About seven or eight months ago I was wandering around the shaving aisle of Target and getting increasingly annoyed. I had stretched my last razor cartridge beyond usefulness and absolutely needed to buy more, but the price of the cartridges had just gone up…again. It was the second time in the last year that the price of my chosen cartridges had been increased, this time to $24/six. I couldn’t believe how expensive the simple task of removing hair from my face had become. At nearly $10 a can the shaving gel was not much better. I was finally fed up. I took to the internet looking for cheaper sources of shaving gear and accidentally stumbled across an article about how to cut costs. One of the things that this article talked about was abandoning cartridge razors in favor of the much more economical safety razor. I had no idea what a safety razor was or how to find one, but the article stated that their blades could often be found for as little as $0.10/blade. This, of course, lead to yet another internet search. What I found was nothing short of miraculous.
As it turned out, safety razors (A.K.A. DE razors or double edge razors) are the old fashioned razors that you grandfather probably used every day of his life. They use a single double edged razor blade and shave with much less irritation and much more closely than today’s typical cartridge razors. I found several articles and forums discussing the benefits of using these old school razors. There is even an entire subculture of folks who call themselves “traditional wet shavers” and who actively collect, use, and review razors, blades, soaps, creams, and brushes. Apparently the number of folks who are dissatisfied with the typical shaving gear of today is growing and, as a result, fueling the growing trend of a return to traditional shaving gear.
Inspired by the possibility of not having to spend tons of money just to buy a few razor cartridges I made the switch and became a wet shaver. I have been using DE razors, brushes, soaps, and creams for around six months now and couldn’t be more satisfied. The initial set up was a bit expensive (it cost me just under $60 for a razor, brush, soap, blades, and a lather bowl), but the overall savings can not be denied. A single puck of decent sized soap will last around four months, a bulk pack of 100 midrange blades costs around $10 and will last for more than a year. With proper care, the razor and brush will last a lifetime. There is a slight learning curve to using a safety razor successfully, but once you’ve figured out how to do it properly, using a safety razor correctly quickly becomes second nature.
Ask yourself why you’re willing to shell out tons of money to support shaving gear companies when all they do is provide you with plastic junk and then charge you $20-$30 for the privilege of using that junk. Is it because the shave is better than anything that has come before it? Is it because five blades, a “moisture strip” and a vibrating handle is somehow better than the one blade and inanimate handle that almost everyone used in the past? Or, is it because you didn’t realize that you had any choice in the matter? I’m betting that your answer will be the same as mine, that you had no idea that there was any other way of shaving. Using traditional gear is less expensive, more effective, and a hell of a lot cooler than using the next five blade monstrosity that Gillette or Schick churns out. Seeing the odd look on a person’s face when they see the weird shaving gear in your bathroom is a nice perk too.
Abandon the companies that are all too happy to suck your bank account dry and try something different, more effective, and less expensive. Much of the gear that you need is probably available locally. Crabtree & Evelyn, L’Occitane En Provence, Bath & Bodyworks, and The Bodyshop all sell traditional shaving soaps or creams (Bath & Bodyworks’ C.O. Bigelow in a 5.2oz. tube is a particularly good cream, costs $10, and will last for months). Sally’s Beauty sells some cheap razors which, while not great, will get the job done. WalMart, HEB, and Walgreen’s all sell Van Der Hagen soap (one of my favorites) for under $2/puck and often sell the Van Der Hagen Premium Shaving Set, which comes with a basic boar brush, a puck of Deluxe soap, and a lather bowl for under $10. Kiss My Face shaving cream (a cream frequently held up as an excellent and locally available product) is often available in large 11oz. bottles at health food stores and grocery stores for under $8. The Art of Shaving has some great creams and soaps and is a frequently sited source of local gear (including razors, blades, and brushes), but is quite pricey. Flea markets and junk stores are often good places to look for old school razors, but many of these are in poor condition and will need some cleaning to make functional. If you can’t find everything locally, then don’t get discouraged, just get online and do some searching, it’s all out there waiting for you.
Here are some links to some great forums where you can find out more about traditional wet shaving, DE razors, and all of the other gear:
Here are some links to various vendors who can provide you with good quality gear:
(Connaught Shaving is based in the UK, but they have quick and cheap shipping and great prices on their soaps.)
Here are some YouTube videos that will give you a good idea of how to use all of this new gear: