Feb 19, 2006

razor's edge

I finally had a chance to try out my new double edged safety razor. I mentioned before I was sick to death of the crap Gillette was pulling. The straw that broke this camel's back was the announcement of the 5 blade razor. Just crazy. After doing a little research it became obvious the best alternative was a double edge safety razor or DE as many sites refer to it.

My impression. Insanely better than your standard cartridge experience. Not only is it cheaper (safety blades cost about 50 cents per blade and last twice as long), it is actually faster to shave with a DE and the end product is a significantly smoother face without any of the irritation. While there is more prep, the actual shaving goes quickly. Instead of raking a cartridge across your face over and over again with hamfisted pressure, you simply and lightly scrape a couple of times in a single spot. Because there is so little repetitive scraping the skin doesn't take quite the beating it would with a cartridge. Interested? Here's how.

There are a few things you need:

Double edge safety razor - You might try to search for a retailer near you so you can actually see the razor and feel it's weight and construction. If not there are a number of good online retailers for shaving products - Sesto Senso, Classic Shaving, and QEDUSA. I used Classic Shaving. They seem to have the best selection. Even Amazon has some razors, including the one I purchased. Which one to get? I don't think it matters. I purchased a Merkur Vision which is a pricey one. It's extremely well built and has a dial-in setting for the amount of the blade that is exposed. I figured this would come in handy. And it's German (enough said). Merkur also makes some replicas of the old Gillette razors which are supposed to be excellent. One called the "Hefty Classic" is supposed to be a cheap ($30) but well made DE razor.

Badger Brush - The name of the game here seems to be genuine badger hair and preferably 'silver tip' which comes from the back of the badger at a particular time of the year. It's supposed to hold water better and have a soft bristle compared to alternatives. I again purchased a Merkur Vision Brush (might as well have them match right?). A good, reasonably priced alternative are the Vulfix brushes. I would spring for the silver tip though. Remember this is capex spending versus consumable spending. Buy once versus buy many times.

Glycerin based shaving cream - In general the stuff in the store isn't good. The good brands are Geo F. Trumper, Taylor of Old Bond Street, Musgo Real, and Proraso. I use Taylor. They seem pricey but you use only a small dollop to get a thick lather. One tub will last a long time.

You'll of course need a blade. Any blade will do. I use Merkur's blades. Might as well stick with a single brand. Once you've got your tools it's time to shave:
  1. In general I would recommend shaving after a shower. The shower will help soften up your whiskers and make it easier to cut.
  2. Submerge the brush into a tub of water for a few seconds. Pull it out and hold it bristle side down until the water stops coming out. You want water in there to help with the lather.
  3. If you use a tube, squeeze a small amount onto the bristles. If you use a tub, swirl it around 5 or 6 times. You don't need much.
  4. Start painting your face. Up and down. Don't just coat your face with a lather. Go a little longer than that. You want to work the lather all around the whiskers to coat them and lift them.
  5. Put down your brush and pick up your razor (with a blade in it of course)
  6. Now listen carefully. Everything you've learned about using a razor before is no longer applicable. Whereas Gillette had to dumb the cartridge down for the average knucklehead so they wouldn't get sued for cutting up their customer's faces, a DE razor is a dangerous beast that requires some subtlety and knows no mercy. Gillette purposely recessed the blades on their cartridges so no one would get hurt. As a result men around the world lean into their faces with their razors to get a decent result. With a DE razor YOU SHOULD APPLY ZERO FORCE AGAINST YOUR FACE. I'll say that again. Don't press down. Just drag the blade across your face. Short quick scrapes work better than long slow ones. Now I'm exaggerating a little. You can press down a little but when you start out don't. Assume you'll need a week or so of shaving to get the touch of your razor down. Start out gentle with no force and work from there. Also TAKE YOUR TIME. When you start out don't do it if you are running late for work. Start another day. Now again I'm exaggerating. You can go pretty quickly after you get the hang of it. But to start out just go slow. Also go with the grain of your beard to start out. You might find you get a close enough shave. I do. If you need to go against the grain, lather up again after you've shaved with the grain. So in summary, go slow, go with the grain, and don't press down. It sounds scarier than it is. It's quite easy and the learning curve is fast.
  7. Rinse your blade often. Part of what kills the closeness of a shave is the buildup of whiskers and cream. And remember it's a double-end razor so you can spin it around and use the other clean side before rinsing.
  8. Once you're done rinse off with cold water. It helps soothe the skin and close up the pores.
That's it. It's quite easy and there's something fun about shaving like your dad did. You'll say goodbye to shaving bumps and sore skin and expensive cartridges. Good riddance.

3 comments:

NAPOLEƓN DE NOTTING HILL said...

I was looking for the merkur in the photo and at the end I bought it in Geo.F.Trumper because there it was much cheaper than in D.R.Harris.

Chookster said...

Nice website you have. I'm jealous you have access to so many great stores. All my shaving kit had to be purchased online. And I'd kill to have access to some of those English apparel makers.

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