A recent email inquiry from a father looking for product advice for his teenage son who will be ready to begin shaving soon sparked a detailed response; I thought it would make the basis of a blog post.
From email: "Which soap/lotion/razor combination would you suggest for delicate skin?"
My Response: Let's start with the razor first. I recommend a safety razor over cartridge razors.
Cartridge razors "lift and pull," promoting ingrown hairs. They also create lousy shaving habits. Users will push down in an attempt to get a close shave from a dull cartridge.
Safety razors cut at the surface. Pushing down against your skin is not necessary or recommended. I prefer to do a two-pass shave: Lather my face, shave with the grain (down), rinse, re-lather and make another pass against the grain (up). There are advocates of making a third pass across the grain, but I find that is an invitation for razor burn.
When you compare the prices of double edge blades for a safety razor vs. cartridges, it's a no-brainer. Double edge blades are typically under 0.20 cents each. After a few uses, it's time for a new one. As a mature man, I use mine twice, but a teenager may find that a blade will last through multiple uses before needing to be replaced.
A quick aside about used razor blades: Used blades are still very sharp and should be handled carefully. I recommend having a Sharps container under the sink to dispose of them. It will take a long time to fill a container with used blades.
The upfront expense of the safety razor is a one-time purchase. It's a literal "buy it for life" item.
The safety razor we sell is a well-behaved design, a copy of a classic Gillette TTO (Twist To Open) razor. I have used one for months with various blades and haven't had a bad shave with it yet. We include a random package of 5 DE (double edge) razor blades with the razor. When the question of razor blades comes up, I steer new shavers to tryablade.com. They sell DE razor blades in sample packs or individually if you want to get that granular. Everyone's experience is different, so there is no universally "good" blade. Once you find a brand you like, most of them are available online. eBay and Amazon are where you will find reasonable prices on bulk packs of 50 or 100 blades.
If you are interested in going "old school," there are easily hundreds of vintage Gillette razors available on eBay. Your local antique stores may have a few too. Unfortunately, vintage razors will usually be gunked up from neglect. I've even gotten some with 50 or 60-year-old blades still in them. Hot water, dishwashing soap, and an old toothbrush are usually all you need to clean them up. When going vintage, I recommend getting a three-piece razor. It can be completely disassembled and thoroughly cleaned. Plus, there's nothing to break since it has no moving parts. My favorite three-piece design is from the 1930s. A great razor that delivers an excellent shave every time. That particular model was initially thinly plated in gold. Typically, the plating is worn off, revealing the solid brass beneath. Gillette sold millions of these. They can be found for under $50.
Now to the soap: Choices abound in the artisan soap market. Thank you for looking to Cooper & French! Our shaving soaps use the same base formulation throughout. The scent is the difference between them. The exceptions are Unscented and Old Goat. Both are made with goat milk instead of water. Old Goat has a classic Old Spice reproduction fragrance oil, while the Unscented has none.
If fragrance is a concern, I would recommend getting samples first. A nickel-sized pinch from a sample will lather nicely in a bowl. I've used everything from a vintage shaving mug to a cereal bowl.
Last item: I know when I was a teenager first learning to shave, I did battle with acne in the mirror daily. I knew that washing my face multiple times a day was a must, what I didn't know, and wish someone had told me - what you clean with is easily as important. Back then, I used a bar of Dial or some other equally drying soap, which of course, only promoted more oil production from my skin, which was not helpful. Our bar soaps are formulated to be better than that. However, I have to tread lightly here. I cannot make claims about the properties of our bar soap. Making claims beyond "it cleans" crosses a legal barrier into cosmetics and invites scrutiny from three-letter government agencies. Artisan soap makers making such claims do so at their peril.
I find that our unscented bar soap, made with goat milk, makes a great facial cleanser if you want a recommendation.