I’ve always hated shaving.
Hated it with the passion one reserves for the things that cause them constant irritation and that they have resigned themselves to facing daily for the rest of their life.
One might reasonably ask – in this age of beard acceptance – why don’t you simply do away with the painful morning ritual known as shaving all together? Truthfully, while I often embrace the just-the-right-amount-of-stubble look (or at least I tell myself that’s what it is), I find my facial hair not quite thick enough in certain areas to pull off the full beard. I don’t want to be one of these guys that looks like he’s trying too hard to look like a lumberjack you know? Which is ironic, because my father is an actual lumberjack in that he harvests wood for a living. So was my grandfather, great-grandfather, and his father before him. Needless to say, I know my way around an axe and chainsaw.
Anyway, until a few a weeks ago I had accepted the endless razor burn and even more painful cost of popular cartridge razor blades as my cross to bear. Looking back, I now know several ways I could have lessened the skin irritation, but paying for cartridge razor blades cut through my bankroll quicker than… well, you get the picture. I was a naïve young man who thought that if “everyone” was doing it one way then it must be right.
Mach 3/Gillette Fusion w/ foam or Gel – My Morning Nightmare
That current mainstream way of shaving that was passed down to me was to step out of the shower, take a foam or a gel, and then hack away with your multi-bladed cartridge razor. If you wanted to be really cool, you added aftershave to smell good (not to soothe anything – what was I, a wussy?). It was quick and it was easy – but it was not pleasant in any sense of the word.
Furthermore, even when I bought my cartridges in bulk from Costco or Wal-Mart, I still hated paying so much for the “privilege” of shaving. My dad – amongst the most masculine of men – has skin that is roughly the same consistency as well-tanned leather. He would often brag about using a cartridge for a month or more. I have also read that you can prolong the life of a Mach 3 or Gillette Fusion by strapping them on denim or using mineral water, along with other hocus pocus black magic. Since I have neither a face made of granite, nor the patience for sacrificing a goat to the gods of facial irritation, I found that I wanted to switch out my cartridge every three or four shaves. Sometimes I forced myself to endure for longer periods, but when shaving with anything but a semi-fresh blade, I found myself having to take multiple strokes and exponentially increase the appearance that I had shaved with a machete.
Gillette claims that the average man spends 3,000 hours shaving during his lifetime – or roughly four entire months! That was too daunting a number for me not to try something to make the process easier to endure.
I’m not saying there aren’t ways to make cartridge razors last longer, and I’m not saying that they don’t work for some guys.
I am saying that I believe there is another way.
A better way.
The way that was pioneered by our grandfathers, and their fathers before them: a single blade to rule them all.
Safety Razors and Badger Brushes – A Whole New World
Since I’m a teacher with a summer to problem-solve first-world problems, I decided to dive headfirst into giving myself a better 3,000 hours. Little did I know that a whole underground world of shaving aficionados not only exists, but is thriving. I read forum upon forum of people comparing different cuts of badger hair (boar hair is for newbs). There was plenty of talk about the pros and cons of creating your own lather using one method or another. I became an expert barely literate when discussing the finer points of what to look for in a good safety razor versus a knock off, or something crafted purely for luxury and aesthetic value. (Who knew that shaving sets could go into the thousands of dollars?)
If you’re considering taking the plunge into this world of specialized shaving soap, soothing aftershave balms, and all manner of other products that can make your shave more comfortable, be prepared to stay a while. After reading for way too long, I decided that the Edwin Jagger DE89 safety razor sounded like a good purchase for a rookie. Many of the tutorials warned me about cutting myself the first time I tried this living-on-the-edge style of shaving after having my natural-born masculine instincts curtailed by years of cartridge blades. Truthfully, I didn’t find things nearly as difficult as others apparently did. If you skim a couple articles on how to use the planes of your face to your advantage, you’ll be just fine shaving with a single blade. I have manged to avoid cutting myself thus far and I’m even considering trying a straight razor one of these days just so say I’ve done it.
Get to the Part Where I Save Money Already!
When switching from cartridge razors to single-blade safety razors it’s relatively easy to see where the savings are. A Mach 3 cartridge in Canada costs at least $3 if you buy it in bulk at Wal-Mart. I’ve heard of Costco having better deals than this, but I’ve yet to see them with my own two eyes. I have noticed Gillette’s upper-tier product – the four-bladed Fusion – at Costco for $4 each when purchased in bulk. Four-blades-in-one really makes you wonder how men ever did with a single blade for most of history…
I couldn’t believe how cheap shaving blades were for a safety razor. You can get them as cheap as $0.10 each! I splurged and got a well-reviewed box of 100 Astra Superior Premium Platinum Double Edge Safety Razor Blades for $15.00. For what it’s worth, I think they work great, but since they’re the only ones I’ve ever tried I don’t have much to compare to.
According to the self-appointed experts I read, (there isn’t exactly a credential system in place) how many shaves you can get out of both a safety razor and a multi-bladed cartridge depends on several personal variables such as how thick your facial hair is and your skin’s resistance to multiple strokes when a blade gets dull. With this in mind, it seems that the unofficial average for most men was about seven shaves per cartridge razor. Most men shave daily, but if we assume that some guys are like me and look for any excuse to get out of shaving, then our average should come in around 35 cartridge blades a year for most guys.
At $3 per blade you’re looking at $105. My middle-class safety razor blades cost about $0.15 each, or $5.25 per year. Boom. You just put $99 back in your pocket.
Even if you think you’ll change your blade twice as often with a safety razor as with a cartridge, you’re still saving $95 or so!
Paying for the Entire Experience
A safety razor will work just fine with the same gel or foam you’ve always used, but I quickly found that if you care enough about shaving to actually read about it, there are a ton of recommendations that are designed to leaving you feel more comfortable, but aren’t cheap.
Here is an example of the cart I purchased from Amazon and I think they are well worth the money even if you stick with cartridge razors (and I didn’t pay for shipping due to my Amazon Prime account).
- Soap shaving bowl to mix lather in – $9.98
- Edwin Jagger De86bl Faux Ebony Double Edge Safety Razor – Black ($37.36)
- Taylor of Old Bond Street Jermyn Street Shaving Cream For Sensitive Skin, 150 Gram- $18.95
- Simply Beautiful 100-Percent Pure Badger Basic Shaving Brush – $15.23
- NIVEA MEN Sensitive Skin Post Shave Balm 100ml (Pack of 4) – $26.12
When I talked to my dad about this frugal and fantastic-feeling foray into a new world of shaving, he was somewhat surprised, and told me that this was how my grandpa used to shave. Maybe I’m just a typical boy who worshipped the ground his grandpa walked on, but I immediately enjoyed a neat feeling of genuine old-school authenticity. Apparently, when it comes to shaving blades, they actually do make ‘em like they used to – and probably for close to the same price they used to charge “back in the day” as well!
Want to Win an Old School Shaving Set of Your Own?
If you haven’t yet noticed, we’ve recently given Young and Thrifty a facelift and we’re hosting a MASSIVE giveaway in order to celebrate the conclusion of the major project.
As one of the prizes, we will send you your very own customized version of the shaving set I recently purchased, so that you too might experience the life-changing event of actually enjoying making hundreds of tiny cuts in your face each morning.
Simply head on over and skim down to see what else you can win and how to enter!