Month: September 2014

A Closer Look at the Mach3: Going Back After DE Shaving

I’ve said from the start that I didn’t switch to double-edge (DE) shaving from a cartridge razor because I was unhappy with the shaves I was getting.  For me, the switch was almost entirely about money, and a little bit about the “cool” factor.  This week I ordered six new brands of razor blades, sort of a do-it-yourself sampler pack I cobbled together, and though it’s most expensive to order them in small quantities rather than a bulk purchase of a single brand I still only paid $15 for about 30 weeks worth of razors.  Not too shabby.

Since it will take a few days for them to arrive, it seemed like a good opportunity to do something I’ve been wanting to do for a few months: try out the Mach3.

This seems a bit silly on it’s face because I’ve used one for over a decade (with a Fusion thrown in here or there).  What don’t I know?  The answer is that while, yes, I’ve got years of experience using one, I’ve never had anything to compare it to.  Things are different now, so this week I’m using a cartridge razor again (luckily I had one laying around for the last ten or eleven months).

There likely will not be an official review of it, though I may do so if I feel so inclined.  Rather the point has been to remind myself what it is like, so I can draw better comparisons when people ask me about the difference.  Thus far I’ve noticed several things:

It feels light and cheap.  I’ve grown used to a heavier, metal razor.  Going back to plastic just feels weird and flimsy.

It’s not  much of a time saver.  The prep time remains the same, the type of razor you’re using doesn’t change whether you’re using foam from a can or mixing your own lather.  Actually shaving is slightly quicker, but making two passes the time difference is probably only a few minutes at most.

It’s easier to miss spots.  The cartridge doesn’t seem as effective at removing lather, leaving a good amount of watery slop, which makes it difficult to see spots you’ve missed.  Consequently, I ended up missing spots that I normally (but not always) get with a DE blade.

The shave is less consistent than I remember.  Some spots get wonderfully smooth, primarily my cheeks and mustache area.  But my neck and chin, where there is more definition, are a toss up.  Parts are smooth, others have a fair amount of stubble remaining even after a two pass shave.  It’s not a bad shave, it’s perfectly suitable for a day, but it is by no means great.

Finally, it just doesn’t feel as good.  The shave itself is dull and simple, while the stubble that’s left and whiskers that grow back feel…weird.  Whereas DE shaving results in a scruff that feels like a good sandpaper, the Mach3 results in a pokey, inconsistent sharpness.  It’s not uncomfortable, but it’s noticeably different and not in a good way.

My thoughts thus far are decidedly “eh.”  While I didn’t switch to DE shaving because I was unhappy with the shave or the experience I was getting from a cartridge, those seeds have now been planted.  Having been where the grass is both greener and cheaper (though admittedly more difficult to get to, simply because few grocery or drug stores carry the items in any variety, if at all), I’m simply not impressed with the results I’m getting.  I’ll certainly use cartridges in the future, they do have some advantages and I don’t hate them.  Plus, there’s a heck of a lot of variety out there so maybe some other brands or models are better. 

But I now have another reason to keep using a DE razor, for me they simply shave better.

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Cold Water Proraso: How Water Temeprature Changes the Shave Experience

I thought "sapone" was the scent...turns out it's Italian for "soap."

I thought “sapone” was the scent…turns out it’s Italian for “soap.”

There is widespread consensus among wet shavers that hot water provides the best shave.  Nearly every shaving guide I’ve read recommends it, mostly with some claim of superior performance because of how the hot water softens your skin and stubble.  There are, of course, some who disagree with this and are instead ardent advocates of cold water shaving. 

I enjoy both, and I’m not going to argue that someone gives up one for the other.  But while both have always appealed to me for various reasons, this summer I’ve discovered that Proraso soap makes for an excellent cold water experience.

I discovered this one day after a long morning run.  It was hot outside, I was trying to cool down before I headed to work, and a warm water shave just didn’t sound very appealing.  So I lathered up with as cold of water as I could get, and went to shaving. 

The result was wonderful. A hot shave with Proraso creates a sauna like soothing, both in feel and smell.  But by shaving cold when I was already warm the normal tingles and sharp smell created a chilling effect, much like when you step outside on a cold day and feel the air crisp your skin and chill your nose with each breath.  By the time I finished my face was smooth and cold feeling, a sharp contrast with how I started, and with a splash of spice aftershave it felt almost holiday like.  It was one of the most refreshing shaves I’ve ever had.

The cold water did have some draw backs.  It thickened the soap, so when I needed to clean the blade of stubble I’d have to run it under hot water to break up the gunk, then back under cold to chill the now clean blade for the next pass.  But, with modern indoor plumbing this really wasn’t a problem at all.  By being cold it also made it more difficult to lather, again because of thicker soap.  A bit more water than usual did the trick on that part.

Whichever works best for you, do it.  But how to use cold water to change the experience is a trick I’m slowly working to build.  And if I ever have to shave away from hot water, at least I’ll be used to it!

Safety Razor Safety: Disposing of Old Blades

Safety razors are, as the name suggests, actually incredibly safe.  One of my biggest worries when I started shaving with a DE razor, and the biggest concern I hear from others, is that using an old fashioned razor will turn into some kind of Sweeny Todd nightmare (I’ve not actually seen the movie, but I have a good idea what happens).   But the razor has the name for a reason, it is designed to protect you from the razor blade.

All that changes when it’s time to change the blade.  The guards come off, and you have to handle the blade on your own.  This, again, isn’t actually a big deal.  If you’re careful to avoid touching the razor’s edge you’ll be fine, and I’ve yet to cut myself at all changing them.  But you’re left with a used razor blade, which is still extremely sharp, that now needs to be disposed of.  You could of course just put it in the garbage.  But this risks the blade cutting through the bag, making a mess, and possibly cutting you or the garbage man when the trash is taken out. 

There are several ways to avoid this.  First, some blades are sold in plastic containers which include a blade disposal slot on the bottom.  New blades come out the top, old blades go in the bottom.  However many blades are sold in paper containers that simply hold the new blades, so this isn’t always an option. 

Any choice you might have, if you live in an older home, is a razor blade disposal slot.  While no longer in style, some older homes included a small slot in the medicine cabinet for used razor blades to be disposed of.  It opened into the empty space of your wall, and since the blades are so thin it might take years or decades to fill. 

But most people don’t have that as an option.  For a similar result you can use what’s called a blade bank.  The idea is simple: a hard plastic shell with a small slot for the blade, which allows the blades to be collected and handled without any risk of accidentally cutting anything or anyone.  Once it’s full you simply throw it away.

This is the method I use, though I didn’t want to buy one (I have heard that some stores include a blade bank with razor blade purchases, but I have not encountered that yet).  Instead, I use a small flavored butter jar:

That's probably three or four months worth of blades, so it'll be a bit before it fills up.

That’s probably three or four months worth of blades, so it’ll be a bit before it fills up.

Once it’s full, into the garbage or recycling it will go, and no one is at risk of getting hurt.