It’s been a year or so since I posted any news about my shaving experiments. I haven’t given up on it, and I haven’t settled into a final long-term pattern either. Something interesting came up yesterday. It’s time for an update.
First, some lessons over the past several months:
Shaving oil (instead of soap or cream) is not at all useful on a dry face. On a wet face it’s okay, but really it needs some very hot soapy water to de-gunk the blade periodically. I’ve found one exception where the shaving oil seems to work reasonably well – but more on that later. Most of the time, shaving oil is better used after shaving as a soothing lotion.
Sometimes my low-end Braun electric razor is still good enough. A real blade does a faster and closer shave, but the electric version isn’t as rough on the skin. Also, it effectively allows separating bathing from shaving. This is useful if the daily routine has been scrambled – when traveling, for example. On that subject, the electric razor goes through the Airport Insecurity checkpoint without any fuss – no sharp blade, no liquids. (Never mind that the power cord would make an excellent silent weapon. But don’t tell them that.) So I’m not giving away my Braun yet.
Double-edge blade notes: Personna blades from Wal-Mart seem to alternate between “perfect” and “bloody” in the same package. Hard to tell in advance which kind is loaded in the razor. The dispenser is good for storing used blades safely. (I also have a “safe” for used blades, bought on clearance at the beauty supply store.) Derby Extra blades work well enough at a low cost, but get dull a little more quickly than I’d prefer. Same for Dorco blades. (Dorco is an unfortunate brand name in North American English.) I’m still testing a few other brands.
Spraying rubbing alcohol on the blade after each use seems to make it last longer. The alcohol evaporates quickly, pulling water away and preventing microscopic rust spots. This is also true for modern multi-blade cartridge razors. I tried it with one of my old Mach 3 cartridges too. By the way, a hot shower also improves Mach 3 performance.
The most important lessons so far: First, take your time, don’t get in a hurry, and don’t press too hard. Second, the shave doesn’t have to be baby-butt perfect every time. One pass of the blade – maybe two – is often good enough, with fewer nicks and less irritation. Most people don’t care how smooth your face feels, as long as you look and smell clean. (My beard will grow out a noticeable amount within a few hours anyway.)
Now for the things that came up recently.
A couple weeks ago I decided to try something new. By new, I mean brand new. And disposable. Here’s a picture:
(This photo and the next were taken with my new iPhone 4.)
Why? I’ve been thinking that a simple disposable razor would be a nice in an emergency evacuation kit. (If you don’t have one, you should. Get a simple backpack and pack one change of clothes, minimal toiletries, a water bottle, and enough non-perishable calories to last a few days. One for each member of your household. Keep it where you won’t trip over it but can still grab it in a hurry.)
A disposable razor is small and light, it’ll do the job, and you won’t cry if it gets lost or stolen. For the same reasons, several travel writers have suggested using one disposable razor in a travel kit. It’s fine for a weekend trip, and for longer stays it’ll work long enough to buy another razor locally.
For everyday use, I think the disposable kind is an unnecessary waste of plastic. But I had to try one at home before trusting my face to it on the road. I had an unpleasant experience with a free disposable razor last year.
This razor worked surprisingly well. I used it in the shower several times (spraying with alcohol afterward) before it got too rough. My shaving technique has definitely improved over the past year.
One time I tried it a different way: Washed my face over the sink, then used shaving oil instead of cream. The shaving oil really worked that time. Saturating the skin with hot water before applying the oil made all the difference. I’m not sure if the type of razor or the freshness of its blade made any difference. I’ll have to do more experiments.
Yesterday I picked up something very different:
It’s a Gem model 1912 single-edge razor. I especially like the chain pattern on the handle. I’m not sure of its exact age, but it has to be from sometime between 1912 and WW2. In other words, it’s about the same age as my grandfather plus or minus a decade. Please let me know if you can help pin down its age any better.
I got it from a friend’s store. He has a pretty good variety of interesting “vintage” razors. It’s fun to look at these things in person before committing to buy. (Shop #24 in the Old Farmers Market in OKC. Look for JP Cole Custom Metal Art. They also sell my homemade soap.)
So far I’ve only shaved with the Gem once, using a modern blade from the pharmacy. It worked pretty well. I’m looking forward to trying it again.