Wait, why is a tech/geekology blog talking about shaving razors? Why is this a tech review anyway? Well, bear with me a bit and I think I can show you how this 100 year old technological advancement may be the solution to a lot of our problems with not only the cost of shaving, but the environmental impact. We often talk about beer, bourbon, cigars and such on Frags and Beer, why not shaving. And, it’s not just for men. Ladies, you may find some value in this discussion as well.
I was a Gillette guy ever since I started shaving. Probably because that’s the brand my dad used. I always upgraded to the newest handle as they stacked more and more blades on. I could get a week or more out of a blade when I was just shaving my face, especially since I always had some form of beard when I got out of the service. Then my hairline started rebelling, and rather than fight it, I took the battle off the field completely. That meant I was going through more than one blade a week. I have a big head, that’s a lot of surface area to cover. I tried the shave clubs, but I really didn’t save any money because the inferior blades didn’t last as long, so I was using even more. I tried a straight razor, but that takes a steadier hand than I have and more time than I wanted to give. Finally, I decided to try an old-fashioned safety razor.
There’s a lot of different dates for when the first safety razors came out, depending on your definition of safety razor. The first double edged safety razor was patented by King C. Gillette in 1904. It revolutionized shaving by allowing men to shave at home, or in this case, in the field as he won the bid to supply troops in World War I. No longer did you have to be skilled with a straight razor, or visit a barber for a shave regularly. It was a leap in technology and manufacturing that would drive more advancements in design for hygiene products.
I started with a basic barber safety razor, to make sure I’d like it and want to stick with it. I upgraded after about a year to an Edwin Jagger razor, that cost me about $40 (this will be important in a minute). There really is something to be said for getting your money’s worth. You want a good handle, good weight, and one that’s comfortable in your grip. You may need to do some looking around to find the best fit for you, but I’d recommend doing your research. Don’t go cheap, and get something made in the U.S., Germany, or the U.K. This razor is the type that comes apart by twisting the handle to separate its three parts. No moving hinges or doors, not that those are a bad thing, but less moving parts so less to go wrong. It’s got great weight, which makes shaving effortless. The handle feels good, doesn’t slip, and so far has held up to normal use after a year or so.
Aren’t safety razors dangerous? Dangerous? No. Unforgiving? Yes. Unlike 12 bladed behemoths with comfort strips and cushioned, contoured, vibrating handles, a safety razor does not do well in a rush. You can’t just run the blade over your skin. It doesn’t go over bumps, pimples or blemishes, it goes through them. With some patience, and planning you can avoid most nicks though by going around those if you know they’re there. It also isn’t so comfortable over bony areas, behind the ears, ankles, knees, and so on (yes, ladies these can be good for shaving as well if you want to save loads of cash). Honestly, after the first few times, you’ll hardly ever actually cut yourself. One of the big tradeoffs though, no razor burn. Razor burn is most often caused because modern razors lift hair to cut below the skin, giving you that close shave. That hair then pokes and prods its way back to the surface over the course of the day causing all sorts of irritation. Not so much with a blade that cuts right at the surface, and the shave isn’t any less close.
Your razor needs blades. While the latest Gillette Mach 5 blades retail for about 22 bucks for 8 blades, I get my Astra blades in a 100 pack from Amazon for 7 or 8 dollars. You read that right. 100 blades for 8 bucks. For me they last about the same amount of time. About two shaves for head and face. If I was just doing my face I’d probably get a whole week out of them. As it is I’m going through two blades a week. That’s a year’s worth. That Gillette pack of refills would only get me through a month. Blade brands vary greatly, and you’ll want to try some out before going whole hog on a 100 pack. Some are sharper, harder, softer, and it does matter. Hair thickness, skin sensitivity, and the weight of your handle will all effect how the blade cuts and feels. Don’t get generic blades, but as you can see, price really isn’t an issue. Just make sure they’re rated good from wherever you’re buying them.
Finally, you need a shaving cream or soap. This too will depend a lot on you. Soap can be harsh on your skin. Mine tends to be particularly dry, so shaving soap is out. Shaving cream and gel in cans is expensive, and not that great for the environment. The Creamo shaving cream I use is cheap, about 6 dollars, and lasts a long time. No metal can that gets tossed in the trash, you can recycle this plastic. It’s good for your skin, and works perfectly with a safety razor. Ladies, it doesn’t have any strong scents either, so no need to worry about smelling like a guy if you use it. Between the smooth shave of the razor, and this shaving cream, I don’t hardly use any aftershave.
So, the biggest benefit is obviously cost. Have you been keeping count? Let’s say you are just shaving your face, so you can get a whole week out of one blade in either case. You’ve got $40 for a good handle (about $20 for a starter one), $7 dollars for two years worth of blades (100ct), and 6 bucks for about two months worth of shaving cream. If my math is right (40+(7/2)+(6×6)) you’re looking at about $80 bucks for your first year, and since you don’t need to replace the handle you can half that after. To use the basic Gillette Mach 5 you’re talking $132 just for the refills! Now imagine you’re also shaving your head and/or legs, chest, arms, whatever. You can double your blade usage for $3.50 per year with a safety razor vs. doubling the price of the Gillette refills. Myself, I’m saving almost $250 a year on blades. And that’s if they don’t change the design on me and I have to buy a new handle to keep up. The design on a safety razor has pretty much been the same for a century.
If the cost savings doesn’t convince you, according to the EPA we Americans throw away about 2 billion plastic razors and cartridges a year based on a report from the 90s. Currently the EPA does not track impact of disposable razors, and Gillette has started a razor recycle program but you have to collect, package, and ship them yourself. Not exactly convenient. There’s more options to recycle steel razor blades, since it’s just the steel itself.
So there you have it. A bit of a tech review, a century overdue, and some info to save you some money as well as help the environment. I believe a safety razor, and the time it takes to learn and use one, is far superior to modern plastic cartridge razors. I think you’ll be happier with the results, men and women, on your bodies and your pocketbook. It’s also nice not having to find someone with a key to unlock the razor case so you can buy those overly priced bits of plastic and steel. Give it a shot, I think you’ll see the benefits.