Being sick of junk shaves and a hurt face, I want to see if I can get a good shave on a regular basis. To that end, I'm providing details about my face/beard, what I've tried, and anything else I think relevant in hopes of getting great advice leading toward shaving perfection. I'd like help choosing products and methods that won't leave my face bloody and dry and that might even let me shave more than every 3-5 days. I hate shaving in the morning, playing basketball at lunch or at night and dreading the first bead of sweat running down my cheek and chin. Plus, getting this right should keep my face from drying out in the winter. Oh, and I'd like to get all this without breaking the bank or having a lingering smell. Maybe if I shoot for inexpensive perfection I can get close.
I have thick, course, VERY dark beard. Even when I have a decent shave and cannot feel any hair, I have a nice dark five o'clock shadow - oh well. My skin seems to be rather normal from what I can tell. The only weird grain I have is on either side of my Adam's Apple and it's almost totally horizontal for an area about the size of a silver dollar. I'm also rather skinny, so I have somewhat sharp corners at the jawbone and Adam's Apple.
The Old Shave
Through the years I've mostly used disposables, opting for 3-blades. I tried some store brands that worked alright, but they change too frequently to have settled. I usually end up buying BIC Comfort3 Advance for well under $2 each. The Schick Extreme3 tore me up like none other. I'm using BIC Flex 3 now and it's alright. I've tried some cartridges also and was satisfied enough with the Mach3, but couldn't justify the price when I could get about as good a shave from the cheaper disposables, plus in time the blades would pop off the handle regularly. I had a cheap 2-foil electric I used in a real bind for a while, but it just pulled and dried me out. In fact, I remember it cutting me worse than disposables.
As for creams, I've tried the stuff from cans, both gel and foam. The best for me has been plain old original Barbasol with some of the gels being close, but more expensive.
My Routine has been to wet my beard well and apply cream by massaging it into my face for a few extra seconds - probably about 60 seconds total application time. Lately I've been shaving after my showers, but I used to shave before so I'd mostly stop bleeding by the time I got out. I'm finding if I'm careful I can usually end up with only one or two real bleeders with the other nicks stopping without intervention. When I'm done I pat dry and apply lotion, usually Lubriderm Advanced Therapy or whatever decent stuff we have on the shelf. The aftershaves I've used in the past never did any better, but I haven't tried anything decent and haven't tried any at all for years.
In short, the old shave was terrible. I was always irritated, a little dry, a little bloody, and almost always scratchy since I avoided shaving for days.
With the goal of improving both the frequency and quality of shave as well as reducing discomfort, I've been researching shaving for a little while now. Of course, that leads to B&B. I've read a bunch of beginner stuff and asked a few family members questions. My grandpa and uncle both switched to electrics and both love them. They say they have to do 5+ passes, but that it's faster and, if you buy a good electric, does a good job. Come to find out, my uncle switched to the electric from years of a straight razor and supposedly proper techniques, but loves the convenience of the electric. I had trouble justifying the cost of an electric without relatively-certain results. Add to it the very mixed reviews and I opted for trying to improve my wet shave.
The New Shave
After reading and reading and watching videos, I decided to move forward a little without great cost. I purchased a Colonel Conk 1001 Badger Brush, Taylor of Old Bond Street Sandalwood cream in the travel container, and some Thayers Unscented Witch Hazel. This morning I tried it all out with my BIC Flex3 (third day's use) after my shower.
I realize I didn't whip the shave cream quite enough, but watching some videos it wasn't all that bad. I saturated the brush while I showered in hot water first. It was stickier than I anticipated, but seemed to cover well with the brush. The shave was alright with a few nicks and one that bled a tiny bit. The shave wasn't close as I'd like in the trouble areas. I did two passes and noticed I was getting cut so I didn't give those areas any more attention. I then rinsed with cold water and noticed white streaks down my chest where the wet razor caused the shave cream to run. These were only able to be cleaned up with water on a wash cloth after. Is that normal? I then applied the Witch Hazel and called it done. I now realize I should have applied lotion after the WH. Oops.
Hours later, I still smell the sandalwood from the cream. I'd prefer not to.
Now for the Questions
Aftershave - I'd like to pick up a good aftershave and don't know enough to know if I should try a balm, lotion, or splash. From what I'm reading here, it sounds like a lotion or balm, especially heading into winter. I'd like something with a VERY low scent or no scent if possible. Please recommend some decent, but not too expensive products you think might fit this bill. If I'm stuck with scented, I'd prefer a fresh/sport scent. No musks.
Razor - What should I get? I'd prefer to buy one and be done or pick a line of cartridges and stick with it for quite a while. I could do an Sensor or Mach3 or am willing to do a DE if everyone thinks it will be a noticeable improvement. I'd even contemplate a straight razor if I'm nearly certain it would be worth learning, though I haven't seen that recommended here as much as a DE. Please give suggestions, facts, and even anecdotal evidence. Please keep cost in mind, though that's not my primary concern.
Pre-Shave - Should I be using something extra in my routine like a pre-shave solution?
Thanks for all your help.