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How About Another Case Study?

This could be a challenging one:

I've been hanging out on here and on SMF ("Newbie Burns Down Face") and reading myself blind for the last month. Despite lots of good advice on SMF, I've managed to probably louse things up and got lousy results. Undoubtedly MY bad, not theirs.

Some history:

I'm a 57 year old white male with very curly hair, an INSANELY TOUGH BEARD (all white and grey), Sensitive Skin, every-increasing vertical lines on my neck -- and a really thick head for instructions.

For over 40 years, I've shaved with moderate to severe razor burn virtually all of the time. I've used every electric razor ever made -- each one tore up my face. All of Gillette's and Schick's razors have really hurt me, except for the M3 Power, which I have used for the last year. The M3P with M3 shave cream, used in the shower after a long, hot shower provided the closest shave -- but still with less razor burn than other razors. I had to use a NEW M3P blade EACH DAY (due to dullness, tugging, and general discomfort with day-old blades). I could only get a close shave by going against the grain at least twice after first going with the grain. Until last year, no aftershave would help alleviate the burn this caused. Then I discovered TENDSKIN -- I have purchased a 10 oz $50 bottle every two months now for over a year. It STINGS -- but it kills the burn after a while.

This is my "best" combo so far:

For the last week, I've shaved with the Progress/Merkur (setting 1 or 2) combo at the sink after my shower. I've used mild face soap in the shower, put hair conditioner on my face for the duration of the shower, then let warm/hot water run on my face for at least 3 minutes at the end of the shower. Then, at the sink, I've applied a warm wash cloth to my face, applied PSO, then lathered Nancy Boy to a nice peak in a bowl in my hotpot. I've done a N/S pass on my cheeks, then a S/N pass on my neck. I've been VERY careful to apply no pressure or negative pressure as I shaved. The pass removed "some" hair, but not enough to resemble even a "poor" shave -- and I got a NASTY razor burn anyway. My chin, of course, has been inflamed, so I've skipped it now for 3 days.

I've purchased WAY too much stuff (some notes included):

Merkur Progress
Merkur Slant
Merkur SS Blades
Feather Platinum Blades
Israeli Personna Blades - SEVERE irritation
Vulfix #2234 Brush
Trumper Rose Cream - irritation
Trumper Limes Cream
Taylor's Avocado Cream
St. Charles New Spice Soap
St. Charles Tony's Choice Aftershave -
Proraso Green Tube Shave Cream - irritation
Proraso Pre-Post Cream
Nancy Boy Shave Cream
Nancy Boy Pre-Shave Oil - too thick
AOS Unscented Cream - not enough lubrication
AOS Lavender Pre-Shave Oil - too thick (nasty)
Pacific Shave Oil
Trumpers Rose Skin Food - irritation
D.R. Harris Aftershave Milk - FANTASTIC (after TENDSKIN)

There you have it! Now -- should I keep shaving with the Progress/Merkur on a setting of 1-2 with one pass, as I describe? Should I increase the setting? I used a Feather 2 days ago, carefully, and it worked much better than the Merkur. It definitely feels like the Merkur blade is not effectively cutting the beard (sound and feel). I've found the Merkur blade pulls severely on the second day of use. So I used a new one each day for the last 2 days -- better results. But still better with a new Feather. BTW, I've never cut myself, even a little, in the last month. Just razor burn.

Perhaps the TENDSKIN has toughened up my beard some? Maybe since I take 36 prescription pills each day, my beard has petrified? :scared:

Will continued single pass shaving result in an EASIER shave for me?

Should I use a blowtorch instead? :001_tt2:

I'm really frustrated, and it probably shows ... I've come here to B&B now because this seems like a cozy place with some really patient members. I've watched Joel's DVD now about 4 times, so I "should" be familiar with the basic concepts.

Any help is appreciated. I'm gonna hang in here until someone tells me to get lost!

Thank you!

Howdy Tom,

I'm going to refer your case to some of our more learned shaveologists, but I just wanted to say, it can be rough going at first, but don't give up, as this is truly your best bet for having a decent, and even enjoyable shave (though I'm sure you're aware of this given the money you've already invested in that impressive arsenal of yours).

Feel at home here, and ask as many questions as you need to to get a good shave. They haven't kicked me out yet, so they'll put up with almost anyone. :wink:

hi tom,

don't give up!

you have quite the arsenal in your bathroom. i'm very jealous.
the only thing i can suggest is to excercise patience and take things slowly. make sure that you don't rush through a shave: the best results come when you take your time and enjoy the process.

for a fella with whiskers-as-tough-as-nails, i'd stick with the feather blades, and focus on skin stretching techniques. it's probably echoed across the shaving community; pull the skin in the opposite direction that you shave in. this forces the hair follicles to spread out a bit leaving more room for your razor to do the cuttin'.

things will get better for you, because it takes a while to get used to a razor that doesnt have a pivoting head. it took me three or four months to finally "get it."

good luck, and shave on!

Greetings Tom!
My first instinct is to ask you to detail exactly how you go about setting your Progress, i.e., to provide each little nitpickin' detail from the time you put in the blade, to hearing if you have the ^ and the | on the same side, to what number shows up beneath the ^ and the pipe after you have loaded the blade and tightened the head down... etc.. You did not mention your beard's pattern of growth on your cheeks and neck.
Just as an aside, I have found that in the most extreme cases 3 or 4 minutes with a HOT (not scalding, but not just warm either) cloth wrapped around my neck and jaw after applying a light coat of lather to a freshly washed face can do a great deal to soften a wirey beard, mine in particular..
When you have the chance, please type up your blade loading details in this thread. And remember, it is only shaving, not rocket science. So if we can reach the moon, we can get you to the baby's butt smooth standard!:biggrin1:

First of all, take a deep breath - you'll get through this. One thing I'll toss in is that if you have a super tough beard, working with the Progress on a very low setting might not be the best thing for you. It causes you to work harder at cutting the beard (whether non-optimal angle or applied pressure). You might want to experiment with opening it up more and sticking to one or two N-S passes for a few days and see how it goes. This might allow the razor to do some more work for you, and be easier on your skin. Sounds non-intuitive, but it is worth a try.
I don't have time this morning (gotta get to work in a few minutes) to give you an in depth response - but rest assured this evening I will respond at length. If I can't help you with text and pictures, I'll give you a call and we can nip this in the bud!
I really appreciate the encouragement. It feels good :) Thanks to everyone!

Guenron: When I load the Progress, I screw down the mechanism until I can turn the handle no longer. The dial reads just under "2" when I do this. Then I add 1-1/2 to that to achieve my shave setting. I will certainly try the hot towel method later this morning.

Oh yeah, the marks on the razor line up perfectly.

My sense is definitely that the blade is having a deficult time cutting the beard. And the fact that I seem to be better off with a NEW blade each day must be a clue...

Tom, I'd suggest taking one of Juancho's Mag951's and running that over your face at full power. Takes the hairs right off.

Only kidding, I recognized your name from CPF.
Hi Cliff! Nice to see you here! We better be careful here, or we could turn these guys into the FLASHLIGHT flashaholics we also are! CPF

vontech said:
Hi Cliff! Nice to see you here! We better be careful here, or we could turn these guys into the FLASHLIGHT flashaholics we also are! CPF


I've got a few nice flashlights such as Surefire's, but I dunno about flashaholic. Mark.... for the love of god - don't post a picture.... we don't need to know where else you use that clay mask :wink:
Here's the summary of this morning's shave:

I cheated and tried Taylor's Avocado Cream -- I shouldn't have. I seemed to lubricate much LESS than the Nancy Boy on me. Back to Nancy Boy tomorrow.

Taylor's Avocado
Merkur Progress/New Feather Blade
Merkur on "2-1/2"
DR Harris AS

I think the Feather made a difference today. I did one pass only on my neck and my cheeks, in the direction of the grain only (my neck has multi-directional hair, but "most" grow UP). I followed Guenron's suggestion and tried the hot towel over a Taylor-covered face for 2 minutes. Beard was still real tough. I applied 10 drops of PSO before lathering on the Avocado. I had a nice lather in the hotpot bowl and swirled it onto my face for about 2 minutes. (Doesn't swirling on the lather take OFF the PSO?). I "heard" and felt the blade cutting evenly, but it left considerable rubble in it's wake. In the interest of PEACE after my abuse of the last week, I used my M3P on my chin for one pass -- used a very light tough E/W. Rubble there, but no burn.

Anyway, warm rinse, cold rinse, then Tendskin. Burn, but less than yesterday. Waited 20 minutes, applied DR Harris AS (I REAALLLYY Like this stuff!). It FEELS GOOD!

Here I sit 20 minutes later -- face is warm, but not hot. Neck and face feel like I didn't shave, but because I have a grey/white beard, it doesn't look too bad. Just feels crappy.

BTW, more info on something else I tried without success -- tried AOS Lavender Pre-Shave and Nancy Boy Pre-Shave Oils a while ago. On me, they're JUNK. All they did was muck up my face. They seemed to afford NO protection, just drag. PSO is light and nice, but under lather, I'm not sure what it does. Up to a month ago, I used Total Shaving Solution heavily mentholated Oil under M3P gel with good success though. I wonder if I should try that again?

I put on St Charles New Spice Cologne, because I really like the scent. Just gonna have to be careful today not to rub my face against too many cute, young things!

I await further instruction ... (THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR ALL YOUR ASSISTANCE!!! --- you make me feel VERY welcome here!)

joel said:
I've got a few nice flashlights such as Surefire's, but I dunno about flashaholic. Mark.... for the love of god - don't post a picture.... we don't need to know where else you use that clay mask :wink:

I think I hurt myself. Who said laughter was the best medicine.
Hi Tom,

Are you paying careful attention to the razor angle so you cut and don't scrape? The handle of the Progress should be much more horizontal compared to the M3P you have used. This is the #1 thing to be careful of to avoid razor burn. The old adage is to first put the razor head against your face with the handle completely horizontal (which won't cut hair), and then drop the handle just enough to cut. This is a good way to learn the correct blade angle.

I also think that with a Progress set very low and a very thick beard, it is going to be difficult to get a close shave. Perhaps on a weekend (in case you turn beet red :wink: ) you could try my previous suggestion of opening it up more (I use mine on "5", but am very experienced) and keeping a very careful eye on blade angle, as discussed above, and try one or two N-S passes.

Good luck, and please continue to ask questions and update us. I bet within a few weeks you will be getting dynamite shaves with no irritation.
I suggest that you open the razor a bit. I was going to entitle this message Why I hate the Progress. I don't really hate it, but it does have a problem in the adjustment though. The relative indexing is really problematic when you are trying to communicate your setup with someone else. This is the principle reason I like the Futur and Vision so much better.
I open my Progress so it is more like a cheese slicer than a razor, but I am not suggesting anything so radical... If I may suggest that for the purposes of discussion we develop a common reference. Let us read the adjustment number directly below the ^ and | on the head. If you note, there is a dimple to retain the adjustment screw about a quarter turn from the ^ and | combo. Turn your normal setting that much further (to the dimple) and try a simple N-S pass on your cheeks and a go with the grain on your neck. Do continue to use the HOT towel over the lightly lathered visage (keep it on till it gets cool and if that is less than three minutes try two towels or wash cloths). I look forward to your next report and it will not be a battle damage assessment!:w00t:
Ok - here goes.

First and foremost, before I get started, let me just say I hope to hell you are in good health, and you are ok.... 36 prescription pills a day does not sound good at all my friend. :scared:

Onto business....

First of all... let me create heresy is your world... drop the Tend Skin. Now.

Acids & Alcohol aren't going to help you in this case... the key to you achieving outstanding shaves is NOT going to be in any “one” magic product, or any “one” wonder aftershave to hide all evidence of you hacking up your face. You my friend need to beef up and condition your skin, and increase its overall appearance, quality, and state. Once it has the proper moisture and the proper products are used to BEEF UP your skin, and keep it healthy – razor burn, irritation etc will be a thing of the past. You are a PRIME candidate for WillG shea butter soap, or“hydrolast” products, and methodshaving. Now before anyone throws themselves off of a rooftop – hear me out. You have obviously exhausted all “material” objects – meaning, you have tried different razors, blades etc. The ONLY razor that would be better for you (due to size/weight which works best for your beard type) would be a Merkur Vision – and although it would HELP, it would not SOLVE your problem.

When I use Will G shea butter soap, it makes it downright DIFFICULT for me to cause irritation – and coupled with his a/s balm – or better yet some CAR A/S Moisture cream, my face is left incredibly soft, healthy and moisturized… not at all abused. Even the finest English shaving creams, at least for me, cannot tame a sharp blade as well as Will G Shea butter soap, or the method shave setup. Due to the cost of the method shave setup – I’d recommend trying Will G first – if it helps then the methodshave products would be of tremendous help. The A/S cutting balm is a SUPER thick oil (that does not clog pores, and provides tremendous moisturization) which I feel would really help you out.

If you have the DE technique down, the sharpest blades in the world (feathers) and you are still getting irritation… then at least to me, this is saying your SKIN is not in good enough condition to withstand the onslaught needed to shave the wooly mammoth of a beard you’ve got going on!

If you feel it is in your technique, I would be more than happy to post pictures, call and talk to you, or help you in any way possible… but to me it sure sounds like you need to kick it up a notch and move a bit towards skincare.

My recommendation.... try the Will G Shea Butter soap for a week and see if it makes a difference. Keep us posted, and we can help ya through it brother!
guenron said:
You did not mention your beard's pattern of growth on your cheeks and neck.

I'll add to what Ron said. You should study your hair growth pattern on different parts of your face. Go with the grain on the first pass, then 1 pass from each side, and a final pass against the grain. Also, remember not to put pressure on the razor.
Scotto: As to the angle of the razor, I've been careful to put the head of the razor perpendicular against my face, then I tilt the head of the razor until the blade just touches my skin, then pull back slightly from my face ("negative pressure") and attempt to let the weight of the razor draw it down. Or at least that's the theory. It will not move unless I pull it (I assume the beard is stopping it). At that point, the handle of the razor is about 20-30 degrees off the horizontal. I keep my elbow high, although it's still not a natural position.

I wouldn't say that my beard is THICK, but rather is TOUGH. Years ago, I remember that it felt like sandpaper and I could soften it. As I've gotten older, it has stubbornly refused to be softened. :frown:

Since my "weekend" starts tomorrow, I'll open up the Merkur/Feather to "4" and see what happens.

Ron: I'm confused about the "dimple". The only dimple I see is near the bottom of the shaft above the adjustment screw. When screwed all the way down, that is 1-1/2 matched up with the dimple. Today I dialed in "4", which I believe equates to 2-1/2. Tomorrow I propose to dial in 5-1/2, which will equate to "virtual" 4. Make sense? I agree that the Progress needs a SET SCREW to ZERO the ZERO setting.... I will continue to follow your advice tomorrow.

Joel: You make some convincing suggestions... I'll go ahead and order the Will G soap and aftershave tonight off his site, but I'll hold off on the Vision for the moment, until I've had a chance to try his soap and balm. I'll lay off the Tendskin as soon as I get reduced burn -- without it, my face stays BURNED for the rest of the day, regardless of what kind of balm or lotion I use (even after 99% aloe gel). I realize that I need to soften and condition my face and beard, but SOMETHING has to be wrong here -- probably with my technique, too. I can intellectualize it all day long, but I'm probably messing up somehow during the shave. I've looked at your video and YOU are whom I emulate. But on YOUR face, the razor seems to glide. On mine, it STOPS, or at least drags! I've shaved the hair off the backs of both of my hands to demonstrate to myself the proper angle (it worked there ...). I'll keep using the Nancy Boy until I get the new stuff. And I will not shave against the grain until I get some success with the grain.

Thanks again!

I note that in the last few days, I've developed lots of little bumps, which I assume to be razor bumps, on my chin.

1. How do I get rid of them?

2. What about shaving my chin now? I assume that I do NOT want to cut them off!


Tom, the razor bumps will go away on their own. Apply a good balm and refrain from aggressive shaving a few days. As you already can guess, you may be too agressive with your technique. Slow down. If you are using a feather blade switch back to the merkur blade for the next few days.
The Merkur does a MUCH worse job of cutting my beard. I have to work an area 3 or 4 times to get the same result as the Feather. On my cheeks, I'm not getting any razor burn going with the grain only. I DID with the Merkur.

I'm afraid to use anything on my chin for fear of cutting OFF the bumps. What I need is probably a Bump-Fighter razor for the chin right now, but we have no major stores within 100 miles of my little coastal town. So I guess I'll just wash my chin and grow a light goatee until the bumps go away.


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