Monday, August 7, 2017

Close Shaves Post-SHTF

Scott has written several guest articles for us, but this is his first post as a regular contributor for Blue Collar Prepping. Please make him feel welcome. 

“Shaving?” you ask. “Shaving? We don’t need no stinking shaving!”

It is a disaster, after all, and there are more important things to worry about. The ravenous zombie hordes, for example. Or the invading aliens, looking to abduct humans and use them as spare parts to repair their pet cows.

And I (kind of) agree with you. But there are number of eminently practical reasons to keep a razor and other shaving supplies in any preps you may have.

Many people are going to have a great need to feel “normal” after a disaster, and the psychological boost for the continuation of normalcy in any disaster situation should not be underestimated. Not having to spend that extra bit of mental energy adjusting to changes in your environment can notably reduce exhaustion.

Something that most people do not realize is that most (but not all) of the “body odor” that people smell comes from bacteria that actually grow on body hair. Shaving body hair can help with scent control in enclosed situations, and is occasionally used by hunters to control body odor when hunting things that will be scared away by human scent. Shaving can also be used to reduce the need for things like deodorant.

Even if people don’t like to say it, they are much more likely to help someone who is well groomed and well presented than someone who looks like they’ve gone through a disaster, even if that is exactly what has just happened.

Sanitary reasons for shaving include vermin control, such as lice. Longer term SHTF scenarios can include situations where one person brings in head lice into a group, and because they are sheltered together, it rapidly spreads. In addition to being uncomfortable, the vermin can spread disease, posing potential deadly risk. There is a reason that traditional treatment for this was to shave heads (and occasionally body hair) to treat and prevent spread of vermin. Combined with non-medicated soaps, this allows both prevention and “cure” of head and body lice.

“Muck” can accumulate in hair, especially in beards. It is much easier to clean a shaved face than to clean a beard, especially if you do not have access to water, or have very limited access. Anyone who has ever eaten a messy hamburger with a beard (or seen someone else do so) knows what I am talking about.

In hot climates, it may be wise to keep body hair shaved in order to prevent fungal growth. It can also be medically necessary to shave someone in preparation of surgical work, and shaving can even make things like stitches easier to apply.

Protective Gear Compatibility
NBC (Nuclear, Biological, Chemical) disasters are uncommon at most, but they do occur. If your preps include a gas mask, it is unusual to find one that accommodates facial hair. If you acquire a gas mask post-SHTF, you may find yourself unable to use it with facial hair. (There are facial hair-friendly respirators and gas masks, but they are much less common and typically more expensive. 3M produces one, but it costs as much as a used scooter.)

Pros and Cons of Shaving Methods
With that in mind, I present you an overview of the major methods used for shaving. This is actually not an exhaustive list, but it covers the most common methods in the United States and Europe for people who shave on a regular basis, whether it be facial hair or other.

The classic electric razor. This razor is used for all sorts of things and is probably the most common powered shaving accessory for men in the modern Western world.

  • Ease of use
  • Most people already have one
  • Fairly robust
  • Usable for many shaves
  • Nicer models will often include beard trimmer attachments, and can sometimes even be used to trim hair
  • Batteries can often be recharged hundreds of times

  • Require power and a more detailed cleaning than most other types of razors. (While you do not need to clean them after every shave, they do require a more thorough cleaning when they are cleaned, and in the field this can lead to problems. )
  • More expensive and more difficult to maintain than most other razors
  • If dull, causes painful pulling of hair when used, and difficult to sharpen in the field without special equipment
  • Do not shave as closely

In my opinion, these are best left at home, or used when bugging out in something like an RV.

A mechanical razor is much like an electric razor, with the power source being a hand-wound spring.

  • Excellent for long-term SHTF 
  • Self-sharpening models were popular when they were in vogue

  • As of 2017, they are no longer being manufactured (to the best of my knowledge), and to purchase one you must buy an antique 
  • Ones in good condition tend to be fairly expensive

Modern Multi-Blade Cartridge
This is the most common style of unpowered razor sold in North America and Europe. It comes in a bewildering array of styles and forms, but is usually a lubricating strip with several attached blades on a changeable, disposable cartridge head.

  • Nearly everyone owns one
  • Don't stand out
  • Common and cheap enough that you can purchase one for a bug out bag and it will not break the bank 
  • All you need to use one is some water and perhaps a mirror; they have a lube strip built in, so no shaving soap needed. 

  • Some people are allergic or sensitive to the lubricant pads
  • So common that someone else may have the same style and type of razor, leading to problems such as confusion and deliberate theft. 
  • Made of inexpensive plastic, so they break more easily than some other options
  • Finding or storing enough blades for continual use without easy resupply can become expensive and problematic

El Cheapo Dollar Store Disposable
Very similar to the cartridge style multi blade, I count this as a separate type because of two main factors: the entire assembly is disposable instead of just the cartridge, and the price.

  • Common, easy to find, and quite cheap
  • Shave reasonably well
  • Are typically several for a dollar
  • Cheap enough to be disposable, or put into each bug out bag without breaking the bank.
  • Can last several shaves (depending on type of hair), meaning that you can put only one or two in a 72 hour kit

  • Tend to break much more easily
  • Do not last as long as the more expensive options
  • Tend to have much more limited styles
  • Have a strong tendency to have cheap lube on the lubricant strip, which is often much more problematic for those with allergies

Classic Double Edge
A double edge razor is a very old style, characterized by having a razor held between two plates of steel with a post handle. The razor that is held between the two plates of steel is disposable, and extremely inexpensive to replace. It is used until it is dull, and can either be stropped to regain the edge or thrown away.

  • Can be purchased brand new on the internet or even at antique shops
  • Excellent for people with sensitive skin
  • Give a very close shave without being as difficult to use or maintain as a straight razor. 
  • Very rugged and very easy to use, even in the field (they were issued to the United States military up to the late 1990s)
  • Refills are so inexpensive and take up so little space that if someone shaves every day, and requires regular razor blade changes, you can stockpile a lifetime supply for relatively little.

  • More modern than a straight razor, but much less common and less modern than a multi-blade Gillette or similar
  • Handles start at $10 and up
  • Separate razor blades may be a risk if you have small children that go through your things
  • They take longer to get a good shave than a modern razor does because you have to pay more attention. (If this is the kind of razor you use every day, the difference can be measured in seconds, but if it’s the first time you’ve ever used one, you may end up feeling much more safe spending an extra minute or two.)
Straight Razor
A straight razor is a long piece of sharpened steel on a hinge that collapses into a handle. Popular for several centuries, they are still in use by high-end barbers.

  • Gives an excellent shave
  • Are easy to obtain
  • Available brand new, and sometimes at used prices comparable to cartridge razors
  • A well maintained straight razor can literally last for centuries

  • Takes more time and effort to shave, due to being a razor sharp piece of steel without a guard to prevent cuts 
  • New models are expensive, with a quality blade and handle being several times the cost of cartridge razors
  • Require re-sharpening on a regular basis, using a process called “stropping”

Chemical Depilatories
Now for the oddball: using caustic chemicals to soften hair and remove it without using a blade.

  • Nothing but water and a wash cloth are required for most methods on the market.
  • Can be used in places where sharp pieces of metal are not allowed
  • Available over the counter at many drug stores and groceries
  • Results often last longer than traditional shaving methods due to the chemicals affecting the hair below the skin
  • You are slathering caustic chemicals on your skin, waiting for them to take effect, and wiping them off 
  • Do not get this in mucus membranes, do not get this in your eyes, do not let children play with it.
  • Difficult to use in field conditions 
  • Relatively expensive per use
  • Does not work on all types of hair
  • Can cause irritation for sensitive skin

Now you know what questions to ask when looking into the best option for shaving when SHTF. Use your common sense and don’t forget to practice.

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