On avoiding stubble

39 comments on On avoiding stubble
5 minutes

I hate shaving. But I hate having a beard slightly more, so I shave.

The hair on my face is patchy and sparse, so a beard doesn’t look great on me anyway. It’s also thick and wiry, and it never. stops. itching. I know this because my first wife liked a man with a beard, and I tried to grow one for her a couple times. Here’s photographic evidence.

It was worse when I was younger. Here I’m 18 with about a month of growth. It was so sparse that it wouldn’t form a proper beard.

You’d think that would make shaving a breeze, but no. Something about the way my facial hair grows in under my chin and on my neck makes it very challenging to shave. I never figured out how to shave below my chin without a lot of bleeding. I went through styptic pencils like nobody’s business.

I started shaving at about 16. Despite my beard being sparse, it was jet black and very visible. (The stubble look that’s popular today was considered unkempt then.) Within a couple years I needed to shave every day, and given my difficulties I needed to get off the blade. Mom bought me an electric shaver. You can see it in the photo above: a Remington Micro Screen. “Shaves as close as a blade, or I’ll give you your money back,” said Victor Kiam, who liked the shaver so much, he bought the company. It didn’t actually shave as close as a blade, but it shaved well enough and put an end to my bleeding neck.

Every few years I try wet shaving again, only for my face to need a week to heal. So I’ve never gotten away from electric shavers. When the Remington wore out I replaced it with a Braun. It was so much better than the Remington that I stuck with Braun for years. But then Braun introduced their cleaning system, where you stick the head of your shaver in an alcohol-filled receptacle every day. I’m sure it worked great, but keeping the cleaning solution fresh was shockingly expensive. No thanks. You couldn’t get the shavers I wanted without the cleaning station, and that made them prohibitively expensive. Braun made lower-line shavers that didn’t come with a cleaning station, and I bought one, but it didn’t perform nearly as well as the higher-end shavers I had been buying from them.

I complained about this to my father, who had been a Norelco man since the 1970s. He bought me a Norelco shaver for Christmas — and it was terrible. It took three times as long to shave my face, and I still was left with noticeable stubble.

On the recommendation of a friend, I switched to Panasonic. It was terrific! And you could clean it by rinsing it under the faucet, something none of my Branus could tolerate. I liked the Panasonic so much that when it wore out, I bought another of the same model. I left that one in a hotel room by mistake, so I bought a third. And now that one has worn out, and that model is no longer available.

In the intervening years, electric shavers have done much the same thing that regular razors have done: if two blades are good, more must be better! My outgoing Panasonic had two blades, but new ones have five or six. The shaver heads are huge. I have enough trouble fitting the two-blade head into tight spots, such as under my nose. I can’t imagine doing it with a head more than two times as thick!

Other Panasonic shavers with the two-blade head are available on Amazon, but they look to be leftover stock. Buying one only postpones the inevitable.

So I went in a different direction and looked at barber tools. Wahl and Andis are the two main brands, and they both make shavers. I ordered an Andis and have been using it for a couple weeks now.

In one way, it’s like returning to that Remington Micro Screen in that both shavers are shaped like a small brick, and the cutting head is fixed. Most consumer shavers today have a head that can move and pivot as you move it around your face, and have a slender body that is supposed to be easier to hold.

But this Andis shaver is unlike any shaver I’ve ever owned in that this sucker gets close.

You’re not supposed to press any shaver into your face, but rather just glide it over your skin. But if you do press a consumer shaver into your face, it has no ill effect. If you do it with the Andis, you’re likely to rip the hairs right out!

This shaver slightly irritates my face. I guess that’s the tradeoff. I bought a bottle of soothing after-shave lotion. Problem solved.

The foil on the Andis is said to be prone to wrinkling. I guess modern consumer shavers have sturdier foils that last a long time. I’ll probably need to replace my Andis’s foil a lot more often than I’m used to! But perhaps its thinness is why it gets so close.

All in all, I wish I didn’t have facial hair. I wonder how expensive electrolysis would be?

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39 responses to “On avoiding stubble”

  1. Steve Lamb Avatar
    Steve Lamb

    I usually find myself buying the least expensive Norelco, but it must have floating heads. Also, you might try Williams ‘Lectric Shave. This preshave liquid seems to “pull up” the facial hair and has a terrific, manly smell, better than most colognes I buy.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Isn’t it funny how tastes differ? I can’t stand the smell of Lectric Shave! I found an unscented pre-shave lotion on Amazon that I use instead.

    2. Tom Miller Avatar
      Tom Miller

      I mainly use a Remington F5-5800 Foil Shaver. Being retired now, I can get away with 2 day beard growth before venturing out. 4 years now with this model, original cutter blades. It is not bad, hold a battery charge ok. I do use Williams Electro shave concoction. Unfortunately the 1950s era fragrance isn’t an advantage to me. I wish they came out with a no fragrance option.

      1. Jim Grey Avatar

        Here’s the unscented stuff I bought off Amazon.


        1. Tom Miller Avatar
          Tom Miller

          I will give it a try. I don’t use the William’s stuff every time I shave.
          You would think though it was time for them to reconsider the fragrance angle.

  2. DougD Avatar

    Like my father and my son, I can’t grow a proper beard either. And the hair under my chin doesn’t come out straight, it lies at a low angle and gets ingrown if I shave with a blade.

    After starting with my father’s old shaver I got a Braun microscreen. It was OK, until the battery died and it barely worked even when plugged in. So I bought a Philips rotary without a battery, correctly figuring if I couldn’t find AC power I didn’t need to shave. I’ve been using that thing for 30 years, still works great!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Wow, the same shaver for 30 years! Mine all wear out after 5-10. Maybe I’m not buying the right kind!

  3. Andy Umbo Avatar
    Andy Umbo

    Ha! Love this entry! I must have “low T” as the ads say, because I have a crap beard that doesn’t grow in all spots, even if I leave it a year, and it’s half dark, half silver. I’m reverse of you, in that I shave “wet”, and it’s fairly easy, but I don’t like it and try dry electric shaving every few years, but it’s worse. Usually now, I only have to shave every other day.

    Have to laugh, because in retirement, I’ve thought of putting a guide for men online, on what not to look like. Long stringy hair that isn’t a style, just not cut or washed; splotchy beard not trimmed, or better yet, not daily shaved; clothes that look stiff, have stains; stained sweat pants unwashed, as “day” wear; cheap nylon jacket from a corner bar. I live in a predominantly blue collar side of town, and there’s a “look” that looks like it actually reeks, and it usually does. I don’t know how people leave their dwellings looking like this? Sometimes they just give up…

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      While the hair on my head is still almost entirely black, the hair on my face is about 75% gray. Today if I tried to grow a beard I’d just look homeless!

      I hear you on people going out looking like they just crawled out of bed. I don’t get it.

  4. Andy Umbo Avatar
    Andy Umbo

    BTW my dad had about the same beard as I did, and he ended up as a “night shaver” I.e. he shaved before he went to bed. Always worked for him, altho I worked with guys that had to shave in the morning and at 2pm, and when they took off their shirt, they looked like they were wearing a sweater! Yikes!

    Also, what’s the deal with male professional photographers and bad beards? If you rounded up 20 and stood them in a row, 18 would have beards, and 17 would have beards they shouldn’t have left the house with! I realized this in my 20’s and it’s when I decided to be clean shaven everyday.

  5. Marc Beebe Avatar

    I have a beard because I don’t like shaving. The time, the torture, the expense (one blade sometimes not lasting a single cutting of the chin wire). Oddly enough my Dad couldn’t grow one, and other than that we were physically very much alike (aside from my greater height which was probably due to better nutrition). To each their own; be comfortable, and be comfortable with that.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      You must have a beard made out of steel! :-)

      1. Marc Beebe Avatar

        Um … the one time I tried an electric shaver it stalled. This is compensated for by a lack of hair on top of the head, I guess. :p

        1. Andy Umbo Avatar
          Andy Umbo

          Marc, you’ve never been hipper! My local coffee emporium is loaded every day with sub-30 guys with completely shaven heads, and “…ol’ Mulie the Prospector…” beards! It’s a “thing”!

          1. Marc Beebe Avatar

            So I’m hip to be square? Great! I’ll just put on my white sports coat and a pink carnation …

  6. tbm3fan Avatar

    Well I can grow a uniform beard if I wanted to but would never do for various reasons due to profession and hobbies. I started with an electric razor around 17 (1970) I guess. I switched to the BIC single blade around 1973-4 I would say and then the BIC double blade when it came out in 1992. Still use them today and have it down to a science for me. The only difficult area was the area below my left chin as the hairs grew (the grain so to speak) in not quite the right direction like those under my right chin. I now shave only twice a week which is every Sunday night and Wednesday night. I get it smooooth! That gets me through work on M,Tu, Thur, and Fr. Off days of Wed, Sat., and Sun. I don’t care.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I wish I didn’t look super stubbly if I didn’t shave every day. I’d so switch to an every-other-day or twice-a-week cadence.

  7. brandib1977 Avatar

    If time is money, then all the time you’ve spent plus the actual money you’ve invested in supplies would probably pay for permanent removal.

    Personally, I don’t understand all the messy beards you see these days. Ha! At least three quarters of my dating pool has been eliminated because I don’t like a beard.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar


      Yeah, I’ve probably sunk enough into shaving and supplies over the years. Every year or so an electric shaver needs a new foil and cutter head, and that’s $30 each time, at least.

      1. Andy Umbo Avatar
        Andy Umbo

        BrandiB, I have to say when I was trying, to no avail, to grow and trim a reasonable beard, I was spending an amazing amount of time doing that, and practically zero just shaving the whole damn thing off. People who say they don’t shave to save time have one over on me, I really don’t spend any time actually shaving vs. trying to get a presentable beard! And, yes, at least in my neck of the woods, beards are only slightly tolerated by the women folk, and many have said they don’t want to spend an evening kissing one!

        1. Jim Grey Avatar

          Can confirm – when I had a beard, I spent more time keeping it trim than I ever did shaving. Also, I still had to shave my neck.

        2. Ted Marcus Avatar

          Beard maintenance may well take as much time as daily shaving. The difference is that you can schedule it and do it at your convenience rather than when you’re rushing to get out the door in the morning.

      2. brandib1977 Avatar

        Lol. I know. I should feel guilty….

  8. Ted Marcus Avatar

    I’ve had a beard since 1978. As a teenager I had bad acne, which made shaving an ordeal even with the Norelco electric my dad got me when I was 13. During the summer after my freshman year of college I read an article about the difficulty of doing research on acne. There was no “animal model” for it because rats and other lab animals don’t get acne. The theory was that those animals’ fur keeps the follicles clear of the organic matter bacteria that cause acne in humans like to eat. (I have no idea if that theory was ever proved or disproved.)

    So I decided to try growing a furry face. If it didn’t work as it did in rats, at least it might cover up the zits and scars. After a month I had a full (if imperfect) beard… and no more acne on my face, even though it continued unabated in other places that could not grow fur. Score one for the rats!

    I also decided I looked better with a beard, despite the opposite view of my mother and many other women at that time, before beards were fashionable. I’ve kept it, even though it turned gray in my mid-40s. I can’t imagine not having the beard. Oddly, even as I approach Medicare eligibility my scalp hair remains brown, even though my beard is almost completely gray. I tell people who ask that I’ve EARNED every gray hair. I also don’t understand the appeal of the ubiquitous “stubble beard.”

    I do still shave my neck, by the way. That Norelco shaver my dad got me lasted 35 years in that capacity. It was a piece of precision engineering made in the Netherlands. Its replacement, also a Norelco, is a piece of crap made in China. But it’s adequate for the job.

    Finally, the ability to grow facial hair has little to do with testosterone levels or “virility.” It’s a matter of genetics. You and Andy Umbo just got a bad deal of those particular cards.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I am fortunate that my face has always been smooth. I can’t imagine trying to shave around acne.

  9. cliff baldwin Avatar

    My wife got me a Braun years back, and think I had a Norelco at one point. Just couldn’t find any love for an electric shaver, never getting the closeness I wanted. I envy the current crop of macho with amazing beards, but mine just looks like a mess when I let it grow out, so shave I must. I presently use a Harry’s blade which is pretty good, but the results improved significantly (smooth as a baby’s bottom?) since I started using a shaving brush and lathering up with Taylor of Old Bond Street (Jermyn Street Collection) Shaving Cream for Sensitive Skin. I’ve in mind to one day give the straight razor a shot, bearing well in mind that it is an unforgiving approach, taking quite a bit of skill. Maybe…

    1. tom Miller Avatar
      tom Miller

      Years ago, Gillette had a product built around a brush handle. The shaving cream cartridge slid into the brush portion. You would add shaving cream to the brush by turning a screw base. You would purchase replacement cartridges. It was a good approach to the shaving brush concept.

  10. Mark McBride Avatar

    I’ve been cursed with a heavy beard since my late teens. I tried a beard in college, and while it kept my face warm in winter, found it was more time consuming trimming it all the time. I use a Braun electric shaver that I bought in 1986. Bought the same model again in 1991 after a small part broke on the original, and the same spring mechanism broke on the replacement. So I cobbled together a fix and I’m back to the ’86 model. I cruise ebay for replacement screens and cutters. I typically have to shave 2 times a day.
    If you’ve ever seen ‘the Santa Clause’ when Tim Allen discovers he’s Santa, he shaves and immediately he has a huge beard again, that’s the way I feel sometimes!
    Ironically I have very little hair on my head, but if I take off my shirt, I resemble Sasquatch.

  11. Andy Umbo Avatar
    Andy Umbo

    Am I the only guy on here clean shaving with a disposable two blade with an aloe strip blue shaver from Target. I think a huge sack is 6 bucks. They work easily for over a week. Classic Barbasol for less than two bucks a can. A lot of money being spent on here for a simple shave! The “branding” folks have really found another upsell market in men’s grooming!

    BTW, my Dad always said, whatever you do, you have to train your beard. If you go electric, it could take half a year or more getting an easy feel and decently close shave. If you change wet shaver brands, it could take a while to really get good with it. I’ve been using those cheapie disposable Targets shavers for years, and they work great!

  12. J P Avatar

    Oh, I feel ya. I had a mustache in college and law school, but shaved it off when it was time to look for a job. Everyone told me I looked younger without – which was a good thing by then.

    I tried a beard when the kids were small. It came in decently enough but had a lot of gray in it by then. Marianne despised it so it went away. And the beard guys here are right in that it took about as much maintenance time as shaving.

    Covid gave me an excuse to only shave once or twice a week. But too much delay makes the job worse.

    I tried an electric in college (a foil-head design under the Sears brand) but went back to blades. For a time I had a classic safety razor that used the flat double edge blades, but now I use the one with 34 blades of whatever brand is sold at Costco, along with the cheapest shave gel I can find. I can get mighty smooth with it.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Isn’t it funny how women so often have strong feelings about beard either way? I don’t know any who are neutral about them.

  13. Andy Umbo Avatar
    Andy Umbo

    JP brings up another shaving point…gel vs. classic old style shaving cream. I tried gel for a few months, you never get rash or cut, because I don’t think it lets you get close enough. I went back to Barbasol for a close shave. I realized this difference when I needed to shave every day with gel, but realized using old style shaving cream, I need to shave only every other day….

  14. -Nate Avatar

    I knew this would be a popular thread .

    I can’t grow a beard either, I’ve tried a few times, I just look like a bum .

    My facial hair is like wore ~ my ex wife was a Cosmetologist and she was lived after my bread hairs dulled her fancy straight edge razor .

    Electrics have never worked for me, not close enough and often they just yank my hairs out .

    The Gillette “Good News” two bladed disposable came out it was my salvation .

    I now use multi bladed razors, I bought some HARRY’s but will wait until the others are all used up before trying them I think .

    If you have stiff facial hair and ride a Motocycle, your face hurts if you put on your helmet without shaving .

    Occasionally I try some off brand blade razor when traveling and forget to pack a new one- OUCH .

    Yes, shaving with acne is the pits, painful and bloody to boot .

    I don’t coagulate well so Styptic pencils did nothing .

    I don’t use fancy creams, I shave in the shower and it takes practice so shave closely with out a mirror .

    I tried to sign in but can’t .

    Can’t create a new account either .


    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      It sounds like we all have to figure out what works for us in shaving! I wonder if anyone has it easy.

  15. Doug Anderson Avatar

    I never shaved my upper lip when it started to grow in. It was blond and not very obvious. I stopped shaving altogether when I graduated from high school at 17. I knew that male pattern baldness was coming, inherited from my father and both grandfathers. I used a variety of trimmers over the years but eventually settled on a corded Andis with a 0000 blade. The current one is well over 20 years old with only a couple of blade replacements. About 5 minutes trimming every Saturday and I’m good to go.

    Our son started to lose his hair early too. His solution was to shave his head as well as his face, but he inherited his maternal grandfather’s good looks and is quite handsome.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I don’t know if I’ll ever lose enough hair that shaving my head will become a serious option — but I hope not, as my head is lumpy and misshapen.

  16. andytree101 Avatar

    Hi Jim, Are you monitoring me? – Only last week I started growing a beard for the first time ever!! :) Cheers Andy

    1. Jim Grey Avatar


  17. -Nate Avatar

    Last week I bought a two pack of super cheap “Relia-Shave” 6 blade disposables, wow do they ever hurt to use but also, zero stubble so I’ll use until they go dull and see if the handle works to replace my broken fancy one as I still have a package of fancy blades .


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