A couple of years ago, I saw an interesting post on a deal site about shaving. Previously, I had only used Gillette/Schick/Wilkinson Razors with their extremely high cartridge prices of up to 2,50 € per blade, which I could not reuse due to my thick beard hair and sensitive skin. So my costs per shave were somewhere above 2,50€ (excluding shaving cream, aftershave etc.) – quite expensive.
That post I found promised me several things:
- I would be able to slice down the cost of shaving to a one-digit cent amount.
- I would get a better shave that would be less aggressive to my skin.
- I would actually enjoy shaving.
A single blade can do everything better than a razor with four/five of them, does that sound to good to be true? I didn’t care. As I wasn’t satisfied with the current state, I had to try it.
So I bought the following stuff:
- A Lord razor for double-edge blades. (Lord LP1822L aka L6, around 10€)
- A pack of 200 Astra Silver Platinum Blades (at shop.bestshave.net for around 16€)
- A shaving soap (Palmolive Stick, available everywhere for 0,50€ – 1€)
- A shaving brush (Balea Badger at dm, you should be able to get one at every supermarket, around 7€)
This set me back 34 €, but I seemed to have enough stuff to get along for 200 (one-time use) to 1000 shaves (five-time use), some people even use a blade up to 7 times. This lowered my shaving costs, all one-time investments included, to 0,17€. If I used the blades multiple times, I would even be able to go below that.
Next, the hard part came: Learning how to shave properly. In reality, this was easier than I thought, there is no “epic blood loss” the first few times you do it, no scars, no bigger cuts than you’d get from a safety razor. Just let the blade glide in the right angle and do not (!) apply pressure. This is it. You will find the right angle quite easily by yourself. And yes, this one blade shaves waaaaay better than a cartridge ever could. And you don’t get hair jammed up in there that you can not get out, so no problems even with a beard. This post isn’t about the technique, but you if you’re interested you’ll find everything you need on reddit or in this graphic or that graphic (both from redditor I_said_so, original source unknown). And of course there’s more than enough videos, I started with these.
Two years later
I wouldn’t call me an expert after those two years, but I certainly got better, and my equipment did, too. I’m still using the Astra blades, they’re more expensive but worth the extra cost (tried a lot and none of them are as sharp and gentle at the same time), and I throw them away after a single usage, because my skin is more comfortable with new blades (the difference is a couple of cents, so it’s easily affordable).
Also, there have been other changes to my collection:
- The razor has become a Gillette Adjustable Slim, a vintage razor, more expensive to get, but definitely worth it. The aggressiveness can be adjusted in 9 steps and I got to the upper limit in the meantime, but it took me quite a while (25€ on a shaving forum). I’ve had even more razors than pictured, but some were distributed among friends and some are scattered around the house. Flea markets, especially in the US and Canada, are a great source for cheap quality razors (the black one cost me 2$ and is also quite nice).
- I changed the brush to a premium product, as they’re quite cheaply available from China, and most > 100€ brushes here use Chinese Badger hair anyways. Feels way better than that thin brush from the store. (26mm knot, bought from this seller, around 23,50€. Price has increased significantly since I purchased it – still a bargain for the quality)
- Shaving soaps/aftershaves: I got quite a collection of soaps and aftershaves during my travels (Spain, Portugal, England, Canada) and they’re all quite interesting and each is different, so it’s definitely a thing to watch out for when travelling abroad. I finished a couple of aftershaves, but haven’t managed to finish off a single soap yet. But I’m working on it. Taylor of Old Bond Street and Proraso are definitely my favourites here. Redarding the aftershaves I had a nice one from Spain which I used up so I switched to the Mühle aftershaves.
- I’m through with the Astra blades and currently using up the blade samplers I ordered with them. But I have to admit I only used 100 blades in these two years, as I gifted one pack to a good friend together with the Lord razor. So these two years of shaving cost me around 10€ in blades, an amount no cartridge system can compete with. Recently, I bought another two boxes.
So indeed, I was able to slash the cost of shaving to a small fraction of the previous amount, I enjoy shaving a lot more than I did before, especially with the variation of soaps I can use. And I get a way cleaner and more gentle shave than I would even with the most expensive blades. So it was definitely worth trying and I can only recommend it to everybody.
So why did the razor / blades business model succeed in the first place if it’s so much worse? Well, the quality standard many razors and blades way worse back in the days so people indeed seemed to have problems to get a clean, cut- and nick-free shave out of them, if I listen to the older generation. Also, in the beginning, the cartridges probably did not cost the absurd amounts of money they do today, making the change easier. And of course, you wouldn’t have to buy the razor itself because it was given to you for free.
Today, with a price difference of almost 1500% ( 0,17€ worst case vs. a 2,50€ cartridge ), it may be time to rethink whether automatic angle adjustment and a free handle is indeed worth sacrificing your shaving quality and money.