The New Normal

Posted: November 24, 2016 in Shaving Articles
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I recently did a shaving favorites article, and predictably, my whole shaving pattern quickly changed, contradicting a lot of the things I said in that post. Normality, favorites, and opinions are just snapshots in time.

Over the course of the summer, I’d settled into shaving every day. Prior to that, I’d typically shave every other day or so, doing a full three pass shave every time. If I get an ideal shave with a full three passes, there’s not a lot to shave the day after. The stubble is just barely starting to show up. Despite this, I’d been so enthusiastic to shave and try all the gear I was collecting that I started shaving a full three pass, every day. Excitable boy, they all said.

There are a few problems with this approach. The first is that doing a thorough shave every day tends to put a lot of strain on your facial skin. It’s hard not to get yourself irritated, and if you start getting irritation, you’ll find it difficult to heal up when you’re at the shaving mirror every 24 hours. The face just doesn’t have time to recover.

The strategy needed to make this work (for me) is to use a mild, safe razor. Something like an old Gillette Superspeed or Knack. Anything that tends to be too incisive will get you into trouble after a certain number of shaves. You also need to pay a good deal of attention to facial prep. If you only shave a few times per week, you have a lot of time to heal. You can give yourself a few weepers or minor bits of razor burn and not worry too much about them. Every day…not so much. You have to give your skin all the chances it can get to make sure you’re okay.

Or…yeah. “Or” is where I’m going with this.

I’ve talked about “maintenance” shaves in this forum before. For me, my safe shave is with the grain, then across the grain on my cheeks and jawline, finishing with another with the grain pass (in actually, sort of across, due to hair growth pattern) on the neck. Two passes. Decent shave. Very little risk. The avoidance of my trouble spots.

Does this shave go as close as humanly possible? No. There’s simply no way to get a perfect shave with a double edge razor if you don’t go against the grain. The shave is perfectly respectable, and probably closer than anyone ever gets with an electric or a cartridge. At the same time, low injury rates and good comfort are what you can expect. Okay, they’re what I can expect. Everyone’s shaving journey takes them down different roads.

I still love to shave, and shaving every day lets me get my fun more often, as well as being able to test more products (twice as many, it turns out) than if I shaved only every other day. Thus, I’ve gone with the safe shave every night.

Because I’ve lost a good bit of weight lately, and my face is more angular than it was (as well as having bone closer to the surface), there are a few new danger zones I have to take into account. At the same time, autumn has come, and with the cold temperatures, a tendency toward very dry air.

I have been making consistent use of pre-shave treatments, as well. I think I’ve voiced some level of reticence or skepticism in the past, but it really depends upon your skin, the climate, and your shaving regime. At this time, I find that they’re indispensable. I’ll have more comments about pre-shave stuff in a further article.

Something that becomes starkly clear when you change your shaving regime is that your needs in hardware will be different. If you’re doing the safe two pass shaves (or one pass…), it’s going to be to your benefit to have a more efficient and incisive razor. A recent article I posted talked about the question of aggressive razors, and if they cut closer. The answer was, and still is, no. They don’t necessarily cut closer, but they cut faster, mowing down more hair on the early passes. If you’re not going to a full three or more passes, the aggression can be the difference between a mediocre shave and a really nice one.

I dusted off my Merkur 39C razor and tried that as my go-to for this tactic. It worked. It worked well. The old, familiar problems I’ve had with it in the past reared their ugly heads once more, however. For one, I find a chromed razor to be more likely to judder or stick on your skin if your shave lather has been swept aside. Secondly, the spiral, barber pole pattern on the handle doesn’t quite work for me. I prefer cut, checkered knurling, or something similar. The barber pole pattern feels “twisty” and a little out of control.

So I tried something else, a razor that featured better handling dynamics. The Gillette Slim Adjustable. Oh, yeah. On settings 7 and up, this thing kills it. Great efficiency, but no pain. The point of the high settings on these old machines becomes perfectly clear. Yes, a lower setting is great for a three pass, but cranking it up works wonders when you’re doing a more abbreviated shave. Not miracles, but wonders. This test made it clear, yet again, that if you want only one razor, an adjustable is probably the way to go (provided that it has a legit mild setting – I’ve been told that even the lowest setting on the Merkur Future is pretty aggressive). For me, it’s kind of all about the Gillette Adjustable right now.

Do I get a five ‘o clock shadow with two passes? Yes. But remember, I’m a night shaver, so that’s five…the next day.

Is it likely that I’ll do the thorough shaves again? Sure. I certainly will. That said, sometimes having “good” all the time is better than having “great” every once in a while.

Cheers, and happy shaving.

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