Money Saving Monday Tip#19 – A better shave for less money

By glblguy

Barber Shop

This article is part of an ongoing series where I write about Money Saving tips and strategies each Monday. You can see the rest of the series articles here.

I’ve been shaving using disposable razors since the very first time I ever shaved. Disposable razors work OK, but I never really got the quality of shave I wanted, and the razors are expensive. This is particularly true if you use one of the newer Mach III or Fusion razors. Sometime back, I found an article The Simple Dollar had written about shaving. Trent’s method of shaving sounded like something worth trying, especially if I could get a better shave for less money.

I used Trent’s amazon affiliate links and purchased all of the supplies. I also read a lot of additional articles on the subject of shaving the old fashioned way.

The Razor

I purchased the same razor Trent recommend, the Merkur Classic. The Merkur is a simple and straight forward German made razor. The razor is heavy and well balanced and glides smoothly over your skin and uses double edged blades providing a very close shave. Blades are replaced by unscrewing the handle. The blade is sandwiched between the guide and a cover.

The razor will be the most expensive purchase at around $30 – $35. This is a long term investment though as this razor will last you a lifetime. You will never have to buy another razor, you will only need to replace the blades, which are very inexpensive. But more on that in a minute.

Another option in liu of buying a new razor is to find an old Gillette or Merkur razor at an auction, flea market or garage sale. The old Gillette razors are really neat in that as you turn the handle, the top of the razor mechanically opens up to expose the blade for replacement. I haven’t found one in good enough shape yet to buy, but I continue to look.

The Blades

The Merkur razor comes with a Merkur blade, and amazon sells the Merkur blades as well. These are decent blades but the best are Feather Double Edged blades (not an affiliate link). They are considered by most to be the sharpest and smoothest of all blades. I’m in full agreement with this after having tried both. These blades are incredibly sharp and provide a very close shave without much pressure at all (pressure = nicks). Sharp blades are important to keep the blade from pulling on your hair, which leads to skin irritation. Here’s the best part, a 5-pack is only $2.95. I use 1 blade per week.

Shaving Cream

The normal canned shaving cream most of us are used too works fine, but if you want to get the best shave and maybe even enjoy the shaving experience a little, I highly recommend using Proraso. Proraso is an Italian shaving soap that contains eucalyptus and menthol. Proraso is a very high quality shaving soap that contains one critical ingredient that will exponentially increase the quality of your shave…glycerin. Glycerin allows the razor blade to glide over your skin without actually touching it directly. Giving you a close shave without the burn associated with cheap razors and shaving cream.

The eucalyptus and menthol also open the pores on your skin causing your beard to stand up also giving you a better shave. The best part, when you are done shaving, splash some cold water on your face and the feeling is great and very refreshing. Using Proraso has made shaving actually something I look forward to each morning instead of dreading it like I used to. A tube of Proraso lasts me approximately 2-3 months. Oh, and it smells great!

The Brush

The single best way to apply the shaving cream is with a badger hair brush (don’t worry, no badgers harmed in the process…hey they need haircuts too). My first brush was a Tweezerman Men’s Deluxe Shaving Brush. While this is a decent brush for the money, mine only lasted about 4 months before the bristles feel out of the handle. I moved up to an Omega Stripey Badger Hair Shaving Brush. The Omega is of higher quality and comes with a stand to allow the brush to dry better.

Why a brush? Well, the badger hair is pretty stiff and when the shaving soap and hot water are mixed together and applied to your face using the brush, the soap is forced all around the hairs of your beard causing the soap to hold the hairs up where they can be better cut by the razor. The badger hair also cleans your skin and whips the soap into the perfect consistency for shaving.

The Shaving Process

Here’s the actual process I use when shaving. I first fill the sink up about 1/4 – 1/2 full with hot water…and I mean hot. While the sink is filling, I place the shaving brush, razor and a wash cloth in the sink and allow them to soak in the hot water. Once the water is to the right level, I use place the wash cloth on my face and allow it to sit for 5-10 seconds moving it around my face to get my whole face wet and to warm my face up. You do primarily to open your pores and get your beard hairs to raise up. I then wring out the wash cloth and hang it up

Next, I remove the shaving brush and tap it on the sink to remove some of the water. It will take you a few tries to get the right amount. I then place a small dab of the Proraso shaving soap on the bristles of the brush and then coat my face with cream using an up and down motion. Continue to do this until your whole beard is covered and the cream is a nice thick consistancy. Place the brush back in the water in the sink.

I then begin shaving in the direction of the hair growth (typically down). Use small and VERY light strokes. Remember, this isn’t a safety razor and it doesn’t require any pressure. I just use the weight of the razor itself. Small short strokes are better than long strokes. Once the blade is coated with cream, rinse it off in the water and continue. I flip the razor over and alternate sides of the blade each time I rinse.

Once I finish, I soap up again and shave against the grain. This is really optional depending on you and your beard. My beard is pretty soft so I can get away with this. I you have a really stiff beard or very sensitive skin, shaving against the grain can result in nicks or razor burn. So use your judgment. Shaving in both directions for me gives me the best and closest shave.

Once you’ve completed shaving, splash your face off with some cold water, use the now cool wash cloth to wipe of the excess shaving cream, and then pat dry your face with a towel and your done. I dry everything off and put it up for the next time. Don’t rub your razor’s blades on the towel though. First, you’ll cut your towel and second dull your blade. Just let this part of the razor air dry.

Using any one of these products will significantly enhance your shaving experience. I would say the razor is essential with the brush and soap being optional if you don’t want to spend the money. Although I do highly recommend all 3 to get the best experience. One of the side benefits of using this method is a reduction in waste. I felt pretty guilty throwing away those plastic disposable razors every 2 or 3 days.

Do you shave this way already? What is your take on the best products and shaving method? If you don’t shave, are you wiling to give this a try? Share your thoughts by adding a comment below!


39 Responses (including trackbacks) to “Money Saving Monday Tip#19 – A better shave for less money”

  1. Mark Says:

    If you have a broadband connection you might get some useful information from my Youtube channel, all about traditional shaving like you’re talking about. There are also a couple good discussion forums about traditional shaving, badgerandblade.com and shavemyface.com.

  2. Lynnae @ Being Frugal.net Says:

    Somehow I think I’d have a hard time convincing my husband to try this. He’s not a fan of change. He uses the Schick Quattro (which I received as a free sample) and regular shaving cream. The blade replacements are pretty expensive, but I usually have a good coupon.

  3. glblguy Says:

    Thanks Mark. I’ll check it out later this evening.

  4. glblguy Says:

    Lynnae, he could try the shaving cream and the brush. You can use those with a Schick Quattro. Still gives you the wonderful shaving cream and the benefit of putting it on with the brush.

    If he likes that, than maybe he can try out the razor. If you watch, you can find the razors pretty cheap at garage sales, etc. Just clean them up and sanatize them real good.

    I soaked mine in rubbing alcohol when I bought it even though it was new…I’m just like that ;-)

  5. Greg Says:

    I may have to give this a try… I recently bought an electric razor that works *okay*… to replace the other electric razor I bought that worked *okay*… course, I bought both of them at half-price (we always try to wait on deals like that), so I shouldn’t be surprised that neither are just super, even though they both got pretty good reviews. For a long time, I was using a Mach 3 and liked it pretty well, but the cartridges are so darn expensive. Now I’m in a corporate environment and need to be clean-shaven most of the time (I can skip a day without anyone saying too much, really) so I’d probably go through a lot more cartridges… with a new baby on the way, just can’t do that expense right now. I may have to give your method a try, though. I read the original article on The Simple Dollar a while back and found it very interesting… I used to use the mach 3 on my head as well, which gave a very nice shave, but usually some razor burn, and it usually took quite a while… now I just get my head shaved at the barber shop every 2-3 months and let it grow back out over time and shave my face with the electric. I shaved off the goatee because it was just too much work trying to get around it with the electric…

    But I may have to try this in a few months when things (i.e. finances) go back to “normal” — it sounds promising. Thanks for a neat article :)

  6. Randy Peterman Says:

    This is all great advice earlier this year I got my first shaving kit that wasn’t cheap. My goodness what an improvement! This is good advice and worth checking out.

  7. Elizabeth Says:

    glblguy — Would you recommend this method for brand new shavers?

    My son, just 13, isn’t ready to shave quite yet but he’s got peach fuzz on his upper lip :-) I told my husband that I could teach the boy how to shave his legs but that he’d have to teach the boy how to shave his face ;-)

    My husband uses shaving cream and a safety razor he’s had forever (literally). He’s starting to have trouble finding injector blades for it. He says it’s got just the right amount and weight and balance to it.

    If our son takes after my side of the family (which he has done so far), he’ll have a pretty full beard when he’s older. I can’t see him getting a satisfactory shave from an electric razor. We were talking about starting him on disposables but I think the environmentally-conscious side of him would find a real razor appealing.

    It would be fun to provide him with a whole shaving kit — maybe for his 14th birthday next year — if a real razor is a good idea of a beginner.

  8. Mark Says:

    Lynnae- Walgreens/CVS/Rite Aid often have Van Der Hagen (sometimes branded Surrey) shave soap (under $2) and a cheap shave brush (about $6–boar hair and not very good quality but its enough to get going with). That’ll show him what kind of shave he can get with some traditional products without it getting too unfamiliar. If he enjoys that then maybe start working on him to get rid of the Quattro (which has a reputation of being a very aggressive, harsh razor anyway).

  9. glblguy Says:

    @Greg – Hi Greg. Never could use electric razors. Never felt like I got a good shave with them, and they burn my skin. I’d strongly advise you give it a try.

  10. glblguy Says:

    Hi Randy, I agree like night and day. I always thought newer was better, but not in this case.

  11. glblguy Says:

    Elizabeth – Very good question. My son is turning 13 this month and has peace fuzz too. I was thinking about the same topic over the weekend while working on this article. I would say go ahead and start him out the way I described above. It really is a great way to shave and it’s how I am going to teach my son. He’ll get a few nicks and burns (I did) for the first week or so until you get used to it…but I did with the disposables too. I was honestly skeptical at first, but now I am not sure how I shaved the old way for so long. Good luck, let’s keep each other posted on our sons progress :-)

  12. Mark Says:

    @glbl & Elizebeth- Might I suggest a Sensor XL (the two-blade version, not the 3 blade Sensor3) for your sons? I think its a good compromise between modern “shaving systems” and a standard safety razor. Fewer blades will be gentler on their skin, while the cartridge designs make it a little more “forgiving” of (the lack of) technique.

  13. Mrs. Micah Says:

    I always wondered what the brush was for. I shall mention this to Micah and see if he’s interested. :)

  14. Patrick Says:

    This is very timely. I filled out my Christmas wish list yesterday and added each of those items to it (with the exception of that particular brand of soap). I was going to get the Tweezerman brush, and a separate stand, but will change my list right now. :)

    I like the idea of the old fashioned style shave, and like the idea of saving money and producing less waste even better! :)

  15. Mark Says:

    @Patrick- Hey, for $10-15 the Tweezerman brush ain’t bad! I have a half-dozen better brushes but I still break out the Tweezerman once in a while! :)

  16. glblguy Says:

    @Mark – Thanks Mark, I’ll consider that as an option as well. Shaving…man, seems like he was just born yesterday…*sigh*

    @Mrs. Micah – Ha, me too. Never knew it was badger hair either…no wonder they are so grumpy ;-)

    @Patrick – Thanks. It would make a great Christmas gift.

    @Mark – I agree on the brush, but I like the Omega better. It is interesting how the different brushes feel different, you can definitely tell a difference.

  17. ammb Says:

    great info that i’ll be sharing with my hubby & son (when he’s older.) anyone have any way to convert these useful tools for leg shaving? electrics burn & disposables are pricey – sigh. . . .

  18. glblguy Says:

    Thanks ammb. Now, I know 0 about leg shaving, but I can’t see why the same technique wouldn’t work…Hey Mark, might need your help on this buddy :-)

  19. Mark Says:

    @ammb- Sure, the concepts apply to shaving just about anything. I’ve shaved Mrs. Mantic59′s legs on occassion and she always marvels at the results :D . In the case of legs, shave downward towards the foot first, relather, then shave upward.

  20. ammb Says:

    sounds like a plan – thanks :)

  21. bmhumphries Says:

    Maybe it is because of my age, (I’m 48) but I have finally come to a place where I don’t really want anything. This makes everyone angry at me because I am no help for my birthday or Christmas. I try to tell them not to get me anything but that doesn’t work.

    Anyway, I have been sitting an a good chunk of money from my birthday last month. It has been sitting because there was nothing I wanted. Then this post came into my reader!

    I have a new hobby. Your article really got me thinking about the cost and turning something that has been a drudgery into something enjoyable. I read everything I could about wet shaving and discovered quite a subculture out in our nation. I am happy to say I have joined their ranks. My new razor, brush, soap and blades arrived today.

    Tomorrow I may rip my face to shreds, but I will start down the road to learning how to do this. It also gives my family new ideas of gifts. There are quite a few types of blades, soaps, after shaves to try out!

    People seem to turn this into a collecting hobby, which I hope (from a financial stand point) to me.

    Thanks for the very interesting post!

  22. glblguy Says:

    bmhumphries – That is great! I’ve really love shaving the old fashioned way. You’re right, there is quite a sub-culture. Just go easy and you’ll be fine. Let the razor do the work. Oh, and don’t slide the blade left or right…hehe, learned that the hard way. Really you’ll do fine, they work really really well. Let us know how it works out!

  23. Patrick Says:

    I’m not familiar with the soap recommended in your post. I live in Europe and since 1 year, I use a soap BAR or soap STICK for shaving. It costs me about 3 euro’s (5 dollars) and lasts for 4-5 months. (I do not shave every day though, I mostly skip one day in between)
    Before, I used to buy these cans with Gilette shaving gel in it. Now using the soapbar it saves me a LOT! So maybe, keep an eye out for these solid soapsticks…

  24. glblguy Says:

    Thanks Patrick, I might have to look into that. Anything outside of the Canned shaving cream products are hard to find here in the US outside of purchasing online. But I have a few online shaving supply places bookmarked. I’ll have to look for the soapbar and give them a try.

  25. Mark Says:

    @glbl– Van Der Hagen (Surrey in some parts of the country. Same company) shaving soap is widely available (many Walgreens/CVS/Rite Aid and some grocery stores) and suprisingly good (look for the “glycerin” or “deluxe” versions. Don’t bother with the “select” version) and cheap (under $2!). Crabtree & Evelyn makes some *excellent* shaving soaps and creams. Upscale retailers (Nordstroms, Saks, etc.) often carry Truefitt & Hill and Art of Shaving.

  26. glblguy Says:

    Thanks Mark. I’ll look again at Walgreens. I looked a few months back and didn’t see any.

  27. Christy Says:

    What a fascinating article! I’ll file this away as a future gift-giving idea for a future boyfriend. :-)

  28. glblguy Says:

    Thanks Christy! Welcome to Gather Little by Little!

  29. Ronald Says:

    Has anyone looked at the edge of various makerÂ’s double edge blades under a 10 power magnifying glass, or, better yet, a microscope, to see if they can see a difference in the blade edges?
    I looked at a Schick and a Merkur under a 10X glass. The Merkur has a rough edge. The Schick has a much smoother edge.
    I checked this out after using one of each blade. The Schick gave me 25 good shaves before it started pulling,
    The Merkur blade gave me a worse (it pulled more) shave on the first shave than the Schick did after 25 shaves.
    I used to get 60 good shaves out of the Gillette Blue Blade. Now I am doing good to get 30 out of stainless steel, platinum, etc.
    Seems the blade makers are just not putting as good of an edge on their blades just so they will get duller faster.
    I have not tried the Feather Blades yet, but have ordered some, as they have a reputation for sharpness.
    A person should be able to tell just how long, comparatively, a blade will last just by looking at its edge under a microscope.
    The whole thing seems to be a “sting” operation though, as sharp blades could go out for weeks and then the makers of these blades start sending out less sharp ones.
    It does seem near miraculous to me that in a century no one has come up with a way to sharpen and strop these double edge blades.

  30. glblguy Says:

    Ronald, I’d be real interested in hearing what the feathers use under a 10x microscope. That is all I use these days. I get a good two weeks from one.

  31. Mark Says:

    @Ronald–

    http://www.badgerandblade.com/vb/showthread.php?t=5595
    http://www.badgerandblade.com/vb/showthread.php?t=39835

  32. Mark Says:

    @Rondald– And this discussion just popped up too:

    http://www.shavemyface.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=28022

  33. Ronald Says:

    glblguy,
    There are good links with good pics here, on this page.The http://www.shavemyface.com link, above, is excellent photography. Of course this is not to knock the other link’s pictures, as they are good also.

  34. Denver Says:

    If you want to keep a your current razor and save even more money. I suggest going to Walgreen’s or Wal-mart and pickup a device called
    “Save a Blade”! What it does is resharpens your razor back to factory quality over and over again. I bought mine 2 years ago and it works like a charm. You first wet your razor and use the Save a blade push a button for 5 seconds and then rinse off the razor and you are good to go. I must caution you to bring in your razor and open a box due to it may not work with some blades out there! The save a blade is less than $20!

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