One of the cooler side benefits of writing for a magazine with the reach and circulation of OnMilwaukee.com is that in addition to our Milwaukee readers, our work is sometimes discovered by interested parties who live nowhere close to us.
So, when I blogged about my first experiences with "wetshaving," that is, the old-fashioned art of shaving one's face with a double-edged safety razor and badger-hair brush -- several experts in the field took note.
Fortunately for me, those experts included the proprietors of and representatives from ClassicShaving.com, West Coast Shaving and The Art of Shaving, all of who noticed that my early stumbling blocks were probably resulting from a combination of inadequate hardware and unpolished technique.
Yes, I called my first blog entry a "warm endorsement of wet shaving," but I should've called it luke-warm, at best. Using the most entry-level of tools, I was cutting my face up way too much those first few weeks and not getting a particularly close shave.
Sure, I had freed myself from the bonds of those $6 multi-blade razors, but at the expense of a raw and red face. (Read my first blog here, if at this point, you're wondering what I'm talking about.)
My tune changed quickly, though, when a slew of high-end tools began arriving in the mail. Between these three companies, I received a new razor, two badger-hair brushes and several tubs of shaving cream. All of a sudden, my bathroom looked more like a barber shop, and I knew it was time to donate my face to shaving science.
On my end, I studied the techniques from the masters at BadgerAndBlade.com. Geeky as it sounds, I actually find myself looking forward to shaving every day now. My skin looks and feels better, and there's something soothing about spending a few extra minutes pampering yourself.
Here's what I'm working with:
Shaving brushes: I'm currently rotating between the two sent to me, a model from Rooney and one from Edwin Jagger. The Edwin Jagger brush is a little smaller, and perhaps a bit softer, but both are heads-and-shoulders better than the cheap, synthetic brush I started with (because I was honestly a bit grossed out with the idea of rubbing a badger on my face).
Jason SaintJohn at ClassicShaving.com explains that a good brush makes all the difference.
"A bad badger brush feels so much better than a synthetic brush," says SaintJohn. "99 percent of synthetic brushes are made from extruded nylon circles; this is stiff and doesn't hold water ... Badger is just the only way to go. They have tried, beaver, fox, horse and everything else. None will hold water or shake out after as well."
Pre-shave oils: The pros are somewhat split on whether this stuff is even necessary, but I'm using a small vial from The Art of Shaving that was sent to me, and one from Anthony Logistics that I bought. Both seem to make the razor glide a bit better, but the effect doesn't seem to be dramatic.
Shaving creams: Three different creams were mailed to me, and my sensitive face loves each of them. The tub of Taylor of Old Bond has a subtle scent, while the ClassicShaving.com proprietary blend and The Art of Shaving creams are completely unscented. They each lather differently but all work so much better than those cans of metallic goo I'm used to -- and, they're so much more gentle than the Proraso/Bigelow cream that I first tried.
"The menthol/eucalyptus in the tube is a bit harsh for my skin also," says SaintJohn. "I tend toward things that are more natural and more for sensitive skin."
Razor: After my first shave with the Edwin Jagger DE89, I immediately got rid of my $9 LORD razor. Short, stubby and plated in polished chrome, the Edwin Jagger feels so heavy and substantial. Instantly, my shaves become smoother and less irritated. I can't pinpoint why, but a $30 investment in the razor, itself, is money well spent.
"The razor head geometry controls how a razor performs," explains John Koontz from West Coast Shaving. "All DE razors will accept a DE blade, but they do not have identical blade angles, blade gaps, safety bars, etc ... You need to have the correct angle and blade gap to get a great shave. However, your results do not mean Edwin Jagger is a better razor. It just means it's a better razor for you.
Blades: I'm still using the crazy-sharp Japanese double-edged blades from Feather. That's the only "control" in this before-and-after experiment. I haven't ruled out trying a different brand, and in fact, I'm pondering taking a step back from the ninja-sword sharpness of the Feather.
Koontz agrees. "I started with Feather blades years ago and survived, but I would not recommend them for someone just starting out with safety razors. They are extremely sharp and not very forgiving."
Aftershave: This is the one ingredient that has given me the most trouble, as every alcohol-based balm I've tried stings like nobody's business and leaves my face red and puffy. ClassicShaving.com sent me their soothing Feather aftershave from Japan, while West Coast Shaving mailed me The Gentlemens Refinery "The Standard." Both have a milky consistency, and I'm alternating between the two. I find the The Gentlemens Refinery to be a little stickier, while the Feather is a little more soothing. Both work, but leave my face a little shiny. I continue to experiment, including adding witch hazel into the equation as a toner. It might be working.
Technique: All the equipment in the world can't compensate for poor technique, so I hit the forum of BadgerandBlade.com and experienced with three different methods, with varying success. One particularly revered technique is called "Kyle's Prep," and it involves invoking an old-fashioned barber three-minute application of steaming hot towels over a layer of shaving cream. On the other end of the spectrum is a theory about cold shaving: instead of using heat to soften the hair and open the pores, using ice-cold water to basically shock your whiskers into submission. Finally, I read about the "four pass method," which suggests if you get a close shave in three passes, you can do better in four.
After a few weeks of experimentation, I find that Kyle's Prep is the most luxurious, while the ice-cold shave, unpleasant as it sounds, is refreshing and leaves my face the least irritated. And the four-pass shave, for me, anyway, is too much.
My takeaway: Something that started as an exercise to save money on shaving my face has turned into some substantial upfront costs. Between what I've spent -- and what's been spent on me -- the tab is well over $100, though it's certainly possible to buy the right equipment and keep the total well under that amount. However, these tools, if cared for, can last a lifetime, and even the best blades on the market are still significantly cheaper than my previous baseline, the Gillette Pro Fusion Power.
Speaking of which, I shaved using my Gillette razor the other day, just to see how it compared. The shave was actually a bit closer and was accomplished in about a third of the time. But it was also a lot less pleasurable. Sort of like driving a stick-shift and an automatic transmission: there are days when you just want to get from point A to point B, then there are days when you want experience the joy of driving.
Which is, a few months into this wet shaving experiment, my experience so far. I'm not great at this sutff -- yet -- but I'm not giving up, either.
Spending far too long in the bathroom and occasionally bleeding all over myself never felt so good.
WestCoast shaving sells a good sampler pack of DE blades, although I'd say that if you're getting good results w/ Feathers then don't rush out to try other brands; they're an excellent product. Traditional shaving is a great way to turn a daily chore into a pleasant hobby.. glad you're able to spread the word a little bit (and maybe some local vendors will start selling better products!)
Nice informative article for a man who still uses the old white and yellow Gillette twin blade razors. Might I suggest for the aftershave routine to try Nivea for Men Sensitive After Shave Balm. It has a thick, milky content and feels great afterward with no burn and actually the cool feeling is rather pleasant. I've tried many aftershaves and I feel this one is the best and rather inexpensive.
3 comments about this article.
Post your comment/review now
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.
Recent Articles & Blogs by Andy Tarnoff
Published June 29, 2015
It hasn't been a good month for the Stars and Bars. Only 150 years after it should've disappeared for good, national online and brick and mortar retailers have yanked the Confederate battle flag from their shelves and their sites. In other words, you will no longer find Confederate beach towels, belt buckles or even the General Lee (I'm bummed about that, actually) at Wal-Mart, Amazon, Etsy, eBay or many other stores around America. Fortunately, you won't find them at Summerfest, either, in the state that lost 12,216 men to the Civil War.
Published June 25, 2015
To me, the Kings Of Leon were supposed to save rock music. When I saw them for a second time at Summerfest in 2006, this time at the Miller Lite Oasis, something felt wrong. KOL seemed slow. Plaintive. Quiet? Turns out that was the direction this band would head in, and it's what made them extremely popular. But I came into tonight's show with an open mind and was rewarded with old Kings, and even lulled a little with new Leon.
Published June 22, 2015
"Summertime" is a great song - so great that it's been covered 25,000 times since George Gershwin wrote it in 1934. One of the more enchanting - and special - versions of the jazz standard has just dropped from Nineteen Thirteen, an enigma of a Milwaukee band. Featuring Victor DeLorenzo on percussion and Janet Schiff on cello as its two permanent members, you almost have to see this group to believe it.
Published June 18, 2015
Even though Summerfest gets passed over by lots of national media - at some point, let's put the onus on getting the word out better, OK? - there's no doubt that this gigantic musical festival is Milwaukee's crowning annual achievement. Here are the annual picks from OnMilwaukee.com Publisher Andy Tarnoff.
Published June 11, 2015
Have you ever caught a Major League foul ball? Or more than one? And do you still have them? It's a pretty special moment, I must say. I'm not sure I'll ever do it again.
Published June 4, 2015
As first reported by OnMilwaukee.com, Dogg Haus owner will open Plum, a cocktail lounge at 780 N. Jefferson St., Thursday. We got inside for a first look.
Published May 27, 2015
The sounds are a little different inside Miller Park during a weekday day game. It's not that it's much quieter or more empty than a night game, although it's pretty easy to tell the difference. Even though the parking lots today were jam-packed, there are lots and lots of kids here. And adults who probably should be at work.
Published May 13, 2015
Yesterday, Packers fans were delighted to watch Aaron Rodgers dominate on "Celebrity Jeopardy." Indeed, it feels nice to have a smart guy calling signals under center (in your face, Jay Cutler). But Wisconsin sports have been full of intelligent players through the years. Here are six.
Published April 30, 2015
Just a few years ago, all Katie Daly knew about candles is that they smelled nice, and she liked having them around the house. Her boyfriend, Cody Weiss, didn't disagree. But Daly, always a self-admitted "type-A antsy person" found herself bored and browsing Pinterest one day, when she saw a how-to guide to making soy candles in Mason jars. The corporate trainer melted some wax on the stove, adding some lavender oil - and found herself surprised when the candle actually burned.
Published April 6, 2015
Something weird happened to me around the beginning August last year: I started wanting the Brewers season to be over.