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Nurse Dave's journey

I thought I better start my journal while I'm still in the starting phases. What triggered me looking into DE shaving was reading a post that mentioned how slick L&L soap is on a side thread of a wine forum I participate in. Shortly after (but before I found B&B I wrote this article for a general interest website:

At one point in my teen years I somehow acquired one of those gifty shaving kits you might see on display around Father’s day in Sears: a holder for the razor, a cup for the soap, a soap brush and a cake of shaving soap. I thought that, if nothing else, using it would certainly raise the cool factor of my shaving a few notches. Heck, I might even get a better shave using what seemed like the official shaving gear of the old grizzled shaving veteran. This was prior to the days of youtube, mind you, so I engaged in a little experimentation and then gave up, because I couldn’t get any lather. It was worse than the plain bar soap and basic razor I’d been using.

Over the years, my experience with shaving was all variations on that theme. I’d try a shaving cream here and there, but find the results were no better than basic soap. I’d buy razors that had more and more blades along with a higher and higher cost, but see only minor improvements in the outcome. I did figure out that the battery-powered vibrating 5-bladed version did better with heavy growth--plus, what guy can say no adding power to something? But still, for decades I shaved every other day and my neck would be raw. To save money, I also didn’t change my razor cartridge as often as I should have.

Cut to the 2010s, and suddenly I noticed stores catering exclusively to the “art of shaving” popping up in malls like old fashioned shaving brushes were the next buttered pretzel. Department stores started carrying celebrity lines of shaving creams and oils and soaps and lotions. I’m no fool; I wasn’t buying into it. Trends do not equal value. The guy with a beard that’s much too big for his face and groomed to the point of silliness turns me off. He’s just waiting for me to ask about the overly graphic designed products in his store, so he can let me know just how out of touch with HIS world I am.

Until… one day I’m reading a thread about shaving in a totally unrelated forum--procrastination makes you do odd things--and I see someone mention a shaving soap that is slicker than anything they’ve ever used. Ok, let me tell you, these guys are the well-heeled adult equivalent of “da ****”. They are mostly professionals or retired professionals that engage in several sophisticated pursuits. So maybe if it’s worth their time, it’s just possibly worth it. After all this time maybe I can find a way to shave that won’t leave me worrying about my shirt collar rubbing against a raw neck.

As I read, I realized these guys are as deep into shaving as you can be. They’re discussing what blade they use for what type of shave. The lathering abilities of various soaps. Handle shapes and weights for their brushes, which themselves of course can be made out of different types of hairs which, if you’re serious, you’ll have an opinion on. Long story not any shorter: I ordered the soap. Just kidding! It took me six attempts to order the soap, because it’s “artisanal,” and made in “small batches,” which are almost always “sold out,” as the kids say.

The soap finally ordered, I did the one thing that I knew would make the biggest difference between this attempt and those of my younger years: I pulled up youtube. I watched countless men showing how to create a lather. By the time I felt I understood soap, I’d become intrigued by the safety razors everyone seemed to use. Safety razors led to different types of brushes, and then the vast variety of blades for safety razors. Then I watched a video of why the 2017 Acura NSX is better than you think, and then more middle aged men shaving in front of the camera and providing commentary on their experience.

By the time the soap arrived, I was more than ready.

The soap was good. It took a couple of shaves to get down making a good lather without having soap hit the mirror, and I’m definitely going to want to upgrade from the little plastic ice cream bowl I stole from the kitchen, but making a lot of good lather is now a piece of cake. Putting the lather on has become a routine in itself. The brush I’ve chosen is just stiff enough to provide a good scratch and exfoliation.(1) I don’t just slap it on anymore, I spend a little time with my mini facial.

Then I shave. From the videos I learned that I should be applying very light pressure. In the past when I felt like I was missing some whiskers I would push a little harder. So now I need to remind myself to let the blade do the work. I also learned about mapping the hair growth. For many men, facial hair doesn’t grow in the same direction on the cheeks as it does on the sides of the neck and the jaw line. The 1st pass with the razor should be in the direction of the hair growth in each area, not necessarily just down. For me that is down on the cheeks. Then down and back at a 45 degree angle on most of my neck. And lastly straight back at the far edges of my neck.

Before going back and shaving in a different direction to get that close shave, I apply more lather. To get the closest shave I’ll do another pass across the hair grain, re-apply the lather and finish against the grain. In the past, I would just keep shaving with different passes without applying any more soap until the hair was gone. I guess it makes sense that my manly, yet delicate and more sensitive areas, would get raw as I was no doubt scraping away the top layer of skin to get baby butt smooth.

Finally, I give my face a hot/warm rinse, followed by a splash with cold water to close the pores before I apply anything to the face. I use an alcohol free aftershave lotion to rehydrate my skin. And to do the very best for my skin, I apply cologne only to the back of my neck and wrists. You can put it on your chest, wrists, rub through your hair, but I’ve finally learned not to put it on my neck or face to avoid irritating freshly shaved skin. The new routine decreased irritation on my neck, left my skin smoother after shaved, and allowed me for the first time in my life to shave every day.

In for a dime, in for a pound--why not go all the way? Next step is the safety razor. “Safety razor” is just another name for a razor that uses double edged blades; it was called that because prior to the safety razor the only choice was the straight razor. I did my youtube research again and ordered one suggested for beginners. It came with some free blades. I will say I felt some trepidation in putting a safety razor to my face for the first time. You’re controlling the angle, and you have so much edge exposed. But the videos paid off again. My first pass was like butter. I felt none of the pulling that I do with a cartridge razor(2), and at first I was really thinking it wasn’t cutting anything off. But I followed my new rules: short strokes, no pressure, let the razor do the work. Reapply lather, do another pass.

During the shave it felt like a lot of hair was being left behind, but a good half hour later when the dust had settled everything was nice and smooth, with no more soreness on my neck area than after shaving with my cartridge razor. So even without any improvement in the shave, I’m getting the same results with blades that cost ten pennies instead of many dollars. So okay, maybe there is something to this “art of shaving” thing. Now, I’m still not about to buy products from the mall hipster, but I’m thinking there’s still more improvements to come as I experiment with other blades--there’s one that seems highly recommended that I can order from Russia--and as I become more proficient.

In the end, yes the reduced expense, smoothness and decreased skin rawness are important, but there was also something about this experience I wasn’t expecting. A sort of calming quiet time when I’m not just going through a daily chore to get it accomplished, but performing a ritual where I slow down and let things take the time they need. A little calm before the storm of the day, if you will. Maybe in some ways enjoying a tranquil moment in the morning routines makes me feel older. Sure, I wish it hadn’t taken so many years to find my way here, but I’ll take it. Better late than never.

  1. Women are not excluded from this, hobby, if you will. In fact some prefer a horsehair brush as it’s the most stiff of the shaving brushes and provides better exfoliation to the legs.

  2. Cartridge razors ARE made to pull hairs. They are designed to pull the hair up so it’s cut below the skin level giving you a smooth shave. Also giving you ingrown hairs and the pain of hair pulling especially when the hair growth is heavy or longer.
B&B post from June 13th-

I haven't been using a pre-shave and thought I'd add one hoping to reduce overall razor burn. I used the Proraso sensitive skin and rubbed a pea-sized amount on my face. As I lathered my soap, my face started to tingle and then burn to the point I washed off the pre-shave. For all the people I've seen using Proraso I assume this must be a rare reaction?
B&B post from June 23rd-

Yesterday I tried Derby Extra and that was just a disaster, hair being pulled and not cut. So I was looking forward to scrapping that and having a good shave with something else. Thought I'd try the Bic. Worked well on the cheeks but did have plenty of blade feel. Got to my neck and I could almost feel the skin being scrapped off. I figure I was just doing something wrong. Change the angle, changed the pressure. Nothing seemed to help. I did get a nice smooth shave, but now my neck is sore with red marks. I think for the first time I started DE shaving I should probably skip a day.
B&B post from June 29th-

Well just 5 days after the worst shave of my life (thank you Derby) I've had the best. Thought about each aspect and didn't fudge anything. Used actually cold water, not just room temp so slightly cool. Made sure my lather had enough moisture. Paid attention to the blade angle not getting too aggressive. Wet my face between passes before re-lathering. Took short strokes in the problem areas. No stinging while shaving and except for one little spot in my problem area is was a BBS shave. Have some work to do getting the shaving directions and angle right in the problem areas, but what a different experience.
B&B post from June 27th-

I thought I'd try a pre-shave oil this morning. I had a small AOS lavender sample. That stuff came out of the pump bottle THICK! I put it on, but felt like I was buttering a turkey and had to wash my hands twice with soap before I touched anything else. Wetting my face between passes was pointless because it just beaded up! I think everything ended up with a oil film at the end of the shave and my face felt like it had been waxed and buffed. Don't think I'm touching this stuff again, but I do have to say my face is soft and smooth.
B&B post from June 29th-

So I'm trying out my samples, not thrilled with a lot of the things that remind of me of candle/crystal/bead shops. Thinking this isn't bad. I'll save some money not needed a bunch of different soaps I like. This morning I open a sample of Terroso by Sapone Di Paolo. Quick little sniff and I closed it up to be relegated to the pile that's too musky. But at the last minute I figured what the heck, I already have it so I might as well try it. Holy moly, I was in heaven when I started putting that on my face. I don't know if was the amber or what, but I was getting the warm scent of cinnamon and felt like this would be a great holiday soap, but I would love smelling that year around. And so starts my journey into buying soaps when I have zero need for more right now.
Great thread Dave. I've been there with regards to the variables. You will be receiving some great blades (and a great razor) soon. Looking forward to your review.
B&B post from July 1st-

So I topped it today, switched to a feather blade. Man o man, that was smooth like a hot knife through butter!
This morning I noticed that I almost didn't even need a shave. That Q-shave with this three step process in reducing aggressiveness did a heck of a job. I did switch back to my Parker 76 with the Feather blade because I'm still curious if that amazing performance is going to be reliably repeatable. I thought I might be able to get away with two passes, but those stubborn areas under the angle of my jaw weren't giving in that easily, so three it was.

I did try two new things today. First I had bought a synthetic L'Occitane brush from the BST. We're traveling this summer and I've been using a basic pure badger from Amazon since I started. I looked into travel brushes, but for the cost figured I'd just get this used one because synthetic is supposed to dry a lot faster so that should be better for packing. I thought I'd try it out just to see if there was anything I needed to learn about using a synthetic. I knew it would be softer, but it was a heck of a lot softer. I'm going to use it for a while to see if that's something that I end up liking. It's different. I did enjoy the scratching from the pure badger. I mean, exfoliation is one of the reasons giving for lathering up much longer than really necessary to put the lather on right? This was lacking most of that. So I missed it today. I'll use it a few more days to see if I can embrace the luxury.

I also tried Bay Lime soap from Stone Cottage. Soaps keep surprising me. The ones I think I'll like for sure, scents I normally would say I like, I haven't enjoyed as a soap. I think because maybe a scent is nice in the air, but when it's intense right under my nose it's a little much and lacks some of the subtleties I enjoy. And a few soaps I was pretty sure I would use once and then add to my "One Day to PIF" pile, I've really enjoyed. Add this to the enjoy list. I have 5 or more on-line stores open in my browser at home with soaps in the baskets trying to decide when to pull the trigger and on what. Seems a little silly to buy full tubs for a few when I still have a lot of samples to try. But I know I will soon.
Nice reading and I agree re:exfoliation. I ended up getting a big boar brush because I wanted the scrubby on my legs. I believe there are sysnthetic boars on he market sold by Omega if you want to give those a try sometime.
Q-Shave with Personna red, 2nd shave
Stirling Sharp Dressed Man
Witch hazel
Nivea post shave balm
Sharp Dressed Man splash

No matter how well everything else goes, I still get a little sting when shaving below the angle of my jaw. And another little sting when applying anything post shave there. I still figure this is just the way it's going to be, but I'll keep experimenting. I took advantage of having an adjustable and did a 4, 3, 2 on my face, but 4, 3, 1 on my neck. Just it see what it's like I'll probably try a 5 on this next, but I think I won't want to use higher than a 4. 4 was at the point where I knew I needed to pay attention all the time, 3 had a little more leeway to the angle.

Shave was pretty good except those jaw angles. I think I should have used 4, 1, 1. I still really can't figure out what is xtg vs atg there. I think the hair must swirl or something there. Ended up with a decent result, but still had the little sting.

I enjoy the scent of the soap. It's a good combination of musky and sweet for me. Anything stronger or more musky I wouldn't like. Odd thing though, I noticed when lathering for the 3rd pass the lather seemed to be getting thin and I reapplied a few times. I'm wondering if I was impatient when making the lather and added just a touch too much water.

Side note - asked my wife what she thought of the scent. She asked what it was called and then chuckled "oh ya, you're sharply dressed". I was in my day off shorts and t-shirt.
Very nice read and pressure is the key is some areas, shave the lather not the face, beard mapping helps a bunch too. Keep up the excellent Shaves
Nice reading and I agree re:exfoliation. I ended up getting a big boar brush because I wanted the scrubby on my legs. I believe there are sysnthetic boars on he market sold by Omega if you want to give those a try sometime.
Not sure if I like one better or it's just different yet. There's a birch handle silver tip brush I really want from mostly an asthetics point of view so I'm hoping I don't miss the stiffness so I can get that one.
Parker 76R with Feather, 3rd shave
Mike's Natural Orange, Cedarwood and Black Pepper
Witch hazel
Nivea post shave balm

Had an odd occurrence this morning. Lots of little weepers on the front of my neck. This usually isn't a problem area but I did feel pulling this morning. I think that I'm going slow, but not really looking at my angle when doing my neck and should force myself to stop and readjust. Especially when I'm using a blade that I know hasn't had a problem before. I did think more about what I think my growth pattern is on the sides of my neck and the direction of my passes. Still felt like I was missing some, but ended up with a very close to BBS shave. And after some witch hazel, really no soreness.

Tried Mike's Natural shave soap for the first time today. I have 6 or so samples from him. All I really got was the orange scent today. So if you like orange, there ya go. It smelled fine, but I felt it needed a few more layers of complexity. I didn't get any of the cedarwood or pepper notes. I'll be saving the rest of this one for a PIF or pass around.
Very nice read and pressure is the key is some areas, shave the lather not the face, beard mapping helps a bunch too. Keep up the excellent Shaves
I've been curious what you mean by shave the lather not the face. I assume you mean only shave the areas that you haven't already shaved and don't go back trying to get everything when there is no lather left?
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