Print Story What I'm Shaving With
By TheophileEscargot (Wed May 26, 2010 at 02:56:09 PM EST) Shaving (all tags)
Been trying some experiments with shaving. I have dense, coarse and highly visible black stubble: this may not be relevant to those with only peach fuzz.

Gillette Contour Plus Compatible
The Contour Plus twin-blade cartridge has been my standard razor since the early nineties. Lately though I've been using the cheaper compatible cartridges from Morrisons, Boots or Superdrug. They're slightly bulkier and don't have quite the range of movement, but seem to shave pretty much as closely and are considerably cheaper. This is still my standard for a quick shave: pretty close, unlikely to break the skin except with a bump, accurately shaves tricky areas around the nose and mouth. Replacement cartridges are 20p to 25p each

Gillette Contour Plus with offbrand blade 6077

Wilkinson Sword 4-blade Quattro
The four blade revolution got much hype, but I found it disappointing. Doesn't shave detectably closer than a twin blade, but the large head makes it unwieldy, leaving about a quarter inch of Hitler moustache under my nose. Cartridges are staggeringly expensive at over a pound each (£1.37 in Superdrug). However as advertised it seems to be almost impossible to cut yourself with it.

Wilkinson Sword Quattro 6080

Double edged safety razor
Standardized by King Camp Gillette in the early Twentieth Century, this has a double edged replaceable blade mounted perpendicular to the handle. This shaves extremely closely: the closest home shave I'm aware of, though not as close as a barber shave. It takes care and practice to avoid cuts: must be dragged very lightly over the skin, but they become rare with practice. However the large head makes tricky areas like that under the nose a bit fiddly to shave, though it's not as bad as the 4-blade Protector.

Replacement blades are 20p to 25p in shops, or around 10p if bought online.

Double edged safety razor 6075

Shaving Shack Shavette
The Shavette has the folding form of a traditional straight razor, but takes replaceable blades so there's no need to hone and strop. Either dedicated blades, or conventional double-edged blades snapped in half can be used.

Despite the cult popularity of the traditional cut-throat, most actual barbers seem to use some form of Shavette.

Another disappointment. Even on the easy, even sides of the face it seems no closer than a double-edge. Moreover, with no other surface in contact with the face, cuts are frequent when the blade stutters. These cuts are much deeper than the usual, can keep bleeding for up to an hour, and leave visible red cuts a day later, while DE and cartridge cuts usually heal quickly and invisibly.

Not sure how real barbers do it: probably they just have more skill. However last time I was shaved by a barber the Shavette he used had a different design to mine, where the blade was slotted into a gap rather than clamped in place: possibly the design makes a difference.

Shaving Shack Shavette 6073

There's a common misconception that the purpose of lather is to "soften the bristles". In fact the chief purpose is to hold them in place so that the blade can slice them. In general the thicker and gunkier the better: gel is better than foam, tube cream better than gel for a naked blade, though the last can clog the gaps in a multiblade cartridge.

Using shaving soap and a brush takes a bit longer than gel, but does provide a closer shave, both with cartridge and bare blade razors. However, the difference was not noticeable until I used gel on one side of the face and soap/brush on the other.

Shaving brush and stick soap 6084

Shaving Oil
Shaving oil can be used either as a substitute for conventional lather, or applied before the lather and used as a kind of undercoat.

Applied underneath, it seems to give a smooth shaving experience, but doesn't appear to shave any closer.

Applied alone, it's not quite as close a shave as canned gel. However since you only need a few drops it can be deployed in very small containers, so it could be useful for travelling with.

If used after a shower in either way, it seems to leave a thin film behind even after the lather has been rinsed off. Some might like that feeling, but I found it unpleasant.

Electric shavers are inherently less close than wet shaving, at least at present. A thin mesh is used to protect the skin from the moving blades, so they cannot cut the hairs any shorter than the thickness of the metal.

If you have thick stubble, they also take longer, since you have to keep going over the same area until each hair has finally been pushed through the mesh and intercepted.

Their big advantage is that since they store the cuttings, they can be used anywhere. So even though they take longer, you can wander around or watch TV while you shave.

I used a design with a single oscillating blade in my mid-teens: it worked fine on fuzz, but not very well on adult stubble. Designs with multiple rotating blades like the Philishave are much better for the fully stubbled.

Overall, mostly useful when bathroom time is limited by competition, or for light shavers. If so, it's well worth investing in a rechargeable cordless version for convenience.

Philishave portable 6082

My optimum shave
If there's time, I find the best way is to lather with soap and brush, then use a twin-blade cartridge razor to shave with the grain, and do the tricky areas. Then re-lather with the same brush, and use a double-edged razor to go over against the direction of stubble.

This provides a close shave, includes tricky areas, makes cuts unlikely and still takes less than five minutes. Blades should be replaced every two days for optimum sharpness: it's still pretty cheap.

If very hurried though, gel and twin-blade alone provides reasonable results.

All shaving gear 6064

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What I'm Shaving With | 24 comments (24 topical, 0 hidden)
Thank you by brokkr (4.00 / 1) #1 Wed May 26, 2010 at 03:28:07 PM EST
I had been considering trading in my two-blade Gilette cartridge razor for a classic safety razor, but you've convinced me not to bother.

I usually shave with an electric shaver - straight; I find the rotating blade models less effective - and then every three days or so I dry shave afterwards with the razor to cut the stubble all the way back.
Deyr fé, deyja frændr, deyr sjalfr it sama,
ek veit einn, at aldrei deyr: dómr um dau∂an hvern.

strap and strop by sasquatchan (4.00 / 1) #2 Wed May 26, 2010 at 04:01:34 PM EST
do you think you'd go get a old fashioned one and try that too ?

or try some of the alternate electric ones ? They get pricey very fast, thus I can't justify experimenting..

I recently went to the 5 blade monstrosity, replacements for the 2 blade were getting harder to find (ie not at costco).  It soes shave closer (noticeably) than my 2 blade, but dulls much faster. (I tend to push the blades to 3-4 weeks before replacing..).

I think a traditional strop-needing straight razor by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #6 Wed May 26, 2010 at 04:44:19 PM EST
Would be a bit too expensive to try on a whim. I don't really see why it should be any closer than a Shavette: they're both just naked blades dragged across the skin, held in the same way.

I suppose a single smooth shape instead of the edge of the clamp might make a difference, but Driusan below doesn't seem to think it's much better.

Same with electrics. I think they're all limited by the need to have some kind of mesh protecting you from the blades: they can't really cut closer than the thickness of that mesh.
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?

[ Parent ]
I doubt the single smooth shape does by Driusan (4.00 / 1) #9 Wed May 26, 2010 at 05:46:29 PM EST
anything. Other than the feel of it. Only a small portion is making contact at any time. Shaving cream (a thin layer of shaving soap vs a huge gunk of lather) seems to make a bigger difference in terms of how close you get.

There is a difference in how soft it feels to the touch with my straight edge, though. (I bought a good solingen one at an antique shop in Montreal for around $75CAD, but they had some for around $40-50 too. It's a little expensive, but if you know you're going to use it and considering you never have to buy blades..)

I find there's just as much hair there (or more) leftover after a shave, but the edges of the hair aren't as prickly. I'm not sure if that has anything to do with how sharp it is vs disposable razor blades that I use longer than I should, or with the fact that I can't go against the grain, is completely psychological, or has anything to do with the blade itself.

Vive le Montréal libre.

[ Parent ]
Not all blades are equal by lm (4.00 / 2) #11 Wed May 26, 2010 at 06:07:20 PM EST
From what I've read, in general, the biggest difference between DE safety razors and straight razors is that the latter is better for thicker growth and those that haven't shaved for a while

But another important difference is that the straight razor takes more care to keep sharp and more skill to use. I suspect that someone highly skilled who takes good care of their razor can do a much closer shave with a straight razor than is possible with a DE.

There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
I find.. by Driusan (4.00 / 1) #3 Wed May 26, 2010 at 04:02:48 PM EST
That I don't get any real difference in how close the shave looks when I shave with my straight edge vs my safety razor. I was a little disappointed when I switched. If anything, I can get closer with a safety since I can go against the grain without cutting myself. With a straight I cut myself with anything more aggressive than across it.

Where I do find a huge difference is how effective it is if I haven't shaved in a long time and there's a buildup of stubble to get through. With my straight edge, it's just one pass and it feels just as good as any other shave. With my safety razor  I need to do at least two passes, and the first one feels like someone's trying to pluck each of the hairs out.

Vive le Montréal libre.

Also, just to gloat. by Driusan (4.00 / 1) #4 Wed May 26, 2010 at 04:09:05 PM EST
I got a fine badger hair brush and stand for my birthday this morning. (I haven't used it yet, but just feeling it with my fingers it feels significantly softer than my old wilkensen brush which was/is identical to the one in your picture.)

Vive le Montréal libre.
[ Parent ]
I use a sharp piece of flint. by ammoniacal (4.00 / 2) #5 Wed May 26, 2010 at 04:17:51 PM EST
Cue piano intro to "Opportunities (Let's Make Lots of Money)"

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

Straight razors and barbers by ad hoc (4.00 / 1) #7 Wed May 26, 2010 at 05:02:18 PM EST
I don't think any barber uses a real straight razor any more. They all use Shavettes. A reality in the time of HIV. Disinfecting or sterilizing a straight razor between customers would take too long.
The last barber I went to uses real straight edges by lm (4.00 / 1) #10 Wed May 26, 2010 at 06:02:39 PM EST
I'm thinking about asking for a shave and a hair cut next time I go.

There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
I'm not saying you can't by ad hoc (4.00 / 1) #13 Wed May 26, 2010 at 07:41:06 PM EST
but he'll have to have several razors otherwise there isn't time between customers to clean them.
[ Parent ]
As a matter of fact ... by lm (4.00 / 1) #14 Wed May 26, 2010 at 07:50:35 PM EST
... he does have five or six razors laid out at any given time.

There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
aren't the sitting by sasquatchan (4.00 / 1) #21 Thu May 27, 2010 at 10:06:13 AM EST
in some brilliant azure solution meant for disinfecting  ? (like combs as well..)

[ Parent ]
Combs are different by lm (2.00 / 0) #23 Thu May 27, 2010 at 06:33:02 PM EST
Rubber and plastic can be treated just about any old way with no damage.

But many ways of disinfecting surfaces are harmful to metal in general and very harmful to metal shaped into a blade. I do not know what is in the stock `barbicide' that old school barbers drop their combs into but I would not be surprised if it was not suitable for steel.

There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
Alternatively by Vulch (4.00 / 2) #8 Wed May 26, 2010 at 05:41:29 PM EST
I've had a full beard for more than 30 years. Ignoring the waking up early enough so you're safe putting sharp objects next to your jugular time, it's still around 2 and a half months waking time I've saved.

Thanks for the review. by ni (4.00 / 1) #12 Wed May 26, 2010 at 06:35:05 PM EST
I've been considering switch to a soap and brush based system, and I think this settles it.

"These days it seems like sometimes dreams of Italian hyper-gonadism are all a man's got to keep him going." -- CRwM
I have dense, coarse, highly visible... by Metatone (4.00 / 1) #15 Thu May 27, 2010 at 05:03:38 AM EST
black stubble and I have bumpier skin than average, it seems.

I've found the Gillette multi-blade setups better than the Wilkinson ones - just a closer shave with less effort, it's some interaction between the angle of the blades in the cartridge, the typical angle of my hairs and the way the blades are sprung. I found 3 blades a big advance over 2 blades (4 is not much better than 3 for me) - I think it's about angles and springs again, more than number of blades.

I find safety razors just take a lot longer, I have to either go very slowly, or redo lots of patches - but they do produce a closer result. Of course, since I gave up and declared a careful shave with the multi-cartridge as good enough for a date, I don't bother with a safety.

I can't use electric, they don't seem to be able to reliably cut my hairs - not only do I have to go over areas again and again, but some number get pulled out, which then causes ingrowing hairs etc. later.

I'm dark haired, fairly hairy by nebbish (4.00 / 1) #16 Thu May 27, 2010 at 05:12:46 AM EST
But get by fine using the same cheap disposable razor for weeks on end with a bit of normal soap. Lucky I suppose. I can't leave it more than a day though, it grows very fast. No designer stubble, more a scruffy beard.

It's political correctness gone mad!

I can't grow a beard to save my life by Dr Thrustgood (4.00 / 1) #17 Thu May 27, 2010 at 05:28:42 AM EST
So I live in luxury with a Gillette Mach 3. Get through a pack of blades about once a year.

VS2FP by Breaker (4.00 / 1) #18 Thu May 27, 2010 at 09:28:28 AM EST
An excellent writeup.

the difference was not noticeable until I used gel on one side of the face and soap/brush on the other.
This kind of scientific approach was the most appealing part of the diary.

For me - shaving gel plus those Wilkinson Sword 2 blade with the lubricating strip behind the blades and the plastic widget between the blades that you can push to clear the gap between the blades when it gets clogged.

clock switched by StackyMcRacky (4.00 / 1) #19 Thu May 27, 2010 at 09:49:03 AM EST
to a double edge safety razor and soap + brush, and is getting a smoother face for longer (he can now shave the night before). 

i recently switched to the double-edge safety razor for my legs, and am still getting used to it.  i think my biggest problem is my shower stall is a bit of a coffin, and i can only kick my leg up so high.  if i could put my leg on the side of the tub, i'd have better access and do a better job. 

oh, and by StackyMcRacky (4.00 / 1) #20 Thu May 27, 2010 at 09:50:04 AM EST
the main reason we switched was to be better hippies.  no plastic, less waste, etc.

[ Parent ]
I hadn't thought about the environmental impact by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #22 Thu May 27, 2010 at 02:12:47 PM EST
There's no plastic and less packaging on a double-edged blade, and it must save energy on distribution. There's more steel though.
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?
[ Parent ]
I use a lightsaber by duxup (2.00 / 0) #24 Fri May 28, 2010 at 05:20:46 PM EST

What I'm Shaving With | 24 comments (24 topical, 0 hidden)