What's new

Can’t get a close, comfortable shave

Think of this a a journey, which will award you with milestones. Never mind the race to BBS, et cetera, et cetera. Just know that with practice, time, and resources like this, you are going to get there. The days of "horror shaves" will quickly subside and will be replaced with enjoying shaving, which will simply augment itself over time. The really great part is that the enjoyment and accomplishment parts just don't go away. You'll never forget how bad it used to be, which will be a constant reminder of what you've accomplished. It is truly a ritual.
This is a great perspective, thanks!
As your lather and angle improves, those blades that don't currently work for you, are going to start feeling a lot sharper. ;)

Have a read through this guide (specifically the first four posts) and see if anything unlocks a few improvements for you.

I suggest you map your beard grain direction, it is so important for comfortable shaves with less irritations, beard mapping will help you also as your technique matures(not sure if you mentioned you beard mapped already). It might others who have not beard mapped also.
Some folks can not shave ATG because of sensitive skin, keep trying & it will turn for the better in your shaving IMO.
You have a proven excellent razor also (Merkur progress adjustable.). If you are not getting a close shave you might have to increase your setting on the adjustable for a little more blade feel or blade exposure will get closer results possibly.
(Old archived photo of a beard map.)
View attachment 1752096
Have some great shaves!
By idea on blade settings? 1-2.5 is my comfortable area, haven’t gone past this.
I would agree with proper prep, proper angle, and light touch being crucial. But without doing against the grain passes, a really close shave is difficult. You can come close with certain razors like the blackbird ti or timeless .95 sb, but you need a very sharp blade. People say the razor doesn't matter that much if you have good technique, but I disagree. A mild razor like the Overlander used against the grain works even if your technique is fair. I've had some razors where I need to go over areas several times to get a decent shave. You may not have found the right blade and razor for your skin and beard.
I’m looking for a smooth AND sharp blade. My ‘try’ list is the GSB and Nacet, which I can get here (Korea) but only a minimum order of 25. Gonna have to find a sample in US and fall on the pain of the shipping charge 😅
I’d say about 50 recently, but I took a long break from when I was in my 20’s until now.

Okay, that’s good. I usually say 30-60 shaves are needed to work out where you are at and decide which areas need work. You are right on target! Keep us updated on your progress with the XTG passes! Lay off ATG for another few months - you may get there eventually, but lots of folks don’t use full ATG passes and can still achieve BBS once they have enough practice.

Regarding the soap, I have skin that reacts to fragrances in a big way. Most artisan soaps (particularly from the USA) are a complete no-go area for me, as are many popular traditional soaps like Cella, Tabac, Arko, etc. I suggest picking up something unscented or very mildly scented for now, then you can just rule out any fragrance problems for the time being. Have a search on the forum for fragrance free options and you should find plenty of good recommendations, as it is a topic that comes up regularly. If in doubt, most “drugstore” level shaving creams seem to be light enough on fragrance so as not to cause problems for me personally.
Lots of good advice. It sounds like you have good equipment and blades—now time and practice are needed to develop technique. Try sticking with a single setup (whichever blade you like best for now). Once you’re getting good shaves then is the time to start changing variables like blades to see if you can get even better.

For reference, it took me a few months to get what I felt was a decent shave without weepers. It took me a year before I felt like it was as good as my old cartridges. Some time after that my DE shaves became better than cartridges.
Everyone is different, suffice it to say. So, for what it may be worth, my road to successful wet shaving also, like yours, started with shaving oil preparation. But it didn’t work for me and I only began to improve when I went in a different direction. I learned two things that worked:

First, to use lots and lots of water. For a long time I didn’t appreciate how much water is necessary for most soaps/creams. I notice you said you let the lather sit - I do not, at all. Letting it sit allows it to start to dry out (in my experience). Rarher, I keep wetting my brush until the lather is watery and about to run down. That is how 90% of my shaves work and how, when I was learning, I got better and better shaves.

Second, be light with the razor. Do not press. Let it do the work. This takes time and patience. One’s inclination is to want to force the blade into the skin. But that cuts. Rather be sensitive to the weight of the razor head and your angle to allow the blade to skim along the skin, not into it. The lighter your touch, the better.

Anyway, that’s what worked for me. Took a month or so and I went from terrible to acceptable. Then it took about a year and a half to “yeah, I think I got it.” To another year when I really did get it. Good luck!
It's always kind of difficult to diagnose these things from a distance, but I think you might benefit from a slightly higher setting on the Progress. Perhaps also a blade that is more in the middle range of sharpness than Feather to start out with.

I'm sensing you are afraid of getting irritation. The problem with too low settings on the adjustable is you are tempted to use a lot of pressure to compensate so you can get a close shave. This is basically counter-productive. Maybe you can try a slightly higher setting, like 3 or 4. Only use enough pressure to keep the blade in contact with the skin surface. Use short strokes, like a couple of inches at most, this will help you keep the razor angle at the proper place relative to the face and avoid too much pressure.

With the grain strokes are not going to give a close shave, generally. It will remove the bulk of the whiskers, though. Try using an across the grain second pass to improve closeness.

Proper lather is very important. Try not to shave areas without lather on them. Make sure your lather is wet enough, so it will be slick. Don't go for the big clouds of lather you see in people's pictures sometimes. Make your lather almost, but not quite, runny in consistency. It will have better shaving properties.

B&M soaps tend to have a lot of fragrance oils. If your skin is sensitive, that might cause some problems. I'd try something mild and dermatologist tested, like Palmolive cream, for example.

Remember, your shaves will get closer and better with practice. It may take some time, but you will be improving you skills every time you shave.
Each face is unique so offering specific advice is impossible, but let me offer two general pieces of advice:

1. Ditch the Feather. Bad blade especially for a beginner. Too sharp and unforgiving.

2. Shave in the morning. WTG may be all you need. Some sensitive skin guys will never achieve BBS or even DFS. That’s ok. Until recent years, most guys shaved WTG only and DFS or less was perfectly fine.
On the back of your advice I tried a spot test of my shaving soap (barrister and man) and it’s causing a reaction. Leaves my skin red and with a sunburn feeling for a few hours after a shave. I’ve never been allergic to anything on my skin, so it’s quite odd. It’s either that or the soap is too alkaline and causing irritation. Not sure. Will have to find a new soap. Other variable to rule out is irritation from the brush, though I imagine it’s the soap.

Better to find out now:wink2:

Out of the two dozen or so soaps I’ve tried over the years, only two gave me a burning sensation, Cella and the LaToja stick. Had either of these been my first soap, I too would have blamed the razor or blade first.

It really was an unfortunate situation as both soaps smelled so good and performed beautifully.
When I was in Marine Boot Camp we did everything over, over, over to the point of hating each task, took 3 week on rifle range to learn basic markmenship. It was a process of building muscle memory, or reacting without having to think long enough to die.

Two weeks of one shave a day is fraction of time compared to above, give the task to be learned time you might become expert.
I will second the suggestion to make very wet lather. I've gotten great shaves with the lather dripping off the razor as I shaved -- the only reason to use soap is to make your skin very very slick so the edge of the blade slides over it without scraping and to soften the hair a little. Gotta be very wet.

Another suggestion is to try normal bathing soap. It won't lather much and you may have to re-apply a lot, but it is very slick. A friend of mine uses it because he can't get shaving creams to work for him. I gave him some home-made shaving soap with no fragrance to speak of, haven't heard back, but then the lump I gave him and the fact he has a beard most of the time means it should last quite a few years!

Dorco Prime blades should be available for you pretty easily, also Dorco Titans, both of which are nice blades and smoother than Feathers. Worth a try.

As far as razor settings go, try a higher one WTG somewhere it's easy for you to control the angle, probably your cheeks are best. You want to feel the edge of the razor on your skin, but only very lightly. Once you do, vary the angle of the handle in reference to your face to see what angle makes the pulling sensation go away while cutting the hair -- when you hit that angle, you will know, it's like magic. Painless super smooth cutting!

Don't give up, it took me a while to adjust to DE shaving from carts (or my old Schick injector), and I've been at this game for 50+ years now.


I shaved a fortune
On the back of your advice I tried a spot test of my shaving soap (barrister and man) and it’s causing a reaction. Leaves my skin red and with a sunburn feeling for a few hours after a shave. I’ve never been allergic to anything on my skin, so it’s quite odd. It’s either that or the soap is too alkaline and causing irritation. Not sure. Will have to find a new soap. Other variable to rule out is irritation from the brush, though I imagine it’s the soap.
I also had a red, sunburned face after using a B&M soap. The soap was great to use but my skin can’t take it. The redness and tender skin lasted for 3 whole weeks and sent me to my dermatologist. She said many people are allergic to the ingredients used to add the scents and advised me to avoid scented products. That’s why I mentioned unscented soaps in my first post to you.

I’m not sure what unscented soaps are available at your location but you might consider giving them a try. I do miss the wonderful smells available but while my nose loves them, my face sure doesn’t.

Edit: Here in the States, Amazon sells Canada Shaving Soap. Here the shipping is free for Prime members, so if you can find it without spending a fortune on shipping, it’s a great unscented soap.
Top Bottom