16 Inexpensive Product Entries Into Traditional Wet Shaving

Go Ahead, Break The Bank

Sometimes I see people get interested in traditional wet shaving but balk when they see some of the prices.  Never mind that those prices are very low over the long-run: the “fence-sitters” don’t want to spend too much money on something they think they may not enjoy.  If you know someone like that (or are yourself!), consider these inexpensive products to try–”gateway drugs” if you will.  While these products may not get passed down from generation to generation they are comparatively widely available, been around for a while, and offer an reasonable price/performance value with acceptable quality control.  After spending some time with these lower-end products upgrading the kit may not seem so unreasonable (and you can always re-purpose the inexpensive products for a travel kit). Razors will be the most difficult product to find: you will almost certainly have to go to the internet to obtain them.  However that can sometimes be found (or at least ordered from) some knife stores, military surplus outlets, and even tobacconists.

  1. The Lord L6 (also known as the Lord LP1822) razor is made in the middle-east.  The L6 (and its sibling the L5) are three piece razors not known for their high quality (in fact I mentioned the L5 as a “stay away from this” product in one of my early videos) but have improved somewhat in the last year or two.  At about US $12 the L6 is a relatively gentle razor that will give an acceptable shave.  I still can’t recommend the slightly cheaper L5 though: it just can’t give a consistent shave for most people.
  2. The Weishi “twist to open” (TTO) razor is made in China.  It’s basically a knock-off of a 1960 Gillette Superspeed.  Like the L6 the Weishi is known for being a “gentle” razor, forgiving to the beginner, and the quality control can be spotty.  There are a number of versions (both cosmetic and materials) but the best model seems to be the original brass-with-chrome-finish version.
  3. The Feather “Popular” is a metal and (mostly) plastic TTO razor.  It’s very lightweight, and not particularly well-balanced in my opinion, but it has a reasonable quality control history and is less “gentle” than other razors.  But it’s light weight can be a problem for beginners who may tend to “bear down” on the razor too much.  By the way, Feather used to also produce the “Portable” model, a smaller (and all metal) razor that was also inexpensive and pretty highly regarded in some circles.  You may still occasionally find these razors on internet auction websites.
  4. Treet/Wilkinson razor is a two-piece, all-plastic affair.  You can find this razor under either the Treet brand in most parts of the world and under the Wilkinson Sword brand in the UK and parts of Europe.  In Britain you even might find this razor in larger Boot’s stores (if not it’s available from their website).  Even though this razor is all plastic it is a decent quality plastic and you can get a respectable shave out of it.
  5. Vintage razors.  You might find samples of these in antique shops, knick-knack stores or maybe even in the bathroom drawer of an old relative.  Of course remember that with a vintage razor condition is everything so be sure to inspect it carefully.
  6. The Tweezerman Men’s Shaving Brush is the first badger hair shave brush for many people.  While usually not carried by stores that have other Tweezerman products (nail clippers, tweezers, women’s grooming doo-dads) the brush can often be ordered from them.
  7. While the Van Der Hagen (VDH) Men’s “Luxury” Badger Brush is a fairly new product it is starting to show up at “brick and mortar” outlets such as some Target and Walgreens stores in the US.  Personally I like the VDH handle better than the Tweezerman (but I think the Tweezerman hair quality is slightly better than the VDH).
  8. The Shea Moisture shave brush is also available at select Target stores in the US.
  9. The Omega 48 Boar Bristle (aka The PRO 48) brush is an inexpensive classic (been around for years) and although some find its much-higher-than-average hair length (“loft”) more difficult to use than other brushes, it can retain much more water than other boar hair brushes and after a break-in period can be quite soft on the skin.
  10. If all else fails there is always the Van der Hagen “Natural Bristle” Shave Brush .  Widely available and very inexpensive, though you definitely “get what you pay for” in this case.  Most who use this brush soon find something else to try.
  11. Van der Hagen Deluxe Shave Soap , on the other hand, is actually pretty decent for the price.  Also widely available (often in tandem with the “Natural Bristle” brush), it may not be the most elegantly-scented, luxurious shave soap out there…but for a couple of bucks you could do worse.
  12. Boots Lather Shave Cream is worth considering for shoppers in the UK.  For under a couple of quid you get a perfectly serviceable shave cream.  I don’t see it on the the Boots website anymore but they also had a shave soap (in bowl and stick forms) that is even better than the cream.
  13. Col. Conk is a fairly widely available, glycerin-based shaving soap that come in several different scents.  They’re solid performers that can give you a feel for the upgraded experience of using a scented product.
  14. The Real Shaving Company shave cream can be found in many Rite Aid stores in the US as well as a number of locations in the UK.  The cream can be used with or without a brush.
  15. CO Bigelow shave cream, found at Bath & Body Works (a fairly common shopping mall retailer) is a near-clone of the popular Proraso shaving cream (in fact it’s made by Proraso).  Low cost to begin with it can be an absurdly great deal when put on sale and it performs very well to boot.
  16. Samples.  Some artistan soap makers, Trumper’s,  and Truefitt and Hill offer sample kits at very reasonable prices.
Mark H Mark H (482 Posts)

also known as "Mantic59." Shave tutor and sharpologist.


Comments

  1. shavecraft says:

    Sage advice as per. For those in the UK I’d also add Vulfix do some very good low cost brushes and Erasmic creams and soaps, Ingram cream, Palmolive cream and soap offer very good quality at a low cost. If you wish to try a higher end product Taylors of Old Bond Street is a cheaper option than the other of the 3Ts, and very good quality.

  2. shavecraft says:

    Also, for around a fiver , you can pick up a puck of the excellent Mitchell’s Wool Fat.

  3. http://www.shaveabuck.com has a ton of really cheap shaving creams and other types of hardware and software. My favorite deal is a tube of Arko for $1.30.

  4. Well done! This should be part of the “So you are interested in wet shaving” pamphlet.

    I started out with the Weishi, Tweezerman, and CO Bigelow(well I had the Proraso version), and it is what I have recommended to guys I have talked with.

  5. I’m making my way with the Tweezerman badger brush. Lathering has been a little difficult, but I suspect that will improve once I break it in better. This is an awesome post for the newbie getting started.

  6. Let’s not forget the surprisingly good Wilkinson Sword blades at Walmart, 10 for $1.78. Also if you’re into a closer (although less traditional) shave, you can get a tube of Rise (brushless) shave cream at the dollar store. It’s not as moisturizing as Alba brushless shave cream but it has a masculine sent and will still do the job. (Looks like this: http://www.amazon.com/Rise-Original-Non-Lathering-Shave-Cream/dp/B004W50Y5A/ref=pd_sim_sbs_hpc_2)

  7. I think Mantic should stop recommending that Bigelow (or Proraso) cream to beginners. Not only is it riddled with parabens, it also contains Sodum Laureth Sulfate, which is a very potent skin irritant (and a foaming agent, and a surfactant that removes all oil from the skin.) It is so strong, in fact, that it is used in animal test to provoke skin irritation before applying the healing agent under test. It is basically toxic. Now, imagine what this chemical does on the skin the blade has just damaged, particularly on a beginner still learning technique! I have seen that first hand, unfortunately. I wonder how many beginners have started with this, blamed their poor technique for the horrible irritation, and gone back to their old routine…

    Why anyone would put that stuff on a shaving product is beyond me — or wait, no it is not: It is the cheapest chemical of its kind available, so it gives a healthy profit margin.

    Not that the expensive British creams wouldn’t have nice margins too. They cost pennies to make, employing the cheapest chemicals available, save, perhaps, Edwin Jagger’s creams, which seem higher quality.

    Like many traditional shaving creams, Proraso is not good for your skin. Modern shaving gels seem to do better on that score. Better yet, a simple traditional shaving soap does even better. What is more, soap works well with a cheap boar, eliminating the need for an expensive badger brush. The result is non-skin-irritating lather that no cream can match in slickness and protection — since the cream is, after all, just water-dilluted soap packed with franraces and preservatives, which are there to preserve, well, the fragrances.

    • Mark H mantic59 says:

      From what I’ve read paraben toxicity has not been proven (but many manufacturer’s are changing ingredients anyway to avoid the controversy). The new formulation of Proraso (and I assume CO Bigelow as well) does not have parabens or SLS.

      • I was, indeed, referring to SLS.

        Luckily I perused the ingredient lists on the creams I had acquired when I started. I had taken it for granted that traditional shaving creams are better for the skin than e.g. modern canned products — that’s what everyone says and the Youtube videos emphasize.

        It wasn’t true, of course. The creams I had got — Trumpers, Proraso, Men-U, were riddled with parabens, SLS, silicones, BHT, etc. I got rid of the stuff quickly. Cheap it wasn’t, but I think I did a service to my skin.

        Now I only use soaps. Just because something is “traditional” and expensive does not mean it is good for you. Quite the opposite, it seems.

        • bsmyn0708 says:

          THANK YOU!! Jesus, I couldn’t have said it better myself. I’m so tired of being speared by the everyone who doesn’t agree with me. It’s mostly the douchebags on B&B. They’ll constantly rip on you for talking bad about their fav products or whatever is trendy. First it was C.O Bigelow, then it was Razorock and now it’s back to Proraso. Everyone would swear by Trumpers, that is until they threw their customers under the buss. It’s the same with T&H. Also, there’s a lot of stuff that’s harmful that’s supposedly good for you and the govt wants you to believe these ingredients are safe, just like pink slime. I won’t be surprised if someone comes down with a case of skin cancer due to these additives in shaving products.

          • Bearded Dragon says:

            ‘Wet shaving’ is a sub-culture which had to have undergone significant changes after WWII. America prospered with the ‘space age’ realization of ultra-modern conveniences. Chemicals were insidiously becoming essential to a ‘better’ life, so of course they pervaded many areas of it — including the shaving regimen.

            Because of our chauvinistic arrogance as men, not much was questioned if it was done to champion progress and image — including advancements in shaving comfort and ease. Unethical product testing on animals and rampant use of the suspect synthetic compounds which provoked it were generally unknown, unquestioned or unchecked.

            I don’t live a vegan lifestyle, and I didn’t grow up free of environmental pollutants. However, I have cringed at the ingredient lists of many classic shaving products, some of them high-end and top-dollar. Debate aside, I simply don’t want this stuff on my BBS, freshly blade-exfoliated face, even though I did survive years of school bus exhaust and many Saturday mornings of full-box Fruity Pebbles consumption.

            That so many guys don’t care about the composition of their shaving products doesn’t surprise me. Some of these folks clean razors with Scrubbing Bubbles and regard them as shave-ready after an application of WD-40.

            I bought an introductory-grade VDH kit as well as a few vintage Gillettes to begin a traditional shaving experience. I anticipate very much enjoying this new approach to an age-old practice. The Van Der Hagen puck will remain in storage as I await samples from Mike’s Natural Soaps. I’m picking up some Herban Cowboy shave soap this week from my local natural foods store. I think the commonly reported problem of almost non-existent lather with the Herban Cowboy might be rectified with the tip of using glycerine drops to kick-start the process.

            As a new member of this enthusiast community, I have no qualms about stating that I’d prefer a 100% organic and fair-trade certified product line. I’m not sure how close Herban Cowboy, Mike’s Natural Soaps, or other artisanal makers come to fitting the bill, but the ingredient profiles and rave reviews I’ve read of Mike’s soaps alone make me inclined to favor his products already.

            “Better living through chemistry”? I dig science, but I remain skeptical.

    • What brands of shaving products do you recommend?

  8. bsmyn0708 says:

    Truefitt & Hill travel tubes are $12 on grooming lounge.

  9. I just recently bought a Lord L6 to give safety razor shaving a try. I already want a Merkur! :-)

  10. The Wilkinson razor isn’t actually all plastic – it has a metal insert in the handle that gives it a good weight.

  11. There’s also other deals out there as well. http://www.westcoastshaving.com has several wonderful deals, such as Derby shave cream for $2.75 a tube, RazoRock alum in case for $5.99, Godrej shave soap for $3.00, and if your still iffy on getting a safety razor but would like to try a single blade razor, they have the Gillette Guard single blade cartridge razor for $2.00, replacement cartridges for $.50 a piece. And, on amazon.com you can also get an Escali 100% badger brush for $13.00. I use it myself, and it’s a great brush.

  12. seed419 says:

    I’m thinking about grabbing a Merkur HD for getting into DE shaving. They look a little more expensive than the razors listed here, but one thing is for sure – my electric razor gives me a terrible shave and was more expensive than any of them.

  13. Having started shaving with a DE razor in the last month, my technique is far from perfect, but I had been getting some damn close shaves with the reviled Caswell-Massey 1752 almond shave cream (it was the only “quality” cream available in town). I wanted something that would make a thick, cushiony lather, so I ordered some Proraso Shave Cream after reading the endless raves on B&B. I don’t know if it was SLS, eucalyptus, menthol, or all of the above, but my face and neck were red, blotchy, and on fire for a day after shaving with the Proraso. I had to smear hydrocortisone cream on my face and neck to calm the inflammation enough so that I could go to sleep.

    I went out yesterday and grabbed a tube of Kiss My Face unscented shave cream. It lathered beautifully and I got a good, close, fairly comfortable shave with an EJ89 and Derby blade — some blade irritation (still need better technique) but no lighting up like an EXIT sign. The Proraso was unceremoniously retired.

  14. There are also some great deals at http://www.SuperSafetyRazors.com
    Astra blades are about 10.00 per hundred blades. (10 cents a blade). Can’t beat that with a stick!

  15. Olliebear says:

    In the UK Real Shaving Co products are also available at Asda under their ‘groomed ‘ brand, and a decent shave cream is available for £2.

  16. You might consider doing a short video on parabens, sls, etc. Personally I really like the C.O. Bigelow, I bought several tubes 6 years ago, and love the way the eucalyptus makes my face feel.

  17. I’m surprised horse hair shaving brushes weren’t mentioned, they’re a great bargain. For example, Vie-Long brushes are starting to become much more available in North America.

  18. I have had the VDH luxury brush since Nov. 2012. It has turned out to be a shedder. I am looking for a cheap replacement.

  19. One soap I miss from your list, is Palmolive (stick or creme). If you’re in Europe, it is one of the most affordable shaving soaps, and the quality is very good. Highly recommended.

    • Agree it’s an underrated cream. I love the Sensitive with Aloe which has a strange barbershop smell I cannot characterize, besides clean smelling. It is available from the big e-tailers

  20. I started using DE razors and wet shaving in Dec 2012, after stopping decades ago. I learned to use a DE razor as a teen in the late 1950′s, but it turns out I never actually learned how properly. Now that I’ve returned, I really appreciate them. The price of today’s multi-blade systems is out of control, IMHO. So, DE blades are the answer. I got a Mekur 180 in December, and got the VDH soap and basic brush. The kit was okay, but I soon bought the Jagger Best Badger brush with stand and am sold on it now. I also soon bought a puck of the VDH Deluxe soap at Walmart, and love using it. I did buy a back of Feather blades in the beginning, and after a little learning now rate them as a favorite. I also got the Wilkinson DE blades at Walmart, and rate them second to the Feather blades. For newbies, I would recommend the Merkur 180, or perhaps one of the shorter ones. I also later bought the Parker 92R butterfly head razor and travel case. I used to use a Gillette butterfly head razor, so some sentimental issues there. The Parker is larger than the Merkur, but with practice works just as well. I prefer the Mukur more because of it’s smaller size. I did try a fancy Taylor Sandalwood soap, but it burned my face. I gave it to a friend who has been using DE for years, and he loves it. There are lots of techniques given on many DE forums, but mine is to keep it simple, and remember it is called wet shaving for a reason. Always apply your lather after you’ve shaved off an area, before shaving that area again. I usually wet my fingers (left hand) and rub some added moisture to the thin layer of soap, and shave ever so lightly with a shallow cut angle…take your time. I no longer have any razor burn, and very rarely cut or nick anywhere.

  21. if6was9 says:

    I’m a believer in spending your money once. This is not to say that price is always an indicator of quality or that less expensive products can’t be better than big name items. But if you always go on the cheap the results are frequently unsatisfying and that can cause you to lose interest. Do the research, buy the best that you can afford and enjoy pampering yourself!

  22. Omega 49 is a bit smaller than 48 and much more comfortable. It is still a big brush though. Makes mounts of great lather, and one load is enough for three-pass shave. Available for $9 at westcoastshaving.com.

    I have dozens of more expensive brushes, but use mostly Omega 49.

  23. Thanks for the great information! I’ve got a super tough beard and sensitive skin, with a thankfully very minor case of seborrheic dermatitis, which only showed up this year, and apparently is permanent. Yay.

    Based on articles like this, I picked up an L6, a tube of Proraso green, a tube of Cremo Shave Cream, a giant blade sampler, and the ol’ reliable VDH cheapo starter kit. And some old school Pinaud scents. Because why not? So far so good — thanks to the guidance provided by the community. My skin has improved immensely. I think the brushing combined with the scouring action of the blade has really helped. Also, I’ve noticed that the surface of my face looks different than it ever did using a cartridge razor if I get the angle just right — sort of a very smooth gleam? I wind up looking a lot like the dude on the Proraso tube, minus brylcreem. I wish I’d known about this while I was in the Army — shaving every morning at 5 AM with a crusty Good News and some junk in a can *before* working out and showering is just the worst. By Friday morning I’d be a raw, red mess.

    Thinking about upgrading to a Slant, because I can go over and over and over my chin, hearing the tell-tale “scrape scrape scrape” of uncut whiskers before ever getting smooth, even with a Feather.

    Add to this that I live in Portland, Oregon, where everyone seems to have a giant Old Testament Prophet Beard, and I really stand out. For the better. Any ape can grow facial hair, it takes civilization to shave. The beardy thing has to fall out of fashion eventually, right?

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