The Canon Of Dogma

"No pressure"

Now I'm not going to cough up the technically correct terminology of simple machines, because this is obviously a colloquialism. But I know for a fact that, using a DE safety razor at the lowest effective cutting angles, you will need to press the top cap of the razor against your skin.

Do you personally need to use a low cutting angle? Your skin might have horny layer to spare; so, perhaps not. But on behalf of all of us who do, will you please just squelch it? The quicker we get to that low angle, the sooner the razor burn goes away, and your noise is drowning out the signal. It is not an advanced technique. We don't have to choose between comfort and closeness. We don't need to try an SE.

"The correct angle"

If grammar has its Nazis, could shaving have Fascistas? Cartridges would seem to be the "final solution." Not those Marxist Bic disposables; not some Communist Trac II. We can't have any seed of user control slipping through our proprietary grip!

No, these double-edge know-it-alls are (probably) more beneficent than Benito. By combining the lightest touch with the first cutting angle the head falls into as you pitch it down, one can usually whack the hair off without chipping away too much skin, even though the latter will be at high risk of burning. It's probably how most of us shaved, the very first time we tried it.

This plan of beard domination is easily foiled, however, by the slightest wear on the edge. It's hardly the only way to shave, or even the most desirable way to shave. But if it actually did work well, it would justify cartridge design. That's why, to me, it sounds like the most rank cronyism.

"Don't drag the blade"

Actually, that's the best way to pick off the flat-lying hairs of the lower neck, with the blade nearly perpendicular to the skin. Good for body shaving, too. Like the low cutting angle, this extreme only opposes one face of the edge to the skin, preventing damage... so again, bad advice is causing pain in the world. Shout out to my brothers with neck bumps! (Sisters with blotchy shins? To any actual, non-metaphorical bigots reading this: forget wet shaving, and just work on that.)

"Weight of the razor"

The magical force that "does the work" when you're "not pressing" and "not dragging" -- even under your chin? Try again, Newton. The top of the blade exerts a force on what it's cutting, directing it away from the face. The equal and opposite force exerted on the blade is traction -- what our inarticulate friends actually wish to be optimizing.

It doesn't much relate to a razor's actual weight. I will speculate that since I once managed to launch an 86g razor from my jaw to my ear, because it was too heavy for me to handle, then maybe, someday, a 300g razor will make it to the moon! Where it will weigh less, but still be ridiculous. Massive razors do dampen minute impacts on the blade, making for smoother progress. So does a firm grip. Hey, here's a theory for you: loose grip + heavy razor = broken floor tile.

"Stretch the skin"

What about the force component directed forward? This is where you could properly relate your effort to the work of the razor. The sliding of the top cap, and sometimes a finger pressed behind the stroke to hold the skin back, create just enough elastic tension to cut the hair. (I'll have much more to say on this in a later disquisition.)

As for stretching, don't do it. At the tiniest scale, that's what the edge of the blade does: stretch (and bend) until whatever it's cutting is pulled apart. The guard coincidentally does this to the skin in advance of the safety razor's blade, and that is why straight razor shaves are the most comfortable. It's a design flaw.

"Sensitive skin"

My skin reacts to razor-sharp blades being directed straight into it by being cut. And I have nerve endings there. This is not a malady. My skin is self-moisturizing and completely hydrated, conferring the blessing of a youthful appearance. If I inflate the living tissue with hyperosmotic glycerin soap, however, it literally explodes in pain. This, also, is not a malady. Razor cartridges and glycerin shaving soap are irresponsible hazards to the health of beautiful people. They could only have been created by ignorant, evil and/or ugly people.

"Exfoliate with a [kind of] brush"

Removing the plug of oily filth from a hair follicle is not exfoliation; it's cleansing. This error would be harmless, were it not that the actual exfoliation, performed by the razor blade, is the crucial factor differentiating a hellish razor burn from a perfect shave. Because I know what you mean, with respect to the hair: the brush should expose just as much unobstructed cuticle as the razor that follows it. The tips of each fiber should be focused right on the follicles, not splayed outward as a mere cosmetics applicator, a wet powder puff for men. But for the closest shave, even that might not be enough.

"Pick up hard soap with a [kind of] brush"

For crying out loud: wet the soap! It was specially designed by skilled artisans to dissolve in water -- and ninety-nine percent of all online shaving discussion can't be wrong! Okay, to be fair: everyone online IS doing it wrong. And it is kind of magical, how water can be initially hidden in the brush, "palming" it, as it were, by capillary action. The soap dissolves invisibly if you don't agitate the brush too hard, lathering on the puck.

Thus, the correct solution is obscured, because that is exactly what you ought to do: keep it wet and free of air on the puck. Whether you choose to load the soap as a thick liquid crystal, or a more dilute solution, lather it somewhere else. (Like your palm.) Don't break your bristles trying to mash your brush into the soap, or pull out bristles trying to swirl on an excessively sticky surface. More importantly, though: don't advise other people to ruin their brushes.

"Advanced technique"

Every time I learn anything about shaving, it comes as a paradigm shift. The fundamentals are seldom refined. Everything I thought I knew has to be re-evaluated. "The Gillette slide" offers itself as an example. Early manufacturer instructions stated that NOT to draw strokes with the safety razor was simply incorrect. One hundred percent of the modern shavers on YouTube seem to disagree.

But I was amazed to find "dull" blades from my Rimei coming back to life in a vintage Gillette NEW long-comb, a very similar razor, when I adopted an all-sliding and skewing approach. I conclude that the comb has little or nothing to do with lather reaching the blade directly. It's shaving's equivalent of serration!

"Traditional shaving"

All of these misunderstandings originate in the advance of technology, and every "advancement" warrants full scrutiny. Creams made lathering so easy that, like DE shaving, we forgot how to do it. The safety razor ironically made the safest cutting angles relatively inaccessible, and cartridges made them outright impossible. Corporate greed smote a thriving culture of DE efficiency, pushing us off a pinnacle of profit sometime in the early 1970s.

This is why commercial sources cannot represent tradition. Shaving is, and was always, an art. You wouldn't let a store clerk tell you how to paint, would you? Money can't buy intellectual integrity. There are still a few good guys in business, but an endorsement here might be a red badge.

Any authentic tradition will have to begin anew, in your bathroom.