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Frustrated with shaving because I can never really look clean shaven.

Let me just say I have really really obscenely rough facial hair. So bad and so rough that I've never had a clean shave, ever. At BEST, my cheek areas will be decently shaved but the chin and moustache area will be a completely dirty and grayed out permanent mess like so:


Keep in mind that this picture right here is best case scenario. I know some people naturally have some type of shadow where the facial hair area is relatively darker than the skin, but nothing like I have it. The main reason for it is the stubbornness of the coarse hair, but even in rare instances where somehow I get all the hair shaved off the surface of some of the skin, it still doesn't look clean shaven. I don't know what the deal is.

For years my normal shave routine has consisted of lots of warm water in the shower, lathering up with my badger hair brush, and using Mach 3 blades I replace every three shaves or so. Almost anyone else would have gotten at least an acceptable shave out of that combination but my outcomes have always been lackluster. That's when I came across the topic of double edge safety razors bringing about a way better shave than typical cartridge razors. So I went ahead and bought a Merkur HD razor along with some feather blades.

Now let me just say it's only been three weeks since I've begun. I've known that one needs the utmost patience in beginning this because there is a learning curve involved and I need to unlearn all of the bad habits created by modern razors. I had the confidence instilled in me from reading dozens and dozens of threads here, and so I went ahead and went very slowly. Good lather. Little to no pressure. Roughly a 30 degree angle depending on where you are. Start north to south, then try other passes depending on what direction the hair grows. Short and slow strokes. Etc.

Needless to say, the shaves have been terrible. I've been even less clean shaven, my face feels more irritated, and I've got a couple nicks (I had a pic from a few days ago I'll try to look for). Now I completely understand it is my own poor and amateur technique that is the reason for this, so the quality of these past several shaves isn't really a problem because eventually it will get better. But I've slowly started to feel like 1) my facial hair problem has always been relatively unique so what if I practice this for months and my shave doesn't improve enough for all of this to be worth it, and 2) this takes a HUGE amount of time to do. I didn't start this for the sake of a hobby, like some others, I just wanted a noticeably smoother and better shave (note: not perfect or BBS, just improved) from the mess that was my moustache/chin area. Based on what people say about DEs, I'm sure I can improve at least a little, but at what cost in time? My life's going to get busy really soon, and while I'm willing to give more time if it's worth it, I'm not sure I will be able to give the appropriately large amount of time and concentration for DE shaving in those early and rushed morning hours.

This was all going through my head before I shaved this morning. And then it happened. I accidentily, for the first time in my hundreds of shaves, cut my upper lip. And boy did the blood flow. And although that one moment's carelessness was strictly my fault, that's when my frustration with shaving in general peaked. And I'm kind of stuck in the middle of two challengers for the title of what deserves to cut my stubborn whiskers: quick yet crappy and expensive shaves (cartridge) versus inexpensive and potentially less crappy yet extremely long, difficult and unproven shaves (DE). Which ever path I choose, the common enemy is my rough and dark facial hair. And the hair always seems to win.

At this point I'm trying to find a list of barbershops that do shaves just to see if being completely clean shaven is even possible for my type of facial hair and skin combo. I just wanted to know if any of you have ever had the same level of frustration or have any advice for the thick Homer-Simpson-bearded folk like myself past general "keep on trucking with that hd!!!" one-liners. Those with facial hair as thin as paper and as soft as a feather need not apply (kidding). And thank you very kindly for anyone who takes the time to read this.
Ah man, I got the same problem. At first, I used to keep trying harder and harder to shave all of it off, but then I realized that was just me. I ended up purchasing a Merkur HD and some Derby and Merkur Blades. I'd suggest trying to shave with the Derby's for a more comfortable shave, and the Merkurs if you feel like working with butter knives. Even better, get the blade sampler from letterk. It seems that there's a different blade for every face, and you need to find yours. Don't give up yet! If you give it some time, you'll get the technique down, and find the right blade for your face. =)
Sorry to hear about your travails. As you mention, it is quite possible that you will always look stubbly due to your particular anatomy. However, can you get a smooth shave - feeling no stubble - with any sort of shave gear?
Dont be so hard on yourself, take a breath, relax and stop putting pressure on yourself to do this perfectly-yes you have read all about shaving with a DE, do you have it down yet- No!

the shaves have been terrible. I've been even less clean shaven, my face feels more irritated, and I've got a couple nicks (

You will not get a great shave until you can perfect your technique!

Can you shave in the evening when you have more time?
What razor? Are you tightening the head down so the blade deflects into the blade deck?

You will most likely need to make multiple passes so a very highly lubricating soap is a must,what are you using now?

Based on your photo I would say you have a tough beard but I would not characterize it as unique- I think that many are worse than yours!

Bottom line is you are psyching yourself out of a great shave at this point,relax get your game face on,don't give up !:biggrin:
Honestly, looking at your picture, I do not think it is totally unique. I have seen any number of guys who simply have the homer simpson dark shadow permanently, reguardless of how smoothly shaven their face looks. That doesn't mean you can't get a good shave, or that it doesn't look very clean and good when well shaven. And, btw, my beard hair is up in that category. The shadow is permenant on parts of my face. The only reason is isn't all over is that my beard varies considerably in color, and is a very light brown in some places.

Definitely tell a little more about the equipment you are using. That may help in offering assistance. I agree that a really slick product would probably be good (Honeybee). Although I have heard that Proraso has certain chemicals that are particularly good at softening, which might also help.

I don't know if you are doing this, but I find that rubbing hair conditioner in and leaving for a few minutes during my pre-shave prep really helps (conditioner softens hair). Try it.

Finally, a stiffer blade might help. Perhaps a Gem or Injector is in your future.
Boy, the frustration is palpable in your post. You have my sympathies. Many gentlemen appear to have a 5 o'clock shadow even though they are very smooth to the touch. There are many threads devoted to this topic on the boards here, and there is not much you can do about this. You can, however, work toward getting the smooth shave. Your picture did not look that horrifying or unusual. You have also started using a DE with a very sharp blade that does not have much room for forgiveness. Using a Feather blade gets me in a lot of trouble sometimes still, especially if I am using it in a "wrong" razor like my SuperSpeed in my case. Pay attention to what people mention about the prep - it is one of the most important parts of the shave. You can (and should) try some other, less aggressive blade. You know if you have been reading posts that you can get a sampler pack from letterk (John) which will have 5 or 10 of all the common blade types. Some blades work better than others for everyone, but which ones work vary among everyone too so you never know until you try.

Good luck -
As what Dennis states, if you have quite a thick, dark stubble, then I don't think you're ever going to get rid of the greyness around the upper lip/chin area, even after a BBS shave! The stubble under the skin i.e. the greyness (growing most abundantly in those particular facial areas) will always show through unless you have some kind of radical hair removal treatment or start taking some sort of female hormone tablets...:lol1: However, with a DE razor and the right technique you should get shaves that feel better, and should look a bit better at least.
I have a suggestion. It may not be what you want but think about it for a day or two.

The area you have the trouble with are your lip and chin area. So why not grow a nice, tasteful gotee? You would then not have to shave the trouble area and instead of looking scruffy you'd have a neatly trimmed gotee.

Just a thought. It may not work for you.
Hi Dirt, I don't have a similar situation as you, but if you're up to hearing my idea I feel like it may help.

:idea: I read that you use plenty of hot water to prep your beard.....But.....if your hair is that coarse and difficult to shave, you will probably benefit from an extended prep routine. Meaning, aside from possibly using PSO Feather PreShave or Proraso, try a few minutes (3-5 or more) of hot-towel treatment. I feel that if you soften your "extra-course" whiskers to the point where they are as/almost as soft as normal whiskers, things may get easier for you.

Keep us informed

Take a deep breath, let it out slowly, and relax. Trust me, we feel your pain(truly!). Reason being that for most of us, we all were frustrated with shaving and had to find a better way. :frown:

Right now your problem appears to be that 'the better way' is actually worse for you, however, this is not the case. Your pictures looked no worse than others I have seen. It just appears you will need more prep time- rather than shave in the morning( when you are rushed), why not shave in the evening or at night when time is not a factor? :wink:

You may also want to add some hair conditioner to your routine- as said by others, it really does soften the hair and it may help(and at this point, it won't hurt).

Remember there is a big difference in reading about something and actually doing it. Subsequently, your mind has the information, but your hands do not have the muscle memory and a battle ensues( you know what to do, but you cannot do it-yet!).

Shaving is something that most of us have to do for the rest of our lives; when you measure our lifetime compared to learning a new task that will improve our lives, the time spent being frustrated is minor.

So don't give up, your ability will improve. :biggrin:

Welcome to the collective- you will be assimilated!

hey dirt,

the best advise i can give anyone who is just starting with a DE is just forget about getting smooth shaves. take your time, enjoy your self , and focus on getting comfortable shaves. watch your angle and pressure and just try to get the most comfortable shave you can. i promise the smoothness will come on its own.

start with two with the grain passes. then one you are completely comfortable with this (getting good shaves no nick or razor burn) start doing one with and one across the grain (i stayed at this stage for probably two months). this should give you some excelent shaves once you get the hang of it. finaly slowly and carefuly add an against the grain pass.

best of luck and i hope many great shaves are in your future.
I agree, enjoy the experience and don't sweat the results. Patience is key. I'm finishing week 5 of DE shaving and feel like I'm finally getting the hang of it. Doesn't mean that my shaves are perfect by any means. Just putting warm, great smelling lather on my face is so nice. I go for as irritation free a shave as is possible. Sure I don't get BBS all the time but every shave is a treat and getting better all the time.

No pressure, have fun.
Dirt, like many have mentioned why dont you shave after work when you have more time to perfect your technique. I'm the laziest person in the morning and granted I still use my lovely mach 3 but I have considered a test run into the DE world. If your running a little late in the morning dont rush yourself into a quick DE shave and use the easy trusty mach. Take the two or three months of afternoon shaves to get your technique and blade down then you will have built a good foundation to start with in the AM.
I, too, can sense the frustration in your post, and feel for you. There's a lot of great advice above, but try not to get your expectations set too high. We are always limited by our individual makeup--beard color and density, skin tone, complexion, etc. For the record, your picture shows a well-shaved, clean cut guy--I'd never look at that photo and think "Homer Simpson"--just a clean face.

To summarize the suggestions above:

--try shaving at night, to reduce the pressure on yourself and eliminate time constraints
--try a more prolonged beard prep--I like hot wash cloths--feels great and very relaxing
--try a pre-shave oil--or Proraso pre/post as a pre shave product
--experiment with blades--Feathers are a Godsend for some guys
--I know you're going to roll your eyes, but. . .relax, and try to enjoy the smells and feels of great shave creams and other products

And keep in touch so we know how you're doing.:thumbup:
Dirt, I feel your pain. I've got the same problem as you, with the added bonus of having a dime-sized dead zone on my lower left cheek. where no hair grows for some inexplicable reason. On the plus side, this stands as a marker for how smooth my shaves are.

I'd be curious to know how the straight razor shave works in combatting this, but, from what I've seen, our options are few. I had read once that shaving with cold water helps, but can't see how it it would. You might also try Shiseido face creams. There's one line that has a lightening agent in it which might soften the shadow some. It will also give you smoother skin and, perhaps, a running start toward a Pete Townsend heroin-chic look ;) There are also hair lightening creams, but my guess is that these would be too gentle to take down a man's beard.

The only guy I ever met who had a foolproof means of beating a perpetual 5 o'clock shadow was the owner of a laser hair removal clinic. I don't think I need to spell out his secrets for you.
Whoa thank you for all of the kind replies, all of you guys were very understanding of the situation and I am most appreciative. I've cooled down since then because that unfortunate cut on my upper lip was like my breaking point of years of built-up semi-mild frustration.

For those who inquired, my routine consists of lots of warm water in the shower, often including wrapping a hot towel around my lower face. Then mixing up some good lather with shaving mug soap whose brand I cannot remember, all with a badger brush, which I thoroughly place all over my face up and down and round and round. Then with slow, short strokes I cautiously shave my face with a Merkur HD and feather blades with little to no pressure. I do this all in the afternoon with nothing to go to afterwards so I am taking my time.

To those who asked about how stubbly my face actually feels in texture, while it's way too early for me to get optimal shaves using DE, my years of Mach 3 use have sometimes yielded what feels like a smooth shave going down, but not when you feel my face upwards. I'll definitely try conditioner and some different blades. To whoever mentioned the goatee, it's something I've tried to see what it would look on me and haha it just doesn't work.

As for what my future DE plans are: my schedule's going to pick up big time in the next week, so I'm going to take a break from the DE life until things slow down again. A huge thank you to anyone who is giving advice, I have saved and taken in ALL of what each of you said for when I start up again (which I surely will, if not for the appreciation of the art of shaving but also to justify all the $$$ I've spent haha), and will come back to inform you all of my progress. And much praise to those who said my situation is not that bad or different and such, it has made me feel a lot better.

On a slightly positive note, I used shaving cream for the first time ever today and man it rules.
I think that a lot of guys here can sympathize with you. A lot of us have issues with our skin. Super-sensitivity, tough beards like steel wool, or contours of our faces that make shaving hazzerdous. But you certainly describe a tough situation. There are bound to be some guys on this planet who will never get a truly close shave.

But you may not be one of them.

You have discovered a huge treasure-trove of knowledge here. So, perhaps through trial and error, and perserveredness, you will find your own unique path to YOUR best possible shave.

For me, there are a few things that I have learned here that really have helped me. re-lather between EVERY pass!!! Man, this has (for me) made a huge difference. I have no doubt that in time you will discover technoques that will help you greatly.

A previous poster here said that you should not put too much pressure on yourself. I think that is a great approach. Try to enjoy your shaves. Enjoys the scents and the feel. Forget about how it feels and looks hours later. Think only of how it feels right now, and only minutes after you are done. And keep on experimenting!
I wish you all the best of luck.
But I'm on the other end of the spectrum. I've got a thin, spotty beard and always wished it was thicker. I tried growing a beard once, and it was a disaster. I can barely grow a goatee, and forget any hairstyle that calls for longer sideburns.

I figured that shaving would be easy for me, but I was wrong. Electric razors irritate the hell out of my skin, canned shave cream never gave me good results and the price of cartridges are getting crazy. Good thing I found this site. I have a Merkur HD on the way, and I've been using a cream and brush for a litte while now and love it.

Anyway, just thought you'd enjoy the irony. :biggrin:

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