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So if you're here, it's either because (1) you're one of the old schoolers who recognized the brand and was looking for another razor like the one you had back when shaving was an art form, or (2) you're a young buck who has done studying and have heard the recent hype: That straight razors and safety razors are making a comeback.
Unfortunately, I can't speak to the 1st audience, because I wasn't born when Merkur was made popular. I can, however, speak to the 2nd audience, as I somewhat fit into that category.
First some history. I'd been a Gillette man for the longest time. I had the old Mach 2 Turbo, then the Mach 3, then the M3 Power, then the Fusion. Yes, I've wasted a lot of money, between the handles and the replacement razors. I'd estimate it to be in the $1,000 range. Well, as you can probably understand, I didn't want to spend that money on razors anymore, plus I'd read stories that the straight and safety razors of old times are supposed to be better for your shaving area than the newer razors with multiple blades and lube strips, mostly due to the frequency of razor burn. So I decide to pick one of these up.
Just so you know, I use (and recommend) various shaving products, listed as follows:
- Proraso Shaving Soap with Eucalyptus Oil and Menthol - Normal Skin 150ml/5.2oz
- I use this now. Very good lather, good smell, a bit expensive and a tad difficult to rinse out of the razor if you don't give it enough water.
- Proraso Pre and Post Shave Cream - 3.6 oz - I use this now. Makes the blade glide over the skin when applied as a base under the shaving soap. Increases the eucalyptus smell and gives a cooling sensation to the face. Good stuff, small portion.
- Proraso Aftershave Splash - I use this now. Smells like a lighter version of BRUT which was disappointing; I expected a light eucalyptus smell. Seems to do pretty good at smoothing the skin, nice texture, but nothing special.
- Van Der Hagen Select Shave Soap, 2.5-Ounce Boxes (Pack of 12)
- I use this now. Great value for the price, solid soap, lathers thick, but you have to have the right ratio of soap to water, so it's not too runny.
- Col. Conk World's Famous Shaving Soap, Almond * 3 - Pack * Each Net Weight 2.25 Oz
- Great smell, applies smooth, but doesn't lather quite as thick as I prefer. Also I found it had basically tarnished the inside of the soap cup over time. Not a big deal, just something to consider.
- 100 7a.m. Platinum Double Edge Safety Razor Blades
- Excellent value, they don't last long...the idea is to buy so many that it doesn't matter if they don't last that long. I can get between 1 and 2 weeks use out of a single blade; so you figure between 1 and 3 years without having to buy more.
- Shaving Gift Set with Merkur Safety Razor, Bowl, Shaving Soap, Badger Brush, Stand and Safety Razor, Great Fathers Day Gift
- Bought for myself, the brush is good, and I gave away the small razor that came with it. It's not the top of the line but it'll do.
The first thing I noticed about this little ditty is that it's easy to clean. If you're like me and you shave using a running faucet of warm/hot water, you'll be right at home and pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to clean. One thing to watch out for - because it's all metal, it holds in the heat VERY WELL - so you'll not want to use full heat or I guarantee you'll burn yourself something fierce.
Second thing I noticed, and quite notable, is how easy it is to replace the actual blade. Just unscrew the handle, lift off the bottom, replace the blade, replace and screw back on. Never easier. Speaking of the blade, the instructions don't tell you how frequently to replace the blade, but online some people state to replace it once a week. That seems a bit frequent to me if you're just doing maintenance shaves once a day. Some with rougher beards I can understand, but mine is not nearly that bad - and mostly maintenance from previous shaves. I would say - change it when it feels like it's starting to snag easier than you're thinking it should. The biggest things to keep in mind: lather, lather, lather, and keep the blade wet.
I saw a few people were cutting themselves with this razor. I haven't cut myself and I've used it quite a bit. The two main causes of cutting oneself are incorrect angling and too much pressure. Because this is a razor with no plastic guides to protect you, it means you have to go slower, be more careful, and master the art of shaving the way it was originally intended. Not for nothing though - you just need to practice control. Also, you can't hold this razor like the older ones, you really need to hold it with graceful fingers; the lighter you hold it the less tempted you'll be to press down when you're shaving. The angle also matters - it shouldn't be held like a squeegee, it should be held at roughly a 30 degree angle. The combination will effectively leave it up to the blade to do the cutting, not your strength (or lack thereof).
I did notice that this blade can get insanely close. In fact, just to test, I shaved with my old Fusion razor and felt my face; I could feel follicles, but then I shaved right after with the Merkur, and it actually got hair that the Fusion didn't. Additionally, I had some razor bumps on my neckline, not too large, but still visible, no matter how frequently I shaved. Since shaving with the Merkur, some of these have disappeared entirely. I also follow up my shave with an all-over astringent due to oil issues, and normally it's a crazy burn after shaving, but after shaving with the Merkur there's no burn whatsoever. Definitely a positive change from what I used to experience, trust me.
Some added information: you want to make sure your face is clean before shaving. I say that because the oils and dirt on your face can contribute to razor bumps and poor shaving quality. The cleaner the better. In my case I use some shower cleaners that work extremely well, but just make sure your face is clean with whatever you choose to use. Also, to improve the quality of the shave, I apply a bit of baby oil to my still-wet face, then the shaving soap lather on top of that. Helps the blade move smoother across the skin and makes it feel baby smooth. Some other items are body oil (Vaseline has two good ones, cocoa butter and aloe vera) and and certain pre-shave oils. Everyone's physiology is different though; do whatever is comfortable for you. I'm just adding this here for ideas.
In short, if you're tired of paying $20-$30 for blades that claim to last a month yet last a week or two...if you're wanting a closer, more comfortable shave with little-to-no razor burn...if you want to experience what the old schoolers have been talking about, definitely try a Merkur.
I wanted to throw in a bit here as I see more and more reviews from people who just don't get it. Merkur is all about the quality of the shave, not the speed. I don't know how many times people need to express that, but if you do your research you will find numerous people saying the same thing - this razor is NOT for those who just want to speed through their shave! You need to take your time and not rush through it. You WILL cut yourself if you rush with this razor. You WILL NOT get a quality shave if you don't take your time. You WILL wear down the blade if you dry shave, and this blade WILL NOT protect you. If you're going to use this razor, take the proper precautions. If you know you're a speed demon shaver, DON'T BUY THIS, because I really don't want to see you up on here complaining that you have to take your time.