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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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Man and His Razor