I moved. After 24 years with the same employer, I changed jobs, which necessitated moving to a new city. It is amazing how such an upheaval impacts all factors of one’s life; including one’s shaving routine. While maybe not as important as selecting one’s new internet provider or finding a new primary care physician, setting up a new shave space/routine is nevertheless quite impactful.
Some history: Longtime readers of the Sharpologist might recall that in the past I have advocated for
- – shower shaving,
- – super lathering, and
- – a 2+ against the grain BBS shave every other (or third) day.
My recent move has caused me to reevaluate my routine/approach/ruts I may have been stuck in. I examine some of these habits/choices below.
Shower shaving: As has been reiterated in many a Sharpologist column, shaving prep may be the most important step for a successful, irritation-free shave. I remain convinced that shower shaving is the gold standard for shave prep. Nothing beats shaving in a hot, steam-filled, sauna-like space after a thorough face washing/scrubbing. However, shower shaving comes with a cost.
First and foremost one needs the shower real estate to shave in. This is more than just square footage. The number and location of shower heads also plays a role. One can still successfully shave in a small shower if one can redirect the shower spray away from one’s face. In a large shower, one can simply step away from the spray. Finally, you also need shelf space. After all, you need a dry place for all one’s shaving accouterments: razor, brush, scuttle, shave soap bowl, and if one is super lathering, some shave cream as well.
In my old house I enjoyed a large shower. Furthermore, I was able to turn the somewhat ubiquitous towel bar installed at the back-end of the shower into my shave shelf. (See: this Facebook post to learn about a clever product that should be more well known.) While I used to feel a bit guilty about the water/energy cost of shower shaving, I comforted myself with the knowledge that the house had a tankless/hot water on demand system. So while water usage was elevated (longer showers), the water was heated in the most energy efficient manner possible and my long showers would not impact those showering after me.
Alas, my new house’s shower is too small to shave in. I could install a vertically adjustable shower head so that I could redirect the spray away from my face while showering. While there is a back of shower towel bar where I reinstalled my shower shelf, its contents get, well, showered, during each shower. Finally, the house has a traditional 40 gallon hot water tank. This means a full hot water tankful can only support 16 minutes of shower time. This assumes a standard 2.5 gallons/minute shower head and little to no mixing of cold water in the temperature setting. Maybe a low-flow shower head and avoiding a scalding hot shower, the 16 minute limit might stretch to 20. Regardless, this is simply not enough to shower shave and keep my spouse happy who typically showers after me.
Shaving is important to me, which, as a regular Sharpologist reader, is probably also important to you. So you, dear reader, are undoubtedly empathetic regarding my unsuccessful suggestion for a major bathroom remodel for our new home solely to support my desire to continue shower shaving. Even the expense for a minimal working setup (tankless hot water heater and a vertically adjustable shower head) was labeled a non-priority expense.
All of this is preamble to my needing to (temporarily?) abandon shower shaving in our new home. One bright spot is that while the primary bathroom’s shower is too small for me to shave in, the vanity has two sinks, so at least I have my own area of bathroom counter space to support my shaving needs.
Now that I have returned to the sink, I, not surprisingly, have discovered that dryness is my new enemy. When shower shaving I could leisurely fully lather my face and then make 2+ passes over a distinct part of my face before moving on to the next facial facet. By the time I reached my upper lip and chin, the last part I would shave, both the lather and my skin would still be very moist; due to the sauna-like atmosphere of the shower.
My first adjustment after abandoning the shower was to do a more traditional two-pass shave. Lather, make one complete pass over each facial component, splash some water on my face to help rehydrate, and repeat.
After two passes, I would re-lather and do some touch up.
This yielded satisfactory results. A few more weepers than when in the shower, but nothing terrible.
However, my face felt tight and dry both during my second pass and post-shave.
My first thought was to change my lather, and or adopt a pre or post shave moisturizing product.
Maybe a more water retaining lather would help. However, before I jumped down this expensive rabbit hole of experimentation I recalled one of the basic tenets of wet-shaving: An incrementally superior product (both hardware or software) will rarely overcome deficits in technique/methodology. I was already using a well-respected razor (Feather A2) and blade (Personna med-prep or Parker), brush (Parker badger silver-tip) and lather: super lather with Cella croap topped off with Taconic shaving cream.
So, before opening up my wallet and filling up my newly acquired bathroom counter space with new shave creams, soaps and moisturizing pre and post-shave products, I opted to revisit my shaving methodology: A 2+ against the grain BBS shave meant to last two days. I think of this re-examination as akin to Sharpologist recommendations for mapping out one’s facial areas to learn about how with the grain, and against the grain hair growth differs from area to area; a deeper understanding of one’s shaving landscape.
First and foremost as an Eisenhower baby (i.e. someone well into his 60’s) I have to come face to face (pun intended) with the observation that as one ages, your skin becomes drier/less moist. Perhaps this realization was hidden from me by my years of shower shaving. Second, the notion of what counts as clean shaven today differs from that in the past. We have evolved from the day when some would shave a second time before going out for dinner to clean up a five o’clock shadow to considering someone one or two days out from their most recent shave to be, if not clean shaven, perfectly socially acceptable.
Putting these two observations together I decided to experiment with a one-pass with the grain shave with some minor touching up.
What I learned: First and foremost, I am still shaving every other day (Mon-Wed-Fri), only instead of a 2+ against the grain BBS shave I am performing a one-pass with the grain shave. No one noticed! Not even my wife of 37 years! Yes, I had a deeper shadow on day two, though less than I thought – evidently one’s hair grows slower as one ages as well. Second, and maybe more important, I ceased having shaving-related dry skin issues. Evidently, my face, when not shaving in a wet sauna, can only tolerate a single pass shave.
Even if you are not an aging baby-boomer who moved to a new house in a new city, you might benefit from a reexamination of your shaving routine, or should I say shaving behavioral ruts. Perhaps you have the space and hot water capacity to migrate your shave to the shower – though from an environmental stance, shower shaving does utilize both more water and energy. Even if you don’t have aging drier skin, perhaps you can benefit from shaving less frequently or with fewer passes. Remember, the low stubble you feel when you indulge in facial self massage is often not visible to others. Maybe it will help to start thinking of shaving like golf; the better you get at it, the less time you spend actually doing it.