My first-ever shave with a safety razor was far from great. My technique was lacking, I carved a chunk of skin out of my nostril, and the skin around my mouth and neck was tender for days. But I saw a huge potential for a better, more enjoyable shave and I was hooked. Over a year later my technique is far better and I look forward to a great shave every morning. I achieve a great shave almost every day, and until recently I thought my my shaves were as good as they could get. I was pleasantly surprised to find out I was wrong.
A few weeks ago I picked up a huge haul of new shaving products. Out of sheer excitement I did something rare – I changed virtually every variable in my shaving routine. I used a brand new razor – the Merkur 37c, which was my first slant bar. I also swapped out my usual products for St. James of London Sandalwood & Bergamot Shaving Cream and the matching Post-Shave Gel. I even used a different blade (an Astra) for fear that the slant razor would take a graft out of my neck if I used my usual Feather blades.
I achieved a great shave using this combination. I took all the time I needed to get a great shave. The Merkur 37c turned out to be a fine instrument despite my reservations. The St. James of London products have become some of my favorites. Here is my take on these three products and how they contributed to the best shave of my life.
Merkur 37c Review
I’m new to slant razors, so don’t expect any sage wisdom or advanced techniques if you are a seasoned slant user. But if you are like me – interested but hesitant – this post is for you.
There are plenty of articles that go in-depth about the mechanics of slants (like this one from Sharpologist) so I won’t reinvent the wheel. But I will use a simple analogy – shaving with a slant is like slicing a tomato. You can “chop” straight down on a tomato and if your knife is sharp enough you can get a decent cut. But if you add a slicing motion you almost always get a cleaner, easier cut. The slant puts a slight twist on the blade which introduces more of a slicing motion to your shave. In theory this makes the razor more efficient at slicing through tough beard hair.
The Merkur 37c is a 2-piece razor that is the same size as its cousin – the 34c. The handle is smaller than what I typically use, but I found the knurling to be adequate enough to use with wet hands.
I found my fears of over-aggressiveness to be unfounded. My beard hair is very thick but my skin is sensitive. I usually compensate for this by using a mild razor with very sharp Feather blades. I recently read that slant razors are more “efficient” than they are “aggressive” and I think this is a very accurate description. The 37c slices through my thick beard hair with no tugging or pulling. This is true regardless of what blades I am using. I even tried it with some awful dollar store blades. It wasn’t a great shave, but the slant did turn these horrible blades into something serviceable.
A quick word of caution to new slant users – I recommend paying extra attention to your sideburns. I lost a solid 1/4 -1/2″ of my sideburns on my first shave, exposing my pale, untanned sideburn skin for the world to see. When you combine the fact that the blade’s location is a little less intuitive than a standard safety razor with the fact that it is angled, it’s a little easier to make a mistake. You can remove too much, leave your sideburns pointed, or in my case – both.
The 37c is an excellent razor for people who are looking for more efficiency in their shave. I still enjoy using my other razors in a rotation but the 37c has become my daily go-to.
St. James of London Sandalwood & Bergamot Shaving Cream Review
I recently traveled to Imperial Shaving in Medina, OH and I felt like a kid in a candy store. I rarely have the opportunity to see/hold/smell literally hundreds of shaving products. To be honest, it was a little overwhelming. My sense of smell was quickly overloaded and I was having trouble deciding which products to buy. The proprietor, Don, recommended a couple of products, but one stood out – the St. James of London Sandalwood & Bergamot Shaving Cream.
Even my tired untrained nose could tell that the scent is different than other sandalwoods. It has less of the warm, woody depth of Taylor of Old Bond St. Sandalwood, which makes the St. James a little lighter in scent. But the bergamot is the addition that makes all the difference. It balances the sandalwood with a floral citrus top note that gives it a lot of character.
I bought the shaving cream for its scent, but it’s quality is the reason I look forward to shaving with it. The cream quickly builds into a lather that is thick, rich and stable. It has phenomenal lubricity that allows for minor tough-ups without adding more shaving cream.
I enjoyed this shaving cream so much that I opted to take a 4th pass on my first shave. I didn’t need it, but I didn’t want to waste the lather that was left in the bowl. I enjoy rotating through a number of shaving products, but this is one that I consistently look forward to.
St. James of London Sandalwood & Bergamot Post-Shave Gel Review
I don’t like using alcohol-based aftershaves, so I was excited to see that the St. James shaving creams have a matching Post-Shave Gel. The gel is alcohol-free and instead contains glycerin and castor oil.
It only takes 1-2 small pumps of the gel to condition your skin after a shave. The gel is light and non-greasy. Even though it contains castor oil it does not leave behind a greasy feel. It also does not leave behind the film/sheen that glycerin-heavy aftershaves can leave behind. It moisturizes as well as any high-quality aftershave balm and it has the same phenomenal sandalwood & bergamot scent as the shaving cream.
Why this was the best shave of my life
It’s rare that I change more than one variable in my shaving routine at a time. In this case I changed everything at once and I’m glad I did. I discovered a razor that is perfect for my thick beard hair as well as some high-quality shaving cream that has a scent I really enjoy.
But more importantly, it is exciting to know that there is still more to discover. This shave brought back memories of my first few months of wet shaving – where every shave was better than the last. Each new improvement in technique made a noteworthy difference in the quality of my shave. Each new soap, cream or balm brought something new to the table.
The feeling of excitement is fleeting and diminishes with time and experience. Don’t get me wrong, I was content with achieving consistently good shave every morning. But it was nice to be reminded of the excitement of discovering something new. I started wet shaving to solve some shaving-related complexion problems – and it worked. But the satisfaction of achieving a great shave that is truly memorable keeps me coming back for more.
The purpose of this blog is to share how double-edge shaving can help men get better shaves and clearer skin. Here are some additional posts you may find interesting:
Intro to Wet Shaving – A primer on how DE shaving helps give better shaves and clearer skin
Shaving Technique – A “how-to” guide for shaving with a safety razor
DE Shaving Cost Comparison – Analysis comparing the cost of DE shaving vs cartridge shaving (spoiler: DE razors are cheaper than dirt!)
Gear for Beginners – The low-cost tools that introduced me to DE shaving
Razor Aggressiveness Basics – An explanation of what makes a razor “mild” with recommendations for beginning DE shavers