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  1. #1
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    Default sensitive skin + coarse beard == razor burn disaster

    Let me start off by saying that I am an occasional shaver, at best. My beard is not very thick but it's probably an 8 out of 10 on coarseness and grows fast enough that I have a shadow by 'noon'. Couple that with very sensitive skin, allergies to fragrances, and a compulsion to be lazy; it's not hard to see why i keep a beard. I've been through lots of beard trimmers, which also irritate my skin, and the best I've come up with is using an Oster 76 'hair clipper' with various all steel blades and none of the plastic combs. This solution is the 'winner' as I basically only have to pass over any area once or twice.

    When I do, or should say 'did', shave. The best solution I'd used were Shick Tracer Diamond FX blades. The diamond coating makes them wicked sharp with good durability. By good durability, I mean I could get about 3-4 shaves out of a head before it was dull enough to be seriously pulling my hair. I only used simple generic shave soap because it's all I could find without fragrance in it.

    I probably hadn't shaved myself in the last year. I did however recently move to an area of the country were there are still lots of barber shops (the southwest) and decided to give a straight razor shave a try. It went 'OK' with only moderate irritate the first time. The second time I let the barber keep going and do my entire head, which went OK on my face but really irritated my head.

    Anyways, for some reason, I decided to give it a try with myself after about a month of reading various forums and watching videos on youtube. I ordered:

    Straight Razor Designs
    --
    1 x Dovo Best Quality Black 6/8" Straight Razor & Strop Set
    Front Strop Variation 3" Black Latigo Leather Back Strop Variation Matched Webbing
    1 x Shavex Alum Blocks
    Classic Shaving
    --
    Classic "Gold" Hypo-Allergenic Shaving Mug Soap
    Pinaud/Clubman Styptic Pencil

    and I already had an "burma shave" mug and nylon brush.

    Everything arrived this evening. I unpacked it all, attached the strop to a towel rack with a carabiner, and stropped the the razor about 30 strokes. I tried doing the hanging hair test with some of my significant others hair and it didn't do a very good job of cutting hair when just being drug across the blade... it took a jerk to pop it. I'm sure the first couple of laps were with too much down pressure on the razor but I got the hang of it pretty fast (thank you youtube). I trimmed my beard down with a '000' blade on my trusty Oster 76. Lathered up and went at it for mostly a single pass with the grain. To my amazement, I had to really drag the razor across my face... it was really catching on my hair. I know my technic is *terrible* but the shave was pretty poor with lots of missed hairs here at there.

    And the razor burn... OMG... worst in my life. It took the alum block, a shower, and 3 different moisturizers (finally aloe) to get it half under control. I will not be repeating that experience.

    OK, so going forward, my questions for the community:

    1) It seems like the razor is just not sharp enough! Is that correct?

    2) If #1 is true, did I mess it up stropping or did it just not come sharp enough of my wire beard?

    3) Is it possible a specialist could put a better edge on my Dovo than Straight Razor Designs did?

    4) What, if any, products could I try to improve lubrication that ARE NOT SCENTED and do not contain so called 'botanicals'? I thinking about maybe trying Baby Oil 'gel'...
    Thanks in advance gentlemen (and I suppose face hair removing women...)!

  2. #2
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    I should add that the angle I was shaving at was pretty much as flat to my face as possible but angle out until it would grab hair. I'm not sure if this was 30 degrees but it was certainly under 45.

  3. #3
    Big and called Ian. BigIan's Avatar
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    How do old bean, I started with a straight about a week ago, i chose to try a straight because like you i have a coarse beard and sensitive skin.
    my first shave was agony! but every shave since then has improved. slowly but surly my shaves get closer and my skin less iritated.

    What pre-shave prep do you do?
    personally i go for a hot shower to wash away debris and open my pores.

    Then apply a pre shave oil. (olive oil and castor oil mix works well)

    next i lather up my face and leave that to sit while i strop my razor.

    after the strop i re apply the lather, and have at it.

    i then re shower and apply a load of after shave balm to my wet face (this seems to keep my face moister)

    hope this helps

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    Quote Originally Posted by dogma View Post
    1) It seems like the razor is just not sharp enough! Is that correct?
    That is correct. It seems that way. But the perception is, in all likelihood, completely wrong. There are, broadly speaking, three variables:

    1. The razor itself. If it comes from a reputable vendor, you should not strop is before use. If you go to the beginners guide, you will find some remarks about different perceptions of shave readiness in the shopping list for beginners.
    2. The preparation: This is usually the kicker. Yes, your skin problems will make finding a high quality soap or cream difficult.
    3. Stropping: Sorry, but it sounds as though you didn't quite get it right.

    Quote Originally Posted by dogma View Post
    2) If #1 is true, did I mess it up stropping or did it just not come sharp enough of my wire beard?
    There are no wire beards. There are only blunt razors. I can happily shave with an 8/8 singing full hollow, but it took me almost two years to get to that point. A sharp razor will cut any beard - size and grind are ultimately a quantité negligable. Getting to that point is, however, the challenge.

    Quote Originally Posted by dogma View Post
    3) Is it possible a specialist could put a better edge on my Dovo than Straight Razor Designs did?
    Oh, absolutely. The razors at Straight Razor Designs are honed by one Lynn Abrams. Rather old fella, bit grumpy, too. As far as experience is concerned, he can't have honed much more than a few ten thousands of razors, which means there is likely much room for improvement for him.

    Seriously: There are currently five people in this world who I trust to hone anything on anything (almost any razor on almost any hone). Lynn is one of them.

    Keeping in mind that a well formed edge is about as sturdy as aluminium foil, applying pressure (as you did) while stropping is a likely contributing factor to your less-than-optimal experience. It has been said before, but I will say it again, albeit it post festum: no pressure. Absolutely no pressure. Humidity, and lots of it (semi-dry lather works like glue, rather than provide glide or cushion) - it is called wet shaving for a reason.

    Quote Originally Posted by dogma View Post
    4) What, if any, products could I try to improve lubrication that ARE NOT SCENTED and do not contain so called 'botanicals'? I thinking about maybe trying Baby Oil 'gel'...
    What is a so called 'botanical'? I have made good experiences with Avène products, but they are very pricey, and not the best you can get, either. But dermatologically tested.

    Regards,
    Robin

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  6. #5
    Junior Member Joe210's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dogma View Post
    Let me start off by saying that I am an occasional shaver, at best. My beard is not very thick but it's probably an 8 out of 10 on coarseness and grows fast enough that I have a shadow by 'noon'. Couple that with very sensitive skin, allergies to fragrances, and a compulsion to be lazy; it's not hard to see why i keep a beard. I've been through lots of beard trimmers, which also irritate my skin, and the best I've come up with is using an Oster 76 'hair clipper' with various all steel blades and none of the plastic combs. This solution is the 'winner' as I basically only have to pass over any area once or twice.

    When I do, or should say 'did', shave. The best solution I'd used were Shick Tracer Diamond FX blades. The diamond coating makes them wicked sharp with good durability. By good durability, I mean I could get about 3-4 shaves out of a head before it was dull enough to be seriously pulling my hair. I only used simple generic shave soap because it's all I could find without fragrance in it.

    I probably hadn't shaved myself in the last year. I did however recently move to an area of the country were there are still lots of barber shops (the southwest) and decided to give a straight razor shave a try. It went 'OK' with only moderate irritate the first time. The second time I let the barber keep going and do my entire head, which went OK on my face but really irritated my head.

    Anyways, for some reason, I decided to give it a try with myself after about a month of reading various forums and watching videos on youtube. I ordered:

    Straight Razor Designs
    --
    1 x Dovo Best Quality Black 6/8" Straight Razor & Strop Set
    Front Strop Variation 3" Black Latigo Leather Back Strop Variation Matched Webbing
    1 x Shavex Alum Blocks
    Classic Shaving
    --
    Classic "Gold" Hypo-Allergenic Shaving Mug Soap
    Pinaud/Clubman Styptic Pencil

    and I already had an "burma shave" mug and nylon brush.

    Everything arrived this evening. I unpacked it all, attached the strop to a towel rack with a carabiner, and stropped the the razor about 30 strokes. I tried doing the hanging hair test with some of my significant others hair and it didn't do a very good job of cutting hair when just being drug across the blade... it took a jerk to pop it. I'm sure the first couple of laps were with too much down pressure on the razor but I got the hang of it pretty fast (thank you youtube). I trimmed my beard down with a '000' blade on my trusty Oster 76. Lathered up and went at it for mostly a single pass with the grain. To my amazement, I had to really drag the razor across my face... it was really catching on my hair. I know my technic is *terrible* but the shave was pretty poor with lots of missed hairs here at there.

    And the razor burn... OMG... worst in my life. It took the alum block, a shower, and 3 different moisturizers (finally aloe) to get it half under control. I will not be repeating that experience.

    OK, so going forward, my questions for the community:

    1) It seems like the razor is just not sharp enough! Is that correct?

    2) If #1 is true, did I mess it up stropping or did it just not come sharp enough of my wire beard?

    3) Is it possible a specialist could put a better edge on my Dovo than Straight Razor Designs did?

    4) What, if any, products could I try to improve lubrication that ARE NOT SCENTED and do not contain so called 'botanicals'? I thinking about maybe trying Baby Oil 'gel'...
    Thanks in advance gentlemen (and I suppose face hair removing women...)!
    Hi Dogma

    Like yourself im new to SR shaving and your description of your first shave is pretty similar to mine, dragging and pulling etc. I too kept the razor almost flat to the face and the shave that i got was not comfortable at all. The only advice as a newbie that i can offer is to experiment with your angles, and really concentrate on getting the prep right. After trying different angles i finally can get a decent shave, not perfect by any stretch, but a vast improvement on my first few attempts and improving all the time. Another thought, maybe the nylon brush is'nt doing you any favours regarding irritation. I used to use one prior to SR shaving and it irritated the hell out of me! Just a thought anyhow.
    Edwin Jagger EdwinJagger.com : Razors, Shaving brushes, Shaving Sets & Cut Throat Razors, Shaving Creams, Shaving Soaps, Aftershave Lotion, do some great soaps and brushes, maybe its worth a look?
    Good luck and keep the faith

  7. #6
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    I agree with most of the comments Robin made.

    1) You've dulled the razor, and that's probably what's leading to the razor burn.
    - With a dull razor, you'll use more pressure than you should while shaving - leading to razor burn
    - With a dull razor, you'll use a higher shaving angle than you should - leading to razor burn

    2) You might not have mastered lathering your soap
    - If your lather is too dry, it will dry out on the face - you need water for slickness
    - If your lather is too wet it will break down on the face

    Stropping is not as simple to learn as it looks (in the videos). It's quite likely that you dulled the razor with improper technique. The razors edge is so fine that it's quite delicate. There's a reason newbies are advised to shave with the razors directly after receiving them, with no stropping. It gives you an idea of the quality of the edge when you received it.

    I'm still at the novice stage with straights, having used them for less than a year so far. Whenever I buy a shave-ready razor, I shave with it without stropping, just to see how that razors edge compares to what I like. This allows me to figure out which honemaster produces edges that most closely match my preferences. In most cases I'll then go on to tweak the edge to my liking.

    A razor honed by Lynn (as your was) is unlikely to be dull. As far as I know, he shave tests these - so he would have caught any issues in the honing process.

    As to shave angle, with the 5/8 and 6/8" razors, I prefer to use multiples of the spine width instead of a 30 degree angle as a guide.

    WTG - angle the spine two spine widths off your face.
    XTG - angle the spine one spine width off your face
    ATG - use the razor almost flat against your face

    The razor should cut the hairs smoothly and easily, while gliding across the skin. A sharp razor will do this at the minimum angle (within physical limits). The more angled the razor the more likely it is to cut hair, but it will also scrape your skin more.

    Anyway, you might want to try stropping the blade lightly on some newspaper to get it sharper again, and work on your prep. If it continues to damage your face, then you'll probably have to send it out for a touch-up.

    All the best figuring this out.

  8. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by BigIan View Post
    What pre-shave prep do you do?
    personally i go for a hot shower to wash away debris and open my pores.

    Then apply a pre shave oil. (olive oil and castor oil mix works well)

    next i lather up my face and leave that to sit while i strop my razor.

    after the strop i re apply the lather, and have at it.
    hope this helps
    - It was "hot" shower
    - brush face with just hot water
    - strop
    - brush face with just hot water again
    - lather a small area, shave, lather a small area, shave, etc.

  9. #8
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    On the assumption that I did dull my razor via a bad strop, how do I go about getting it back to being shave ready? Can it be straightened via canvas/leather stropping or does it need to be rehoned?

  10. #9
    GUNG-HO FOR GENCOS thewatermark's Avatar
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    Well, ive been in your shoes, and the bad part is , is that there are so many variables you need to start weening out whats not a factor. My advice: Do another shave , this time do the following:
    1) Strop 50 times extremely lightly, trying to get form down, make sure the razor is flat, and the strop is taut.
    2) Prep like you've never prepped before; get everything ready before hand so that when you come out of the hot shower, you can lather up and shave , that will give your beard the max amount of moisture and heat.
    3) remember your angles , it seems like you had it pretty good but also make your strokes swiftly, but confidently, and lightly, if you go too slow you will start to tug your bear.

    Now if you do all this, and its still the same then you can rule out prep, and angles, then try to fix the edge or send it to someone who can.

    Normally to fix your edge if your decent at stropping, some CrOx can work or a few strokes on a barber hone should fix it.

  11. #10
    Senior Member Malacoda's Avatar
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    I'm going to go a bit against the grain here (hah, no pun intended) and suggest that...

    ...aside from being very careful with your stropping as was already suggested (only the weight of the blade should keep it on the strop, no downward pressure from your hand)...

    ...that you also try using room temp to slightly cool water instead of hot during your prep.

    I too have a course, fast-growing beard and somewhat sensitive skin (particularly on the neck). My first 2-3 weeks of shaves didn't go too bad - kept seeing noticible improvement. Then all of sudden, instead of going better things started going worse - generating more burn and irritation than previously...

    I tried sending my razor to a honemeister fearing my stropping had dulled the edge but still no improvement. Then I suddenly realized that during that same time period two things had happened:
    1. As I gained more confidence my attention got lax and I was using too much pressure
    2. I was focusing MUCH more than I had before on hot water prep - soaking my face with much hotter water in the shower and then again at the sink... and topping it off with warm lather from a scuttle. Not only was it my pores to open and my hairs to lay down flat (encouraging the razor to cut them lengthwise instead of cross-sectionally... it was also softening my skin, 'sensitizing' it, and greatly magnifying the sensations/irriatation it was encountering - much like sunburn turns the normally harmless sensation of a washcloth into firey-hot sandpaper.


    When I let off on the pressure things immediately started improving again just the way they had been originally...

    And then, the instant I backed off to just tepid or cool water any remaining hint of razor burn on my neck immediately disappeared.

    Of course, if you suspect your stropping my have dulled the edge, then that must be taken care of before any these other suggestions have any chance of helping.
    John

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