New Isn’t Always Better

Speaking of close shaves, I have been doing a lot of reading lately about a quintessentially masculine experience, shaving one’s face. Of course, being married and having three daughters I know that shaving in and of itself is not the sole province of men but, in general, shaving one’s beard is. I also know that not all men shave their beards so, if you fall into that camp, feel free to skip the rest of the post, read on with curiosity about those of us who do (most of the time), or read on and become a convert to the clean-shaven.

Before I go too much further I have to tell you that I seem to have a fondness for certain vintage (or “retro”) objects. A few years ago I was really into writing with my small collection of fountain pens, especially by the light of oil lamps, which we also have. I also like baseball on AM radio, even more if the radio has a “slide rule” tuner. That said, I am not a techno-phobe. I like my iPhone, digital camera, GPS, and streaming video on a computer or iPad. I just like to maintain a healthy balance, that’s all. Or maybe it’s something deeper, I just can’t say. But what I have come to realize lately is that new isn’t always better.

For years I shaved with an electric razor. I’ve had a Norelco, a couple of Remingtons, and a couple of Brauns. From time to time I would go back to a blade, which is what I used when I started shaving, but with a cartridge razor (the Gillette Atra, as I recall, then the Sensor, and Sensor Excel). And for years I have been plagued, more at some times than others, by skin problems – razor burn, razor bumps, ingrown hairs, and what appeared to be (though as I went through my thirties and now nearly all the way through my forties I found this simultaneously more and more frustrating, and less and less likely) acne.

Turns out the problem was due, in part, to the razors I was using and how I was using them. (“NOW they tell me!” [shakes fist at sky]) I say only partly because I have also rediscovered the virtues of religiously washing my face. I mean, don’t get me wrong, of course I washed my face – every day. But apparently I wasn’t washing at the right time, with the right things, or (and I hate to admit this) often enough, at least for me and my face’s welfare.

This past summer my most recent Braun electric razor started acting up. Actually, its rechargeable battery gave out over a year ago and I’d been using it as a corded razor, but that doesn’t have anything to do with the head coming loose. Rather than spend $50 to $250 (really?!) on a new one, I pulled my old Gillette Sensor razor out of a drawer and started using that. I made sure to use good quality shaving cream, not the stuff in a spray can, and had pretty good luck. For a while. Then the same old things started happening, and when I went to buy new cartridges, my eyes nearly popped out of my head! Twenty bucks for ten cartridges?! And these are just the old two-blade cartridges, not the multi-blade things in the proliferating razor arms race. Three, four, and five blade cartridges? No thanks!

I’ve looked at options like Dollar Shave Club but, after poking around, decided I’d give the old-fashioned double edge safety razor a try. I haven’t gone completely over the edge with this, which seems like it can also become an expensive and indulgent hobby, well beyond my need to maintain a mostly hair-free face. So, will this return to the past turn out to be better than the “new and improved” present? We’ll see. Meanwhile, a few of the online links I found are listed below:


4 thoughts on “New Isn’t Always Better

  1. Do you have an “Art of Shaving” store at the Maine Mall? They will give you a real, professional shave in an old-fashioned barber chair in addition to selling you all manner of manly shaving items. If not, you can, at least, peruse their website for the various blades, creams, after-shaves, emollients, and other metrosexual ministrations.

    • We don’t. Not enough metros in our area I wouldn’t imagine. I don’t know that I’m really up for that, anyway, but I’d like to get a decent shave, not turn my face into tartare, and not have to spend two to four bucks a cartridge a week. Once again, though, I’ve been amazed at how much the Internet aids and abets the pursuit of just about any interest. I mean, shaving, really?

  2. First shave with my Parker 99R this morning. Didn’t cut myself and it did at least as good a job as my Gillette Sensor Excel twin-blade cartridge razor, using the same shaving cream. The Parker’s butterfly doors loosened a couple of times, which is awkward with wet, soapy hands, but otherwise performed well. Given the difference in cost between cartridges and double-edge blades, the Parker will probably pay for itself in less than a year. Anything beyond that is gravy.

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