Aside from a short lived bloody stint using a straight razor 15 years ago, I’ve always been a Gillette multi-blade vibrating light-up twitter-enabled razor kind of guy when it comes to preventing myself being mistaken for a rabid bear. In a recent effort to look like less of a mess I started researching how to deal with razor burn, a constant issue for me. My facial fur is thick, grows fast, and I pretty much always had some minor razor burn on my neck (mostly where the hair decides to grow in the opposite direction from it’s facial brethren). One of the big recommendations was to switch to an old-fashion double edge safety razor (DE). The thought is that the 5+ blades on the modern Gillettes are overkill and scrape up your skin 5 times as much and hence are more prone to causing razor burn and skin irritation.
Thanks to Amazon a couple of days later I had a Merkum long handled safety razor, a pack of Merkum platinum double edge blades, a nice badger fur brush, a stand for the razor and brush, and a container of Taylor of Old Bond Street sandalwood shaving soap. It’s been a couple of weeks with the new setup, and I love it. Here’s why:
The Ritual. Shaving is no longer something I rush through in the shower, whipping the Gillette across my face as quickly as possible while squinting into a foggy mirror trying to see what I’m doing. Shaving is a 5 minute exercise, with the goal being quality not speed. The warm washcloth to re-wet my beard post-toweling off after the shower feels relaxing and luxurious. Some people use essential oils on their towel for further indigence. I haven’t tried that yet, but I will. Wetting the badger fur brush, and using it to whip the shaving soap into a light foam. The scent of the sandalwood. The application of the shaving soap to my face, using the badger brush to lift my stubble and apply a full coat of the scented soap. The warm water heating the razor. Smooth deliberate shaving strokes. One per blade side, then another rinse in the warm water. Repeat as needed. The feeling of the heavy well manufactured razor, the impossibly sharp blades. The fact that you don’t put any pressure on the razor, you just let it’s own tiny weight, and the samurai sword-like blades do exactly what they’re designed to do. Washing off the remainders of the soap with the towel. Then doing another face wipe with the washcloth, this time soaked in cold water to close the pores and seal everything back up. It’s 5 minutes spent alone, indulging myself, focusing on myself, using well made tools, to do something so essentially male. I look forward to it every morning when I wake up.
The Shave. Once you get the hang of the safety razor, the shave is fantastic. Close, smooth, no razor burn, clean looking. The scent of the sandalwood sticks with you. It’s by far a better shave than what I was getting previously. If you really want the best possible shave, then do it twice. Also, figure out which direction your hair grows and make sure you take any directional changes into consideration as you shave. For me, I have a strip on my neck that grows upward, whereas everywhere else things grown down.
The Cost. This is just icing on the cake, but you can get extremely high quality blades for $0.25-$0.50 per blade. That means you can swap blades once or twice a week (depending on your beard’s steel-dulling abilities), getting a great shave and spending much less than you would on the 5 blade cartridges which can easily run over $5 each.
I would recommend the switch to anyone! Also it’s worth asking your father or grandfather if he has his old safety razor, as many of them are the sort of equipment you could easily pass down through the generations.