American Steel With HartSteel!
I’m still relatively new to cut throat shaving. My goal is to shave both my head and face with a straight razor. Why you ask? For one it’s a closer shave and better for your skin. Contrary to popular belief, cartridge razors are bad for your skin. They can cause a lot of skin irritation such as razor burn or razor bumps which can be even more painful. If you are among the percentage of shavers that has never had to deal with razor bumps you should count yourself lucky. Razor bumps are usually mistaken for acne but what they are is little follicles of hair trapped underneath the surface of the skin. So how does this happen?, well let me lay this all out for you and in the end you may find yourself questioning your shaving options or leaning towards straight razors. A multi-blade cartridge razor passes over the intended area of shaving pushing the skin up in between the blades cutting the hair off at what seems to be skin level. Once the razor passes over that area, the skin returns to resting and the freshly shaved hair follicles fall underneath the top layer of your epidermis. These hair follicles then cause irritation in the form of little bumps that are commonly called razor bumps. I’m not big on statistics but I think I’ve read more than a couple of times that over 50% of men that shave suffer from some form of razor bumps.
The next question is how do we fix this. There are many options out there, but let’s get to the root of the problem and look at what razor you are using. Before I continue I want to back track and point out that cartridge razors do make the task of shaving very fast and effortless. I think this is why these razors are so widely used. Our society is very fast paced, a good majority of people are very busy all the time. We fill our spare time with more things to do instead of enjoying life. We identify and value ourselves on what we have and what job we do for a living. I don’t think we do this purposely, however, this is the environment we are raised in and when you find individuals that don’t follow that same path we label them as being lazy and unfocused. That’s just my two cents, now back to talking about razors. A straight razor is by far a better option for shaving compared to a cartridge razor. A straight razor uses one sharp blade that glides across the surface of the skin requiring very little pressure. The blade cuts the hair off while your skin is at its resting level. The hair follicles remain stationary and don’t retract to underneath the skin leading to less chances of razor bumps. The angle of the blade needed for shaving falls in between 15-30 degrees depending on the area that you are shaving. The correct angle means less chances of cuts and irritation.
Straight razors have a pretty big disadvantage compared to cartridge razors but are well worth the time and effort to learn how to use. There is a learning curve when it comes to what angle to use and how to hold the razor to accomplish the right angle. A cartridge razor is pretty much buy and shave with very little tutorial needed. Price wise straight razors are more expensive to buy, however, it’s one price for the razor and with some general up keep of stropping and honing it’s the last razor you will ever have to buy. Cartridge razors require you to buy refills that can be very expensive. Using a straight razor does require more time spent in the bathroom. This is something I want to really emphasize on, if you view shaving as just a task that you want to complete fast then using a straight razor may not be for you. A straight razor is very sharp and needs your undivided attention. Hurrying to fast will more than likely result in injuries. Learning the art of straight razor shaving takes time and effort. If you try it and like it you will most likely make time in your shaving routine to use one.
I recently had a chance to review a straight razor kit from Straightrazors.Com the contents of this kit were as followed. One ‘Round Point, Satin Finished, 5/8 Hart Steel straight razor with its own storage box and hex wrench. A ‘The Blades Grim’ one ounce bottle of ‘Smolder’ shave oil and after shave lotion. A tin of ‘The Blades Grim’ ‘Smolder’ gold luxury shaving soap. The ‘Purest’ White Satin Tip Luxury Synthetic Shaving Brush and a 3″ Mahogany Latigo Leather Hanging Razor Strop. This kit has everything you need to get a quality shave from start to finish and as soon as I unboxed this shaving kit I wanted to get started. First things first, you should always strop your razor before each use. Stroping your razor helps to clean the blade of oxidation realigning and keeping it sharp. I have read many articles on the proper way of stroping a straight razor and they are all different but follow a couple functional core values such as strop positioning. The correct strop position will greatly play a role in the longevity and sharpness of your razor. Some position the strop horizontal and some vertical. I chose horizontal right away and this is why. When stroping your razor you want to lay the blade on the strop with minimal pressure and constant contact. Having the strop in a vertical direction could cause extra pressure as I’m stroping. With the strop in a horizontal direction it feels more natural and easier to control how much pressure is being applied. I’ve seen guys put hooks on their bathroom walls at waist level for strop positioning which works well. Strops usually come with swivel clasp hook on one end and a ring on the other end. I hook the ring end around the lift rod that’s located on the back of the faucet and pull the strop horizontally towards me at waist level.
Pull the strop towards you keeping it taught but with some play allows the razor to get the most benefit from stroping. Some strops come with a nylon strap as well as a leather strap. I’ve read mixed reviews on the importance of both. I personally have both kinds of strops and both kinds work well for me. The 3″ strop I received from straightrazors.com came without a nylon strap and It works fine. I’ve tried standing in front of the strop and off to the side during stroping and I decided that your stance is a personal preference. When stroping keep the spine and edge of the blade in contact with the strop at all times. You can accomplish this by holding the shank of the razor flat between your thumb and first finger. The sharp edge of the razor needs to be facing you when pushing the blade away to prevent gouging your strop and injuring your self. Most strops have a stamp at each end for a good stopping point. Once you reach the stamp at the end of the strop you want to roll the razor on the spine with the sharp edge rolling away from you. Then pull the razor back towards you. This makes one repetition, I usually complete 70 repetitions to keep the blade nice and sharp. There are a multitude of razor stroping videos on-line that can help you with any questions you may have. After stroping the Hart Steel straight razor I set it aside and started to prep my skin for my nightly shave.
I’m a big believer in using products to prep the skin before shaving and to help repair the skin after your shave is finished. Shaving in general no matter what razors you use cause trauma to the skin. If you don’t prepare your skin it can lead to a lot of irritation, nicks and cuts. I applied 3-5 drops of the ‘Smolder’ pre shave oil and waited for it to soak into my skin leaving behind no greasy residue. The oil was pretty thick but thin enough to coat the entire area of my head and face. The aroma was deep and rich, very pleasant but not overwhelming. I always apply shave oil before my nightly shave to give the oil time to nourish and condition my skin. This helps prevent future irritation caused by shaving. The first thing I do in the evening before I shower is start soaking my bore bristle brush to soften and hydrate the bristles. The ‘Purest’ satin tip, luxury synthetic shaving brush didn’t require soaking before use since the bristles are synthetic they are solid and not hollow. I ran the bristles under a stream of water and went to work. The core bristles are somewhat ridged making the ‘Purest’ a good option for use with a hard or soft-bodied soap. The tips of this synthetic brush are soft and felt luxurious on my head and face when applying lather. The handle of the ‘Purest’ has a low slip rubberized coating. The handle was easy to grasp and felt very comfortable in the palm of my hand.
I started to rotate the bristles of the brush against the surface of the ‘Smolder’ shave soap. This is a hard bodied soap with a softer side, you can press your finger into the soap and leave an indention with minimal pressure. I started building a lather right away. I turned the tin on its side and transferred the lather into my scuttle and continued to turn the watery lather into a robust shave ready lather in a matter of a few minutes. The lather clung and filled the bristles of my brush blooming it like a flower. The thick and creamy lather transferred generously spreading evenly across my dome and face. The lather even though thick felt very light on my skin and offered a lot of cushion and slickness for my razor. The ‘Smolder’ shave soap contains ‘Coconut Oil’ and ‘Glycerin’. These natural ingredients help soothe and soften dry and irritated skin. These ingredients also act as a natural toner and cleanser for the skin as well. The scent of the ‘Smolder’ shave soap compared very closely to the aroma of the shave oil. Just like the shave oil the aroma of the soap was strong but not overwhelming and didn’t last long. I enjoyed shaving with this soap and would definitely use it again.
I have not mastered head shaving with a straight razor yet so I used one of my favorite safety razors for the night. I did use the HartSteel straight razor to shave my face. This was an easy straight razor to use even for a Newby such as myself. The 5/8 round point steel blade was shave ready right out of the box feeling. This blade is sharp providing a crisp and clean shave in two passes. The blade was easy to maneuver around some hard to reach places. I have a very defined jaw line and one of the most difficult spots to shave without acquiring nicks or cuts is at each corner of my jaw. The other area that is hard to shave without irritation is my defined jaw line. The HartSteel razor maneuvered these areas perfectly. The ‘Shank’ and ‘Tail’ of the razor are longer making finger placement comfortable and easy to navigate the razor. The HartSteel straight razor is lightweight and felt very natural in my hand right away. I used this razor many times and plan on using it for many more times to come, it’s a great razor and a great shave. I look forward to head shaving with it. I finished my nightly shave routine with the ‘Smolder’ aftershave. With a thicker consistency than most aftershave it looks milky and needs to be shaken before each use. A couple of drops was enough to cover my head and face. The ‘Smolder’ aftershave is non alcoholic and left my skin feeling cool and refreshed. The aroma followed suite with the shave oil and soap. Aloe Vera Juice, Witch Hazel and Glycerin help clean and soften your skin while naturally toning it to help fight the signs of aging. I enjoyed my first nightly shave with this straight razor kit from Straightrazors.Com and plan on using this kit for many shaves to come. I highly recommend this shaving kit to all shavers whether you are a Newby such as myself or a seasoned wet shaver with years of experience.
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