Zen and the art of shaving

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I've never liked shaving. In fact, it seems as if I've hated it for most of my adult life. It could be inaccurate, but I remember being very nonchalant about getting a razor for Christmas from a friend -- I think I was 14 or 15. It also seems like it was quite a while before I used it.

I remember looking around at people when I was in college and starting work who were constantly clean shaven. Sometimes I wondered what my problem was. I suspect that it had to do with the fact that I had a girl friend -- even though I'm certain that she would have preferred that I had been clean shaven.

Well in any case, recently I've been trying to clean up a bit and I decided I needed to get over this shaving thing, but I wasn't very optimistic. How much I've learned in the past couple of months.

I've spent some time over the past couple of weeks going over why I disliked shaving, and I've come up with a few reasons:

  • I like to sleep in the morning. I'd much rather work till 1 or 2am and get out of bed after 9am. Just how I've always been. Since I have a job where I need to be in before 9 pretty consistently, shaving before work meant that I needed to get up and at it 10 minutes before I really wanted to.
  • It costs too much. Up until very recently I have used a Gillette Sensor II that I bought in my early 20's. I thought about upgrading every time a new razor came out with 3, 4, 5, 6 blades. In the end I was consistently turned off by the price of buying a new handle and the price of the replacement cartridges. Even with that old Sensor II, I still would complain about the cartridges. Even with as rarely as I shaved, it seemed as if I was spending too much money on razors.
  • It dried my face out. I don't know if it was the shaving gel / lotion or the after shave, but my face always felt brittle afterwards. Mind you I used to use shaving gel & aftershave off the shelf from the local megastore.
  • It always felt like a chore. A waste of time. Time that I could be doing something better.

So here's the interesting part. Over the course of a couple of months,a few random things about shaving came through my twitter feed. I don't follow any shaving geeks on twitter. Everything that came up was talking about the pleasure of kind of kicking it old school, regarding shaving. Seemed like an odd coincidence.

Thinking back over my list, there's obviously nothing I can do about the first one (aside from shaving in the evening, which I don't want to do). But the rest might be able to dealt with.

I started out with changing the aftershave. I found this stuff on Amazon that got some pretty good review. It's alcohol free, and pretty nice. I was impressed. So far so good with what all the random articles that I had seen on twitter.

Next thing to replace the shaving gel. I took to amazon again, and found some stuff in a tube.

The crazy thing was that I was spending more time shaving (since I had to ship that soap into a lather, and then spread it on my face), but it was kind of enjoyable -- partly because it was a challenge, and partly because my skin isn't dry anymore after I get done. Between the aftershave lotion, and the shaving soap, things felt a lot better. It  also seemed like the razor cartridges were lasting longer.

But I decided to change the razor out as well. Amazon to the rescue again, with a safety razor that uses ... wait for it ... a double edged razor blade. Now the razor handle itself was pretty pricey, but looking at the price of double edged blades and how long they seem to be lasting, I think that I'll be able to use maybe 12 blades a year. 15 is probably more likely, but it won't be higher than that. Given the fact that you can pick up double edges razor blades in bulk for around $.09 apiece I'm thinking that I'll start seeing some savings at some point next year.

Now I'll admit that I was a little nervous about using the old school razor. I figured that there had to be a reason that people switched away from this type of razor years ago. I was expecting that I would cut myself like crazy the first time I tried. I figured that I would end up with razor burn all over my face. I figured that I wouldn't get a great shave.

Wrong on every single count. I've ended up with fewer nicks nicks in the last 2 months than in the previous 2 months. The razor seems to just float over my skin, so razor burn hasn't been problematic.

As far as the quality of the shave ... it is pretty much the same over a day to day basis. But the real test is shaving after taking a couple of days off. Well last week was a lulu at work, and I only shaved on Monday. Getting up on Sunday for church, I wasn't entirely sure what I was in for. I had some pretty significantly growth after 5 days of not shaving. I lathered up, and tore into it. I was blown away in that I didn't have to do anything different than I had on Monday. I didn't have to use shorter strokes, nor did I have to push harder. It just worked. Amazing.

In the midst of all of this, I did purchase a different type of shaving soap. I like it alright. It is smoother than the Proraso stuff in the tube, but it doesn't seem to stand the hair up quite a well. I think that in the end I'll end up keeping 2 different types of shaving soap about about. One for day to day, and one for days after I've been lazy.

So there you have it. I've made the change, and I won't be going back. I think this is how I;ll be teaching the boys how to shave even. The best part, and this is something that I hadn't previously thought about, is how much greener this is. So far I've thrown away an empty foil tube (think old school toothpaste), and a thin piece of metal (in the form of a double egde razor blade). The soap & the aftershave are all natural ingredients, so fewer chemicals being washed down the drain.

If anyone is looking for an almost antique Gillette Sensor II, let me know. It'll be first come first serve. I'd be willing to trade it for a razor / brush stand.

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