Oops, a bit late to this but I'd actually suggest a DE89/R89 since they're mild. The 34C, however, would probably be fine. Can't really comment on soap and AS for sensitive skin but I find Badger & Blade to be a useful resource and I know I've seen threads on products for sensitive skin. I would guess that a softer brush such as a silvertip might be better suited to sensitive skin. Boars can be soft as well but they have to be broken in to get to that point.
There's a bit of a learning curve (angle, pressure, beard mapping, etc) with these and it's possible that things may get worse before they get better for you as you learn and find what works well with your skin. The tricky part is assessing products while you're developing your skill. You may find that products that didn't work at first work better later on as you improve.
A lot of people seem to overlook prep and that can have a big impact even if prep is just a hot towel.
CarefulBuilder14 wrote:I've been looking around online, but so many of the 'unbiased' reviews I've found are little more than corporate press releases.
It's not just the bias that you have to be concerned about but what works for one may not work for the next. Beards, skin, water, skill, etc can vary and affect how different products work. There's some requisite trial and error involved, unfortunately.
CarefulBuilder14 wrote:I've always used my hands to apply gel or cream, and haven't tried a badger hair brush. I have a little bit of a hard time imagining that it will make a real difference, but I'm up for trying it.
Probably doesn't matter for a gel since gels aren't all that great to use in general. However, for soaps (what I use) and even creams you really need at least a decent brush to properly build lather. With any of this don't rely on imagination and instead rely on first hand experience.
CarefulBuilder14 wrote:Does anyone have any favorite equipment to suggest - blades, creams, etc?
I have my favorites but I wouldn't just blindly suggest them to everyone. Suggestions don't really mean much unless we know what you're specifically looking for from each product. It's like people asking "Which credit card should I get?" with no other information provided. Additionally, most of my preferred stuff is probably going to seem pricey for someone just starting out and trying to sort out preferences and what works.
lobbythis wrote:Anything you buy in stores is absolute garbage.
I'm guessing you mean stores such as the major drug stores. There are stores that sell quality shaving gear and supplies. Rather than relying on "stores bad" one needs to consider the specific products.
djrez4 wrote:Badger fur comes in four grades. From ok to best (and cheapest to most expensive) - pure, best, super, and silvertip.
Best is subjective. The range is due to rarity. Some prefer the stiffer pure or best grades as they're looking for more of a scrubbing action from their brushes. I'm a silvertip person myself but each needs to find what works best for the individual here as well. There are many that prefer boars. There are some that prefer synthetics. Bristle type is just one factor to consider in a brush.