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Dry? Shaving Journal

I’m the kind of person that if I don’t like the way something works out, or if I feel like it’s okay but it could be better, I’ll research and experiment until I either find a better way or prove to myself that I’m already doing it a better way and it’s just not perfect.

Since I started wet shaving I’ve noticed that there’s an incongruity in lather between passes. The first pass lather, for me, is at peak quality. With each successive pass, the quality of lather drops from that first pass. If I’m good and have enough product loaded, it remains constant for the second and third pass. But if I didn’t get enough (this happens to me a lot with cream in a tube for some reason), all I have left for the third pass and clean up is thin, dissipating lather that’s not really as protective as it should be.

In reflecting on why this might be, it occurred to me that the surface area of the beard is approximately double the surface area of the lather on my brush. When I face lather for that first pass, I get perhaps 10% of the surface area of the lather wet each time I add water. And when I stop, the lather is perfect. Then I rinse my face. Now my face is coated with water, about 2 full dunks of the brush worth. Taking the brush back to my face, I’m incidentally adding a lot of unnecessary water, to the detriment of the lather.

This gave me the idea to blot the water off my face after rinsing between passes. I’ve tried it a few times now and it’s gone very well. So now for the sake of comparison and measurement, I’m going to document a day-by-day comparison, alternating between the “old method” and “new method”.

First I’ll establish some assumptions and some variables which I’ll hold constant. The assumptions

  • In order for an experiment to have any sort of credibility, it requires 1000s of participants, each conducting 100s of “experiments” (shaves). Therefore, this is not scientific, it’s purely for the sake of anecdotal comparison.

  • The only part of my method that will change from day to day will be the use or nonuse of a towel to dry my face between passes.

  • I will shave every day, the same time of day, in the same step of my morning preparations, in order to maintain approximately the same experience from day to day.

  • Stress level, amount of sleep, diet, blood sugar and other factors likely impact the shave experience. Those will not be factored.
Variables, Hardware and Software;

  • Razor: For this test I’ll use the iKon OSS with 85mm Bulldog handle. The blade I’ll use for the test is not ideal for my face, but the mildness and comfort of the OSS head will help offset the mismatch.

    • Passes: Because this is an asymmetrical head, I’ll note that I’ll do the first two passes (WTG, ATG) using the OC side. Third pass, ATG, SB side, and clean up, SB side.
  • Blade: Personna Lab Blue- This is a blade I find to be too mild for my face no matter what razor I put it in. It’s a bit of an uncomfortable shave. But I believe the fact that it’s a bit uncomfortable will lend to assessing the quality of the lather.

    • I’ll perform 7 shaves per blade. If I find I can’t get the full 7 out of a blade, whatever number I stop on, I’ll carry forward for every blade after.
  • Soap: Arko shave stick- I find this to be a very consistent product that’s relatively bulletproof as far as lathering goes. It’s hard to screw it up. Not to mention I have a lot of it, so this will give me occasion to use some of it up.
Variables, Method:

  • Pre-shave: Warm water rinse; glycerin soap wash; then warm water rinse again

  • Lathering: Face lather only

  • Passes: WTG, ATG, ATG, and cleanup under the chin and jaw

  • Post-shave: Warm water rinse; cold water rinse; WH splash
 
This is actually my second shave on the Personna Lab blade. I don’t figure it’ll be a big deal to miss the start of documentation by one shave. Everything went off as planned. The routine was exactly as described. The outcome:

Towel Used: No

First Pass: Lather is thick and glossy and applies easily in thick uniform coating.

Second Pass: Directly painting lather on causes the lather to go on very thinly. Lather requires working. After rework, it’s glossy and thinner, but still substantial. Brush strokes are apparent.

Third Pass: Lather requires working. After rework, lather is glossy and thin. Brush strokes are apparent.

Clean-Up Pass: Lather requires working. After rework, lather is glossy and thin. Brush strokes are apparent.

Post-Shave: Achieved BBS shave over most of my face. Trouble spots are DFS. I have some mild irritation on my upper lip, under my chin, and along my jaw. WH splash was tingly in these areas, so it’s nothing serious.

Notes: Simply painting the lather on from the first pass caused an imbalance of water on the second pass. For each pass thereafter, I had to work in the excess water in order to restore the lather. This is typical in my experience.

Edit: To correct a typo. I wrote AS splash. I used WH, as noted in the process.
 
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Towel Used: Yes

First Pass: Typical thick glossy lather

Second Pass: Lather went on a bit dry. I added some water, but I think not enough. It didn't affect the shave as far as I can tell. Lather went on nice and thick, but cavitated a bit when painted, indicating it's on the dry side of just right. Nice pass in spite of the aging blade which is too mild for me to begin with

Third Pass: Lather went on really dry this time. I added a few more dabs of water which brought the lather right back to a perfect first-pass consistency. Using the SB side of the razor, this pass was absolutely buttery smooth. If it hadn't been for the slight tugging of my whiskers by the blade, I'd have wondered if there was a blade loaded.

Clean Up: This time the lather didn't need anything. Lather applied perfectly. Clean up was smooth and irritation free.

Post-Shave: The WH felt like cool water going on my face. Not a hint of a tingle anywhere. This in spite of the fact that the blade is one shave older today, which I admit had me applying some pressure on my chin where my beard is heaviest.

Results: Completely irritation free BBS shave over most of my face. Very nearly BBS, but DFS under my chin. And along my right jaw where it's toughest to shave is actually a comfortable BBS which impresses me.

Notes: I'd be remiss if I didn't mention this. I stated at the get-go that Personna Lab blades are too mild for my beard. On the second pass, perhaps coincidentally, perhaps not, I nicked the mole on my cheek which never happens. It's a pretty flat mole. So that surprised me. And I caused a small nick on my chin, which is not uncommon for me at all. I tend to do that somehow on the WTG pass. Today, both were on the second pass. They bled a scant drop, the warm water rinse between passes staunched it. That's how bad they were (not at all). In the end, neither area feels irritated in any way, so I'm still happy with the outcome and will venture to see what another day on this blade brings.

That pretty much sums up why I chose the Personna. If I'm going to test a method, let me really put it to the test.
 
Towel Used: No

First Pass: Typical for the first pass. Great consistency. I loaded a LOT of Arko today so I did stop just this side of ideal for me. Lather had begun to develop a glossy consistency, but when brushed on, it didn't go on really smooth. No issues.

Second Pass: Painted lather on without working in the water. It went okay. The consistency looked good, but some big bubbles showed up toward the end. This is actually the first time since 2013 I've just painted on for a second or third pass. I wanted to see what it would do. Consistency was actually pretty respectable, so I went ahead with it.

Third Pass: Painted on very very thinly. Worked in the water this time. I was able to bring the lather back to a pretty respectable consistency again.

Clean Up Pass: Painted on okay, but I went ahead with working in the water anyway. I was rewarded with a thicker layer of lather to work with.

Results: BBS over maybe 75% of my face, DFS everywhere else. While rinsing after the second pass I noticed some irritation on my neck under my chin and in the hollows beside my adams apple. I had a couple of little nicks in these areas, but I'm attributing that to the razor blade, not a problem with the lather.

Notes: So yesterday, my 2 year old daughter decided to put her hand in my mouth, which I didn't like. When I turned my face away from her in reaction, my hands being occupied at the moment, she dug her claws into my cheek in an attempt to turn me back to her. In spite of that injury, which stung to wash this morning, there was no issues or irritation in shaving over that area. So the lather was protective and cushioning.

This is the fourth shave on this blade. It was feeling quite noticeable and tugging today. I would like to use a new blade tomorrow, but I need to retire blades on an odd number of shaves so that I expose each method to a fresh blade for a true apples to apples comparison. So, I plan to give this blade one more go before I retire it.

The places where the nicks occurred are my most difficult areas to shave. If I get one, it's typically there. And in my experience, its usually more due to technique and hardware issues than software issues. So I'm not counting that as a knock.

One thing I do want to observe, however, is that there was a lot more (widespread) irritation today than is typical for me. The cold water rinse soothed it and it's not an issue now. But I don't typically feel that between passes. Could be lather, could be razor, could be technique. I'll know tomorrow if I have a repeat.
 
Glad to see you experimenting a bit. I still think Arko is the best budget soap out there. I always get a great shave with the stuff. Word of advice...when a blade is done...it is done. Don't try to make it last any longer than you need to. I understand you are trying to compare other blades to it, but I think you will only end up in pain if you continue on with your path.
 
Glad to see you experimenting a bit. I still think Arko is the best budget soap out there. I always get a great shave with the stuff.

Thanks Don! Yeah, I agree with you. For the money, I don't think it's possible to beat Arko. I much prefer tallow soaps, but Arko has always been a solid performer for me.

Word of advice...when a blade is done...it is done. Don't try to make it last any longer than you need to. I understand you are trying to compare other blades to it, but I think you will only end up in pain if you continue on with your path.

Thanks for the words of caution, and your concern. I have to admit I'm a bit of a cork-sniffer when it comes to blades. Personna isn't a bad blade for me. It's just not the best. I find them to be a good forgiving blade in more aggressive razors. In mid-aggressive razors they're just not very smooth. And in mild razors, they kind of serve as a blade contact index for me. It's helpful in learning the angle. When I put in a Feather or certain of the 7O'Clock blades, they're so glass-smooth, I can't always tell that I'm actually making good contact. But those are my preferred blades for comfort.

I'm actually diagnosed with chronic folliculitis, I have probably one of the more difficult beards to shave on this forum. So a nick here and there (invariably due to an inflamed follicle), an ingrown, or some irritation that soothes with a cold rinse is all within spec for me. Tomorrow I'll be right as rain, ready for another go.

And tomorrow is my last shave on this blade, I promise! haha
 
Towel Used: Yes

First, Second, & Third Pass: All three passes were pretty much identical. Learning from the previous attempts, I assumed I would need to work in a little more water with each pass, which I did. Lather quality across all three passes was virtually identical. It required 2-3 dips of the brush on each subsequent pass to get the right consistency in the lather.

Clean Up: I didn't add water here, what was on the brush was already in pretty good shape. Lather applied thick and had all the qualities I'd expect of good lather.

Results: Once again, a couple of nicks under the chin. They stopped bleeding with the between-pass rinses, so very very minimal. The irritation from yesterday also occurred today. I'm going to blame that on the blade.

Otherwise, the closeness of the shave today was actually better than yesterday. I didn't really need the cleanup, but since I'm doing a comparison, I went ahead with it. Now today, the areas that were DFS yesterday are still what I'd call DFS today, but much less noticeable.

And while I noticed the blade was rougher today than yesterday on the OC side, the SB side was noticeably smoother until I got into the cleanup pass. I'm going to attribute that to the lather.
 
Towel Used: No

All passes: I loaded quite a lot of soap again today. I started the shave with the lather a little on the dry side, but none the worse for wear. And I had to work the rinse water into the lather for every pass. But because I had so much loaded, I was able to get great lather for every pass.

Results: BBS everywhere but under my chin. DFS under the chin.

Notes: It was nice to have a fresh blade. The SB side just glides, feels like it's not doing anything, but the audio feedback tells me otherwise. One tiny little nick today and just the slightest hint of irritation. The nick stopped bleeding on the rinse between passes, and the irritation calmed with a cold rinse. All in all, a nice shave.

When this is all done, I think I'm going to pick up a slant to use up these Personnas in. I think that'll be a good match for my face. I'm tempted to change razors mid-stream here, the mild razor, mild blade combo I'm starting to see is giving me a lot of nicks haha, more than is typical for me...
 
Towel Used: Yes

All passes: Lather for each pass was virtually identical.

Results: Just one little nick today. Mostly BBS a little more DFS than yesterday. No irritation.

Notes: At this point I think I could conclude the experiment. It's getting pretty consistent either way. I'll keep going with it though. One more blade at least. But I could say right now that for me I need to either A) load a LOT of soap and start the shave with a little less water worked into the lather, or B) load and lather as usual and use the towel between passes.

Without the towel: Simplest terms, there has to be enough soap, and in the appropriate state, on the brush to handle the water added after the rinse. This is why for all my DE shaving life, my lather has been the least protective when I need it to be the most protective. Too much water/too little soap.

With the towel: Hypothetically, the shave area is dry when the lather is applied; the skin will take some water from the lather. In order to bring the lather back to "right" some water will have to be added. But as in bowl lathering or face lathering, the water added is very controlled which allows a more consistent product throughout the shave.
 
Shave No. 3 (Starting to lose track of how many shaves I've done)

Towel Used: No

All Passes: I bloomed the soap today. Arko really doesn't need that. That let me load a ridiculous amount of soap today. I actually reserved some lather by putting it on my free hand. It would've ended up in the sink if I didn't. By the time I got to the cleanup pass, I still had a huge glob of lather sitting on the brush. Lo and behold, the lather was very consistent across passes.

Result: NO NICKS TODAY! That's a point for no-toweling. Mostly BBS, with very small patches of DFS in my trouble spots. Great shave today. Post shave feel was rather supple too. With Arko I typically feel very tight and dry after a shave. Not so today.
 
Shave No. 4

Towel Used: Yes

All Passes: Consistent, ideal lather. I left it a bit on the dry side again. That, because I bloomed the soap again. I reserved the excess lather and added back just what I needed for each pass. Two dips of the brush in water each pass brought the lather up to snuff.

Results: Same shave results as yesterday regarding closeness. I had two little nicks, one on the first pass and one on the second. Both dried up in the rinse after the pass. No irritation. My skin feels a bit tighter than it did yesterday. Another nice shave.

Notes: While my face is now acclimating to the Personna blades (they're starting to feel smoother), this one is starting to show its age. For my own future reference, I think four shaves is where I'd normally call it done.
 
Shave No. 5

Towel Used: No

Passes 1-3: lather was consistent and good quality. Third pass applied thinner than the other two, but I didn't load as much soap today. No problem with the shave though.

Clean up: I had plenty of lather left on the brush. I was tired today, and accidentally rinsed the brush after the third pass. So I did clean up with a brushless product I keep on hand for travel. The intense menthol was nice :)

Results: Consistent with yesterday. I had a couple of very small nicks on my cheek, but no irritation and DFS to BBS with BBS over most of my face. Actually the shave today I would say is as close to a complete BBS as I've been since I started this experiment.

And post-shave feel, I didn't need anything after the cold rinse. I felt pretty supple again. I applied the WH for the sake of consistency, but didn't need it really. Perhaps another point in the No-Towel column...
 
Shave No. 1

Towel Used: Yes

All passes: Lather was thick, consistent, good quality

Shave result: 99.5% BBS, one little spot on the corner of my chin I didn't get in the cleanup. No irritation, but a host of nicks today.

Notes: Today was the first time toweling off with a fresh blade. I find the worst shave of the first four with the Personna Lab blade to be the first one. That's why I wanted to keep going at least to this point. I can safely say now that there's a trade-off in qualities of the shave, at least with Arko, between applying to a wet face and applying to a dry face.

Typically under my chin and a patch under my right jaw I'm not able to get BBS smooth. It's just how the hair grows. Today post-shave I noticed these areas are completely smooth. Which leads me to think that perhaps the soap cuts a bit closer when it's applied to a dry face, while it gives a bit more cushion when applied to a wet face.

I'll definitely say it gives less cushion. The host of nicks I caused today were not in my trouble areas, they were on the lower part of my left cheek going ATG. Yesterday and today, the shave felt particularly tuggy in that spot. Yesterday I had one little nick. Today I had about 6 or 7. I think the blade was catching and pulling whiskers, which caused a bit of distortion in the skin resulting in nicks.

After this blade, I'm going to conclude the experiment. I believe I now have what I set out to learn. If I were a bowl latherer, I think toweling would be very effective for use with PSO. i.e. Prep the beard, dry off, apply PSO, paint on lather, then shave. Rinse, dry off, apply PSO, apply lather, then shave. I think that would be a very effective use of PSO.

As it is, I used to make a PSO from about 70% castor oil, 15% olive oil, 15% grapeseed oil, but I stopped using it because I couldn't tell a difference in the shave and it was just an extra step (and cost) to keep up with. The reason I think I couldn't tell a difference is because soap, by design, is chemically engineered to remove oil from the skin. After a thorough face lathering, any PSO applied would be emulsified into the lather and removed during the shave. But hypothetically, if one were to avoid scrubbing actions on the face, the oil would be mostly undisturbed and serve its purpose. But I digress...
 
@1Cal Thanks Cal!

Four more shave reports and that'll be it for the official "test". While I won't say I never get nicks, I'm reading back through and noticing it's almost daily with this razor and blade combo. It's not uncomfortable once the shave is done, but I'd like to take the method to more preferable combinations and try it with other soaps and creams.

I actually have been less than impressed with Speick as a face lathering product due to the fact that it doesn't seem to matter how much I load, it just won't carry a 3.5 pass shave very well (as compared to other products) when I apply to a wet face. I'm curious to see if it lasts on a dry face...
 
@1Cal Thanks Cal!

Four more shave reports and that'll be it for the official "test". While I won't say I never get nicks, I'm reading back through and noticing it's almost daily with this razor and blade combo. It's not uncomfortable once the shave is done, but I'd like to take the method to more preferable combinations and try it with other soaps and creams.

I actually have been less than impressed with Speick as a face lathering product due to the fact that it doesn't seem to matter how much I load, it just won't carry a 3.5 pass shave very well (as compared to other products) when I apply to a wet face. I'm curious to see if it lasts on a dry face...
I think Speick is a pretty average soap in my opinion. It gets the job done, but there are many better soaps. Nice reads.
 
@dangerousdon Thanks Don!

Yeah, I agree. It smells delightful IMO, but that's where it's appeal ends. It does pretty well in a bowl for me, but I don't bowl lather, sooo...
 
Shave No. 2

Towel Used: No

All passes: Thick consistent lather. I loaded up for a 10-pass shave haha I still had plenty left when I rinsed the brush.

Results: BBS/DFS-- Not as close as yesterday on my typical DFS areas, but also less blood lost. I did have a couple of micro-nicks but nothing that caused any noticeable discomfort.

Notes: My estimations hold true. Today I could definitely feel more cushion in the shave. And in trade off, the razor didn't cut as closely. All in all it's very very minute differences in the results, but rather noticeable differences in getting there.

I suppose I've somewhat corrupted my experiment by changing how I load the soap. For that, I'll note that if I load less soap, the dry method keeps my lather in better consistency. Loading a lot of soap, it seems like the wet method works better.
 
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