Welcome! You’re here because you read that article in Money magazine, eh?
The big razor companies are at it again. Adding more blades, lubrication reseviours, and changing the shape of the cartridge to improve your shaving experience. And with each “improvement,” raising the price of the cartridge refills…again.
What if I told you that you could get just as good of a shave–maybe even better–at a fraction of the cost of what you’re paying for cartridge razors now? Let me show you how.
The double edge (DE) razor blade is the key to an inexpensive shave. While typical razor blade cartridge may cost you upwards of $4, a simple safety razor blade is often under 50 cents–and bought in bulk can often drop to under 20 cents per blade!
Of course to use a DE blade you’re going to need a safety razor. Unfortunately you won’t find one of these at your corner mega mart anymore–they haven’t been widely sold in the US since the 1970’s. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get them at all–it just takes a little more effort. New safety razors can sometimes be found in specialty businesses like cutlery shops, military surplus stores, and even tobacco-ists. But hey, if all else fails, there’s always the internet. You might also want to consider a vintage razor. Ask an older friend or relative if they have one lying around their bathroom. Odds are you can clean it up and use it without any problem.
But using a safety razor is not like using a cartridge razor. Shaving with a safety razor is a skill, like learning to ride a bike or play a musical instrument. Its a simple skill to master, but like any skill there’s some knowledge involved, some technique, some…subtleties….
A lot of the essential ideas of shaving with a safety razor apply to shaving with cartridge razors too, but are important to remember. First, think of shaving as reducing hair, not eliminating it. I mean, its going to grow back anyway, right? So shave to reduce the hair to the level you’re striving for, whether its a clean stubble look or a baby’s butt smooth look. The closer you want to get with your shave, the more reduction you will have to take the time for.
Second, its important to know the directions your hair grows in. With a cartridge razor knowing that is really important. With a safety razor you can cheat a little though. I’ll get more into that later.
Third, shave gently, with as little pressure as possible on the razor. Modern pivoting blade cartridges can partially compensate for pressure, but its particularly important when using a safety razor to let the razor do the work, letting the weight of the razor head do all the work.
Finally, try several different brands of blades. Unlike modern razor blade cartridges that are manufactured under license to a strict set of specifications, safety razor blades are made with a variety of different metals, grindings and coatings. So it pays to experiment a little to find the one that works best for you.
SHAVING WITH A SINGLE BLADE SAFETY RAZOR
Remember its called wetshaving, but using water properly is often under-appreciated. Prepare your face for shaving by washing it with lots of water and a gentle facial soap; don’t use a deodorant or body bar on your face: it will strip off too much of the natural oils of the skin, drying it out too much. You can even use a little of the shaving cream you’re about to use and wash with that. But avoid products that displace water–meaning most of the petroleum-based, pressurized cans of goo that pass for cheap shave cream these days. Use some of that money you saved by buying safety razor blades instead of blade cartridges to buy a decent shave cream or gel from a squeeze tube, or better yet a traditional shave soap or cream applied with a shave brush.
Lets start with the basics. Hold the razor like a dart or like a spoon, depending on the direction you’re shaving in. If you have a razor with a relatively short handle and have problems with it slipping, try steadying it with your little finger.
Start with the handle of the razor parallel to the floor. Then rock the razor down until the blade just makes contact with the skin. You might want to angle it just a tiny bit more, so the blade itself is at about a 30 to 45 degree angle to your skin. Cartridges set this angle to whatever the manufacturer thinks is best for the average shaver. But since when are you average? Now you have a little flexibility to find the angle that suits you most.
Shaving with a multi-blade cartridge typically means shaving with the direction of the hair you’re shaving. You can certainly do that with a safety razor too–in fact its what most people still recommend–but you might be able to cheat a little by shaving in the general direction of the growth rather than trying to follow all the twists and turns. To learn good shaving angle and pressure, try shaving straight down. But no matter what direction you’re shaving in, start by taking relatively slow, short strokes. Maybe an inch or so at about a half-second pace. From there you can adjust it your liking after you get the hang of it.
Don’t use your hands to stretch the skin. Beginners almost always over-stretch the skin and end up with ingrown hairs. What you want to strive for is to get the skin to flatten for an even cut. Usually shaving along the natural planes of the skin, along with some gentle facial calistenics, will do just fine. For the areas that are just naturally curved take shorter strokes.
…to be continued…