Using Pressure In Shaving

Discussion in 'Safety Razors' started by DonMac, Nov 9, 2015.

  1. DonMac

    DonMac Active Member

    One of the things I keep intending to bring up in wet shaving is the issue of pressure. At the risk of creating a firestorm over my post, considering virtually everyone says use little or no pressure, I am going to disagree.

    Gillette engineers knew that using a shallow angle and appropriate pressure would provide the closest shave and longevity of a blade. Marketing however, knew that a sharp blade would cut well at a steeper angle when new, and then rapidly degrade in performance after a few shaves because the steeper angle dulled the blade faster. They also knew that using little pressure would result in a close shave for the first few uses of a blade but would not work well as the blade edge dulled.

    In spite of what engineering knew, Gillette marketing recommended a method that would work well for only a few shaves, necessitating a new blade after only a few shaves. Obviously this was a recommended procedure which produced the most blade usage. Marketing justified promoting this method as the safest for the shaver, in that no pressure would result in fewer cuts, and using only a sharp blade would not require pressure resulting in a safer shave for the user. The real purpose obviously was to sell more blades while at the same time ensuring shavers had comfortable trouble free shaves. Using light pressure and a steeper angle was a no brainer as no thought or adjustments were needed by the shaver. Use a blade a few times, discard it and put in a new one.

    The reality is that a shallow angle, and using pressure that is appropriate to the users personal characteristics is the method providing the best shave and longest life of a blade. Using pressure that is appropriate for the user, means using the greatest amount of pressure that is comfortable for the shaver. Those with sensitively, razor burn, etc. issues would use less pressure, and those who were able to use more pressure without issue (cuts, weepers, irritation etc.) would use the greatest amount of pressure they were comfortable with.
    Unfortunately, most everyone repeats the warning about using little or no pressure and letting the weight of the razor do the work. This is one of those things that is perpetuated as truth by saying something often enough it eventually is accepted as fact.

    This is very simple to prove. After doing a sufficient prep and using a new blade, shave using a shallow angle and the greatest amount of pressure you are comfortable with on one side of your face. Shave the other side using a steeper angle with little or no pressure, and evaluate the results. Make sure you use the shallow angle and pressure method first, as the steeper angle and little to no pressure, will slightly dull the blade and skew the results.

    If you're like the thousands of shavers Gillette used in their shaving method evaluations, you'll find the shallow/pressure method provides the best shave.
  2. PLANofMAN

    PLANofMAN Eccentric Razor Collector Staff Member

    Moderator Article Team
    I use a shallow angle and moderate pressure with most razors.

    By moderate, I mean just enough pressure to allow one to see the skin deforming around the head of the razor.

    For the most part, I agree with you, though I can't ever recall seeing a Gillette advertisement that recommended 'no pressure.'

    The forum recommendation to use little to no pressure stems from the typical cartridge razor user who presses the razor head as hard as he can against the face, confident in the knowledge that he won't get cut. With a safety razor, that technique will shave layers of epidermis off, regardless of the angle used. At worst, this results in nicks, and at best, results in severe razor burn.
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  3. Jasman

    Jasman Well-Known Member

    Having never been one who pressed a cartridge "razor head as hard as can against my face" (really? As hard as he can? And we've done the research to know this is typical? Huh.) I will say that I was initially quite flummoxed by the 'no pressure' mantra of DE shaving. I approached that advice under the assumption that it truly meant 'no pressure' and that any amount of pressure I applied was 'doing it wrong.' It wasn't until I started using essentially the same amount of pressure I had typically used with a cartridge - enough to see and feel the razor's head doing its job while keeping the blade at a shallow angle - that I started to get good results.
  4. Billyfergie

    Billyfergie The Scottish Ninja

    The no pressure thing does tend to run away with itself on Forms like a lot of things....When the Schick Repeating Razor Company brought out their early injectors they actually did offer instructions that recommended the user to use some pressure with it...It was actually a selling point or marketing ploy that one could allegedly get away with using more pressure than a DE s without irritation...:)

    A lot of advice is offered as Gospel in Forums not to use pressure with Injectors & or SEs..I have a number of Injectors & SEs and some milder injectors that require some pressure and as PLANofMAN described it deforming the skin around the head of the razor....Some SEs like the Gem OCMM require a very light touch and any pressure of any kind is an absolute No No...I have a few very aggressive injectors as well that require a lighter than light touch especially when using Crazy Sharp blades in them....Some Injector & SE razor/blade combos require some pressure & some for me its a definite No - No...;)

    Last edited: Nov 9, 2015
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  5. Morning Shave

    Morning Shave Well-Known Member

    DE razor heads have weight. Speaking specifically about the Merkur Progress; I've been using very little pressure and in some areas just the Progress's head's weight pressure. My results have been very good. No irritation and a close shave. Now and then, as my mind wanders, I may apply "moderate" pressure and that may or may not result in a nick. Perhaps it's because I am relatively new to DE shaving and don't have the experience of many members but a light touch seems to be working well for me. Since I haven't gone above the 3 setting on the Progress, would you use more pressure with a higher number (more aggressive )on the Progress?
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  6. PLANofMAN

    PLANofMAN Eccentric Razor Collector Staff Member

    Moderator Article Team
    You might want to switch to a shallower shaving angle.
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  7. BigCabDaddy

    BigCabDaddy Well-Known Member

    Not sure what you mean by steep and shallow angle. Steep is closer to 90 degrees I assume?
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  8. DonMac

    DonMac Active Member

    Steep and shallow angle are actually relative terms. A shallow angle would be the shallowest angle at which the razor blade will cut whiskers, and steep angle would be the steepest angle the blade will cut whiskers. The actual angle would depend on the geometry of the razor head, but will typically be somewhere around 30 degrees as a starting point.
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  9. jmaier

    jmaier Well-Known Member

    Right or wrong, I do think the "no pressure" mantra hyped on the forums and other sites is probably an important one for new wet shavers. Coming from cartridges just a few months ago, I can say that the idea that more pressure doesn't necessarily = closer shave was a relatively novel one (albeit intuitive in hindsight). As I've grown more comfortable wielding the blade, I've found myself trending toward a shallower angle and slightly more pressure, but still nowhere near the pressure I sometimes used with a Mach 3.

    Putting aside what's the right and/or best technique, I'd suggest that the most important point to drive home for newbies is that blade angle and pressure matter. Like most things around here, YMMV, but I think we can all agree that using your DE like a cartridge is a recipe for disaster.
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  10. Herm2502

    Herm2502 off to elf practice

    Just for reference, here's a pic of shaving angles. Steep is on the right, shallow is in the middle and, supposedly, "perfect" is on the left. Too steep an angle and you're basically dragging the blade along your skin. It will cut the hair, but the result may be a bit unpleasant and/or painful. Too shallow and the blade may not make enough contact to cut the hair short enough. It will feel smooth and silky, but not accomplish much. My personal experience has told me that a shallowER angle provides me with my best shaves. Normally, especially with a razor that's new to me, I'll put the top against my face with the handle at 90 degrees (not the blade angle, the handle angle). Then I'll slowly decrease that angle until I feel the blade touch my skin. At that point I start shaving and adjust as needed for the design of the razor head and the results I'm accomplishing.

    As for pressure, compared to a cartridge a DE razor (or SE for that matter) requires little or no additional pressure. But, as has been said above it's a story of YMMV!

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  11. CyanideMetal

    CyanideMetal Wild and crazy guy

    I have found that a WTG pass using slightly more pressure than the internationally accepted "weight of the razor" standard gives a very close shave.
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  12. subvet

    subvet Well-Known Member

    I generally go into the ROFL mode when I read "let the weight of the razor" do the work. I envision a bunch of shaving newbees standing on their heads to shave under their chins, or tilting their heads way to the side to shave their cheeks and I'm not sure how to shave under the nose since one would have to stare at the ceiling instead of the mirror. The best and the worst thing about these Forums is all the advice being thrown about and the amazing number of newbees who are afraid to just learn by experimentation (like most of those older advice givers did).
  13. Spur

    Spur New Member

    I guess I'm one of the newbies you guys are talking about. For me less pressure =less irritation.
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  14. Brushfire

    Brushfire Member

    :signs011: I'm also one of the newbies. I'm using a Razorock Mission, and I find that I gravitate toward the sharper smoother blades (GSB, Polsilver, Astra) which cut cleanly and closely with a minimum of pressure. That way, not as many passes or cleanup strokes are required. OP is right about the angle, but I've tried "riding the cap", and found it to be too much work!:p
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  15. Engblom

    Engblom Well-Known Member

    I am using a really light pressure, not more than what you could give with a light feather. When I shave the legs of my wife, she even complained how it was tickling. If I add more pressure than that I get serious problem when shaving myself.

    There is only one way I am able to put pressure: By putting down the cap on the skin, without tilting the razor anything and then add pressure until the skin barely begins to touch the blade. This ultra shallow angle works quite well if you dare to add that amount of pressure.
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  16. Jim99

    Jim99 Gold Water Shaver

    I've only been DE shaving for a year now and I too was told to apply "no pressure". Granted, that was some other forum. My shaves were lousy! After a half dozen shaves or is, I did what came naturally after I lost the initial fear of the razor and that was to apply pressure gently and as needed. My shaves improved dramatically.

    I think it's just part of the learning curve. Hey, we tell our kids to be careful. They don't listen anyway. But, if a newbie sliced himself up, that's probably one less for our ranks.

    Maybe we should rephrase that pearl of wisdom to be "use the slightest of pressure until you get to know the limitations of your equipment ". I know, that's not too catchy.
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  17. Morning Shave

    Morning Shave Well-Known Member

    Tried a slight additional pressure and the world didn't stop spinning. perhaps the shave was closer. Like one of the posters said, a little experimentation can be a learning event. I'm sure there is a line, once past, can lead to irritation and nicks.
    I do believe that "using the weight of the razor head" only is the best way for someone starting out. I started out using too much pressure and received nicks and weepers for my effort.
    Lesson learned!
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  18. Troy M

    Troy M Prep: Mephitis mephitis musk

    I learned the value of a little bit of pressure by shaving my scalp with a DE. The tight skin over my thick skull needs a little pressure as does the weird wrinkled area below the back of my skull. I transferred this to my face and its working. I probably ride the cap a little more than I did and the pressure almost seems to be more on the cap than on the blade.
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  19. Streambrewer

    Streambrewer Active Member

    I think it depends more upon the razor design and the person shaving. My observation has been that some razors just seem to work better with no pressure, and some work better with a some pressure, and most are somewhere in between. On some gentle razors, I can push what seems to be very firmly while sort of riding the cap with a very shallow angle. On other, more aggressive razors, this would shear off a bloody ribbon of skin. The blade angle really should be I think as shallow as one can make it while still cutting efficiently.
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2015
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  20. Tallships

    Tallships Well-Known Member

    From my experience Its the razor aand also the blade that dictates how much pressure or none . If using a Gillette Tech ( mild) with a Gillette Blue blade I used pressure to get good results but if using the Weber PH with a Persona Red I use just the weight of the razor. Then there are razors in between with many blade combinations and pressure or no. But this is just what works for me. It all boils down to what works best
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