A few weeks ago I made the trip to Austin and visited CAR's shop. I have been very intrigued by Method Shaving for quite some time but have really struggled with decision as to whether or not I should try it. I finally decided to give it a go, as I live fairly near his shop and figured that it was going to haunt me until I tried it.
Charles has taken a lot of abuse on this board and others in regards to his communication skills and for that I do not defend the man, however, he is a true gentleman and does his best to help correct this lost generation of shavers. On 18 hours notice, Charles cleared a 3 hour window for me to have a one-on-one consultation and to shave with his products (all free of charge). After the shave, we visited briefly and he concluded our meeting without ever once suggesting that I purchase a single product from the store. This really surprised me, as I figured I would have to deal with some "pushy salesman tactics" from him. It's not often that you can take 3 hours of a salesman's time with no strings attached. Anyway, I had gone to Enchante with the intention of purchasing CAR's products, so I dragged him back across the store and had him put together all the products I would need.
For about $130-$140, I bought the Cube, shaving paste, cutting balm, spray tonic and a/s conditioner (everything with Lime/Green Tea scent except for the tonic which was Frankincense).
On to the shave... Let me first say that for the last couple of months, I have been getting terrific shaves with English creams. I didn't chose to try CAR's products because I didn't know how to shave. I chose to use them to see if they were all he claims them to be and to see just how much (if any) the health of my skin could/would improve.
The first shave (the one in the store with Charles) was a little scary. The razor angle that he suggested I use was not agreeing with my skin and I ended up a quite raw. My face was glass smooth but hot and swollen as well. This, however, did not discourage me from purchasing the products. Method shaving is not a one-size-fits-all system. It is a framework that allows for adjustments to each individual as each individual's face and facial hair are different. So, I purchased the products with the confidence that I could, in the privacy of my own bathroom, adjust the razor angle to what best fits my face.
The second shave was abysmal! My face, not fully recovered from the first shave, bled and burned like never before in my shaving career. I was confident that my lather was exactly what it should have been and my touch was extremely light, yet the result looked like a CAR accident (yes, pun intended).
The third shave, I reverted back to an English cream because I know that system and needed to let my face recover and satisfy in my own mind that I still knew how to shave.
The fourth shave. I took an incredible amount of time to make sure that my lather and technique were 1st rate (I finally went wholesale back to the razor angle that I am comfortable with). I performed 3 N-S passes, 1 ear-to-chin, and 1 jaw-to-nose, and my face was looking good and feeling good. I then worked up the cutting balm / paste mixture used for t/c and applied it to my face. The combo made my face sting pretty good, however, I continued to finish the shave. I was light bulb smooth with zero nicks, but my face was burning pretty good. The rest of the day my face was hot and looked as though someone had repeatedly slapped the sh*t out of it.
The next 2 shaves I used only English creams and my face returned to normal, both shaves being extremely close and completely irritation free. At this point I began to suspect that one of two things were going on. 1.) the system was bunk or, 2.) I was allergic to one of the products.
Shave number 7. I used the cube with paste and English cream, skipped the cutting balm, and finished with spray tonic and a/s conditioner. The shave was beautiful. Extremely close, zero nicks, zero irritation. Skin felt silky smooth and the skin was the color of skin and not molten lava.
With the arrival of day number 8 (today), I was pretty sure that the cutting balm was the culprit. I skipped the shave and put the cutting balm on my face. In 30 seconds my skin was red and blotchy and I had a definite burning sensation.
You probably figured it out before I did, but the cutting balm was killing me. I plan on calling CAR to inquire if this has happened with any of his other customers.
As a total review of the system. Despite reports of a doo-doo like smell, I really like the cube. I will continue to use it in conjunction with my English creams as I feel that the combination produces a superior lather that can easily be thinned or thickened with minimal worry of washout. The actual shaving paste I could take or leave. It doesn't do anything notably special for me. The spray tonic and a/s balm are excellent. I will continue to experiment with other a/s products but will always keep CAR's products in stock and heavy in the rotation.
For those of you who are thinking of trying Method Shaving, I say do it. If it weren't for my skin allergy, I think I would love the whole system. As it is, I have added a few things to my daily shave that improve it and make it more enjoyable. Don't let his articles/essays cause you to miss out on some great products.