Friday, August 18, 2006

The Shaving Experiment: Final Report

I'm going to turn conventional wisdom on end here.

These shaving geniuses musn't have much facial hair. They couldn't, or else they'd experience the horrifying pain I've experienced at their behest.

In no particular order:

  • "Single edge safety razors are best." Not in my experience. I tried two types of mechanisms, and three types of blades. Yeah, they're sharp. Yeah, they're adjustable. No, they don't work. In shaving, you're doing two opposing things while dragging the blade across the face: you're trying to slice the hairs off as close to your skin as possible, while trying not to remove said skin in the process. I've found that the old fashioned safety razor cuts that margin too closely, if not upending it. Sure I've gotten close shaves, but at the expense of my face. I've gotten the best results with disposible Gilette double edge razors.

  • "Get that beard nice and soft with hot towels and/or a hot shower before shaving." This one is the most appealing of the myths. Maybe my face is constructed differently than the rest of you, but I found that my skin became softer faster than my beard did. So it was easier to tear up my face and harder to get a clean cut on the hairs. I also theorize that is because the hair is moderately softer, so rather than standing up straight to the blade and getting chopped cleanly, the hair gives and rides under the blade, or is cut at an angle leaving stubble.

  • "Fancy gel shaving creams." Have you ever noticed that they aren't slippery? Shaving cream's only job in life is to lubricate the skin so that the blade rides over it rather than digging into it. To date, the best, cheapest option I've found is Dr. Bronners Magic bar soap. It's slippery as all get out. Just rub it into a lather. Neutrogena regular bar soap works OK, but it is a much harsher soap. (It's benefit is that it rinses very cleanly. Great for washing the hands before delicate work like inserting contact lenses.) Also good, but an expensive option is this stuff.

  • Technique. This is pretty much the same. For a pain-free shave, go with the grain of the hair. For a super close shave, go over it again against the grain, and one last time lightly with the grain for good measure. Properly soaped and with good technique, this too will be a pain free shave. The neck. Mine is the worst. Hairs growing in all different directions, and it gets torn up instantly in attempts to get a clean shave. The only tip I've found for this is to go lightly, and experiment with directions. I go in all four directions, and get pretty good results. My greatest discovery in the neck area, though, is to not stretch the skin tight before shaving, but to almost smush it out and go all jowly. I found that when I stuck my jaw up and shaved the regular way, my skin was going bumpy like goosebumps and getting torn up by the razor. By nodding down a bit, I found that I got a closer shave, and a more comfortable shave.

    And there it is.

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