Back in December, I read an article on lifehacker that linked to an in-depth article on another website about the joys of wet shaving. This is the old-school practice of using a quality razor with a double edge "safety razor" blade, like my dad used to use. We're talking basic tech here, baby: a single piece of stainless steel, held in a high-quality metal handle, guided across a face covered in a lather that was worked in and built up by hand, with a beaver hair brush.
I was intrigued by the idea of paying fifty cents for a blade, instead of three bucks a pop for Gillette's latest Mach IX Superturbo Ultima Luberiffic, Ultra Smooth, Ultra Fast, Ultra Sexy Beardarator Blades, with lubricating strip. A blade's a blade, right? I need it to cut hairs off my face. I don't need three or four of them in one unit, I don't need all the plastic, and I don't need (and am actually creeped-out by) the lubricating strips that shrivel up after one use and look like little green-colored strips of bacon.
The article (and the one it linked to, and the many others I have read since) talked about how smooth a shave you can get, and how people with common skin problems like razor burn and razor bumps have found relief by going back to wet shaving products and techniques, and I was intrigued. I haven't traditionally had skin problems with shaving, largely because I used to avoid it like the plague; a good week was a two-shave week, the long stubble easier to scrape off every few days with my disposables. God forbid I had to shave two days in a row, that second day was murder. That lubricating strip doesn't do shit.
Skin issues aside, I was interested in buying a razor I could have forever, one that was well-made and wouldn't end up in a landfill. A tool, not a toy. And that's exactly what I got.
I invested in a Merkur razor, some blades, a beaver brush and a tube of Proraso shaving cream. The first day, I shaved half my face off. But by the third day I was getting used to the feel and weight of the razor and the difference in technique required (you need to constantly adjust the position of the razor to maintain the blade angle on your face); I started getting nick-free shaves that were closer and closer. I've been using this razor for almost a month now, and at this point, I actually miss shaving if I have to skip a day for some reason. I compulsively feel my face all morning for stubble, for little stubborn spots of follicle resistance to my attempts. I'm getting better and better, and my face feels smooth and healthy. I'm sold. I just ordered a six month supply of blades, for twenty five bucks.
It's all about the products, the technique and the preparation. The shaving cream and the aftershave balms cost more, and I'm trying different ones to find the best fit, but they are made of natural ingredients and each one is better than the last, so it's a fun experiment to embark on. Technique is free to obtain, and rewarding to boot. Preparation--the warm water soak and the lather buildup with the brush--take a little longer than a shot of Barbasol, but, my god, the difference is night and day.
I am this close to shaving off my goatee, just so I have even more facial surface area to shave each morning, that's how much I love this shit. Fifty bucks for a razor you'll have forever; get some blades, cream, a brush, and some all-important aftershave balm, and you will embark on an incredible journey of facial bliss. Trust me.
Check out these links, if you're at all interested in getting the closest and healthiest shave of your life: