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How the Shaving Aficionado Can Save Money During the ‘rona’

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If the pandemic has hit your wallet, it might make sense to try cutting your shaving costs.

My wife won’t be working again until the fall so our family income has dropped. When I went online to reorder my usual shave cream and aftershave balm, the combined cost was about $90. That amount got me wondering if it might be possible to save a few bucks without buying a bunch of new products.

Treasure in the Clutter?

I’ve been an inveterate shaving experimenter for a long time. From my first bloody ventures into double edge (DE) shaves as a teenager through cartridges and back to DE, I’ve always been curious to try new hardware and software. If that description fits you, too, you’ve probably accumulated multiple shaving items you haven’t used in a while. Whether it’s stored neatly in a shaving den or tossed into cardboard boxes, that gear could be a good place to start saving money.

I drop my unused shaving gear in a couple of bathroom vanity drawers, which over the past 15 years in our current house have become like ancient cities buried in the desert sand. Excavating them was a trip through my shaving history. By the time I reached the bottom layers I was back to two- and three-blade cartridges and foaming gels.

The archeology dig paid off. The drawer contained aftershaves, creams, cartridge razors, plus double-edge (DE) and single-edge (SE) blades and razors. I won’t use all the items but there were some potential savings in there.

Recycle the Old Hardware

[Ed. note: Amazon links are Sharpologist affiliate.]

If you suffer from periodic bouts of razor acquisition disorder, pulling out and retrying your old razors could provide a temporary cure.

A main reason I gave up on cartridge razors was that they were tugging on my whiskers more than cutting them. No surprise there–whiskers get tougher with age. Consequently, most of the cartridge razors I found were unusable but there were two Gillette power razors in the drawer, one for 3-blade cartridges and one for 5-blade cartridges. If you’re not familiar with these razors, the handle holds a battery that pulses the blades against your skin, which supposedly helps “reduce friction and increase razor glide” versus nonpower models.

Shaves with the 3-blade cartridges were uncomfortable but the 5-blade ProGlide Shield cartridges with the power handle gave me decent, fast, one-pass shaves. The cartridge heads felt large and clunky compared to a DE razor but they mowed through my stubble and required little touch-up. If you have unused cartridges and razors, it might be worth trying them again to see if you can keep them in reserve or for travel.

My search also uncovered several DE and SE razors I hadn’t used in a while, including a Merkur 39C slant head I reviewed for Sharpologist. Out of curiosity I reloaded the 39C with a Gillette Nacet blade; I also loaded a Nacet into the Merkur 34C for comparison. The 39C’s shave strokes were much more comfortable than those of the 34C and the results reminded me how much the 39C had surprised me when I reviewed it. Maybe that resulted from its slant head or the much heavier 113-gram weight resting against the skin, but in any case, I added the 39C back into the rotation.

Another uncovered razor was a Vikings Blade Chieftain Jr that I reviewed in a previous article. I liked the razor because it was inexpensive ($18 on Amazon) and produced acceptable shaves. If you’re shopping for a travel razor, for instance, any unused DE razors you have like my Chieftain could fill the role.

Lots of Blades

There were over 150 DE and SE blades in the drawer; many of them resulted from buying different blade sampler packs or from trying single edge razors. Most of the blades were just too mild but I did find that a few, like the Gillette Nacet, gave me a good shave.

Blade prices vary widely: You can find Derby blades for around $0.10/blade, Gillette Nacets for about $0.15, Gillette Silver Blues under $0.20/blade, while Feathers cost around $0.40/blade. If you use 100 blades each year, you’d save $20 switching from Feather to Gillette Silver Blue. But blade choice is so personal that it’s tough to make broad recommendations and choosing blades solely on cost while ignoring how it performs on your face is self-defeating. Buy blades that work for you and if you’re seeking tips on extending blade life, check out this Sharpologist article.

Adopt the Software Orphans

At some point you probably bought a shave cream or soap and an aftershave as a set but one item ran out before the other, leaving you with an “orphan” product. Or maybe you bought a shave soap that works well but just didn’t pair with your aftershaves. I found several good quality, orphaned soaps and creams in my drawer. After experimenting, I settled on two methods for using them.

Kinda, Sorta Similar Fragrances

You might want to try this experiment on the weekend or when you’re working from home just in case the result is a stink bomb. The idea is to match the orphaned products with those that have similar or at least compatible fragrances. For instance, I have two Proraso preshave orphans. The green label’s eucalyptus oil and menthol scents are so strong they made my eyes water the first time I used it. If you can live with the powerful fragrance, though, the cream provides good pre-shave lubrication with a strong cooling effect on the skin.

pacific shaving caffeinated

Because the preshave has a semi-minty fragrance, I tried pairing it with Pacific Shaving Company’s Caffeinated Shaving Cream and Caffeinated After Shave, which have a spearmint fragrance. I also used it with Cremo’s Cooling Refreshing Mint Shave Cream and Cooling Post Shave Refreshing Mint Balm. I’m not crazy about mint scents but the resulting combined fragrances were acceptable and the combinations let me use the Proraso.

I tried the same experiment with the Proraso red preshave, which has a sandalwood fragrance, by pairing it with the Proraso white shave soap and aftershave balm. The white line has a light floral scent and the resulting combination was interesting–I could pick up traces of both fragrances but they didn’t clash and neither was overbearing.

Of course, the risk with these experiments is that you concoct some horrendous, stinky combination that lingers on your face all day; hence the suggestion to try this method when you’ll be home most of the day.

Go Unscented

If you don’t want to play amateur perfumer, consider keeping an unscented shave cream or soap plus an unscented aftershave on hand. These products pair easily with scented products and eliminate the risk of clashing fragrances. For unscented or (very lightly scented) shave creams I’ve recently used Nancy Boy Replenishing Shave Cream and Dr. Carver’s Shave Butter (from Dollar Shave Club), although an online search will show multiple products in this category across the price spectrum. Unscented aftershaves also vary widely in price. My current low-cost, very light scent favorite is the Nivea Sensitive Post Shave Balm. Among more expensive products, the Lab Series Razor Burn Relief Ultra and the Art of Shaving Unscented After-Shave Balm worked well for me in the past.

On the Other Hand

But here’s the counterargument to the whole experiment. If you like your more expensive shave products, why mess around trying to save a few bucks? Continuing the previous example, $185/year is about $0.50/day, which won’t break the bank for most of us.


I believe it’s a question of personal priorities at the time of purchase. If money’s tight, your primary goal will be to cut shaving costs, at least for the near future. But if shaving with more expensive products provides benefits you additional values–a better quality lather, favorite fragrance or skin conditioning, for instance–those are important considerations.

Ed McCarthy

Ed McCarthy