The Ultimate Guide to Safety Razor Shaving

It's cheaper. It's better for the environment. It's a better shave. Why isn't everyone doing it? A complete reckoning of the benefits of, and instructions for, the lost art of safety razor shaving.
28
minute read
Lifestyle
August 25, 2020

A Better Way to Shave

If you grow hair on your face and want to shave it off, the best way to do it is with a safety razor. It's cheaper, it's more environmentally friendly, it feels great and you get a closer, cleaner, more consistent shave.

I know this because I've now been shaving this way for a little over two and a half years. In that time I've seen the quality of my shaving improve, I've developed a skill and I've created a satisfying morning ritual. I've also saved a whole bunch of money.

It used to be that I would shave with either an electric or cartridge razor. I'd get mixed results and never achieved the close shave I had hoped for, no matter how much I spent on fancy new shaving products. I felt resigned to it all, as if I had no choice in the matter.

When I discovered safety razors, everything changed.

The beauty of shaving with a safety razor is that it turns a daily chore into a satisfying ritual. There's a skill to it, too; where you might be nervous at first you get better over time. To top if all off, you’ll be spending pennies on your blades - not pounds.

Something really confused me, though. Why aren't more people doing it?

In this article I'm going to take a brief look at the history of shaving, followed by a detailed reckoning of the financial and environmental benefits of shaving this way. I’ll also detail what kit you need to get started and exactly how to go about shaving your face with a safety razor, from beginning to end. 

Whether you're interested in getting started or don't know where to start, I've written this piece to cover off all possible bases.

It's a long read, so make sure to bookmark the page so you can return to it later. You can use the table of contents below to jump around to whichever section you need to refer to:

Ready? Let’s dive in.

How Did We Get Here? A Brief History of Shaving

When it comes to wet shaving, there are really only three ways you can get the job done: with a safety razor, a cartridge razor, or a straight razor.

A straight razor - the traditional single blade and folding handle - is how people shaved before the start of the twentieth century. For many, it was often something they would have a barber do for them if they could afford it. Although some still shave this way today, it's now relatively rare. This is in no small part because it's a lot trickier and requires that you sharpen and strop the blade yourself - all told, quite a daunting prospect.

However, this all changed when the double-edged or 'DE' safety razor was patented by King C Gillette (yes, that Gillette) in 1904. It was a new design that made it much easier for the average non-barber to do their own shave. Later, Gillette secured a contract to supply American troops with razors and blades for the duration of the First World War, sending millions of them to Europe. When the war ended, those that were lucky enough to survive brought their razors back with them. Returning troops were allowed to keep them, permanently changing the shaving habits of an entire generation.

Cartridge razors came later, in the seventies, borne of competition between the big shaving brands: Gillette, Bic and Wilkinson Sword/Schick. Cartridges do much the same thing as safety razors - they apply a blade to the skin at a particular angle. The main difference between safety razors and cartridges was that you would have to buy and throw away the whole plastic contraption rather than just a single blade. They were touted as being safer and better than their double-edged precursors.

Over time, it simply became the accepted norm to shave with cartridges. Continuous product development in the razor arms race led to more and more ways of doing exactly the same thing - three blades, four blades, five blades, vibrating cartridges, heated blades(!) - all in the name of squeezing more cash out of the consumer. It was (and still is) a bizarre trend, often parodied.

Then, in 2012, everything changed with a single YouTube video.

This 93 second video changed the entire shaving landscape overnight. It did it by very neatly skewering the ridiculous 'shave tech you don't need' of the big brands and presenting a new, cheaper way of doing things: cut out the middleman and send blades right to your door.

It proved to be enormously popular - Dollar Shave Club became the first of many companies to disrupt 'Big Razor' and steal an awful lot of market share from the major players. (This was, of course, before they were bought out by them anyway).

Companies like Dollar Shave Club are based on a subscription model. They spend a lot of money upfront on advertising and giving away goodies (like a free razor handle) to get you on board. Then, when you're signed up, they rely on the steady income of your (automatic) payments for the cartridges that will fit only the free handle they gave you in the first place.

Investors love subscription businesses because there’s a very clear link between the cost of getting you, the consumer, on board and how much you'll then spend each and every month. And you will keep spending money on razors because, well, you're very unlikely to suddenly stop shaving. It’s perfect.

All of this seems really great to the consumer - you feel like you're getting a great deal, you’re ‘sticking it to the man' and you’re getting a luxury product delivered to your door all at the same time. Ironically, though, the advert also mentions that 'your handsome-ass grandfather had one blade'. He means a safety razor, of course. Not a subscription service.

Interesting.

When we dig a little deeper, we find that the subscription model might not be the savings slam dunk it makes itself out to be.

The Benefits of Safety Razor Shaving

By now, it's pretty obvious that I'm a big fan of shaving with a safety razor. Although something like this is, to an extent, a matter of preference and opinion, I'm also going to try and quantify it as much as I can. While it's a subjective question as to how good the shave is, it's a pretty objective question of mathematics when it comes to how much it costs and the associated environmental impact.

Benefit 1: It’s Cheaper

Shaving with cartridges is more expensive - there's no way around it. Whether you buy them at your local pharmacy or through an online subscription you'll be paying more than you ever do compared to shaving with a safety razor. In fact, it turns out that online subscriptions can actually be far more expensive over the long term.

Assuming you're shaving your face 4-5 times a week, I calculated the cumulative cost of shaving in three different ways: with safety razor blades, with Gillette's ubiquitous 'Mach 3' and with a subscription to one of the most popular shaving subscription services in both the US and UK, Harry's. I've included all of the costs you might expect to incur if you were to start from scratch and then what the running costs would be over a number of years.

The results are pretty stark.

There's some interesting things to notice here.

1 - Subscription shaving costs the most long term

Although it feels like a good deal at first, the problem with subscriptions is that you change your cartridge more often. You change them more often because the company recommends it and new cartridges turn up on your doorstep like clockwork. It's in their interests to keep you buying them, after all, because it adds to their bottom line for the benefit of their investors. (I emailed a Harry's rep directly - they told me I could expect 6/8 shaves per cartridge. Gillette told me that theirs was more like 15/16 for the Mach 3.)

2 - Non-subscription cartridge shaving is cheaper than subscription

This goes to the above point about how often you need to change your razor. Not only do you apparently not need to change them so frequently, you are also not tied into a subscription that will send you cartridges regardless. If you only buy the bare minimum of cartridges that you need when you actually need them, you will spend less over time. In any case, a subscription has a 'set it and forget it' quality - once you've made the decision that you'll be shaving that way it takes effort to stop, so you change your habits based on how often your new blades turn up.

3 - Safety razor shaving has the highest initial investment but costs far less over time

You need a few extra pieces of kit to get started with a safety razor (more on this below) but, once you're up and running, running costs (i.e. blades and soap) cost next to nothing over the course of a year. It very quickly becomes the cheapest way of shaving after 3 years and then just gets cheaper and cheaper the longer you go.

We can also look at what the blade cost per 100 shaves is. If we take Gillette and Harry's recommendations about the number of shaves you can get out of each cartridge and compare that to 3 shaves per blade with a safety razor (my personal preference), we get something that looks like this:

Which would you choose?

Unless you plan on shaving for only one or two years and never again, safety razor shaving is the cheapest option by far and subscriptions should be avoided if you want to save money long term.

Benefit 2: Its Kinder to the Environment

Safety razor shaving is kinder to the environment because you send virtually no plastic to landfill. Cartridge shaving depends on the regular purchase, use and disposal of blades held within a plastic container, the cartridge itself.

Every time you finish using a cartridge, you stick it in the trash and it gets carted away to be buried in the ground where it will remain, intact, for hundreds if not thousands of years. Safety razors, on the other hand, can be entirely recycled because they're all metal. Here's another comparison:

It's not a very nice picture. That's a lot of plastic going to landfill. This doesn't even take into consideration the various plastic packaging that the cartridges come in, either. Nor even the cans and tubes of foam that have plenty of plastic built in, too. Most safety razor blades and soaps can be bought in cardboard packaging, the blades individually wrapped in wax paper.

Shaving with a safety razor uses significantly less plastic and sends virtually nothing to landfill - what materials you do use can usually be recycled. If you're at all motivated by the environment and don't like the idea of throwing all that plastic away to be buried in the ground for an eternity, I would highly recommend shaving with a safety razor instead.

Benefit 3: It's A Better Shave

There's a common misconception that MORE BLADES = BETTER SHAVE. After shaving for more than two years with just one blade, this turns out not to be true. You can have three blades, four blades, five blades... I really don't care - a skilled shave with a single blade will beat a cartridge every time.

I know this because, in my research for this article, I purchased both a Gillette Mach 3 and a Harry’s razor to compare them. Although hardly scientific, I’ve compared them - shaving one side of my face with my safety razor and the other with a cartridge. The cartridge side always feels slightly rougher immediately afterwards and needs shaving again much sooner. Seems clear enough to me.

Additionally, the 'shaving' part of the process is only one of several steps. Before you even get to that point, you've got to have some kind of foam, soap or gel on your face.

With a cartridge shave you're typically also buying a can of shaving foam, normally from the same brand as your razor, to use for your shave. You'll squirt some of this onto your hand and rub it around on your face before you get started. 

The whole point of this part should be to get your hair to lift away from your face to make it easier to shave off. When we spread it on with our hands we actually end up flattening a lot of that hair, laying it down close against our skin. This defeats the point entirely. It usually means we need to go over the same spot multiple times, leading to irritation.

If this is the only way you've ever shaved, you're missing out.

While it does eventually get the job done, it pales in comparison to making your own lather with a brush. With practice and a little experience, you can make your own foam - right there and then - for a fraction of the cost. You can then use the brush to massage the lather into your face, exfoliating your skin and lifting your stubble at the same time, making it much easier to shave.

Ultimately, it's kind of hard to explain without doing it yourself. Once you get good at it, shaving with a safety razor gives you a much closer, cleaner and more satisfying shave. It's better than any other method I've previously tried.

Granted, you do have to unlearn a lot of the habits of how you used to shave and relearn how to do things from scratch, but considering what you stand to gain I would argue that it’s more than worth it.

Benefit 4: It's a Skill and a Ritual

This is a more romantic note to end this section on, but I think it has merit all the same: shaving with a safety razor is a skill that you learn and a ritual you come to relish and enjoy.

When you start, you may experience your fair share of trepidation, nicks and bumps as you figure out how everything works. There's a knack to getting the right kind of lather to build on a brush or in a bowl and there are tricks to getting a cleaner, smoother shave that you can only learn through experience. There are all sorts of other preferences that you will develop and learn as you go.

Not only are you getting a better shave as you build these skills, your enjoyment of the whole process grows at the same time. A regular wet shave with a safety razor gains the comforting appeal of ritual - the steam rising from the sink, the sound of the brush going to work on a fresh block of sandalwood soap, the smell of the balm that lingers on your face for the rest of the morning.

It's a small luxury - an unusual combination of indulgence and frugality - and a completely different, vastly more enjoyable experience of shaving than any other out there. Big marketing budgets will try to convince you otherwise, but don't be fooled. Once you get started, you'll barely glance back.

If we’re going to get any of these benefits, we need the kit to make it happen.

Everything You Need to Start Shaving With a Safety Razor

So that you can easily get started with safety razor shaving, I've put together a list of everything I think you could possibly need. There are many ways that you could go about this and I will take the time to elaborate on some different options, but I'm going to save you the time and energy in weighing the benefits of each by making the recommendations that feel best based on my own experience. Your experience may differ, but I think this is a good starting point.

1. Safety Razor

This is the most important purchase you'll make because it's the main tool you'll be working with.

Your razor should have a classic DE design, a good weight to the handle and be fitted together with a screw fitting. There are other options out there, but don't worry about those yet. For beginners in particular, the Merkur 34C and Edwin Jagger DE89 are regularly cited as being well-suited to those that are new to DE shaving.

My own personal razor is a Mühle Kosmo with an oak handle. It's well balanced, has a good weight to it and is a beautiful bit of kit.

My recommendation: invest in a well-built, high quality safety razor, ideally £30-40 ($40-50) minimum, from a good manufacturer like Merkur, Edwin Jagger or Mühle.

2. Safety Razor Blades

If you've only ever bought cartridges before, this is the part where your eyes will pop out of your head in disbelief. You'll buy your first pack of 100 blades for about £10 ($13) and you won't need to get a new box for months.

There are a lot of options here that are all around the same price point. I've used both Derby and Astra in the past, but was disappointed to find that Derby blades are packaged in small plastic cases. Astra are all packaged in cardboard and wax paper, and I've always had good results with them.

With blades - and later, with soap - your mileage may vary depending on what blades you buy and how often you change them. If you're uncertain about buying 100 blades to begin with, try a handful of different brands first. You can often purchase samples from good shaving retailers.

My recommendation: get a pack of 100 Astra double-edged (DE) blades, or a handful of samples from various brands.

3. Shaving Brush

A good shaving brush does three things: it builds lather, gets that lather onto your face and then gently lifts your stubble away from your skin in the process. Generally speaking, there are two types of shaving brush - animal hair and synthetic. Animal hair brushes are made from - you guessed it - the hairs of actual badgers/boars/horses and are quite soft and pliable. Synthetic hair brushes tend to be a little stiffer and springier.

I've used both and my preference is for a synthetic brush. I found that I never quite got the kind of lather I wanted with badger hair and, after a while, the hairs started to fall out. The stiffer, springier synthetic brush has been easier for me to get a good lather out of than the badger brush I was using before. I've also been told that they tend to last longer. Some synthetic bristles tend to have a narrower spread than badger ones, though. Look for one that is as wide as the badger variety.

If possible, buy a brush with a handle that allows you to replace the brush head. When my old badger hair brush gave up the ghost, all I had to do was unscrew it and replace it with the new one.

My recommendation: spare the badger and get a good quality synthetic brush with a slightly wide spread of bristles.

4. Shaving Soap and Bowl

Strictly speaking, you could continue to use shaving foam from a can. But I wouldn't recommend it; it's an expensive, environmentally unfriendly and largely unsatisfying option compared to the 'old fashioned' way of doing it with a bowl and a block of shaving soap.

It doesn't have to be anything fancy - there are options for all budgets and tastes. Some prefer to build a lather directly on a solid block of soap, some slice off small pieces into their bowl, others dab a finger's worth of shaving cream to the side of a bowl and go from there. Some (myself included) build some lather in the bowl and the rest on the face. It really depends on how you prefer to do things.

As with blades, your soap and how you use it will vary how long it lasts and how much you end up spending. There are a variety of options ranging from the very cheap to the extremely luxurious. Luckily, some retailers do sell samples so you can try this route first if you prefer to.

Your bowl doesn't need to be fancy, either. It could be as simple as a tin mug. I have a cedar wood bowl that’s served me just fine. A benefit of using wood is that stuff sticks to it a little easier, whereas a metallic surface lets things slip and slide around a lot more. Again, it's all about preference.

Recommendation: buy yourself a high quality shaving soap (I'm currently using a very good sandalwood block from Edwin Jagger) and some kind of bowl you like the look of.

5. Styptic Pencil and Alum Block

Cuts and nicks are par for the course. They'll happen more frequently when you're less experienced, but even I get the odd weeper now and again. Instead of employing the Homer Simpson TP Method, get yourself a styptic pencil.

Styptic pencils stop superficial cutaneous bleeding. They typically contain anhydrous aluminium sulphate - this contracts small blood vessels on contact and acts as an antiseptic. If you get a small and superficial nick while bleeding, use the pencil immediately.

A similar product, but with a different use, is the alum block. You wet this and rub it over your face after shaving to help close pores, catch any minor nicks you didn't see and it also helps kill any bacteria on your face.

Recommendation: buy yourself a styptic pencil and an Osma alum block.

6. Face Wash and Post Shave Balm

It's important to take care of your skin before and after shaving. To open up the pores and clean any dirt off your face, you'll need a good face wash to get you started. Similarly, once you're done, your face will have dried out a little - a good moisturiser helps to bring life back to your skin and leaves you looking and feeling fresh.

Recommendation: make sure you've got some sort of properly formulated face wash and good quality post-shave balm/moisturiser on hand for when you shave. It doesn't have to be fancy, it just has to do the job.

7. Blade Bank

When you're done with a blade, you need to get rid of it somehow. At the beginning I used to just wrap them in the paper from the new blade and chuck it in the trash. Bad idea - it goes to landfill and it might be dangerous along the way. It’s embarrassing now, but I didn’t know what else to do at the time.

Enter the blade bank.

A blade bank is a small metal container that you pop your used blades into and can be put into metal recycling when it’s full. It's near-impossible to get a blade out once it goes in and they take ages to fill up.

Recommendation: get a simple metal blade bank to keep your used razors safe, and to save them for recycling.

8. Razor and Brush Stand

It can be helpful to have somewhere to store/stand your razor and brush to let them dry off between uses. You could very well argue that they'll do this anyway, and you'd be right. But again, my preference is for a stand so I have somewhere to store them in my bathroom cabinet without making a mess.

Recommendation: get one of these if you're feeling fancy and you’ve got the cash to spare, but you’ll be fine if you go without.

Total Setup Costs

I've totted together all the costs you may expect to incur if you bought everything on the above list, rounded to the nearest fiver. All prices are in GBP/USD (as at August 2020) and are based on the minimum viable option for each. The list is split into the bare minimum of things you need to get started and the extras that I would recommend you consider getting as well.

Bare minimum items:

Razor: £30 / $40

Blades (100): £10 / $13

Brush: £10 / $13

Soap: £5 / $6.50

Bowl: £10 / $13

Total bare minimum cost: £65 / $87

Extras:

Styptic pencil: £5 / $6.50

Alum block: £5 / $6.50

Facewash: £5 / $6.50

Shave balm: £5 / $6.50

Blade bank: £5 / $6.50

Stand: £15 / $19.50

Total extras cost: £40 / $52

Total cost if you bought everything: £105 / $139

Additional note: you can probably beat the prices on all of the above by finding a good quality starter kit from a reputable store. The above is quite a conservative estimate. I'd rather you were pleasantly surprised about how you can find cheaper pieces, than find that everything is way more expensive.

How to Shave With a Safety Razor

With all your new kit assembled and your old cartridge razor already beginning to gather dust, you will likely be eager to get to work immediately. It's a bit like Christmas morning with all that new stuff. But take a moment and pause - you've come a long way but there's still a way to go yet.

Especially when you're starting out, it's really important to take things slowly and carefully so that you learn how to shave properly without cutting yourself to shreds, getting frustrated and giving up immediately. This would be a waste.

Instead, you may want to shave with a safety razor only on the weekends at first, or whenever you have more time in your week, and keep on shaving however you normally do when you're more pressed for time. There's no harm nor foul in this, in fact it's something I wish I'd done when I started out.

In short: take your time, go slow and you’ll switch over with much more confidence. If you find yourself deviating from the below steps, don’t worry too much - as I’ve said before, this is all a matter of finding your own way and figuring out your own preferences.

Step 1: Prepare Your Soap, Razor and Brush

With everything you need assembled around the sink and in your cabinet, fill the sink with warm water. It should not be hot - hot water can damage bristles and will strip the oil from your skin. Mix in some cold water as you go to make it pleasantly warm.

At this point, some like to soak their razor, brush and soap in the sink. Things like your blade and brush only need a bit of warm water for a few seconds to be ready, and soaking your soap for any great length of time will wear it down very quickly. Wooden handles and brush hairs can be worn down and reduced by prolonged soaking, too. So do, by all means, make sure everything is warmed up ready to go but don't let anything linger in warm water for too long.

While the sink is filling, give your face a wash.

Step 2: Build a Lather

This part is tricky at first, almost as much as the shaving itself. You've got your soap, your bowl and your brush - how do you use all three in combination to get a high quality lather?

First, drain the water from the soap bowl and wring about 80% of the water from the bristles of your brush. You need water to make a lather, but not so much that you make a soup.

With the bristles pointing directly down, swirl the brush into the top layer of the now-softened soap. You are aiming to get some of that soap off the block and into the bristles. Don't be cautious here, feel free to go at it.

With some soap loaded onto the brush, you now have two options. You can either (1) continue to build the lather in the bowl with the block of soap removed or in a separate bowl, or (2) build the lather directly on your face. (If you leave the soap in the bowl you'll use way too much of it.)

If you're building a lather in a bowl, vigorously swirl the brush around - adding a few drops of extra water if needed - until the lather hits the consistency of whipped cream with firm peaks. Then, use the brush to work the lather in circular motions into your face, starting with your neck. With your face covered, use the brush to 'paint' the lather so it is smooth and consistent across your whole face. Make sure that the final set of brush strokes go against the grain of your stubble, making sure to lift it as much as possible.

If in doubt - and even in the absence of doubt - head to YouTube where there are hundreds of videos (like this one) showing lathering technique and they will do a better job of showing you how to do things with a video than I can with an article.

Recently, the combination of soap (Edwin Jagger) and brush (Muhle synthetic) I'm using has made it far more effective to build a lather directly on my face. This involves slightly more energetic working-in, but it gets a really good result very quickly.

You're probably sick of hearing me say this now, but it's really a matter of preference. So figure out what works best for you.

Step 3: The First Pass Shave

When you shave with a cartridge razor, you tend to swoop carelessly around your face covering every inch multiple times.

Do not shave like this with a safety razor. Ever.

Instead, you will complete the whole shave in one to three passes. The first pass is good enough to go to work on. The second pass gives a brilliantly smooth shave, completely free of stubble. The third pass is perhaps only needed for a wedding day or job interview and will likely be the smoothest your face will ever get.

The first pass is the most important, because it's where you'll do the majority of the work. There are several rules of the road that govern how you go.

Go carefully, without dragging or pulling the blade or pressing it into the skin. Use the weight of the razor itself to draw each downward stroke. Only ever draw the blade in the direction that the handle points, never sideways. Do not cover the same spot more than twice, ideally only once for each pass. Where your skin is looser, keep it taut with your fingers, or by pulling evermore contorted expressions. (My preference is always for the expressions.)

Key to all of this is knowing how your stubble is 'mapped' across your face. Some hairs grow straight down, others grow at angle, some sideways and some upwards. This will be unique to every individual. Aim to understand your own map as soon as possible, allowing you to know whether you are shaving with, across or against the grain during any one pass.

Start on one side under a sideburn with the blade rested gently against your face at a thirty degree angle. With a single gentle motion and without pulling or dragging the blade, allow the razor to fall in gentle contact with the skin for an inch or two in the direction that your hair grows.

This should remove the vast majority of stubble that you just passed over. You might get away with making another pass immediately over the same spot, but don't overdo it. Continue this process with each cheek from your ear to where a goatee would start. Flip the razor to fill both sides with lather and stubble, rinsing regularly in the sink.

With your neck, change the angle. For most, you may need some variation of drawing the blade sideways on part of the neck and downwards elsewhere. Notice the way your hair grows, and pay attention to it, shaving the sides of your neck first before returning to your face.

Finally, start under the nose and carefully work your moustache and chin with shorter strokes until you make your way under the chin and shave the remaining, central part of your neck.

Step 4: Optional Second and Third Pass Shaves

As I mentioned above, you will then likely want to take a second pass. This is my preference because it's a touch quicker to do than the first pass and there's normally still enough lather on my brush. Might as well do it if you’re already there.

For a second pass, go across the grain. On your face, this will normally mean just doing everything at a ninety degree angle to what you did in the first pass. Before lathering your face again, look closely and brush your hand over your face to see if you can feel any remaining stubble or spots you missed. These are typically around the trickier areas like under your nose or to the sides of your lips. Go carefully once again until you have completed the second pass.

A third pass will go against the grain - this should not be done that frequently for fear of ingrowing hairs but, on a special occasion, it can ensure the very smoothest of shaves.

If at any point, during any of these passes, you get a nick or cut, immediately apply your styptic pencil to the area. There's a light sting, but nothing major. Keep the pencil dry after use, else it will go weird and crumbly over time.

Step 5: Rinse and Pat Dry

With the shaving done, splash your face with warm water from the sink to clear away any remaining hairs and lather.

Drain the sink and rinse everything as the water drains - razor, brush and soap - putting them somewhere to dry off. With the sink draining, pour cold water and splash it onto your face a few times. This will close your pores (and wake you up, too, if it's early).

At this point, if you have one, you may also want to run a wet alum block over your freshly shaved face. This helps remove any lingering bacteria, close any small nicks that weren't bleeding or that you didn’t see as well as to help close your pores.

Pat your face dry with a clean towel. Don't rub it. Rubbing your face dry is bad for your skin - take care of it and pat it dry instead.

Step 5: After Shave Care

At this point, your face will be smooth and clean but a little dried out, so you’ll want to get some moisture back into your skin. You can either use a moisturiser or a specially formulated after-shave balm; I've used them interchangeably, and still don't know if there's really a difference. Again, this is just another question of doing whatever you prefer.

Whatever you do, do not put ANY alcohol on your face à la Kevin McAllister - this will dry out and age your skin and it will sting like hell. If you want to put cologne on, put it on your wrists or lower down each side of your neck. These places are closer to your arteries and the beating warmth helps to keep the scent permeating longer.

What I've Learnt After 32 Months of Safety Razor Shaving

'There are these two young fish swimming along, and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, “Morning, boys, how's the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes, “What the hell is water?”' David Foster Wallace, This Is Water

Ever since I've been shaving with a safety razor, the world of cartridge razor shaving seems to have continued on quite as happily as it ever has. 'Buy our razors - they're slightly better!', followed by, 'No, buy ours - they're slightly cheaper!' It goes on and on. All the while, there's a group of people happily shaving for a fraction of the cost who remain, on the whole, mildly bemused about why you would ever want to do it any other way.

Writing this article has made me stop and think about whether or not there are any other things like this at work in my life. It's a question of consumption, after all - what else do we consume without thinking about it, when there are older, better, cheaper ways to do the same thing? It’s easy to get suckered in by a slick marketing operation, but who really benefits?

At the very least, it can be quite satisfying to claim some minor task as your own and remove it from the influence of a big brand. Beyond that, it's also quite nice to rarely need new razors or soap and to turn a chore into a pleasure.

For further information and for even more information and resources, I highly recommend the r/wicked_edge subreddit. It's a great community and there's an enormous amount of help and advice to be found there. My thanks go to the members of that subreddit for their help in picking up a handful of errors in this article.

If you’ve gotten this far, thank you for reading. I hope you’ve found this guide useful. If you have any questions or suggestions for how this article can be improved, please make sure to let me know.

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