After using disposables and electric razors for the last 25 years, why have I made the decision to invest time and money in a safety razor?
Male grooming is not new, but along with hipsters and metrosexuals, I kind of feel that I’ve missed out. And when you see the Liverpool squad shaving their chests for a TV ad, you know things have changed. So I decided I needed to make a change as well.
Collection of razors.
It's fair to say that I've tried most brands of razors and I'll admit that I believed the hype - more blades means a better shave. But what if it doesn't really mean that? What if it actually means a worse shave and potentially a shaving rash?
My story begins when I stumbled across an article while researching if it's possible to live plastic-free. It is estimated that Americans dispose of 2 billion razors and blades each year. Which got me thinking about how many are thrown away in Northern Ireland each year and how many of those are mine? Going on the basis that I usually use an electric razor, but also wet shave, I reckon that I dispose of one cartridge per month and possibly a few plastic handles (I typically buy a 'gift set' that comes with new handles).
Why do I shave this way?
I have no clue other than, that's the way I know how to shave. Or to put it another way, it’s how advertisers tell me how to shave.
Old school shaving: simple, cheap and effective
But as it turns out, there is another way to shave which is cheaper and probably better for your skin. That other way is using a double edge safety razor. So, here’s how I got on...
What is a double edge safety razor?
It consists of a handle and a ‘protective’ bit between the razor blade and your skin (also known as a head and a comb). It looks dangerous, but, when used properly it’s not and as I’ve found out is actually really good at shaving (kind of the point, right?)!
Why choose a safety razor?
You will save money, especially when compared to the cost of cartridge blades. The blades for a safety razor cost about 10p each and will last about 2-3 weeks, working out about £1.50 across the year! *Wow*
So, the cost savings are good, but what about...
There’s a good chance that your skin will appear healthier. The multi-blade approach does a good job of also shaving your skin and hair follicles, which for many men, results in razor rash or ingrown hairs. Because multi-blades are harsher on the skin, you end up removing oils and other bits from the skin. I’m not a dermatologist, so you can either trust me, or google it, like I did 😄
You reduce your waste - less plastic gets thrown out
There’s another bonus for those of us who have switched and that’s a reduction in our plastic consumption. Safety razors are not made from plastic. Mine has a bamboo shaft, but the rest is metal. The bamboo handle will (or at least should) last a lifetime and the blades are all recyclable.
2 billion plastic and metal disposable razors were sent to landfill last year in America. So it’s a big problem, but we can choose to make a difference. And have a better shave. And save money.
They're not just for men
Call it a myth or misconception, but women can use a safety razor. It's just a razor! With the pink tax, gender tax are whatever you want to call it, women have had to pay more than men for an equivalent product. But you don't have to.
Make the change
Try it for yourself. You don’t have to accept the increasing costs of cartridges and disposable razors. You can switch to more affordable and arguably a more refined way of shaving.
How to choose your safety razor
There’s no easy way to pick one. You have to try it and see for yourself. I picked mine based on reviews, materials, weight and price. I got lucky first time. Do a bit of research based on your skin type and hair type. The handle is important, but the blades are the most important. Read reviews, and buy a trial pack if you are in doubt.
How to assemble your safety Razor
This is the easy bit:
Screw the handle off,
separate the safety bit (the head and the comb),
carefully place the razor blade between them
and reattach handle.
How does it work - how do you use one?
Apparently, it’s all about shaving at a 30 degree angle. And applying very little pressure.
I shave like I’m holding a razor blade to my face. But not to the point where I shake because shaving with a shake could lead to blood. So...CAREFULLY :-)
Hold the razor at 30 degree to the skin.
Apply a little pressure - you want the weight of the handle to do the work.
Shave with the grain - I'd recommend reminding yourself which way your hair grows.
Shave in short strokes - about an inch each time.
Stretch your skin to keep it taught.
This is my step-by-step guide to how I shave with a double edge safety razor
Unlike an electric razor, you can’t just attack your face with a safety razor. You need to prepare your tools. You need to prepare your skin.
But before you start shaving, there’s a little bit of a ritual you need to go through. I call this ‘me time’ 😄
Part of the joy in ‘old style shaving’ is allowing yourself the time to do it. I always shave after work now i.e. when you can afford to spend 15 or 20 minutes scraping your face. I find it relaxing. With information overload and our gadget obsessed culture, it’s really important to prioritise self-care. When you shave in this way, what you are actually doing is allowing your brain to unwind. This is precious time when you can catch your breath, contemplate things and allow negativity and stress to flow out of your mind.
Let’s make a start
You need warm water. Not hot, just warm. If the water is too hot, it will dry your skin and potentially damage your brush.
Soak your brush and razor in the warm water. Soaking the brush in warm water softens the bristles.
While they are soaking, wash your face. You might have some fancy face wash or shaving gel - either way, the idea here is to rough up your stubble and massage your skin. This preparation is vital for achieving a good shave. When you are satisfied that you have suitably rubbed your face, rinse off the soap, but don’t worry about removing it all. Just a quick splash will do.
Use your brush to work up a lather or apply shave gel or foam. Whatever your preference is. Use the brush to apply the cream in a circular motion. The brush acts as another way to buff up your stubble and to prepare your skin for what’s to come.
Start shaving, with short strokes, going with the grain and at that all important 30 degree angle. Rinse your blade frequently. And remember to keep light pressure. Shaving with a safety razor is all about taking your time. Do this and you will not (or shouldn’t) nick yourself.
When it comes to the awkward parts - upper lip and under the chin - you just need to take your time and shave with the shape of your face. Make sure you keep the skin taught.
You get to repeat steps 4,5 and 6 :-)
It generally takes me two goes to get the close shave
my wife desires I require.
How to clean and dry the safety razor
Simply unscrew the handle and carefully rinse the blade and attachments. Wipe dry with a towel and reassemble.
If you don't dry the blade properly it will rust.
How long will a safety razor last? When should you replace the blade?
The short answer is, you'll know! When the blade starts to pull or tug it's time for a change. I get about 2 weeks from a single blade, shaving every other day. Other people swap their blades more frequently and others less frequently. It really depends on usage and hair type.
How to store your double edge safety razor between shaves
I store mine in a plastic dish in my bathroom drawer. You don’t need anything fancy. You could place it in a cup and leave it beside your sink. Make sure it's clean and dry though.
*Probably best to keep it away from small people.*
How to dispose/recycle the razor blade
You can recycle razor blades. I store mine in a 'safety' tin (which is just an old glasses case) and I’ll eventually take them to the local recycling centre with any other scrap metal I have lying around. Again, best to keep it out of the reach of children.
Can you travel (on a plane) with a safety razor?
It depends. If you have hold luggage you can bring your double edge safety razor. However, you will probably get stopped at airport security if you have it in your hand luggage.
You can also use it on other body parts
Using a safety razor is not just for your face. Plenty of people seem to be shaving various body parts with them. I don’t, but that's not to say you can’t give it a try.
Is shaving with a double edge safety razor worth it?
- It's a no brainer if you are currently using a cartridge razor.
- A double edge safety razor is much cheaper in the long run.
- Most importantly though, you will achieve a better quality of shave. With practice, it's surprisingly easy to use and you will get better access to those hard to reach areas. You now know why those cartridge razors have a single blade on the other side.
- While a cartridge razor is easier and quicker to use, you will get a closer shave with a safety razor.
- It's likely that you will suffer less skin irritation with a safety razor.
- And of course, you will reduce your environmental impact.
So there you have it...
What started as an experiment to see if I could reduce my reliance on plastic turned into me discovering a better way to shave. And I get to save money.
Will you consider changing to a double edge safety razor? Let us know in the comments below.