Save $300 – Learn to Shave Like a Man

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You think you know how to shave?

If you use a Mach3, Fusion, or similar cartridge razor with a fancy gel shaving cream we’ll go out on a ledge here and just say it:

You were never taught to shave properly.

It’s not your fault – for over 50 years we’ve migrated from a population of men who took pride in our grooming to men who see it as something we have to do as cheaply and quickly as possible.

But what if there was a better way?  A less expensive way that gave you a superior shave and turned your daily shave into an manly experience instead of something you just do because you’re male.

Now pay attention – we’re going to outline the problem first.

mens shaving routine

The Drug Store Shave – The Problem with Disposable Shaving Systems

You could call the modern style of shaving “the drug store shave.”  It relies on convenient, disposable products:  a plastic razor with replaceable cartridges and a can of shaving cream or gel.  The shave you get is a lot like the products — fast, light, and not very long-lasting or good for you.

Throw the drug store disposables out.  They’re not doing you any favors.

The “get in, get out” mentality of the drug store shave guarantees you a mediocre shaving experience.  You’ve got a razor that’s too light to cut hairs on its own power — it relies on multiple blades and you pressing down instead.  As soon as one of those blades starts to dull or pit you’ve got a rough spot that, when pressed down, can irritate or cut the skin, leaving razor burn or outright nicks.

A lot of shaving gels are also packed full of more chemicals than they need to be — if you’ve got sensitive skin already you can expect some irritation there too.  But more importantly than the idea of skin care is the mistaken idea that modern shaving products are based on:  the idea that you’re getting convenience and cost all rolled into one cheap bundle.

It’s not true.

disposable mens razor blade

Some Basic Math on the Drug Store Shave:

Razor – $10+ one time

Can of gel or cream – $4+ every 2 months

Replacement Cartridges – $22+ per month – this is the big cost.  You may have noticed that a lot of grocery stores have started keeping the replacement cartridges for major brands in locked cases — that’s how precious the damn things are.

Minimum Total:  $10 + $24 + $264 = $298

And that’s assuming that you don’t ever replace the razor handle, which will wear out (especially one with any kind of motor, cartridge for gel, or other fancy add-on).  You can save a bit by stretching each razor cartridge further that it’s meant to be, but you’ll feel the difference — a dull shave leaves spots and irritates your face, and takes up all the time that modern convenience was supposed to save you.

So that cheap, easy shave isn’t looking quite so cheap when you do the math.  Are there alternatives?  Well, you can always try the electric razor.  But a little math shows some problems there too:

Razor – $50 to $300

Replacement blades – $25 to $50 every 3 to 6 months.

You could potentially score a cheap handle online, but the savings is short-term.  Like a printer and its cartridges, the basic machine comes cheap so that you have to keep refilling it.  Expect to drop a few hundred bucks a year this way at minimum.

Add to that the mediocre shave — electric razors are a great way to guarantee a solid five o’clock shadow — and you’re not looking at a great alternative to the drug store cartridge razor shave.

young boy learning how to shave

Creative Commons Licence through Flickr

The Answer – Learn to Wet Shave

Cartridge and electric razors are expensive.  The shaves aren’t great.  What’s left?

You have to go back a little bit in time to find a really good answer.  Before there were disposables and replaceable cartridges there were metal razors and “the wet shave” — a ritual of masculinity from your grandfather’s days.

This simple process is still the best shave a man can give himself.

A Man's Guide To Style

What is Wet Shaving?

“Wet shaving” actually refers to the soap, not the razor:  a wet lather made with a brush and a cake of soap.  It used to be a basic manly skill.  The whole process takes about two minutes — soak a soft brush in water, stick it into a mug with a soap-cake at the bottom, and swirl the tip of the brush around until a frothy lather forms.  Then you brush it onto your face and shave.

The process actually has benefits outside of cost (which we’ll look at in a minute).  The wetter lather is easier on the skin than canned foam, and putting it on with the brush helps clean your face as well.  Most shaving soaps are similar to a bath soap with a bit of extra stiffening agent added to make a longer-lasting foam — easy on the skin and free from metal traces or aerosol.

You can use a cartridge razor and a wet shave if you really want to, but the best tool by far is an old-style metal razor.  There are two basic types:  the double-edged or “safety” razor and the straight razor.  Safety razors can be used just like the familiar cartridge but require less pressure — their weight does most of the work for you.  Straight razors require a bit more technique, but give a fantastically close shave when done right.

safety razor mens shaving

Solution # 1 – Double Edged Shaving

The basic safety or double-edged razor has been around for better part of a century.  It’s a basic metal handle with a head made out of two metal plates.  The top plate unscrews and a flat razor blade is put under it; the head is then screwed back down to pinch the blade firmly into place.  The biggest difference between a safety razor and a modern cartridge razor is the use of a single blade instead of multiple and the weight of the tool.  You’ll also see a big difference in recurring costs:

Razor – $5 on eBay to $30 and up new

Blades – $2 for 10 blades.  You can usually change blades every week, or every other if you switch which side of the razor you use.

Brush – $10+

Soap – $3+ for a cake that lasts six months or longer.

Mug – check your cupboard

Surprising what a little money can buy for such a great shave. On the high end it can be above the $100 dollar mark to get set up. The good news is that the lower end is really low, around $20.  $20 vs $298 is a big difference – and you get a better shave!

But the really good news is the cost of maintaining the equipment.  One single blade is usually good for a week’s shaving — mark one side of the razor so that you’re always using one blade at a time and you can just rotate sides at the end of the week, getting double service out of each blade.  Throw in soap cakes that last the better part of the year and you’re looking at ten or twenty bucks a year in maintenance costs.

Compare that to the hundreds of dollars you can spend on cartridge or electric razors and the choice starts to look pretty obvious.  You’ll also get a better shave from your safety razor:  the single blade does just as good a job as three or four in a cartridge could when it’s working with the weight of a real  metal tool behind it.  You’ll actually need less pressure than you’re used to.  Just let it run down your face smoothly rather than trying to push into the skin.

If you are not sure what or where to buy pop on over to Classic Shaving — they can set you up for around $80 for a full shaving set.

mens straight edge razor

Solution #2 – Straight Razor Shaving

A straight razor shave done right is about the smoothest you’ll ever get your cheeks.  Done wrong, it’s a recipe for a mess of bloody nicks and cuts.  This is a little more work in maintenance and technique than a double-edged safety razor shave, so approach with caution and only if you’re ready to dedicate yourself to learning a new art.

A good straight razor is a wicked piece of metal.  It’s what we’re actually talking about when we say “razor sharp.”  In addition to regular sharpening with a stone or grinder it needs “stropping” on a stiff leather strap just before use.  This puts a fresh edge on that makes sure the thin blade can move smoothly over your skin.  Any pitting or irregularity can twist the blade, and it only takes a very small slip to cut yourself with something that sharp.

The addition of the strop bumps the initial cost of a straight razor up considerably:

Straight Razor – $70 for a good beginner one

Strop – $45 depending on type

Brush – $10 to more

Soap – $3 and up

Mug – Take another look in the cupboard

All of this comes in to about $128 all depending on where you get your supplies from. The cost to keep it all up is just the cost of soap — six bucks a year or so. Compared to what you’d spend on a typical “drug store shave” set-up you’re talking about the huge savings of $170 in just year one – think $275 saved year 2!

 

Switch Your Shaving Up Today

If you’re still a drug store shaver it’s time for a change.  A safety razor or straight razor with a lathered-on wet shave is closer, better for your skin, and cheaper than the modern alternatives — and it puts you in a small class of men that enjoy their morning ritual instead of trying to hurry it out of the way.

For more great article on shaving – visit

Art of Manliness – How to Shave like Your Grandfather

Man and His Razor – Shaving Blog and Advice

 

Happy Shaving,

Brian Greig
aka The Shaver
Man and His Razor

 

 

  • Chris Wallwork

    I don’t understand this at all: “mark one side of the razor so that you’re always using one blade at a time and you can just rotate sides at the end of the week, getting double service out of each blade.” 
    Why not just change sides every time you rinse the razor, the wear on the razor is the same either way.

  • Martin Stuart

    I switched to wet shaving a couple of years ago and won’t go back. I haven’t spent a penny on shaving so far this year after buying DE blades and a few shaving creams when
    I started out.

    You forgot to mention the Gem & Everready Single edge safety razors, I’ve got a Everready 1912 and find it to be very capable.

    First comment on RMRS, been learning for a while on here. Keep up the good work on the podcasts.

  • Topher White

    When I use a safety razor, I shave one side of my face with one side of the razor; then shave the other side of my face with the other side of the razor. Then, as I clean up, I flip the blade over before putting the razor away. This assures nice, even wear across the blade. On Sunday, I toss it and get a new one.

    I’ve had great luck with Shark Chrome blades, which are like $18 for 100.

  • The Shaver

    Thanks for all the comments so far.  To Chris, I was basically trying to say keep in mind what side of the blade you use so that you can switch to the other side to keep things even.  Changing sides works just as well, better than a Mach3 will ever do.

  • Robert

    Double-edge blades can also be re-sharpened!
    I’ve seen some surprisingly ingenious tools on ebay.
    They are mostly WWII era and earlier (and some are
    obviously useless gimmicks).

    Most useful way to extend the life of any blade is
    to DRY the blade after shaving.  Just blow on it a 
    few times before you put it away.

    Last, I really like Avalon Organics Peppermint shaving cream.
    Great smelling, no blade eating acids, great shave, skin feels
    great after, and Peppermint.

  • Kjohns

    To each his own. I’ve used every combination of multi-blade, safety razor, brush, canned foam, gel for many years. I’ve found the closest, least irritating shave comes from my Fusion and a can of gel or Gillette Foamy. I’ve also had good luck with a shaving oil product from Wal-Mart called Shave Secret. Great for my travel dopp. I still use my Gillette Double Edge safety razor occasionally when I fell nostalgic, but it just doesn’t compare to the Fusion.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you Robert – I’ll look into that shaving cream!

  • Anonymous

    You’re exactly right – to each his own and with billions of us men out there the disposable razor will always have those who are served better by it.  I think this article’s point though is to help balance the un-natural shift caused by ignorance of other options.  5 years ago I never had even heard of wet shaving. 

  • Anonymous

    Martin – glad to know you are listening and we will keep going sir!

    R/S

    Antonio

  • Anonymous

    Topher – great to see you here in the comments and thank you for the blade rec.  I will look into them!

    R/S

    Antonio

  • Anonymous

    Brian – thanks for jumping in and great article sir.  Can’t wait to see more!

  • Patrick

    I recently discovered Williams Shaving Oil. You just make your skin wet, which is easy since I shave during my morning shower. Put 3 drops of the oil on your hand and rub it over your face, shave and rince. The main advantage over foam is the fact you can see your skin. The second advantage, a 90-day bottle is the size of your thumb, which makes it great for travelling. I think it costs around 3 euro’s a bottle.

  • Anonymous

    Sounds like a great tip Patrick – thank you for bring this into the conversation sir!

  • Matthew Brunson

    I’ve used the double edge safety razor for almost a year now and I’ll never go back. I recently found an old spice shaving cup at an estate sale! Great score, it doesn’t say old spice on it it just has the ship and it’s just a really neat piece. As for using the razor evenly I personally shave half my face with one side, then the other side of my face with the other. I don’t have thick facial hair so I usually get about three to four weeks out of a single blade. I may try sharping them to get even more use out of them. I highly recommend it if you’re not already using one.

  • Anonymous

    Matt – thanks for the great comment and FYI I have a video coming out for your cotton trouser question!

    R/S

    Antonio

  • morty62

    I’ve been using a safety razor for about a month now and the shave is far superior to any cartridge shave. It’s more precise as well. Sometimes when an idea reaches perfection it’s best not to fuss with it. Shaving is one of them.

  • Mo

    Hello all,

    Great article!  Should convince anyone to get a better shave.  I have a double-edge as well as a Feather straight razor.  You’re right.  No better shave!

  • Anonymous

    Thank you sir – I agree, although we’ll go into more detail as to how to buy a razor here soon as many men want a step by step guide!

  • Anonymous

    Agree – although perfection is different for each man and the challenge is each of us finding it within ourselves to strive for it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=63804908 Peter Larson

    It just occurred to me that one downside to these shaving methods is that you may not be allowed to bring such things on an airplane. The safety razor maybe, but definitely not a straight razor. So that’s obnoxious.

  • Barnaby Go

    Just got a Merkur and it works great with my favorite shaving cream – Trader Joe’s Honey Mango with Aloe and Vitamin E.  Thanks for the great info!  It’s a great up(retro?)grade from my Gillette Fusion.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the great recs – I love these awesome comments, I’m going to have to go and and try all these great sounding shaving creams!

  • Anonymous

    Peter – good point.  For the traveler, you’ll need to either ship the straight razor to your hotel or leave it at home.  Most men I know who straight shave has a safety razor they travel with. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/luke.charley Luke Charley

    Love this. I have a Parker 22R safety razor, and I recently found what I believe is a Merkur in a thrift store. Restored it up with the Art of Manliness’ guide on how to do so. Which, you have contributed to as well with wardrobe things. Keep doing what you are doing. As Mark Twain said… “Clothes make the man, naked people have little or no effect on society.” Thank you for clothing us correctly.

  • RNJohn

    I’m glad everyone here seems to be enjoying their new hobby/routine.  I’m wondering how long it took you all to get consistently good shaves?  There must be a pretty steep learning curve.  I’ve been using my DE, badger brush, and Proraso Ultrasensitive Soap, as well as my homemade Bay Rum Clove and Peppercorn aftershave and following the whole thing with Colloidal Oatmeal Lotion for a couple of weeks now.  I’m not impressed.  I shave with the grain, re-lather and shave across and I’m having the worst irritation and nicks I’ve had since junior high!  I’m going to stick with it for awhile longer, but I can’t keep treating my face like this! 

  • http://manandhisrazor.wordpress.com/ Bgreig84

    Hey John.  Sorry to hear about your troubles, I too had this issue when starting out.  How much pressure are you using when shaving?  You want to be as light as possible, let the weight of the razor do the work.  Also what blade are you using, sometimes a different company can make all the difference.  One last thing, are you looking at your angle while you shave, you dont want any more than 30 degrees.  Play with angle and pressure and let us know how it goes.  Also, when you are finished rinse with cold water only.  If you need any more help, check out my blog that is linked to my article on this page.  Good luck, 

    The Shaver.

  • mantic59

    Not to toot my own horn (too much!) but I have a number of videos about traditional shaving that those reading this post may find helpful. My Youtube channel is at http://www.youtube.com/shavetutor

  • Fatherknowsbest

    As to pre-shave oil, I was part of the Art of Shaving test market for Esquire Magazine a while back. After using their products for a month, what I found was that my dad was right 35 years ago when he taught me to shave (I’m 50 years old now and have 5 sons of my own), nothing is better than a little bit of skin lotion like Lubriderm as a pre-shave oil. So, don’t waist your money here either.

    As to my choice of safety razor blades, I like the made-in-the-USA brand Personna. Personna knows how to make things sharp as they make the majority of the cutting tools used by surgeons in the USA. I buy a 100 box for $20. I like to change my blade about twice a week (I have course hair), so there’s a years worth in a box for that $20.

    Lastly, you will produce the best shave and least cuts if you use very short stoke motions, and let only the razor’s own weight apply the pressure to your skin…do not push down! It is a skill, give yourself some time to perfect your shave technique before passing judgement.

  • ObiJuan85

    I think this is wonderful. I recommend your website continuously to all my friends. I have used the safety razor since I was a child. Amazing right? My father taught me how to shave him when I was young and I was his personal barber. haha. I was trained in using the soap, brush, safety razor, and when I was a bit older I also learned how to use the straight razor. My father was awesome. Go ahead and make that podcast happen. I would be one of your biggest fans.

  • ObiJuan85

    btw, this is Juan from Los Angeles that you made the video about. Thanks!

  • rmrstyle

     @ObiJuan85 I am all for men working their way up to a straight-razor shave, but that’s a whole different skill level — just making the switch to a metal safety razor and brush is a big step for most guys these days. You were fortunate in your early education!

  • rmrstyle

    You definitely cannot bring a metal razor blade on an airplane these days, although men who accidentally bring theirs along and get stopped can usually salvage the metal handle and head itself by removing the blade at security. The nice thing is that you CAN travel with the handle sans-blade, and as long as you’re flying somewhere with a basic drugstore you can pick up a dozen new blades for a couple of bucks. Way cheaper than buying a whole new plastic razor or set of cartridges!

  • rmrstyle

    Nice – I’ve always just made a small mark with permanent marker on one side of my razor’s head. I use the marked side until it isn’t giving a nice, smooth shave, then switch to the unmarked, then throw the blade out and start over. Half-and-half is a good way to do it too!

  • rmrstyle

    Good advice on drying the blade! I’ll admit that even I haven’t been quite dedicated enough to sharpen up individual razor blades…but I might have to start.

  • rmrstyle

    Both work!

  • rmrstyle

    Yep – always enjoy working with the guys over at Art of Manliness!

  • ryleyp

    I am all for this sort of shaving… I am an ROTC cadet and with Mach 3’s I need to shave twice a day to meet regs. Much better to put in a few minutes and do the shave right. Go for the podcast I’d subscribe!