27 years old and I still can't get a painless shave.

Thoughts and input on anything related to wet shaving or men's grooming.
Rob

27 years old and I still can't get a painless shave.

Post by Rob »

Be advised this is a whine-post...but very justified!

I have been debating for about 2 months on whether to create an account and post here or not. Ever since I was 16-17 I have had to shave. Not one time have I had a painless, bleedless shave. I have tried tens of shave creams and settled on Barbasol, oddly enough, because it gave me a consistently less painful shave. And I settled on Gilette Sensor Excel blades (two-blade system) along with Afta after shave. All of these combined have given me the least painful shave over the past 10+ years.

First of all, to understand my shaving woes, you must understand what kind of face I have. My girlfriend once told me, "Rob, shipyards could use your face to scrape barnacles off ships. But then the shipyard would fire you for damaging the ships with your whiskers." Essentially I have steel poles masquerading as hair growing out of my face. I have a permanent 5 o'clock shadow even after a shave. Shaving has always been a very painful experience. Shaving every day as I did in the military was excruciating. I have found that shaving every other day brings the pain down to acceptable levels. When shaving I have to do 2-3 full shaves. First shave is with the grain, apply cream again and go against the grain, then apply cream once more and shave the spots that are still a bit scruffy. This has been going on since I was about 20.

About 3 months ago I decided I had enough. I was going to find a better shave. I searched around and happened across an article on MSNBC: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6886845/. Inspired by this article I set out upon my quest to find the right double-edge razor system for me. During my quest I came across this fine site. I scoured this site for tips, recommendations, reviews, and general shaving information. This place is so very helpful.

I settled on the Merkur Futur and Israeli Personna Super+ blades. I also purchased a Kent VS80 badger hair brush and Col. Conk Bayrum and Amber shaving soaps. I have been shaving with this setup for about one month now and I still have very painful shaves. Amber soap seems to be less painful than Bayrum, but switching from Gilette Sensor blades to the Israeli blades has not alleviated any pain or bleeding whatsoever.

I have shaved after a shower and before a shower. My shave lather is always hot and my brush soft. I use distilled water as the base for creating my lather and I use hot water to rinse my razor during the shave.

Tonight was the last straw. I shaved yesterday and my face was feeling pretty well tonight so I thought I would give it a go. I did a once-over going with the grain with my razor (not 2-3 times as mentioned earlier) and my face is a painful bloody mess. I just don't understand it. I don't press down on my razor, I don't go very fast, I try to be as accurate as possible.

Honestly, I am going to lose my mind if I can't find a way to get a nice pain-free, bleed-free shave. I'm at the end of my rope. I have spent so much money over the years trying to get a decent shave to no avail. I thought the old-timey way was going to be my salvation...but I was wrong. I know I have written a lot. I know this is a total whine post. But I can't imagine a better place to find other men who have had the same experiences as me who might be able to offer suggestions to pull me out of my shaving quagmire.

In other words, help! :) Thanks for reading.
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FiReSTaRT
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Post by FiReSTaRT »

Your angle could be off. In general, the blade has to be at about a 30 degree angle to your face. The angle should be even smaller in the 10-20 degree range for tougher whiskers, like yours. If your angle is too large, then you're not really cutting hair, you blade is skipping over it, you lose control and cut your skin. So give your face a bit of a rest, probably about 2 days and try again with a more aggressive angle, again no pressure. Use smooth strokes.
Another mistake you may be making is doing multiple passes over the same area, so your razor isn't getting a nice glide.
Worst case scenario, get yourself a shave-ready heavy wedge of a straight razor (like a 7/8-8/8) and that will mow through your whiskers and the Amazon rainforest with equal ease. Good luck and I hope this helps.
"The downfall of any system of government is that it is run by humans." -- Ilija Milicevic
Rob

Post by Rob »

Thanks for the reply! I will implement your suggestions in my next shave. Heh, I don't think I am ready for a straight razor...but who knows!
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FiReSTaRT
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Post by FiReSTaRT »

Honestly, the only way a straight will hurt you more than a DE will is if you do it to yourself on purpose. Especially if you get a round-point. However try what I suggested, you may just get that painless shave without investing in even MORE gear.
"The downfall of any system of government is that it is run by humans." -- Ilija Milicevic
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Post by mparker762 »

You might want to try an injector or GEM, their blades are stiffer and less prone to flexing against the beard.

Failing that it sounds like time to try a straight. Seriously. A wedge may be overkill even for your beard (and certainly will be a b*tch to hone), but a stout old 8/8 Wade & Butcher or Wostenholm frameback will do the trick just as well. There's just something about that big, stout machete in your hands to make the whiskers split themselves in fear.
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MOSES
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Post by MOSES »

Seriously - try an injector. Get one off ebay, they are very cheap. I'd go with the old bakelite handle ones, but opinions differ on that. Seriously though, I have a very tough beard (although not as bad as yours I think) and I find the stiffness of the blade very helpful. Also, it is an extremely forgiving shave. If you really need something to slice through the hair, you can upgrade it to the clipped off feather blades, too....
Alrighty, stickim up and hand over the Coates real nice and slow like....
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JakAHearts
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Post by JakAHearts »

Also, grow a beard...

Really though, I dont understand how you are cutting yourself. What do you have your futur set to? I dont see needing any more than a 2 to start out with, and the more I use mine and the more I get used to it, the lower I dial it. Im at a 1 1/4 right now and get SMOOOOTH painless shaves. I find that if my wrist and arm are straight, with my upper arm level with my shoulder, and the razor right in line, thats about the right angle. Give it a whirl, and NO PRESSURE.

Though, I just tried to cut myself by using bad angle, and still have no blood. Maybe youre the guy from Unbreakable, only your skin is weak instead of your bones?

EDIT*** See this post http://www.shavemyface.com/forum/viewto ... 934#115934 I imagine if I tried to shave on that area tomorrow, with bad technique, then Id be a bloody mess.
Buzz
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Re: 27 years old and I still can't get a painless shave.

Post by Buzz »

Rob_TN wrote:Honestly, I am going to lose my mind if I can't find a way to get a nice pain-free, bleed-free shave. I'm at the end of my rope. I have spent so much money over the years trying to get a decent shave to no avail. I thought the old-timey way was going to be my salvation...but I was wrong.
I have a suggestion.

Find a barber who really knows how to use a straight razor. Good barbers are rare these days, so it may take some effort to find one.

If a professional can give you a good shave with minimum discomfort, then it is something you can learn for yourself. It is a matter of finding the right equipment and technique.

If not... maybe a beard isn't such a bad option after all!
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ScottS
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Post by ScottS »

Cut down your variables!! Each pass you do will have different technique issues, and you need to figure our where you're doing your damage.

After hearing your story, I'd definately advise toning the number of passes way down. Start with one with-the-grain pass, and stay with it until your shaves are comfortable and blood free. Of course, you'll have poor shaves for a while, but its going to be the quickest way to figure out what you're doing wrong. My bet is it will take you about a week to two weeks to get your technique down, but you'll be moving much quicker from that point.

Next, add an across the grain pass, and don't move on from there until you have some comfortable shaves.

My experience with soaps is that they can sting more than creams. You might consider picking up a tube of Palmolive Lathering in a red-trimmed tube (not Brushless in a green trimmed tube), but I'm reasonably sure your problem isn't only with the soap.

It seems slow, but not compared to your decade of painful shaves.
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Post by themba »

FIRST READ THE MASSIVE GEM THREAD HERE ON SMF, THEN

GET A 1914 MODEL GEM AND SOME DOG'S BOLLOCKS BLADES!!
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Post by wenestvedt »

Rob_TN;

You wrote, "I don't press down on my razor, I don't go very fast, I try to be as accurate as possible." -- which means you've got the right idea, so it's just the execution that you need to work on! :7)

There's only two things that I ight suggest, speaking as a n00b:

1. Don't try to remove every bit of every whisker. Doug (DEF) said that you get 90% of your injuries by trying to shave the last 5% of the stubble, which I have internalized to mean that acceptance of a few little hairs promotes serenity and an appreciation for the subtle values of a nearly perfect shave. (Also, less blood == less razzing from my wife and fewer grisly shirt collars.)

2. Barely get your razor's blade close enough to your face to touch it. I thought I had been gentle before, but then I tried the much-vaunted Feather blades and I left the bathroom four days in a row looking like I'd been cheese-gratered. Then I sort of just menaced my face with the razor for two passes instead of "confidently applying the blade" and now my skin remains intact, with a smoother shave than before! Moral of this story is, no mater how light your touch is, try a little lighter. :7)

That's just my two cents. Keep the faith!

- Will
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sousy
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Re: 27 years old and I still can't get a painless shave.

Post by sousy »

Buzz wrote:I have a suggestion.

Find a barber who really knows how to use a straight razor. Good barbers are rare these days, so it may take some effort to find one.

If a professional can give you a good shave with minimum discomfort, then it is something you can learn for yourself. It is a matter of finding the right equipment and technique.
This is a great suggestion - if you find a good barber, he might be able to give you a few tips as well: he's probably seen (and shaved) all types of beards and would have some helpful suggestions for you.

In fact, I'd do this before buying more stuff.
Regards,

Chad
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DEF
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Post by DEF »

One thing that nobody has mentioned yet is prep. I have tough whiskers -- maybe not as tough as Rob's -- but I find that it makes a huge difference when I get my whiskers good and moisturized before a shave. Definitely shave after your shower -- and during the shower, try putting some conditioner on your beard and let it sit there. You might even go so far as to consider a hot-towel wrap before you shave -- anything to maximize the moisture in those whiskers.

After a month or so of using only Israeli blades, I'm trying a Feather blade in my new Progress, and sure enough, I'm getting some nicks, too -- especially on my neck. On the other hand, I'm getting some darn close shaves, too. But I think I'll end up going back to the Israelis, which work very very well with less blood.

I've never tried an injector, but those who swear by them do find that they give an incredible shave. Definitely listen to those who are recommending that. One popular technique is to buy the blades that are used in the Feather Artist straight razor (e.g., Feather Super Pro), then clip them down just a bit so that they fit in the injector. You might not want to attempt this until you're getting consistent results with another blade, though; those Feathers are the sharpest blades around.

The low blade angle is important, too. Firestart is exactly right; with too steep an angle, you're scraping your face more than shearing off whiskers. That may very well mean dialing down your razor. The temptation is to crank up the blade gap because it FEELS like the razor is doing more that way. And it may be -- just not to your whiskers. Low angle is the key.

Will -- Gosh, it's an honor to be quoted! :oops: I don't remember saying that about 90% of injuries coming from the last 5% of stubble, but if I did, I was certainly right. :lol: It's kind of the shaving equivalent of the Pareto principle, I guess. My experience this week with the Feather-loaded Progress certainly confirms that. I've learned once again to keep a very light touch, which is always important.

Well, Rob, I hope you can get the results you want. It's discouraging, and you're understandably frustrated. Keep trying. Approach it like a scientist, experimenting and keeping track of your variables. The goal should be: wet beard, sharp blade, low angle, light touch. Stick around here on SMF and keep us up to date.

Regards,
Doug
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Post by wenestvedt »

DEF wrote:You might even go so far as to consider a hot-towel wrap before you shave -- anything to maximize the moisture in those whiskers.
Probably feel great, though your wife & kids will hoot if they catch you!
DEF wrote:Will -- Gosh, it's an honor to be quoted! :oops: I don't remember saying that about 90% of injuries coming from the last 5% of stubble, but if I did, I was certainly right. :lol: It's kind of the shaving equivalent of the Pareto principle, I guess.
Well, you may in fact have said 80/20 (I'm bad at math), though the 95/5 breakpoint is closer to the truth in my blood-soaked experience.
DEF wrote:My experience this week with the Feather-loaded Progress certainly confirms that. I've learned once again to keep a very light touch, which is always important.
<AOL>Me, too!</AOL> At first I thought that the Feathers were too much for me, or that I had an unusually tender face -- but then I remembered all the times that my big brothers & sister told me I was nothing special, and I tried changing what I was doing instead of blaming it on what I was, and then I found success. :7)

- Will
Leisureguy

Post by Leisureguy »

It turns out I'm echoing DEF's advice, but I'll speak up anyway: as I prepared to shave this morning, I was turning your problem over in my mind, and I latched on to the idea of using conditioner on your beard. One other shaver I read recently on one of the threads commented that this had made an ENORMOUS difference in his shave. So if you're not already doing it, give it a go.

The hot towel wrap is probably a good idea, too, but I've never tried that.
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Post by Hugo »

DEF wrote:One thing that nobody has mentioned yet is prep. I have tough whiskers -- maybe not as tough as Rob's -- but I find that it makes a huge difference when I get my whiskers good and moisturized before a shave. Definitely shave after your shower -- and during the shower, try putting some conditioner on your beard and let it sit there. You might even go so far as to consider a hot-towel wrap before you shave -- anything to maximize the moisture in those whiskers.

After a month or so of using only Israeli blades, I'm trying a Feather blade in my new Progress, and sure enough, I'm getting some nicks, too -- especially on my neck. On the other hand, I'm getting some darn close shaves, too. But I think I'll end up going back to the Israelis, which work very very well with less blood.

I've never tried an injector, but those who swear by them do find that they give an incredible shave. Definitely listen to those who are recommending that. One popular technique is to buy the blades that are used in the Feather Artist straight razor (e.g., Feather Super Pro), then clip them down just a bit so that they fit in the injector. You might not want to attempt this until you're getting consistent results with another blade, though; those Feathers are the sharpest blades around.

The low blade angle is important, too. Firestart is exactly right; with too steep an angle, you're scraping your face more than shearing off whiskers. That may very well mean dialing down your razor. The temptation is to crank up the blade gap because it FEELS like the razor is doing more that way. And it may be -- just not to your whiskers. Low angle is the key.

Will -- Gosh, it's an honor to be quoted! :oops: I don't remember saying that about 90% of injuries coming from the last 5% of stubble, but if I did, I was certainly right. :lol: It's kind of the shaving equivalent of the Pareto principle, I guess. My experience this week with the Feather-loaded Progress certainly confirms that. I've learned once again to keep a very light touch, which is always important.

Well, Rob, I hope you can get the results you want. It's discouraging, and you're understandably frustrated. Keep trying. Approach it like a scientist, experimenting and keeping track of your variables. The goal should be: wet beard, sharp blade, low angle, light touch. Stick around here on SMF and keep us up to date.

Regards,
Doug
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Post by Scorpio »

I use both the hot towel and the pre shave cream and to me it makes a huge difference. It seems you are doing everything else right but you did not mention anything about how you prep your face for the shave. Preparing the face is, to me, very important as it softens the beard which in turns makes it easier for the blade to cut the hair. I hope this helps.

Rafael
"A well lathered face is only half of a good shave"
Rob

Post by Rob »

Whew, now I wasn't expecting this many replies! Thanks, guys. I'm going to try my best to address all questions in this reply.

I haven't shaved since my initial post. My face is just too sore right now. My skin does seem to be quite sensitive, but that could be a result from my harsh shaves. I'll shave on Thursday. Oh, and I thought about my shaves and I do seem to have a near-30 degree angle when shaving...so that's a good sign.

I have thought about trying to find a barber who does straight razor shaves. I can't see myself growing a beard because once my beard gets to a certain length (about 1.5cm or so) it itches me to death. I get so tired of the itching that I just shave it all off.

If I still have trouble with my DE razor, I may just give the Injector a try. I have been seriously considering getting laser hair removal. Most plastic surgeons offer this service. It's an option.

Currently I have my Futur set to 3. I looked at it when it was set to 6 and to 1, and I decided somewhere in the middle would be alright. But in some of the replies I see others use their Futur at 1.5 or so. I'll crank it down to 1 next time I shave.

Starting with next shave I am only going to go with the grain and the occasional across the grain. I suppose I'll try that method for a while. It seems some folks here recommend going with the grain for a few passes to get a smooth shave. I imagine that would certainly cut down on the skin irritation and bleeding I get. My problem is that I just don't seem to get a close shave without going against the grain. But I promise I'll try the with-the-grain and across-the-grain method.

wenestvedt, I had heard the Feather blades were insanely sharp. Which is exactly why a noob like me didn't buy them! :P

DEF and Leisureguy, I don't know what beard conditioner is or where to buy it. Could you recommend anything? I never prep my beard before a shave. Either I shave after my shower or I shave after I have splashed a bunch of very, very warm water on my face. That warm towel wrap sounds promising...I'll give it a try, too.

Rafael, pre-shave cream? Could you recommend something along those lines?

As I said, I haven't shaved since my initial post. I can look in the mirror and see that my face just isn't strong enough to withstand a blade today. I'll incorporate some of the great suggestions in this thread next time I shave. I'll let you all know how it goes.

And thanks, yall. Thanks so much for your ideas.

Edit: I have seen some chatter about alum blocks on this forum but I can't figure out what an alum block is used for. Could it be something I should try? Also, many people have posted about Witch hazel. I think I can get that at Walgreen's? Would it be useful as well?
Last edited by Rob on Wed Aug 09, 2006 4:42 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Leisureguy

Post by Leisureguy »

Not beard conditioner, just the regular conditioner people put on their hair after a shampoo. It softens the hair (and the hair in the beard).

The Feather is sharp, but for some that makes for a very nice shave with no pulling and no resistance from whiskers. They're worth a try.

With the grain and then across the grain is definitely worth doing. Be sure to lather between passes. You might also want to try the Proraso Pre-/Post-Shave Cream (Classic Shaving carries it, for example).

Good luck. Keep us informed and let's lick this problem.
Rob

Post by Rob »

Ahhh, that kind of conditioner. Gotcha. Thanks.
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