Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Shaving costs

As with many men I shave on a daily basis.  Over the years I've had a few razors.  My first was a Sensor Excel.  A fairly basic razor by todays standards, but it was very serviceable and I have used it as my travel razor until three years ago.  Since that time I've had multiple other razors.  Some were free samples mailed to me (a Mach 3 razor).  Others were gifts friends or family gave to me over time (a Fusion mPower, a standard Fusion, and a few others I disliked so much I stopped using after two shaves).  Over time I've defaulted to using my two Fusion razors as my primary blades.  One for travel, one for home.  In this way I had hoped to keep my cartridge costs down.

Dull blades can pull, cut, or even cause issues such as ingrown hairs.  It's very important to swap out your cartridge as soon as you start noticing these issues.  Usually for me I was getting a solid 7-14 days before the blades started to dull on my Fusion.  A few weeks ago I realized I was on my last cartridge and would need to pick up some refills.  Considering I've gotten a few good years out of this handle I decided to set it aside for now and see what my options for a change would be.  I was unimpressed with most options out there, but I did see a new store brand razor from Kroger that was essentially a Fusion, but with blade replacement costs one quarter that which Gillette charges.  Unfortunately the refills will not work with the Mach 5 handle.  As I would be buying a new whole new razor I decided to keep looking.

While at the mall I ran across the "Art of Shaving".  I was impressed with the interior and decided to browse a bit.  I found their stock to consist of Straight razors, Double Edge safety razors, and custom Fusion razors.  A number of years ago I had considered a DE safety razor as a replacement for my aging Sensor excel, but I was intimidated at the time.  After trying out straight razor shaves at my barber and noticing how much better my skin was when I did I decided to give it another go.

Now the Art of Shaving store is a wonderful place.  The staff is patient and more than willing to explain the almost lost art of shaving using a Safety razor, brush, and soap instead of a aerosol foam and razor.  The only thing is that the prices they charge are astronomical.  Many of the Safety razors they sell are in the $70 - $200 range.  Considering they sell a custom finish Gillette Fusion razor for $200 - $300 where as the standard Fusion can be had for $11 pointed out to me that a more affordable Safety razor handle could be located.  So off to Amazon I went and quickly found a $17 Lords Safety razor kit with a small random selection of blades so I could try a few options out.  As I was going completely old school I purchased a kit with a soap dish, shaving soap, and a brush for $9.  So for what I would have spent on 4 to 8 Fusion refills I got a shaving kit with 16 razors.  I did buy a Alum (Styptic) pen from the art of shaving store as the girl working there spent so much time with me, but I do have to admit $14 for one was way over priced as you can get Styptic pens for $2.

Here is all you need for a starter pack:

You will also want a shave lotion that does not contain alcohol.  I like this one:

Once you run out of the inital soap (which took me about 6 months...) try these:

Coming from the cartridge razor world I was rather stunned to find out that all Safety razors were essentially compatible.  As such you could buy razors from any manufacturer with any number of different materials and coatings until you found a combination you liked.  Once you lock in that brand you can buy blades in bulk packs of 10 or 100.  10 blades tend to cost $2, while 100 cost $10.  This alone made it worth the attempt to shift to this new (old?) shaving system.  

I've been using the new system for a week now and have noticed the following benefits:
1)  I do get a closer shave than I did with even the 5 blade Fusion.  The "more blades are better" slogan is complete BS.  I will say it has taken a little practice to get that close shave.  The Fusion would give me consistent results without skill or effort.  The Safety razor takes practice and effort to give a great shave.  The first few times I used it I am afraid I had massive patches where it looked like I didn't shave since I held the blade at the wrong angle.
2)  My skin is clear.  I've had issues with ingrown hairs and zits since I started shaving.  Since switching to this old system my skin has been free of this.  I'm not sure it's due to the new razor, or due to switching to a non alcohol based shaving soap from my old shaving cream.
3)  Shaving takes longer, but it is satisfying.  I found this weird.  I genuinely hated shaving.  I would grow my beard just to avoid this chore.  Since switching I find myself happily shaving daily.  It's almost as if by simplifying the process so much we took away the joy. 
4)  I do cut myself.  Usually a small knick or two on my neck.  My Fusion would bite me once in a while.  When it did it hurt like hell.  Probably due to 3 more razors passing over the cut.  When the Safety razor bites I usually don't feel it at all.  I only know I am bleeding because I look in the mirror after I'm done.  This is where the Styptic pen comes in.  Just a touch and the bleeding stops.  Screw using little toilet paper squares!

All in all I have found the move worth while.  If you're tired of burning a ton of money on increasingly overpriced and gimmicky cartridge razors you should give this old style razor a try.  Just be aware you may need to wait a week or two for shipping unless you have a store that sells common Safety razors for a appropriate price.