Don't Chase The BBS
There's an expression which will be familiar to community involved wet shavers: BBS. It stands for Baby Bottom Smooth, a shave which is so good that you are as smooth as a baby's bottom. While not as futile as "chasing the dragon," it can be a bit tricky, and generally involves the risk of irritating or cutting yourself. When you get one, it's great. The next day, the bathroom is a little cold, or your lather is not quite right, or your technique is a bit off, and the results are less than perfect. But they are good enough.
The moral, of course, is don't push it on days when things don't feel quite right, and don't push it too far even on days when they do. As I sit here, I'm nursing a really gnarly case of razor burn, the result of over-enthusiasm with a new razor. Naturally, I'm trying to get perfect shaves out of it. Mistake. Over the course of days, I have stirred up a trouble spot along the jawline, which I know better than to stir up. But I did it anyway.
This is the kind of mistake that only newbies should make. So what's my excuse?
The burden of high expectations. My technique is flawless, I think, mentally puffing out my chest. I can get that little patch of stubble which I imagine is hiding under my jawline.
Problem is, it's not really there! Say, what again? Yes, reader, that patch is an illusion. I only notice it when I rub my right thumb pretty hard against a particular spot. I'm feeling below the skin level. And if I wanted to shave there, I'd use a multiblade, which seems purpose built to mess you up in this way. If you are old enough, you'll remember the Gillette ads: the first blade tugs the hair out the follicle, while the second shaves it off. Voila, a recipe for, if not irritation, then ingrown hairs.
I'm not alone in this chasing the perfect shave, and letting the perfect become the enemy of the good. (To paraphrase Voltaire.) A lot of experienced men make the same mistake, to judge by the occasional thread on shaving forums.
Profit from our experience. Learn to respect problem areas. Shave aggressively against the grain only if you are not going to irritate yourself, that is, when you are getting one of those shaves where the stubble seems to just wipe off your face. You are after a shave, not a masterpiece. During those periods in which I wise up, I find that I still get very good results, and the minute bits of stubble which remain behind almost seem like friends. The valuable compensation is that I don't get hot face, nor do I nick myself. I look better. And nobody but me would possibly know that, once again, perfection has passed me by.