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Confessions of a Grey Haired Wet Shaver

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I have a confession. I only use a safety razor blade once and then recycle it. Yes once. I know the thought of this many of you seems wasteful and borderline crazy. I feel a bit sheepish confessing this because I know most people get an average of 3-5 shaves per DE blade. In some rare cases there are various shave of the day posts and videos of people proclaiming 10+ shaves on the same blade. I feel awkward about this because searching for a low cost alternative to conventional shaving cartridges is what let me to wet shaving. It feels a bit weird to be so frivolous with blades, but let me explain.

Like many reading this right now, I have spent countless hours practicing and honing my wet shaving skills, from lathering various soaps, to mastering each safety razor and brush in my collection. I have even spent lots of time testing and taking detailed notes on various safety razor blades to determine my number one blade of choice.

In all of my practice, I have mastered the art of the perfect shave and have been enjoying this shave bliss for a few years now. I get a perfect shave, no matter how much growth, every time. Most of this success is attributed to using one razor (a Rockwell 6S), one blade (a Feather blade), one brush (a Simpsons Chubby 1 in Super Badger), a few carefully curated soaps, Alum always, and a scent free moisturizer as a post shave product (Amazon and Rockwell links are Sharpologist affiliates).

I would also say that deliberate practice of repeating the process over and over helped as well, a process discussed in “Outliers” by Malcom Gladwell.

For years I have always faithfully gotten two shaves from a Feather blade. But something changed early last year and I noticed that I was always struggling with my second shave. I noticed the blade on the second shave would consistently tug a bit and felt less sharp. It felt as though the blade had been used 6 times and not only once. It wasn’t unbearable, but just not as smooth they were before. This kept happening over and over and over and I quickly became frustrated.

What’s The Root Cause?

I immediately went in to my typical problem solving mode to try and figure out what was different and what has changed. My first thought was that somehow Feather reduced the quality of their blades, but that is crazy talk. Feather is a trusted brand and I’m quite certain this wasn’t the case. I thought maybe it was a bad batch, but that was disproved when I opened my next 100 pack from a different lot.

I then evaluated my hardware gear. Again, I have faithfully used my Simpsons Chubby 1 in Super Badger and my trusty Rockwell 6S on plate 3. Again, nothing has changed with my gear, if anything my brush gets better and better each day.

I then considered my soaps. I began thinking that maybe they lost their slickness due to air exposure and I had just become accustomed to this degradation and it was affecting my shaves. I tried a few new soaps just to be objective. There was still no difference.

Lastly, I evaluated my drying technique. At this point I know the hard-core wet shave enthusiasts that are reading this are screaming at me…. “How do you dry your blade?” My technique is simple, I wipe down the blade until it is completely dry after each shave, stick it to a magnet to keep it up and away and then allow it to air dry. I thought, could this tiny rare earth magnet be making my blade dull? I seriously doubting that, but just to be sure, I tested another storage method for a month. I would leave it in a glass jar to dry in the open air. Guess what?  Nothing changed.

Then one day I had an “aha!” moment. I considered my facial hair.

Upon evaluation, I realized that I now have more grey whiskers than not. As I get older, nearing my 40’s, I probably have about 60% grey facial hair. It is much coarser, thicker and “wirier” than my old youthful whiskers. I have determined that my grey stubble is dulling my blades at a much higher rate than normal.

The Lesson

So while I thought it was the gear, I realized my stubbornness got the best of me. The problem is twofold. Firstly, I was too stubborn and assumed it could only be the gear and nothing else. Secondly, the complete ignorance that the characteristics of my facial hair could have completely changed as I get older.

This brings me to the important lesson I’ve learned through this experience. That is the lesson to Learn, Unlearn and Relearn, something I picked up a few years ago in a business book. It’s difficult as we get older to unlearn something whether it is a process, methodology, approach or belief about something. Had I immediately come to the conclusion that the change was within me and had not blamed the gear, I could have save myself a month or two of testing and evaluating what went wrong.

So I leave you with that lesson. If something all of a sudden changes with your shave results, look within yourself and ask… Am I the problem? Don’t just assume it’s the gear, because thinking you know everything when the answer is staring you right in the face is a time-consuming lesson.

As mentioned, now that I have moved to a “one and done” method with my safety razor blades, I get the perfect shave every time. I don’t have to struggle through my second shave. I figured for the costs, why the heck not? Life is too short to have an uncomfortable shave.

Shahan Fancy

Shahan Fancy

18 thoughts on “Confessions of a Grey Haired Wet Shaver”

  1. Nice article Shahan.
    If I were you, I would do exactly as you are doing. After all, who can argue with perfect shaves every time? But I am not you. I am a young man of age 71 (lol). I have plenty of the intermixed black and gray/white hairs – hairs with different thickness, different suppleness, and that lie in different directions on the same parts of my face!
    Like you, I firmly believe in careful change control, and like you I somehow stumbled on the habit of tossing Feathers after one use (although shamelessly in my case). However, even good rules to live by are seldom good rules to be doctrinaire about, which leads me to this …
    I discovered that thick, single edge blades cut better and hold up longer for me than DEs, while leaving less less treadwear. I’m talking about Schick format made in China or Proline B-20 and GEM PTFE. I have no trouble getting multiple excellent shaves out of these blades, and the shaves are better and smoother than my DE shaves.
    I just looked through my notes and saw that I used a DE blade three times in the last three months, and then only because I wanted to try out a DE razor that I pre-ordered as part of a group buy.
    It is something to think about. In any case, thanks again for the article. — Happy shaves!

    1. Hi Mike, thanks for the comments and taking the time to read the article! You are the second person to recommend a thicker blade, which seems like great and trusted advice, coming from such an experienced young man such as yourself. Thanks again! Wishing you all the best.

      1. I never really thought about it until your article and these comments, but I generally get better results from a thicker blade, too: OneBlade, Supply, GEM, etc. The exception for me are the “shaper” blades (like a Feather Pro)–I think they’re a bit thinner than other SE blades. (I’m coming up on age 60 and have quite a few grey hairs in my stubble.)

        1. I think we’re on to something here Mark! I guess that is why it’s often referred to the “Art” of shaving… Art is always dynamic and always changing.

        2. I’m glad you mentioned the OneBlade Mark, because I forgot to mention FHS-10 format blades, even though I love my Genesis. FHS-10 blades are the same thickness as GEMs (.009″) – almost as thick as Schick format blades (.010″). I did not mention Artist Club blades despite their great popularity, but the AC blades I know about are all .010″ or thicker.
          All of these blades – AC, FHS, GEM, and Schick – are notably thicker and more rigid than DEs. So thickness differences among the SE formats do not matter as much to me as other factors. The other factor that does matter to me is blade length, the AC blades being notably longer than the other formats. What that means to me is that SE razors made for AC blades are harder for me to maneuver than the shorter format blades. I know a lot of people prefer AC blades in SE razors, and I don’t mean to take away from them or their gear, but my preference is a thick, shorter format SE blade.

  2. HI,
    your article was very interesting! i started DE shaving at age 58 i am now 64 and though i never concerned myself with BBS shaves it now seems to me a bit more challenging to get a good clean shave but i now makes sense to me! i thought i was down to my technique,now i know better Thanks alot! tony

    1. Thanks for your comments Tony. I too have never been concerned with achieving BBS shaves. I have always preferred a nice and simple, but close shave. I’m glad that this article could help you in some way or another.

  3. Interesting!
    After reading a chance comment on a men’s health forum in my mid 50s I bought a Merkur HD and returned to the DE shaving of my youth. I found I liked Gillette Platinum blades (Swedes). When they became unavailable i took to Feathers and graduated to the long handled Merkur Slant. That worked wonderfully well till my early 60s. I kept the Feathers but moved to an R41 – the most aggressive standard production razors, I think. I use the head with a stainless steel handle much like the Merkur Barber Poll.
    Now I am coming up 70 and, being retired shave only every other day, though sometimes I will go longer. I have been using the Feathers only twice, but am beginning to think even that is too optimistic. Those white wiry whiskers get tougher all the time.
    I note with interest that white haired old men like me use Feathers only once. I may be coming to that for me.
    If I have to shave on consecutive days I use my Gillette Slim Adjustable opened up to 9. I does not remove my beard quite as well, but it is kinder on my face.
    I use a rich lather from a Taylor cream. I apply hair conditioner in the shower before I shave. I finish off with an alum block an Arko Natural Cream.

    1. Thanks for your comments and sharing some insights into your experiences and process.
      I always like to learn about other routines and personal journeys and it sounds like we are very much aligned.
      I have never tried the conditioner technique, but that might be worth a try!

  4. I am approaching 68 and over the last year or so have started shaving every other day, with the grain and one pass with my straight razors. My face is too sensitive for more shaving and also I no longer use after shaves with alcohol. Thayers witch hazel and Vitos Pre/Post Shave are my best skin savers after shaving.

    1. Those are great post shave products. It’s nice that you have honed your skills to complete in one pass, well done! Thanks for the comments and for taking the time!

  5. Thank you for the article. I will keep an open mind about using a DE blade one time, but I am still getting about 5 shaves per blade (with a Rockwell 6S). Over the last coupe of years I have picked up some different razors and discovered I get better shaves with Supply’s Single Edge Injector razor. The blades are thicker than DE blades, don’t seem to tug on my beard, and last much longer (7-10 shaves). Perhaps a thicker blade would mow down thicker facial hair? I am not trying to convince you to pick up new gear, but food for thought.

    1. Thanks for your comments and suggestions Nick!
      That is great advice, I wonder if a thicker blade may help the situation? When I started, I too used to get 3-5 shaves from a Feather blade, but things changed.
      Well… there is always perhaps room for new gear in the den ? …

  6. Nice article. Are you willing to elaborate on the soaps and postshave moisturizers you prefer? I’m interested in a smaller, better-curated set of shaving gear, and any suggestions are welcome.

    1. Regarding Soaps/Creams, my regulars are Martin de Candre [Fougere and Original], Castle Forbes 1445, Duc de Santal [Triple Milled formulation] by Henri et Victoria, Baum.Be and Nuvia Blue. I also adore Taylor of Old Bond Street Grapefruit and Cedarwood scents, which I use for travel, as I can part out a small amount.
      I’ve experimented with so many different types of brands, artisan, legacy, etc. and keep coming back to these ones. I’m all about carefully curated now.
      I have also noticed that I have personally taken a liking to some of the more expensive soaps as I get older. They all perform really well, are always consistent and provide an intangible general good feeling when I use them.

  7. Brian Fiori (AKA The Dean)

    I’m over 60, Shahan and don’t have a single grey hair. I have a mess of “unpigmented hair” though. My beard is nearly all white, now.
    Like you I usually use my blade only one time. But that’s because I often shave with 4-5 days of growth. On the rare occasions I shave with only 1-2 days of growth. I might use that blade again (depending on the blade). I use no special method of drying. Just pat the blade with the corner of a barber towel, and then let the blade lay on the towel until I use it again (or more likely toss it).
    When I did reuse the blade, I got 3-5 shaves from the typical blade. But I was trying to shave everyday (or every other day) for awhile, just to hone my skill. Once shaving with a DE became second nature, then I went back to my usual lax shaving schedule. I noticed each successive shave was a little less smooth/comfortable than the first. So why use it? I make plenty of compromises in my life. Reusing a blade is one I do not need to make.

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