The Safety Shave
I mentioned a couple of posts ago that I got into classic wet shaving on behalf of my husband. It was an accidental discovery. It was about a month before his birthday and I was hunting for ideas. I stumbled across a community dedicated to reviving the art of the classic shave and started reading.
I ended up buying a good basic set-up, and after seeing the awesome results of J’s first shave I decided to try it on my legs.
I decided not to start in the shower. Safety Razors take some practice so I wanted to be on solid ground. Based on a bit of reading I decided to start with a thin layer of shaving oil (straight castor) and then lather up with a standard badger brush and a block of shea butter soap.
I filled the sink with hot water and dropped the brush in. I loaded up the Merkur 180 with a Gillette 7 O’clock blade and dropped it into the water, too. I applied the oil, finding it as sticky and bemusing as when I used it for soap making (more on that another time). I made a mental note to mix it with a bit of olive oil to improve the texture next time.
Following the advice of other bloggers I decided to go slow, working in sections and moving with short strokes. I lathered up my soap and worked it from mid-calf to ankle, all the way around. I figured out quickly that a DE razor is all about the angle. You have to find the right angle to shear off the hair but not cut your skin. I found that I was able to listen for the change in sound as my angle shifted. I could hear distinctly when I had found the perfect angle.
I worked quickly but carefully, adrenaline pumping as I crossed the Achilles tendon region. Happily I didn’t cut myself. Hell, I can slaughter my Achilles with a Venus razor, so I really didn’t expect to come out injury-free.
I then lathered from mid-calf to just past the knee. By now I was getting confident. By the time I got to my knees I was overconfident. I heard the sound change and thought, “short strokes!” just as I nicked the tendon behind my knee. Ouch. Another commonly sliced location, only this time I’d not been so careful.
I finished up and quickly rubbed my styptic pencil across the wound. Yikes, that stuff stings. But damn if it didn’t immediately stop the bleeding. I shaved my other leg, taking care around the complex parts, then rinsed down in the bathtub. I patted dry, then spritzed a little witch hazel over my newly smooth legs and rubbed it in. Lastly I smoothed lotion on from hip to toe.
The verdict? Amazing. A-fucking-mazing. I’d never felt so smooth in my life. I ran to show J and made him confirm my findings. That was a damn good shave. Yes it took longer than a quick zip-zop in the shower with a Venus but no cartridge has ever given me results like that. And because the shave was so close I got more smooth days out of the deal before the stubble started coming in.
No, it’s not something I think I could work into a weekday routine. But frankly I usually don’t shave midweek anyway. And the thing is, just about every minute of every day is focused on my family or my job. 10 extra minutes in the bathroom doing something that’s all for me and makes me feel good about myself? Yes please.
I’m at a point in my life where I’ve realized that small things count. The way we live each day is the way we spend our lives. It’s worth it to invest a little time and effort into something that that makes you feel good. I’m through with cartridge razors. Bring on the good shave.