My Ultimate Minimalist Shave

Thoughts and input on anything related to wet shaving or men's grooming.
JimT
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My Ultimate Minimalist Shave

Post by JimT »

My ultimate minimalist shave is the result of almost four years of continuous experimentation correlating shave and bath soap ingredients to skin compatibility and double edge razor shave closeness and comfort. A severe winter dry skin itch also motivated my ongoing soap comparisons. My preference is to shave with soap with straightforward ingredients and my standard of comparison for all products used for shaving is a Tabac Shave Stick. I learned some years back how to get a nice shave using Williams Mug Shaving soap which helped me better appreciate the distinctive and outstanding shave qualities of Tabac lather. Say what you will about the scent, Tabac shave soap is a classic experience. My ultimate minimalist shave uses the following items:

1. Merkur Heavy Duty Straight Bar Razor (commonly called the “HD” originally purchased at Classic Shaving online)
2. US Personna Double Edge Blades (Walmart purchase – about $0.20 each at Walmart)
3. Burma Shave Boar Hair Shaving Brush (originally purchased at Walmart)
4. Basis Sensitive Skin Bar Soap (both shower and shave – tallow base - Walmart purchase - $1.97 for either a 4.0 or 5.3 ounce bar – no dyes, perfumes, or preservatives)
5. Thayers Lemon Witch Hazel (adds a nice scent and disinfects the skin – Whole Foods Market purchase)

The list above is currently my daily shave regimen with which I have shaved many, many times. I won’t claim that the Basis is as good as a Tabac shave, but the shave using the Basis bar is good enough so that I will not be quickly replacing the Tabac. I shave with, across, and against the grain using the Basis soap without irritation achieving a baby butt smooth (BBS) shave if I use 3 to 4 passes. The Basis soap is more moisturizing than most soap, including both Williams and Tabac, which detracts slightly from its shave qualities, and Basis is also effective at alleviating dry skin itch during dry winter months. I first read about Basis soap at the Mayo Clinic website relative to dry skin remedies. Washing my face in the evening with drying soaps results in an oily sheen on my forehead the next morning as the body tries to replace lost moisture. Washing my face with the Basis bar in the evenings does not result in an oily forehead the next morning. I face lather the Basis bar until I get to the last little sliver after which I lather in a bowl until the sliver is gone. I thoroughly rinse all soap off when I am done shaving or showering. Unfortunately, the Basis Sensitive Skin bar scent is not pleasing but the scent is mild enough so that the scent did not eliminate my use of the product. I find the Basis scent to be more agreeable than Dove Sensitive Skin bar soap. I keep using the Basis Sensitive Skin bar because it is very skin compatible, non-drying, and also because it is the only bath/shower soap that shaves almost as well as many dedicated shaving soaps. The Basis Sensitive Skin bar soap ingredients are listed at www.drugstore.com. The best part of this whole experience is that I get a more enjoyable, close, very comfortable, and less expensive shave than most American men using only these simple items.

JimT
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KAV
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Post by KAV »

Are we talking basic or inexpensive?
I'm trying to assemble a BAND OF BROTHERS field kit.
Major Winters is seen in one episode chopping frozen water with his bayonet in a M1 ball ammo can preparing to shave. I think it's the one when they jump a SS unit and he shoots the kid.
That, is basic.
notthesharpest
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Post by notthesharpest »

KAV wrote:Are we talking basic or inexpensive?
I'm trying to assemble a BAND OF BROTHERS field kit.
Major Winters is seen in one episode chopping frozen water with his bayonet in a M1 ball ammo can preparing to shave. I think it's the one when they jump a SS unit and he shoots the kid.
That, is basic.
:lol:
Well, I guess you could call it that. :D

In all seriousness, shaving without softening your beard can be done, but it's uncomfortable, relatively ineffective, and wastes blades. Major Winters was basically wasting his time, unless he had to get those whiskers scraped off as best he could in order to stay alive due to the fit of a gas mask or something.


Back to the every-day civilian's shave... Jim - I suspect you could easily scratch number 5 from your list with no bad effects. Disinfecting the skin is essentially just wishful thinking, unless you are using medical-grade disinfectant and living and working in a sterilized bubble.
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Post by jbc »

Excellent, although you may be able to beat that price on your favorite blade. ebay is currently selling your favorite brand of blade for approximatly five cents per blade.
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Post by brothers »

Jim, basic describes it very well. I admit I was thrown off track when you identified Tabac as the standard, but later in your list, you revealed that you shave with a bath soap. I offer no criticism of your choices of product, and commend you for offering up a list of products that are all in current production. In keeping with your theme of minimalism, one could probably understand substituting generic witch hazel for the name brand lemon scented product, which seems a bit extravagant in contrast with the spartan and severely basic theme.

Now on a lighter note, it's obvious this is a male dominated domain. The women are leagues ahead of us here. We males seem to enjoy a bit of the image of silently suffering and surviving, while the fairer sex would say, if you're going to be shopping at Walmart anyway, and you're not stranded on the moon or something, then stop messing around and give yourself permission to buy the stuff that smells good and feels good and stop depriving yourself! If you're going to be using the Thayer's Lemon, then by all means get a badger brush and use the Tabac, and keep using the Thayer's! :D
Gary

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Post by notthesharpest »

brothers wrote:If you're going to be using the Thayer's Lemon, then by all means get a badger brush...
...or even a better/nicer boar brush, if you've come to like boar brushes. Most of the top-quality boar brushes are well under $20 and last quite a long time.

"Basic" certainly has more than one interpretation - simple - saves money - going only to the minimum standard - going below the minimum standard - maybe others too... not all of them are necessarily compatible.
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Post by JimT »

Gary,

Nicely stated. My purpose in using the title, "The Ultimate Minimalist Shave", was to convey the fact that these items really work to provide a very fine shave and that I do not feel like I am giving up much in the shave experience or the results using these low cost items. On the contrary, my face has never felt better after a shave. I agree with Notthesharpest that the Thayers could be eliminated but this shave needs a wee bit of luxury and the Thayers is it. Thayers Lemon Witch Hazel has for a long time been my favorite aftershave mostly due to the fresh lemon scent but also due to the aloe moisturizer. Thayers Rose Witch Hazel just never quite worked as well on me scent wise. As much as I like how Tabac soap shaves, there were times when I just didn't feel like the scent and it was one of those times when I tried shaving with the Basis Sensitive Skin bar. In time, I found myself reaching for for the Basis for a shave more often than not just because the scent, while not completely pleasing, was mildly innocuous. Compare the ingredients in the Basis to AOS shave soap and you will see similiarities. One of my biggest disappointments early on using a double edge razor was experiencing slight facial skin burning using Taylor's Rose Shave cream which had a wonderful scent and provided a very luxurious shave. I attributed my skin reaction to the dyes used in the cream which may not actually be the case but I avoid dyes (except titanium dioxide) anyway. I tend to avoid strong scents and it was interesting that Tabac shave soap was very comfortable on my skin. The Tabac scent is actually not that strong when shaving or after the shave if the soap is rinsed off well. Oddly enough, I have never felt a strong desire to purchase a badger brush being quite satisfied with my Proraso Omega and my Burma Shave brushes. Perhaps the main message here is that one does not need luxury items to enjoy the luxury of a well executed double edge razor shave.

Notthesharpest,

I completely agree on #5. You got me. I use it mostly for the scent. Early versions of this post referred to #5 as "optional".


jbc,

Five cents a blade? That is quite a savings. I will check it out. Actually, my favorite blade is the Feather double edge and I have one pack that I am saving as I use up my US Personna blades. The US Personna blades work reasonably well and are locally available. I will readily agree that there are better blades to be had.


Thanks for the comments gents. Have a nice day.

JimT
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Post by gsgo »

Minimal for me would be Lucky Tiger Molle Shaving Cream and then either my 1904 or HD along with blade of choice. No brush needed and the lanolin in the Molle usually leaves my face feeling pretty good and I could easily get away with no aftershave without any problem.

Shave cream, razor and blade along with some warm water and I would be fine for a while.

If I am not mistaken I believe Molle was an army issued item back in WWII.
Good shaving,

Gary
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Post by notthesharpest »

JimT wrote:Perhaps the main message here is that one does not need luxury items to enjoy the luxury of a well executed double edge razor shave.
This is most certainly true.
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Post by paperpundit »

Jim, do you like the Basis over another inexpensive soap, say, Williams or VDH? Or is it the fact that the soap can be "repurposed?"

For example, I have used the last stray bits of Yardley violet in a cup as a shaving soap.
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Post by ateace »

gsgo wrote:Minimal for me would be Lucky Tiger Molle Shaving Cream and then either my 1904 or HD along with blade of choice. No brush needed and the lanolin in the Molle usually leaves my face feeling pretty good and I could easily get away with no aftershave without any problem.
BIG +1 for the Molle and everything you said about it.
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Post by JohnP »

That's interesting.
I remember when first starting out at this there was a face soap I found at TJ Max that I thought worked quite well before being told that it was not a shave soap...

Before the forums though I used a Gillette and Palmolive brushless.

John P.
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Post by CMur12 »

Thanks, Jim, for a counterpoint to the dreaded ADs.

We always say that one can save money by shaving with a DE, but most of us who spend any amount of time here don't. And even though I'm as guilty as any when it comes to sinking lots of money into fine tools and product, I'm inspired by your post and I would like to see it presented to every newcomer among the paths he could take in his pursuit of a great shave. (In fact, I'm bookmarking it for that very purpose.)

Very well done.

- Murray
Give me Soap or give me death!
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Post by bernards66 »

Corey Greenberg ( of 'shaveblog' fame....or infamy depending on your point of view...chuckle ) used to regularly get hung up on the 'minimalist' trip. In his case, it seemed to be guilt driven. What he really enjoyed were top end, even slightly decadent, stuff; the old Trumpers Violet shave cream or the Claus Porto Violetta bath soap that I introduced him to...but then he'd feel quilty, like he was somehow betraying his populist stance or something. Personally, I never entirely 'got it'. I mean, I understood intellectually what was going on, but I never related to it. I've been grateful for a long time that I managed to ferret out, on my own, what I think are the finest shaving products in the world, and I see no need, nor feel any desire to use anything else. I 'can' shave with a lot of things, but I do not get the same degree of pleasure or satisfaction, and I have very little inclination to see what I could 'get by' with. If someone genuinely has just as satisfying a shave with Williams soap and some cut-rate Bangledesh blade and a $10 boar brush, then that's fine, but I simply do not. Wetshaving is one of the few areas where I am in a position to use 'the best', and so, I do. I certainly can not in regard to autos, houses, or any number of other things.

Regarding Basis soap specifically, I was first introduced to it by my girlfriend in the mid 1980s and have used it here and there since. I think it's okay, but I don't like it as much as the US Yardley, let alone some of the more expensive bath soaps. No bath soap ( and I've tried a bunch of them ) has ever worked as well for shaving as the better soaps specifically made for that purpose although I can use them if I absolutely have to....even including stuff like Ivory. But I'd rather not. I like my shave straight forward, not overly complicated or elaborate, but top shelf. That's just me, of course.
Regards,
Gordon
Last edited by bernards66 on Mon Jun 21, 2010 10:47 pm, edited 2 times in total.
CMur12
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Post by CMur12 »

Gordon, like you, most of us who spend any time here make our shave a luxury. Some of us are more self-indulgent and some are more frugal, but by and large, we go for the good stuff.

Others come here and stay long enough to learn technique, but move on before they succumb to the dreaded ADs. These are a more pragmatic group of shavers.

Jim's post is a an example that we all seem to acknowledge in theory but rarely see in practice. From the sounds of it, he gets an excellent shave and he enjoys the process, which is what it's all about. His counterpoint adds dimension to the world of wetshaving, and I think it would give newcomers a more rounded perspective from which to choose their shaving paths.

- Murray
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Post by KAV »

Knife owners may be familiar with Camillus and Shrade. Both were well respected New York companies. Camillus was a major contractor for military issue and even made in house products for other companies. Shrade was a smaller outfit, famous for bringing in disabled or longterm unemployed people and giving them training, a paycheck and a reference.
Two american retailers put pressure on both to reduce costs so the RETAILERS could benefit with higher margins. Those companies were Sears/Kmart and Walmart. Both companies refused. Both were hit by simultaneous worker strikes. Both went bankrupt and all those jobs were lost. Shrade, a family owned business sold off the name and product line.
You can buy a Shrade today, at Sears or Walmart. Shrade is now made in Communist China and costs more money discounted.
The shaving industry, or at least exo Gillette, is a worldwide trade of some pretty marvelous products. But it is a vulnerable one. The many posts here lamenting the loss, or reformulation due to restrictive regulations of classic products, degradation of blade quality, plastic containers are legion.
The distribution of those products is largely perfomed by small vendors online and a few upscale distributors. Their service is almost without reproach; fast delivery, generous samples and timely addition of products.
You won't find Bullgoose, or West Coast Shaving or Lee's; Vulfix, Trumper's or Merkur et al listed on Wall street.
If a Walmart shave for x pennies is the goal by all means pursue it. No doubt the savings can be applied to other pursuits, like artificial insemination instead of long courtships and a supersized Mcbarf burger instead of a pastrami and beer at a kosher deli.
A studied mediocrity is not a worthy pursuit in any endeavor.
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Post by CMur12 »

KAV, that is a most uncharitable post.

I think Jim's point about buying at Wal-Mart is that he can buy his supplies locally, just like we did in years past, and that most of his shaving supplies are US-made.

- Murray
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Post by KAV »

"Charity begins at home." Walmart's first victim was Rubbermaid. their last is to terrible to consider. It wasn't personal to the OP, but needs saying.
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Post by Araner »

How sad it is when the joy of the thread is drained, like the life of a wild horse forced to be saddled and ridden hard to it's death. Well, I'll just sit back and listen to the Warsaw concerto; it takes me to a place of contentment. After all, I bought it at a good price from Walmart!
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Post by m3m0ryleak »

As it appears in another forum I haunt, the default response at the bottom of a thread is, "Upon reflection, I do not wish to post".
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