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New to DE Razors - Need Guidance on Razor/Razor Blade Changes

Hello All,

I just started shaving with a DE razor about two weeks ago. I've got about ten shaves under my belt, and so far it's gone a lot better than I thought it was going to. The catch to my story is, I do not shave my face, only my head. I have grown a full beard year-round since I was eighteen (about seven years now), and shave my head completely bald. As a disclaimer: I am an extremely over-analytical person, and I enjoy researching, analyzing, and reading every little thing I can about my interests. This has lead me to begin questioning razor aggressiveness vs. blade sharpness, above all other things.

I think that, for all intensive purposes, head shaving with a DE is about the same beast as is face shaving with a DE. That being said, hopefully some of you veterans (even if you aren't head shavers) will be able to help me out with my questions and concerns regarding the small issues I've had so far in my DE experience. Here goes...

*Basic Information: Razor - Parker 99R, Blade - Derby, Crystal (intermittently switching off)
Am lathering using a cheap brush that came with the set, combined with EJ cream or Straight Razor Designs soap
I shave my head every day, so I have been starting right off with ATG shaving (my stubble is extremely short)

1. My biggest issue so far with the physical shaving itself has been pulling/tugging of the hair on the sides and on the back of my head. Based on some research, my first guess was that the blade I received with the razor (Derby) was not sharp enough, and thus was not cutting my hair. Before switching blades, I tried using more pressure during my next shave, and it went very well. Very little irritation, maybe one or two very minor nicks, and a very smooth shave. Afterwards, I went and grabbed some Crystal blades (I'm lucky enough to live and work within twenty minutes of Imperial Shaving in Medina, Ohio) and popped one in my razor. Contrary to my expectations, my shaves with the Crystals were not great. I was still experiencing pulling/tugging in the same areas of my head, and I was feeling more irritation on my head after the shave, although it did seem to be a bit closer of a shave than with the Derby blades. With both blades, I've had to go over the sides and back of my head as many as four to five times to fully remove all the stubble to a BBS condition. See below for the questions/concerns that this situation poses:

- Due to the lack of information available on my razor (Parker 99R), I have not been able to pin down whether or not it is believed to be an "aggressive" or "mild" razor, based on the gap/blade exposure measurements. Thus, I'm not sure whether a different (milder or more aggressive?) razor, or increasingly sharper blades in the 99R (terminating at the Feather blades) is the way to proceed. Based on my research thus far, I would guess that this a fairly aggressive razor. The angle of the line connecting the ends of the top and bottom safety bars is in the high-30's, if I were to guess just eyeballing it. Since my hair is always so short when I shave my head - do you think I could benefit from a mild to medium aggressive razor (Merkur 34C?) with a sharper blade (Wilkinson Sword, Feather)?

- The purpose of an "aggressive" razor and a "mild" razor have become extremely clouded for me, partially due to the varying opinions I've found on what each type of razor actually DOES. What are the FUNCTIONAL differences between the two that make them different? Do more aggressive razors actually "allow more hair" to reach the cutting edge? That concept doesn't really make sense to me. What does make sense to me, is that an aggressive razor would be more effective in cutting LONGER beard hair than would a mild razor. I've read that aggressive razors are better for "coarser" hair, but what defines coarse hair? The toughness of the hair itself? The density at which it occurs on your head? My beef basically with the "aggressive" vs. "mild" situation, is that if both a mild and aggressive razor are designed to have the blade in contact with your head, why and for what physical reason would an aggressive razor remove more hair (eliminating the whole hair down to BBS in one pass) than a mild razor (which would supposedly leave some of the stubble there?)? This might be really over-analyzing it, but I just have to understand it. Does a milder razor actually slide OFF the hair without cutting the full length of it down to BBS due to the reduced cutting angle? While an aggressive razor has more of a straight-up-and-down (figuratively speaking), guillotine type cutting action that doesn't allow the hairs to bounce back before being cut down to BBS?

I'm sorry for the long-winded nature of this post. Just trying to figure this out for myself, in order to improve my shaves. They haven't been bad though, in my opinion, just not good enough. My goal is to eliminate any tugging and pulling on the sides and back of my head, while maintaining a very small amount of pressure on the razor. Another piece of information, I've read and can personally feel that this razor's weight is ALL in the handle. The head is extremely light compared to the handle. My though is that this could also be causing this situation. Also, my opinion is that I have really coarse hair in these areas. If I grow out my stubble for three days, I can very forcibly try to drag my hand against the grain in these areas and it sometimes doesn't even budge haha. Not the most scientific experiment, but I think it gives a pretty good idea of the resistance of these hairs in the ATG direction.

If you require any further information in order to help me out, please just ask, and I'll provide it for you. Thank you in advance for your help.

As a general introduction, I'd check out Mantic's videos on YouTube/Sharpologist, the stickies here, and the headshaving threads. I also wrote a short guide (link in my signature).

Take everything I say with a grain of salt, by the way.

As a general rule, for face shaving a WTG (with the grain) pass is typically done before any ATG passes. I'd think that the same may hold true for headshaving, which may partially explain the tugging/pulling that you are experiencing.

As for blades and razors, you can get close, comfortable shaves with a wide variety of either. A razor being more or less "aggressive" or a blade being more or less "sharp" is a very easy way to categorize things, but it may not be as accurate as we would like.

I think of aggressiveness as the range of angles over which a razor can provide a close/effective shave.

I think of mildness/"friendliness" as the range of angles over which a razor can provide a comfortable shave without nicks/cuts/irritation.

A simplistic way of looking at it is a scale with aggressive on one end and mild on the other. Again, that's probably not accurate as there are razors which can provide close shaves while being friendly, and razors which are less likely to shave closely and also be prone to nicks and such.

I'd simplify your questions, if I may, to - "Is there a razor/blade combination where I can get close, comfortable head shaves?" Yes. However, that will probably take time and experimenting with at least a few different razors and blades (my opinion).

If your prep is good, your lather is good, and your technique is good/maturing (typically months, and to some extent years, but you should have the basics down within weeks ideally) with minimal pressure and a good angle for that razor, you'll probably be able to shave well with a variety of different razors/blades.

Razors - I prefer milder razors - I'd rather have a more comfortable shave that isn't quite as close rather than the reverse to start out with. I can't comment on Parkers, but good mild razors would be Gillette Techs or Super Speeds. Moderate razors that are frequently recommended starting out which try to balance aggressive vs mild would be the Edwin Jagger de89 series or the Merkur safety bar razors. If you really want to experiment, another option would be an adjustable - I'd try a vintage Fatboy/Slim/Super Adjustable.

Blades - Standard recommended ones would be Astras and Personnas. If you want the "sharpest" blade that would be Feathers according to many people, but again the "sharpest" blade might not be what suits you/your razor best. There's a certain degree of personal experimentation and "Your Mileage May Vary" - you're different from everyone else.

Lastly, simply practicing and having patience as your technique improves will probably make a much bigger difference than a given razor/blade switch. I'd consider shaving WTG for your first pass, and then seeing how ATG shaving works.

Hope this helps!
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