When I started traditional wetshaving a few months ago, I always experienced razor irritation on my neck and chin. Even with proper prep, quality creams and soaps, a good razor and sharp blades, I still got irritation. I could not shave against the grain; hence, my shaves were acceptable, but not “baby bottom smooth” quality. Then I discovered shave oil. There has been some concern about the effect of shave oil on the bristles of of badger brushes and the possible negative effects on lathering. Many men have tried pre-shave or cosmetic oil with dismal results, mainly: matted oily bristles, inadequate lather and messy cleanup.
Because of this concern, I decided to conduct an experiment.
Does shave oil have a negative effect on badger brush bristles and lathering?
Important note: the oil I am using is a “shave” oil, NOT a “pre-shave” or cosmetic (jojoba, almond, wheatgerm, etc.) oil.
(1) Brush: Savile Row Super Badger. (2) Shave Oil: Pacific Shaving Company All-Natural Shaving Oil. (3) Razor: Merkur Long Handle Closed Comb DE. (4) Blade: Super Platinum DE. (5) Shave Creams & Soap: Truefitt & Hill Limes, Proraso Tub, Salter Citrus, Trumper Violet, Castle Forbes Lavender, Taylor Rose, QEDman Soap. (6) Torture Chamber: Glass jar
Seven days. Start Date/Time: 1 Feb/700pm End Date/Time: 8 Feb/700pm
(1) Three bottles of shave oil were emptied into the glass jar and the brush was inserted, bristles first, into the oil. The brush bristles remained immersed in the shave oil throughout the test except for the actual shaving times, which totaled seven, one each morning of the test. (2) Shave oil was massaged into the beard BEFORE the first pass, BEFORE the second pass and BEFORE the final pass. Only one application of shave oil before the first pass is required in normal operation, but I wanted to expose the bristles to excessive doses of oil. (3) Each morning, the brush was removed from the torture chamber, bristles were tightly squeezed against the inside of the jar to drain excess shave oil and the brush was immersed in very hot (microwaved) water in preparation for lathering. (4) Each day, a different cream or soap was used with the brush. (5) Each day, a different lathering method was used – cereal bowl, shaving mug, palm of hand, on face, on cream, on soap. (6) Regimen and prep was the same everyday, except for the extra applications of shave oil and the immersion of the brush in the oil during non-shaving periods. (7) After shaving, the brush was placed under hot running water for a two-minute rinse, brushed briskly on a dry towel, after which the bristles were closed up and the brush reinserted into the torture chamber until the next morning.
(1) Based on my calculations, 7 days of testing = 10,080 minutes. If we allot approximately 5 minutes/day of actual brush use, 7 test days equate to about 35 minutes of using the brush on the face and lathering on top of the shave oil. In 10,080 minutes, and 5 minutes/shave, this results in 2,016 shaves. If we allocate one shave per day, 365 days in one year, this 7-day test is the equivalent of exposing the brush bristles to 5.5 years of actual contact with the shave oil. (2) The brush bristles look and feel the same as when I bought the brush back in September 2004. The bristles are soft, the tips are intact, the head is nicely formed, no bristles fell out, the bristles are not matted and are not oily. (3) Lathering with the brush during the test was as good as before the test, on both creams and soaps. No adverse effects on lathering time or volume. (4) Blade glides effortlessly across beard, no dragging or skipping whatsoever. (5) Face is not oily feeling, but smooth, moisturized and irritation-free. (6) No oily residue on razor or in basin.
Pacific Shaving Company All-Natural Shaving Oil does not have a negative or adverse effect on badger brush bristles or the brush’s lathering ability.
Though this oil is designed to be used with just water and no cream, I use it before I apply the lather cream/soap. The use of the oil has allowed me to shave against the grain on the second and third passes, doing multiple strokes over the same area, with zero irritation and the added benefit of moisturizing. I have used other “pre-shave” preparations in my quest to relive the irritation, and none have performed as admirably as this shave oil. I, personally, will not shave without it.
Note: The conclusion reached as a result of this informal test pertains ONLY to Pacific Shave Oil and is not a recommendation to use any other oil with shaving brush or as a pre-shave. Our sincere thanks to Richard in Texas who took it upon himself to independently conduct this test and provide QED with his conclusion.