Shaving Money Off Your Barbershop Spend

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Not exactly a strategic spend category to manage, but nonetheless an expensive activity considering how your daily best efforts are undone overnight, pushing you back toward hirsuteness again. Rinse and repeat, literally.

Early on I shaved with electrical shavers, which are ok if you don’t wear a shirt (they leave too much irritating stubble) and don’t need a particularly close shave. One might say, “Electric shavers are great, as long as you use a razorblade afterwards.” In other words, they are mediocre at best. Some people swear by their Philips Norelco but I’ll stick to wet shaving.

The better multi-blade razor cartridges easily run you $3 a piece or more, even if you buy in bulk. Then there are the other accessories and products needed to get a lasting close shave without nicks, burns, or other discomfort. I thought I would share some of my experiences and close with some purchase recommendations that will save you money and give you better results.

After moving to Japan and wearing a “waishatsu” (dress shirt) every day, I moved on to better razorblades – first dualies, followed by triples, then quad blades. Every now and then I challenged myself to a shave with an old-school straight razor, which my grandfather swore by. In fact, I inherited my grandfather’s matching pair of ivory-handed straightedge razors, which he in turn received from his father. (Disclaimer to the PETA folks: they were made in the late 1800s, not from recently killed elephants.)

Both have the following inscription in the English Sheffield steel:

“KEEN as is this razors edge invisible” from Shakespeare Love’s Labor Lost – as well as a small portrait of the Bard of Avon.

Razor

Using them is definitely a challenge, not to mention laborious with the prep time, the stropping, etc. They’re not too popular with the TSA either, so something else must be used for regular and travel routines. Unfortunately straightedge shaves can be hard on the skin – you get a fair amount of sloughing at the same time – so, although saving lots of money on blades and electricity, not practical for a day-to-day routine. Not for me anyway.

On a more practical note, this is my current “best practice” set of steps and my preferred products:

  • Pre-shave prep – an optional step but makes it better. I recommend the Proraso Sapone da Barba.
  • Use shaving soap and a good badger hair bristle shaving brush. It’s much more economical and better than any foam in a can – and has the benefit of not having to travel in the TSA-mandated one quart Ziploc bag. I use Colonel Conk Bay Rum soap myself, amazingly long-lasting and effective – I’m still on my first soap after a full year of use.
  • Switch your razor. Move away from the big name brands – you’re mostly paying for the marketing budget with those. My new favorite is the Pace shaver, which I buy online. At slightly over $1 per cartridge, it is priced at around a third of the store brands. And it features an almost absurd 6 blades. Having used the Pace over three months now, I can say that each cartridge also shaves better and lasts several shaves longer than my previous favorite, the much more expensive Fusion from Gillette.
  • Treat your skin – and not with an alcohol-based aftershave. For a long time I used L’Occitane’s aftershave balm. It was outstanding but pricey, so now I’ve switched to the just as good but far more economical Baxter of California aftershave balm.

The above tips should help you keep more of your money in your pocket.

I’ll end on a humorous note, on one of their shows, the Saturday Night Live team mocked twin blades and ran a skit with a (then-fictitious) triple-blade razor with the slogan "Because you'll believe anything"– well, the surviving SNL members probably all use at least five blade razors by now!

Happy shaving!

Voices (4)

  1. Thomas Kase:

    Thomas,

    I think (hope) we’re talking different definitions – honing with a stone is only needed if you have damaged the blade. Otherwise, using a two-sided (canvas and leather) strop is all you need – at least that’s my understanding. With the right paste for the canvas side, and decent technique, I don’t see a need for using stones.

    You know how to do it already, but for others reading this, I’ll include a link to a site with more info:
    http://straightrazorplace.com/srpwiki/index.php/Razor_stropping

    Thomas

  2. Thomas:

    I’ve always heard/read the exact opposite, that straight razors need to be honed once every six months to maintain the optimal shaving edge and that stropping it each time before you shave is just to maintain the edge between honing.

    However, you could very well be right in that a straight is harsher on your skin than a cartridge razor. You know your skin/face best. 🙂

  3. Thomas Kase:

    Thomas,

    I have a Biber leather strop that I picked up in Germany so they’re razor sharp – pardon the pun. No honing needed – that would only dull them.

    They’re not my only straight razors – I have a somewhat modern Henckels Zwilling Friodur blade as well. Not nearly as elegant of course.

    I just think that by design, shaving with a straight edge is a bit harsher on your skin than a multi-blade. Then again, maybe I just need to practice more often?

    Thomas

  4. Thomas:

    I personally think the Dovo shavette is probably the most cost effective shaving method. If you buy in bulk you can get blades for what amounts to five cents a piece. Even if you shave every day and use a new blade each time, over the course of a year you’ll spend less than $20 in razor blades.

    Another thing I love about the shavette is that you can replace the blade and don’t have to worry about the maintenance as you would with a straight razor.

    I’m definitely jealous of your straights, they’re beauties. Out of curiosity when was the last time you had them honed? That might be why you think they’re hard on the skin.

    Great post!

    Thomas

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