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A Lurker Comes Out of the Shadows with a LONG Story and Questions

Hello Badger Buddies,

I just wanted to say "thank you" for all of your collective enthusiasm, candor, gentlemanly attitudes, and helpfulness. I've learned a lot here so far by lurking, but I think it's time I introduce myself and ask for a little advice while i am at it.

My name is Dominic, I'm a 24 year old guy from California. I hold a mechanical engineering Bachelors degree, UC Berkeley '11, and currently work as an engineer in the aerospace industry. I am from a heavily Italian background, but genetically I got off rather light in the beard and body hair department. I'm pretty hairy on my arms and legs and such (but nothing compared to my uncles,) and my beard is a little sparse and has a few bare spots. I love the old school barbershop vibe and love the sights and smells and sensations of that which is old-timey and or traditional. I enjoy some of the scents some may eschew as being out-of-date, such as Pierre Cardin fragrance, or Pinaud Clubman.

My parents have both used the Gillette Good News disposable razors for as long as I can remember, Dad for face and Mom for legs, so it was only natural that my first shaves would be with the blue plastic handle and two blades, sometimes with the lubricant strip, sometimes without. I suspect my Dad started using them when they first came out in the 70's. His skin is not the least bit sensitive, and his shaves are always no-frills sink or shower shaves with goo and no prep or post whatsoever.

When I turned 18, Gillette mailed me a handle and a cartridge or two for the Fusion Pro-Glide razor. I got caught up in the hype of it all for, I dunno, three or four years maybe? These things were just astonishingly expensive so I found myself using them until they were dull as a doorknob and getting lots of weepers. I got sick of that and went back to the Good News disposables.

One problem I've tended to have is that I get frequent ingrown hairs. I get razor bumps, yes, but also the full-on ingrown hairs that coil up on themselves. The ingrowns have improved with a bit of dilligence on my part concerning morning and evening face washing. I've never had bad acne, but my face still isn't as clear as I'd like, so it helps with that too.

Until very recently my routine was like this:
-Shave at the sink with the Good News razor and some Gillette Fusion ProGlide blue goo.
-Various alcohol aftershaves

As I've said, my complexion has always been decent, but in November 2013 I had a bout of cystic acne develop on the right side of my face. It was just one big main blemish with a few auxiliary flare-ups. It mostly went away on its own, but not completely, leaving a somewhat aggravated state on my face. This inspired me to take some thought about my shaving regimen. On a lark, I went into the local supermarket and grabbed a little bottle of Somerset's Shave Oil, and a container of Dove post-shave balm for sensitive skin.

My routine now looked like this:
-Get in the shower to wash and condition my hair
-Neutrogena Razor Defense Daily Face Scrub with washcloth and hot shower water for my face, pre-shave.
-Shave in the shower with good news disposable razor and Somerset's oil. No goo or lather, just oil. Light pressure. 1 WTG pass, 1 ATG pass, then sort of scrub around for the touch up spots.
-Gently wash the whisker and oil slurry off my face with a washcloth. Finish the rest of my showering business.
-A light application of Dove post-shave balm

This was actually yielding consistently low-irritation BBS or DFS on a daily basis. I still wasn't free of the cystic acne problem on the right side of my face, as well as some general irritation from shaving, so on February 27th, I went to the doctor and he took a look and prescribed an antibiotic. He also insisted on an indefinite-length period of not shaving to let the skin recover while I was on the Doxycycline.

While my beard was growing out and I was getting itchy, scratchy, and lots of questions and remarks at the office and at the gym, I started to become curious about what my shaving regimen would include once I was free to resume shaving. It was during this time that I discovered Badger and Blade and became interested in the DE razors and the art of the wet shave.

After three full weeks of not shaving, I actually had a date to go on, so I caved and shaved, first with a trimmer to get back to a shaveable stubble, then down to the skin with a brand new Good News razor. It was a pretty good shave and I was pleased to see that my skin had calmed down nicely and cleared up very well. The next day, my Merkur 34c and a sampler pack of 10 blades Qty 5 each arrived. I waited until Saturday 22 March to try out the DE shave. I had chosen the Merkur 34c because I liked the look of it as well as the fact that it was considered a mild to medium razor on the aggressiveness scale.

I was rather fearful of the DE blade, but soon saw that the horror stories my dad and coworkers were telling about the DE blade cutting me to ribbons was nonsense. I didn't slide the thing across my skin and I didn't put lots of pressure, so it was fine. Naturally I got a handful of weepers, but it really wasn't bad.

My first three Merkur 34c shaves were all performed with the Merkur blade that came with the razor. Here's where I need help. I haven't yet purchased traditional lathering supplies, so my current setup looks like this:

-Get in the shower to wash and condition my hair
-Neutrogena Razor Defense Daily Face Scrub with washcloth and hot shower water for my face, pre-shave.
-Finish the rest of my showering business.
-Shave at the sink with the Gillette goo applied over the Somersets shave oil. Passes are WTG, ATG, and touchup.
-Hot water rinse off
-Mop up with witch hazel
-A light application of Dove post-shave balm

I am currently having two problems.

1) While trying to respect the no pressure and correct angle fundamentals I have picked up in all my internet DE research, I find that my first WTG strokes below my sideburns don't seem to do much, if any, whisker-reduction action. I have indeed varied the blade angle, but I just can't seem to get that satisfying crackle of whiskers getting shorn.

2) Aside from the aforementioned Problem 1, above, I was getting a great shave from that razor and blade in my routine. I wasn't entirely following DE best-practice, being even perhaps a bit sloppy with my technique but yielding a BBS on my cheeks a DFS on my neck every day. After my first three or four shaves with the Merkur 34c and the blade that came with it, I decided to retire the Merkur blade and delve into the sample pack I had ordered. I shaved with the Merkur blade on Tuesday, and was still SAS most of the day Wednesday without having to shave. Thursday I shaved for the first time with a Derby blade and all hell broke out on my face by the time I got to work. Razor bumps all over the place. Tried to clean up with witch hazel, burned like a mother. Been uncomfortable ever since. Terribly enjoyable shave Friday as well. I could only really give it a cursory WTG pass, it was all I could stand.

Today is saturday and I haven't yet shaved. Should I give the Derby another chance? Should I revert to the tried and true Good News disposable for a few days and try the Derby again? Should I move onto one of the other blades in my sampler and give up on the Derbys? Speaking of my sampler, how should I proceed trying each of these blades? Should I use all five blades in the pack and then move on? Just do one blade of each? Use three of the five as testers and leave two blades to fall back upon if I, say, get shredded by testing one of the other blades? What order should I try them in?

English Nacet Platinum
Pakistani Gillette Nacet Stainless
Gillette 7 O'Clock Super Stainless Green
Gillette Silver Blue
Bluebird Hi-Stainless
Shark Super Chrome
Bic Chrome Platinum
Astra Superior Platinum
Feather Hi-Stainless

I intend to get around to buying myself some Proraso Green new formula, a relatively cheap badger brush, and a Gentleman Jon Alum block to use instead of witch hazel. I'm just a little slow to do it because I have been in the middle of a major AD period in the rest of my life. Someone stop me before I spend again. Clothes, car parts, fountain pen ink, art & framing, DE razor and blades, major suspension repair on my truck. I tend to get frazzled when I buy too much too soon. It's not that I can't bear the cost, I just have to mull purchases before I make them. So I am feeling a bit overwhelmed thinking about buying the cream, brush, and alum.

Sorry to hit you guys with a novel, but I hope it was an enjoyable read that maybe a veteran or two can look at and smile. Hopefully something here will resonate with another Newbie or two. I'm looking forward to being feeling rather masculine, with close shaves and wonderful scents and old-school equipment, and saving money not buying carts and throwing away disposables.

Best regards to you all!
Welcome to B&B! I'm not too surprised the Derby chewed you up a bit. I had a similar experience. I wouldn't try it again. There really isn't a specific order to try them in. The Silver Blues are my favorite. The Feather may be too advanced for you right now. They're incredibly sharp and will make you pay for every bit of poor technique. I would also recommend the alcohol free Witch Hazel. No burn and so much better than just alum. You'll love the Proraso. The menthol and eucalyptus is so refreshing. And if you want to take that feeling to the next level, try cold water shaving with Proraso. It's intense! I would also recommend using an aftershave Balm, Proraso makes a great one that pairs well with the cream. Good luck!

Im a fellow long time lurker newly registered on here. I was in a similar position as you almost exactly 1 year ago when I started down this path to wet shave nirvana. I also had some initial issues but I found that as I got my technique worked out I was getting much better results and no weepers. With my initial sample pack I jumped between the packs of blades to try them out in different situations. I work in the Oil industry so sometimes I am going a few days without shaving, I actually just shaved for the first time in 2 weeks yesterday. I found that different blades excell in different situations. For example I find that Astra's will whip that multi-week beard right off, but then I dont like using the astras for every day shaving as I struggle to get the baby butt smoothness that I can get with other blades. I would expect you will find more than one type to find its way into your final collection.

FYI... I also us a 34C, I love it! And get that Alum block! it will nip a bit, but it will close up those weepers.
Thanks for the quick response Don. I posted right before eating dinner and was glad to see someone had slogged through my novel of a first post and had already offered some input. Very helpful stuff. There are so many questions and considerations when delving into wet shaving, and especially when having problems, but your calm and collected response is helping restore my confidence.

It's already 8PM here, and I have been stuck inside with foul weather outside, nothing to do, nowhere to go after having already run a few errands, and no real reason to shave today, but I might just shave tonight anyway. Dunno. I might, alternatively, wait until tomorrow morning and try and get some extra recovery time for my skin before I shave again.

Decisions, decisions! I suppose I'll try the English nacets next

Thanks also for the quick reply. It's very much starting to sound like my situation isn't anything unusual. It's funny you're in the oil industry, I work in aerospace, but the devices we manufacture and sell are starting to find their way more and more into exploration and down-hole applications. I do indeed plan on getting the alum block, even if only as a way of putting more grip on my fingers when things are getting slick. I'm curious about the alcohol-free witch hazel also... I know alcohol can be very drying, and that sounds kinder to the skin... but I have to admit, I do like that sharp twinge sometimes, in a weird masochistic way.
Welcome! I'd ditch the Derby. I like the Sharks but the shave seems to vary with each blade. I got my first really close shave with one though. The Silver Blues are great for me. They may well become my go to blade, although there are several others that I want to try. I think I'd go with one of them next.

Best of luck!
Welcome, Dominic. The only blades in your list that I've tried are Derby and Astra SP, which didn't suit me, and Feathers, which are very sharp but unforgiving. The Feathers are definitely worth a try, but I second the idea of waiting until your technique is solid. My go-to blades are these, and the top four in the photo are the ones that I use most of the time:

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Welcome and enjoy!

My 2 cents - try the Astras (a commonly recommended blade for starting out), definitely get a decent cream/soap, and you can get a boar brush for under $10 (Semogue or Omega).

Gary's Sample Shop will sell you a sampler pack for $35 that includes a vintage razor, brush, blades, soap (I like almond scents over industrial citronella so I'd go with Cella), and some aftershave samples.
Everyone here has given you great advise and I'd like to chime in also. I highly recommend using the blade you find most comfortable...and just roll with the Proraso green line for everything. I say that because It's of high quality and good for beginners at the same time. The shave soap has a HUGE sweet spot and offers great protection. It's also affordable and time-tested. You want to stick with ONE brand for everything if possible b/c if you get irritation or something you may be able to pin-point the problem easier and correct it. Good luck and welcome to B&B!!
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