by James Gallichio
I have sensitive skin.
It sucks. Sometimes it’s too dry, sometimes it’s too oily, sometimes it’s in a weird in-between place where anything I do to it results in some sort of blemish. If you’re anything like me, you know that once you find something that works for you – even if it isn’t perfect – you stick to it.
That’s how I always felt about shaving. Ever since puberty, facial hair was a massive chore for me. If I shaved, I ended up with rashes and acne; yet when I let it grow, I looked like a creepy kid going through puberty. At the time, I was using what many youngsters use to shave – an off the shelf cartridge razor, some shaving foam and an awkward, I’m-not-entirely-sure-what-I’m-doing-here technique.
It rarely ended well. With the grain, against the grain, showing beforehand, moisturising afterwards – no matter what I did, I ended up with acne on my face and a rash on my neck, without fail. In the end I brushed it off as an inevitable fact of having bad skin.
Then, a friend put me on to electric razors. Not only were they cheaper in the long run (paying $90 once was a hell of a lot better than paying $15 every few months), but my electric razor trimmed my beard without giving me acne; perhaps this was something to do with not requiring shaving cream.
Either way, I used this bad boy for nearly three years, and the results were satisfactory. I got a clean shave, but the razor took a long time to get the job done, often making me go back and forth over the same spot again and again, waiting ever so patiently for it to trim the hair. But it worked, and it didnt give me skin problems (aside from the occasional razor burn), so I lived with it.
Until I found something better.
Whilst leisurly browsing the supermarket aisles, as I often do, I often noticed Wilkinson Sword cartridges surreptitiously sitting next to the Gillette and Shick 3-, 4- and 5-blade cartridges, seeming unloved and unused. What were these mysterious things, and how do you use them? I could never find any razors that would accept these blades at the supermarket, so I thought nothing of it.
But over time, curiosity got the better of me.
Double-edged razors, also commonly known as “safety razors”, have had a spike of popularity lately, as men realise that new is not necessarily better. That is, a 10-Blade, AloeVera-Stripped Super-Razor™ *may* not be the best thing for your face.
Shocking, I know.
So after some quick browsing of the internets, I found a plethora of positive things being said about safety razors and decided to try one out. I had a look on MensBiz, Melbourne-based purveyor of fine shaving and personal care products, I decided on the Merkur long-handle safety razor, and put in an order for a sample-pack of blades to prepare myself for my first wet-shave in nearly 3 years.
I ordered it on a Saturday, it arrived on Monday. That is some speedy delivery right there.
How Double-Edge Razors Work:
Double-edge razors are designed so that only one part of the blade is exposed to the skin, and as such your face is protected from the otherwise incredibly sharp razor blades. Our friends at MensBiz have put together a little demo on setting up a safety razor:
Why Double-Edge Razors Work So Well:
Double edge razors work so well because, as you may have guessed, they only use a single blade. For people like me, with sensitive skin, cartridge razors are the devil’s tool – the blades scrape away at your face 3 or 4 times per stroke (as they use multiple blades), and you have no choice in the sharpness of the blade.
With double edge razors, however, the power is in your hands – you are able to control how sharp the blade you use is, and are thus able to avoid hacking away at your face repetedly with a blade that is too blunt and gives you a nasty rash.
Creams, brushes and other luxuries:
Shaving cremes come in a variety of shapes and sizes. For those who get problem acne, I cannot recommend TriShave enough. There is a plethora of products out there though – you just need to find one that you like, that works well for you and soothes, rather than harms, your skin.
Shaving brushes are used to form the creme into a lather, which is then applied evenly to your face. The bristles are made from hair fibres that absorb water, rather than repel it. There are three main types of shaving brush:
- Synthetic: Synthetic brushes attempt replicate the properties of Boar and Badger hair brushes in an animal-friendly manner. They create similar results to natural fibres, but vary dramatically in quality.
- Boar Hair: Generally the cheapest of the brush fibres, boar hair shaving brushes absorb less water than badger and synthetic hair fibres. They do, however, have a nice firm feel to them and are recommended when using shaving soaps.
- Badger Hair: The top-of-the-line shaving brushes are made from badger hair, which absorbs an extraordinary amount of water and produces the fullest, cremiest lather. Aside from being the most luxurious shaving brushes available, badger hair brushes are also the most expensive.
- Prep: First things first. To wet-shave, you need a soft beard – it is easier to cut, and better for your skin. Shave either after a shower, or after holding a warm, wet face washer to your beard for a few minutes.
- Lather: Squeeze a dollar coin-sized dollop of creme in a bowl, soak your shaving brush in warm water and swirl your creme into a thick fluffy lather. Apply this lather to your face using your shaving brush.
- Attack your face: Just kidding. If this is your first foray into shaving with a DE razor, you’ll be amazed at how good shaving suddenly feels. It takes some getting used to, but the basic technique when shaving with a safety razor is to hold the razor at a 45-degree angle to your skin. This is the shaving angle. Use the razor in short, light strokes – it will take 2-3 strokes to fully remove your hair.
- Take your time, and enjoy the process: Shaving with a DE razor can be daunting and difficult to get the hang of – and, if you’re not careful, you’ll cut yourself. So slow down, relax, and enjoy one of the finer pleasures a man can have.
- Post-Shave: One your face is clear of hair, use an aftershave. This will help to protect the skin, as well as reduce any irritation that may have occured during shaving.
In the before-time, when I used an electric razor, I found shaving to be a giant chore. I hated doing it; it hurt, it took too long, it made my skin flare up. In short, when I shaved, I felt like I was a 15 year old kid again. And not in a good way.
Yet after I delved into the world of double edge razors, I learned to love the blade. Shaving has become a process that I thoroughly enjoy, and one that I actually look forward to. Not only that, but my skin feels and looks infinitely better.
So it turns out my grandfather had it right; using a DE razor, a good shaving brush and a quality creme is the way that every man should shave.