After more than a decade of shaving with your typical cartridge-based safety razor, I figured there had to be something better. Getting a close shave with one often means horrible razor burn and ingrown hairs: not a good way to start my day. So after asking my barber for some advice, I was pointed in the direction of the classic straight razor or the double edge razor that was popular in my grandparents’ generation.
Wanting to avoid a horror scene in my bathroom, I chose to go with the more fool-proof double edge razor. With the new razor comes a new routine and a new set of tools that I was previously unfamiliar with. Gone are the days when I used canned shaving cream and alcohol-based aftershave (I should have ditched them long before switching razors). Canned shaving cream, while convenient, is chalk full of chemicals and lacks much of the lubrication that helps the razor cut hair and not skin. Alcohol-based aftershave doesn’t do much more than dry and shock the skin. So what did I need?
I’ve since invested in a good shaving soap, a badger brush, an alum block and lotion to treat my face right. My tools:
- Shaving Soap – ~$10 (replace every 3-4 months)
- Badger Brush – ~$15 – used to produce a lather with the soap
- Razor – ~$35
- Alum Block – ~$10 – cleanses and soothes the face post-shave (lasts at least 2 months)
- Post-Shave Lotion – ~$12 (replace every 2-3 months)
So for around an $80 initial investment, you can get 2 months worth of supplies that will cost $10 a month on average to replenish thereafter. Of course I’m forgetting the most important part (and most pricey with cartridge-based razors): the blades. Thankfully the technology is ‘simple’ and cheap with double edge razors. You can buy them for under 10 cents a piece in bulk and they last for up to a week. This is huge savings over the $4-5 cartridges I was used to and they cut so much better. There is a huge variety to choose from and they’re surprisingly different, so after I used up my starter razor blades that came with the razor, I purchased a variety pack of 100 blades for around $22.
I learned quickly that my old shaving habits were not going to work: I lost a chunk of face in one of my first shaving attempts and referred immediately to YouTube for some pointers. If you’re looking for a great tutorial on shaving quickly, look no farther than Mantic59’s video on the 10 minute wet shave.
The 10,000ft view of the process is as follows:
- Prep the face by moisturizing with hot water. Shaving after a shower is ideal.
- Lather the soap in a cup to pick some up then spend a minute or two lathering it onto your face in a circular motion. Spend at least 2 minutes on the first pass or you can almost guarantee a painful shave.
- Shave with as little pressure as is required to hold the blade flat against your face. Do not push the blade into your face.
- Shave with the grain on the first pass in small 1-2 in. strokes with as little overlap as possible. Flip the blade over to use the other side every 2-3 strokes and rinse the brush every 4-6.
- Rinse your face and repeat from step 2 for a closer shave. Subsequent passes should be across the grain (90 degrees) and/or against the grain.
- When finished shaving, rinse off all soap and leave your face wet.
- Rub the alum block over the areas of skin that were shaved. This will sting a bit.
- Apply lotion.
It currently takes me about 20 minutes to shave when I take my time and it has become an enjoyable part of my morning routine, something I look forward to. The feel and sound of a single blade sliding across the face are very satisfying and it’s the closest thing to a barber shave I can safely give myself . Maybe someday I’ll work up the nerve to try a straight razor, but until then, the double edge razor provides a great shave and saves money.