Lessons Learned from a Year with a Safety Razor

I started wet shaving with a safety razor (or a double-edged razor, DE for short) on Christmas Day 2013. That was because Father Christmas was kind enough to deliver me a brush, razor and soap. I’d never shaved with anything other than a cartridge razor and canned gel/foam before.

The past year has been something of a learning curve as I’ve stepped into the world of ‘traditional’ shaving. From humble beginnings I have jumped in with both feet though. I’ve been gripped by acquisition fever as far as blades and software (soap/cream) goes, I’ve even bought a few brushes. There has been so much in fact, that I put together a site reviewing the products as I go through them.

I’m still a novice in this area really, still learning the best techniques. I already have plenty more products lined up to try this year, and I might even try a new razor too (the one bit of my kit that has remained constant). Still, I thought I would share some of my thoughts on what I’ve been through.

Pre-Shave

Many people have seen the barbershop method of a hot towel, though mainly in the movies. Most of the guys I’ve followed tend to go for a shower first, using that to soften up their bristles. There seems to be a growing fashion for cold water shaving though, especially by those with sensitive skin. Then there’s the people who wash with a normal face/hand soap or apply a pre-shave treatment (typically an oil or gel).

Personally, I simply wet my face with warm water, attempting to soak it enough to help soften the bristles and provide some hydration ahead of my lather. I’ve had some good results with this, though I should probably try some other techniques for comparison.

I did get some pre-shave oil for Christmas (2014), initial use has been inconclusive, but I need to give it a proper try.

Brushes

I started with a badger brush, the undisputed top dog at any level (there are different qualities of badger hair, which affects the price). I have also tried some cheaper bristle and boar brushes as well as a synthetic brush. Not tried a horse hair one yet (something else that seems to be creeping up in popularity).

I have to say, my boar brush, which was much less expensive than any badger brush (under £10) has proved very good. It’s pretty big (has a lot of loft) and is sturdy (good backbone) so I tend to use it for harder soaps.

My synthetic is a small knot (i.e. is small) and doesn’t seem to either hold water or splay very well, so is my least favourite brush. I have heard good things about some of the bigger/more expensive synthetics, so may give one of them a whirl at some point.

I do have a craving for something with a big knot, but not so much loft as my boar, generally the price has kept me away from them though. Continue reading

My Wet Shave Method

I thought I would document my method of wet shaving, everyone’s seems to be different. It’s probably worth saying that I only wet shave every other day (although I’ve started on Saturdays as well), with an electric razor shave in between.

So here’s how I shave:

  1. Fill sink with warm water
  2. Soak brush in sink while filling (and shaving soap if I’m using a soap)
  3. Wet face with warm water
  4. Build lather (if on face, if in mug, do before wetting face)
  5. Shave with the grain (straight down my face, WTG)
  6. Re-lather from quantity generated previously
  7. Shave against the grain (ATG)
  8. Run my hand over my face and touch up any rough areas
  9. Rinse with cold water
  10. Have a shower
  11. (A while later I apply some aftershave balm)

Continue reading

Safety Razor Costs

I touched on this briefly in my previous post, but I thought I would break it out into more detail. One of the reasons safety razors are gaining in popularity is cost. As Mike Levine from Dollar Shave Club says in his video: “Do you like spending $20 a month on brand name razors? $19 go to Roger Federer.”

Using a cartridge shaving system, even a middle-of-the-road one, probably cost me £20-26 a year, plus £5 if I was to buy the razor. Not exactly a massive amount, but then I probably only bought 8-12 cartridges a year, plus a couple of cans of gel. I managed this, in part, because I used my cartridges well beyond the recommended length.

Those prices are derived from my local supermarket’s website. They don’t have a safety razor listed, but let’s call that £5. They have a 10-pack of Personna blades for £1.89, a shaving brush for £3.20 and a shave stick for 49p. So the blades and soap come in way under the equivalent cartridge costs, even if you add the brush it’s still cheaper. Continue reading

My Safety Razor Experience

A while back, I wrote about Wet Shave Economics, the costs of wet shaving. I’ve been interested in trying a safety razor for a while, so stuck it on my wishlist for Christmas, and Santa delivered. I haven’t been using my razor very long, but I thought I would throw down my initial impressions and experience.

The Equipment

I was a very lucky boy, and Father Christmas furnished me with:

  • An Edwin Jagger DE89L razor
  • A dish of Mitchell’s Wool Fat Shaving Soap
  • An Edwin Jagger Best Badger brush
  • A pack of Derby Extra blades
  • A pack of Feather blades
  • A brush and razor stand
  • An Osma block of Alum

As I said, I was very lucky.

The Costs

As with everything, you can spend as much or as little as you want. I was lucky to receive some top-quality items, but you could buy everything you need for under £20. Equally, you could spend £100 on a brush alone (or more), £20 (or more) on single shaving soap and that’s before the pre-shave treatments, the post-shave balms and colognes, or any other nice-to-have equipment.

On the other hand, you can pick up something like a Wilkinson Sword Classic for under £5 (with blades), a brush for under £10 and a shaving stick for as little as 49 pence (that’s what my Palmolive Shave Stick cost me in my local supermarket). Continue reading