Skip to content

How To Manage Variables For A Better Shave

Listen to this article


Frustrated because you are not getting the quality shaves you think you should be getting?  Maybe it’s time to think of a way of determining where you may be going wrong by documenting some environmental variables for analysis.

One Idea For An Analysis Platform

I decided to use a Google Sheets spreadsheet to create a log to document shaves with: it’s widely available and reasonably flexible.  I figured I could list variables in columns with an additional “Result” column to score the shave.  Then the “Result” column could be filtered or sorted to see what variables in other columns may be common to certain results.  I also added a “Notes” column to account for special circumstances.

If this list seems too “geeky” you could always eliminate columns you don’t find useful.  For example if you only have one razor you may not need the Razor column.

On the other hand if you have a special circumstance that’s not listed here you could always add it.

I suggest you use a consistent text format for entries whenever possible.  That is, use “Brand X, Scent Y” all the time instead of a more free-form entry.  Don’t get too verbose in your entries–save the commentary for the “Notes” column if necessary.

Some Obvious Variables To Start With

Here are some common variables in a typical shave:


How did you prepare for your shave?  Some examples:

  • Shower
  • Cleanser
  • Pre-shave oil


Do you have “hard” or “soft” water for this shave?  Hot or cold temperature?


Which razor(s) are you using for this shave?  If you’re using a continuously adjustable razor this might be the place to list the setting per pass (“2, 4, 3”).  If you’re using a razor with different base plates you could note the plate (e.g. “Rockwell 6S, 3”).


What brand of blade are you using, and how many shaves have you used it for?  You could enter something like “Astra, 3” here.


Which brush are you using?  You could make this more detailed by listing brand/model or more generic by listing just the hair type (badger, board, horse, synthetic).


The obvious entry here, make it something brief and easy like “Trumper Violet Cream.”

Post Shave

A brief comment on your post-shave routine, e.g. “cool rinse, Nivea balm.”

Some Not So Obvious Variables

Along with the obvious variables above there are be some not-so-obvious variables you may not have thought of.


I don’t know about you, but the characteristics of my shave sometimes change with a sudden change in the weather.  I don’t think you need to list a full weather report but it might be useful to list a brief comment like “cold, humid” or “raining.”


Do you shave at different times of day?  You could enter the time you shaved, or at least the day-part (“morning”).


Do you find yourself shaving in different places?  This could be a city you have traveled to or even a different part of the same house (“master bathroom” vs. “guest bathroom”).


Was your shave rushed for time?  Have the flu?  Hungover? Make a brief comment here.

Putting It All Together

All these variables boil down to–how was your shave?  That’s for the “Result” column.  Here I suggest a numeric scale with a lower number being better (for more convenient sorting).  Maybe something relatively simple like:

  • 1 = BBS (“baby’s butt smooth”) with no irritation
  • 2 = BBS with irritation
  • 3 = DFS (“darn fine shave”) with no irritation
  • 4 = DFS with irritation
  • 5 = Unacceptable shave

The Notes column would list any additional comments you wanted to make about that specific shave.

Now it’s time to start generating data.  This won’t be an “instant results” kind of thing: you will probably want to have at least 25 shaves under your belt to get any kind of meaningful analysis, and probably more shaves to confirm preliminary theories.

As I mentioned early one way to get a quick idea of obvious problems is to sort the spreadsheet on the Result column.  That way you can review all the really good (or really bad) shaves to see if there is a trend seen in another column or perhaps a set of circumstances seen by several columns.

I’ve created a shareable Google Sheets spreadsheet with some examples and as something you can copy to use yourself.  Be sure to download a copy to your desktop or your own Google Drive if you have one–the original sheet can only be viewed, not edited.

Have any other suggestions for variables to include?  Leave a reply below!


Shave tutor and co-founder of sharpologist. I have been advocating old-school shaving for over 20 years and have been featured in major media outlets including The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and Lifehacker. Also check out my content on Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest!View Author posts

8 thoughts on “How To Manage Variables For A Better Shave”

  1. Mark, my shaving is a meditation with a goal of “BBS”. I am serious about “meditation”. I relax and slow my thoughts, concentrating on each stroke and each step of “pre and post shave preparation. I have two variables in my shaving routine: shaving soaps (2) and razors (3). Currently, I am using, exclusively, my new “Jet Black” Supply razor.
    The spreadsheet would interrupt my “meditation shaves”.

  2. OMG…..shaving spreadsheets?really?
    I’ve eliminated most of the variables: one razor I like , one blade I like. I’ve got 3 brushes I rotate to keep them in top shape. The only variable is the soap. I have usually 4-5 soaps that I like equally. I let my mood determine which one of them to use, not some spread sheet. 99% of the time, BBS with no issues and if it’s not perfect, I’ll do it all over again tomorrow… worries.
    Keep it simple and enjoy your shave…..there’s enough other stuff to worry about!

  3. An important variable for me is how long it has been since my last shave. If I skipped a day or more, then I can go as aggressive as I like for my razor & blade and I’ll be fine. This is a day for my original Icon slant.

    But most of the time I shave every day, so then I need a fairly mild razor and a middlin sharp coated blade (personna blue, astra superior platinum, etc). If I use that Icon day after day, my face feels abused.

    Maybe this is another reason I like adjustables!

    Since you have a date column to your spreadsheet then the number of days between would be an easy calculation.

  4. I load 4 to 6 razors. I catalog the razor and blade only. After 2 or 3 shaves I grade each razor 1 to 10 with 10 being best. I also use a lot of grades by decimals like 8.7 or 9.1. I’ve been doing this for years. I have gone back and seen that same equipment spaced over years does not yield the same shave. I should keep the soap or cream too but I wanted a very general record only.
    Thanks for the great article.

  5. Good idea,I made m y own sheet similar to yours but added post shave used.i.e. alum.lotion or balm.

  6. Two important variables I always take into consideration are the quantity of water and how to lather. This is particularly true with soaps as some are “thirstier” than others. When I try a new brand, sometimes I have to experiment to determine just how much water to use. Creams are a little more predictable in my experience. I also find that some products generate a more effective lather when built onto the face as opposed to being generated in a shaving mug (and vice versa).

Comments are closed.