully preserved piece of shaving Americana – totally worth the price of admission.

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