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How a Chore Became a Pleasure, or, How I Finally Learned to Shave Right

tl;dr: Beard mapping is vital, the forum is a good place, it took me 8 years to finally shave without frequent neck irritation.

It has been over 24 hours since my last shave, and I am ready to confidently say that I am...on the path to hassle-less shaving!

I started shaving at 15 with my father's Gillette Black Beauty, an item which I had "borrowed" years earlier from underneath my parents' bathroom sink. He had stopped safety razor shaving years before and condemned the razor to a forgotten place. Upon my discovery of this shiny "old school treasure", I did the only logical thing, and hid it away until such time that I would need it! I enjoyed the weight of the razor, and appreciated the thought of an affordable shave, one razor to last a lifetime and very affordable blades. Anyway, a safety razor always seemed so much nicer than the plastic multi-bladed razors that I saw at the store, and so I have never shaved with a multi-bladed razor, not even once!

Once I eventually started growing a "real" beard of scattered teenage hairs, I decided it was time to load in a blade from a tuck of Feathers purchased from the internet and get to shaving. The result of the first shave was rather unpleasant, and marked with a good deal of blood and swearing! The second shave, aided by a Geofatboy video, was a greater success, and the third shave! Oh, the third shave! It was also a bloodbath.
But eventually, I started to get the hang of it, though in retrospect, the Feathers are absolutely not the blade for my skin - no way, no how!

In the near decade since, I have been able to get some really decent DE shaves...on my face. My neck was always a toss up - sometimes things would go well, and sometimes I would get butchered, with little red dots and pain for days. My original solution was to buy a Merkur Progress - but it never gave me a decent shave, no matter what blade I used. More often than not, I would rush through a shave with the Merkur and a Feather blade, and then spend ten minutes dabbing at weepers with a styptic pencil and toilet paper. Looking at the Merkur now, I see that it is very asymmetrical in blade exposure, and this, combined with my ignorance of technique and a Feather blade, probably did me more harm than good!

Eventually, I considered picking up a cartridge razor or even an electric trimmer - anything to stop the neck irritation. But my hobby of restoring vintage fountain pens led me to pick up an old Sheffield straight razor from a local antique shop - $30 cash when bundled with two Parker 51 Vacumatics was a deal I could not resist! Maybe this would be the correct path, I hoped. I sent the blade away to a honemeister and actually got some decent shaves with the straight, I think due to how lightly I held it, and the constant focus on proper angle that it necessitates. I shaved with that straight razor and a tube of Cremo shaving cream from the local grocery store for a good six months of life in a college dorm. Eventually, I was shaving in my floor's communal bathroom when an RA walked in and gasped with horror at the "dangerous knife" that I was wielding! That put an end to the straight razor shaves as I sent the straight back home, and soldiered on with the Merkur and my box of Feathers.

Having rambled on for too long now already, I'll cut to the chase. When COVID hit and lockdown started, I stopped shaving for two months to fully heal my neck. I discovered, however, that not only is my beard a bit patchy, but does ! Once the quarantine situation started improving and the possibility of seeing my girlfriend arose, the beard had to go! I did some research, picked up some Personna Lab Blues and my Dad's old Gillette, and set to work. This combination worked - and still works - fairly well, but I occasionally still have issues with areas on my neck. I never considered that it might be a technique problem until August of this year, when I joined B&B. Between graduating, starting a new job, and moving, life got in the way of my quest for a decent shave.

Over the past month however, I have dived into the subject again, determined to learn the art of wet shaving, rather than suffer the chore of wet shaving. I bought a sample pack of blades and a Gillette Fatboy, and have had some decent blades as I worked my way through the pack.

I had a bunch of OK shaves that way, but the neck issue always persisted. With some blades, it was present, but not terrible and with others, it was awful. Rather than blame the tools, I decided to just focus on technique. I read everything I could about properly shaving, from blade angle to shave guides for new wet shavers. Equipped with this knowledge, I sat down and thoroughly mapped my beard, removed some ingrown hairs, and waited for a couple days of growth. I realized that the hair on either side of my Adam's Apple - the areas where I always had irritation - actually grew out to either side, almost exactly perpendicular to my throat. Equipped with this knowledge, I lathered up with Noble Otter Firefighter, pulled out my Dad's old Black Beauty with a Gillette Platinum, and slowly, meticulously, did a one pass shave. The result: smooth, irritation-less skin. Two days later, I pulled off the same feat. I used the Black Beauty for a week of shaves, then did a few successful shaves with my E4 Fatboy.

I think, after a good eight years, I am truly starting to get the hang of this whole wet shaving thing! I think my preferred blade is the Gillette Platinum on a mild to medium aggressive razor (or an adjustable set to 2). Because I am a bit of a collector, I have accumulated a few other razors, but never wanted to try them until I figured out why I was irritating my neck so awfully. Now that I have a hold on the technique, maybe I can break out the Superspeeds, Tech, GEM, and others that I have accumulated from antique stores and eBay bidding.

I know this has been incredibly long, and I apologize if this was off topic or posted to the wrong place! Please feel free, Moderators, to remove or move the post if necessary. I am excited to jump into some of the discussions that I have been watching - it never felt quite right offering my opinion on shaving matters with a cut up and irritated neck!

I do want to thank all of the members of Badger and Blade for providing a great community from which I have learned a great deal. I want to especially thank the members who contributed to or wrote some of the following posts for helping me stop suffering and start enjoying this wonderful hobby of wet shaving. Maybe this post will help some other new members who have had similar difficulties.

The Wanderer's Guide for Newbies : This is a great guide for anybody starting off, or who has been shaving for a while and wants to return to basics.

Very bad shave irritation! (Bad aftershave routine/skincare?) : This post confirmed that my issue was not with my aftershave or skin care, but with technique. This is important, as I happen to have a nut allergy that disqualifies certain products.

The Blade Angle Wiki : This helped immensely in making sure that I was presenting the razor at the right angle to the skin, rather than just shaving and praying!

Constant Ingrown Hairs : This discussion taught me a lot, as many experienced members offered suggestions for things like cold water shaving, and especially returning to the basics. This post was the push that I needed to finally stop futzing around and return to the basics of wet shaving.

Neck Irritation & What to Do About It : This post is exactly what it says, and was the one that introduced me to beard mapping, something which I think helped me tremendously in finally understanding how I needed to approach shaving my neck.
 
captivating title and a good story. Quite the shaving story for such a young guy. You got a life of good shaves ahead. Wish i started wetshaving as young as you. My 2 cents: continue with the straight, might take a bit more time and training, but it is well worth the effort.
 
Thank you for sharing this with the community. Beard Mapping is often overlooked and highly under-rated. Dare I say, it is absolutely crucial for anyone just starting out shaving. It is something that all aspiring pubescent shavers should learn even before they learn how to lather.
 
Great write up on beard mapping and I have mentioned it a # of times over the years to make a person enjoy his shave better.
2 or 3 day growth makes it easy to see directions of the grain and to record it. I will leave a beard map and print one off & other folks who might find it useful.
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Have some great shaves!
 
I had a similar revelation with beard mapping, which I learned from this post: Thread 'If you suffer from irritation on your neck, read this.' If you suffer from irritation on your neck, read this. - https://www.badgerandblade.com/forum/threads/if-you-suffer-from-irritation-on-your-neck-read-this.579192/ and it sounds like it describes your situation, just as it did mine.

I do hope you are on the way to stress free shaves, but it sounds like you are enjoying the journey which is the most important part (except for the RA freaking out about your straight, which is ridiculous).

A few more pieces of advice that have proven handy for me as a fellow sensitive neck:
- cold water shaving: was a real turn off when i tried it the first time, but...
- lather is king: if you suspect your lather is bad, it is; nothing is more important
- Astras: have you tried this blade? definitely the best blade for not irritating my skin. they are dirt cheap do worth a try.
 

rbscebu

Girls call me Makaluod
@Tadeusz12 I hope that you can get back into straight razor shaving. Most find it the pinnacle of traditional wet shaving for closeness, smoothness, comfort and just overall enjoyment.

We who only took up the gentlemanly art of SR shaving later in life only wish that we had started in our teens.
 
Thanks to everyone for the hearty welcome!

I think I will have to get back into straight razor shaving, it does seem to be the pinnacle of wet shaving, and I used to be pretty OK at it as well!

@pdillon - thanks for those tips! I'll admit that the one time I did a cold water shave I ended up with some irritation, but that could have been due to any number of factors - maybe I'll try it, and some Astras, sometime soon! I definitely do need to continue working on my lather, as I think it could be fluffier and better hydrated.

Thanks again, everybody, for the welcome, tips, and all!
 
Lather. It’s all about the lather. Get that figured out and everything is much easier - your hair cuts easier, the blade glides gently on your skin, your razor doesn’t clog.

Then use zero pressure on the razor. You may think you are shaving with a light touch, but use less pressure than you are. And less again. And then less than that.
 
I'm very happy for you and I'm glad that you mention the thread I started as it didn't help only me but it can help others as well. I'm wet shaving for a year and I still can't shave my neck the way I want it to. I always get some bumps and irritation. Reading about your persistance which lasted eight whole years motivated me to keep moving forward.

Zero pressure on the razor, great slick lather, cold water - my personal pinacles of a successful shave. And lots of practice and experimenting with a razor/blade as well as using a soft brush.
 
Loved the story. I had a similar problem with my neck. I found out a couple og weeks ago my neck hairs grow in a different direction than I originally thought. Once I adjusted the direction I was shaving my neck, night and day difference! If you have not mapped out which direction your facial hair grows, you need to.
Your story is a big testament of that.
 
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