There are things you should know – nay, things you must know - as an adult that shaves.
Whether you're a man or a woman, and whether or not you're shaving your legs, your face or whatever else it is you shave, one of the "must-knows" is that you ought to be shaving with a safety razor. What you're using now isn't cutting it... literally.
If you were out of that loop, don't feel embarrassed. Big Razor successfully pushed safety razors to the background once they halted production in the 1970's in favor of cheaper cartridges and disposables. Since then, handsome profits have been made selling consumers on the perception of convenience. Unfortunately, and unbeknownst to the average shaver, it's actually cost us more while providing an inferior system.
What we don't know can't hurt us, right? No, that's not true at all.
Cartridges & Disposables (Don't Cut It)
Most contemporary cartridge and disposable razors are, among other things, typically bad for your skin. They come with a warranty that their multi-blade intensity will undoubtedly give you a closer, more delicate shave. The reality, however, is these razors will often be more damaging than efficient.
They pull at the skin, instead of gliding over it, causing the hair to be plucked out of the pore. If the first blade doesn't cause such harm then the second (and possibly third, fourth, fifth or sixth) just might. The result is the red, bumpy, rash-like irritation you've experienced so many times after shaving. Another issue is that they frequently cut below the skin which produces painful ingrown hairs. Admittedly, this can occur through user error when the blade is pressed down too firmly. Even companies making cartridge razors call attention to that problem. We happen to think it's a consequence of the light-weight designs in modern razors.
If we want to figure out how efficient multi-blade cartridge razors really are, let's recall the process of using one. After applying shaving cream and wetting the razor, we begin. A few strokes in and your Mach-whatever is clogged worse than a nose in a New England winter. At this point, you have to stop what you're doing to rinse it out. But it's not always as easy as some running water to remove what's caught in between six blades. You're going to be using some old-fashioned elbow grease to get it clean. Take into consideration you'll end up repeating this step a handful of times throughout the shave and you have your answer about cartridge razor efficiency.
If anything, it's all seems so inefficient, and inconvenient, doesn't it?
To make matters worse, one of the most unfortunate qualities of these razors is that they're not cheap. You've been led to believe that what is available on store shelves is simply the best option - and the market has priced them accordingly. That'll be one arm and one leg, please.
The good news (and yes there is good news coming out of the shaving industry) is that there is a legitimate alternative to all of your shaving misfortunes.
Safety Razors (Make the Cut)
That alternative is the safety razor.
At some point safety razors all but disappeared from the social sphere. Thankfully, they are making a comeback today.
This low-tech option that our grandfather's trustfully used for decades will be less of a setback in the wallet over time due to the inexpensive cost of replacing blades. Their double-edge feature allows you to shave with both sides of the razor which ensures you have more control over the progress of your blade's dullness. And there's one other big reason these heritage-style tools are rebounding: back in the day, shaving wasn't a chore but rather a ritual that people embraced, and safety razors are helping us recreate that missed tradition.
You might not know, first hand, how safety razors stack up against cartridges and disposables. To help you compare the two, we've put together the key features of this new (and throwback) shaver:
- Safety razors are heavy-duty: While there are some plastic options available, many models are made of stainless steel making them far weightier and durable than disposables. This means the natural weight of the razor will do the majority of the work applying the perfect amount of pressure to the skin in order to get a wonderfully close shave.
- Clogs are a thing of the past: Safety razors have only one (albeit incredibly sharp) double-edged blade. You won't have to deal with hair, skin and shaving cream getting mercilessly stuck in between blades. This is especially beneficial for people with coarse or thick hair who are forced to tediously clean residue out of their cartridge razor - sometimes even with a fine-bristled brush!
- The hygiene, oh the hygiene: The buildup that occurs in multi-blades can be difficult to flush out. You don't always get everything. Imagine running an unclean blade over your face the next time you shave. It's unsanitary and could lead to infection. Fewer blades means less clogs, which means a cleaner shave and ultimately less irritation. Another welcome component of safety razors is that they can be fully disassembled in order to clean as well.
- Save your money for your honey: A good quality safety razor will cost you anywhere from $25 to $50, but they will last forever if you take the most basic precautions of care. Think of it as something you can pass down to your kids once they're old enough to shave, extending its worth much further. As far as blades go, you can generally use each one for 6-7 shaves, although some of the more conservative users will stop after 3-4 shaves. Either way, with a price range of .20¢ to $1.00 per blade (depending on quality), you are going to be paying a whole lot less overall. You can also easily buy blades in bulk, saving you a whole lot of trips to the store.
- Interchangeability is like, really convenient: How about being able to mix and match your favorite blades with your favorite razor? If you're thinking, "Well I can already fit a Gillette blade onto a Schick razor," you're wrong. That won't work, despite how much you try. Some big brands even have little compatibility between their own products. Safety razors really don't have this issue. For the most part, any double edge blade will universally fit into any double edge safety razor. Now you have the true freedom to find a combination that works for you.
A Luxury Worth Every Penny
A safety razor may seem like a luxury at first glance. You've got the beautiful, shiny, vintage-looking razor and all of the elegant accessories that come with it. Consider that the cost of disposable shaving products has steadily risen while the quality being cut down, safety razors aren't a luxury at all. They're are actually a more reliable and more sustainable alternative.
Safety razors are convenient, efficient, sanitary, and (in our opinion) more trustworthy than any cartridge or disposable razor you use now. Even if it seems like a special item to own, since when did owning nice things became a bad thing?
One note of instruction that we're obligated to give before your first shave with a safety razor: keep the blade at ~35 degree to your face and shave in short, straight strokes. This is especially important when shaving at your jaw line. After so much time using a cartridge razor with a pivoting head, you'll have to remember that you are the one in charge of the pivoting now. Don't worry, it's quick to relearn.
If we still haven't convinced you to try out safety razors at home you can always head over to Ball and Buck (the location of our photo shoot) to have the talented barber, Van Capizzano, give you a shave or haircut. Then, when you've realized what you're missing, come visit our online store or our shops in Brookline and Dedham to check out our entire shaving collection.
Happy (and safe) Shaving, everyone!
- The Boston General Store Team
Photography: April Gabriel
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