The Simple Dollar Guide To Shaving

safetySeveral people have written me in the last month asking how I shave (assuming that I do it in a somewhat frugal fashion) or offering suggestions on how to save money by shaving frugally. As I’ve mentioned in the past, I place a high value on personal appearance, so I feel it’s appropriate to get a good shave, even if it’s not the least-expensive choice.

First of all, I keep my face cleanly shaven. No facial hair whatsoever. This means that I shave daily and I use the razor quite heavily.

The razor The first piece of equipment I use is an old fashioned safety razor. The model I use is actually one inherited from my grandfather, but it is extremely similar to the Merkur Classic. This will be a $30 initial investment to get started, but a good safety razor will last a lifetime.

Once you’ve made that initial investment, however, it becomes substantially cheaper to shave. The replacement blades for a safety razor, when bought in bulk, cost about $0.50 a piece and last me for about ten days. For example, you can buy a ten pack of blades from Amazon for $4.95, and if you hunt around, you can sometimes find them cheaper than that.

Shaving cream Quite honestly, the aerosol shaving cream that you ordinarily use will continue to work. Having said that, I’ll describe what I personally recommend for shaving. Please note that these items make for great gifts from a loved one (your mother, sister, or wife are all appropriate) for Christmas.

First of all, I don’t apply shaving cream with my hand; I use a badger hair brush. If you’ve ever seen an old movie including a man shaving, there’s a good chance you’ve seen one in use (or just watch this music video – I can’t believe I just linked to that). The brush does a much better job than the hand of getting the cream up under the facial hair, making the shaving much smoother.

I also tend to use aerosol cream if there’s nothing else available, but I often receive tins or tubes of real shaving cream as a gift, like this tin from Geo. F Trumper. In any case, I just wet my face (like right after a shower) and get some cream on the end of the brush and brush it on my face, stroking against the grain. Then I shave gently with the grain, using short strokes.

The safety razor and blades are substantially cheaper than disposables (even the low-end disposables, which need to be tossed after a single shave, at least for me – they may be cheaper per blade, but the safety razor blades last for about ten shaves and don’t burn my face) and produce less waste, thus saving money slowly but surely over the long run. As for the shaving cream and brush, they’re not necessary, but I’ve found that they produce a very close shave, smell quite good, and enhance the shaving experience.

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  1. Sarah says:

    Trent,

    I’ve been enjoying your blog for some time and just thought I’d ask a quick question. Would you recommend a safety razor for a lady? I am really sick of paying stupid prices for cheap razors. I’m wondering if I’d have crazily nicked legs, or a killer shave?

    Keep up the excellent work!

  2. Brett McKay says:

    Excellent post, Trent. There’s nothing I like more than a nice clean shave. I’ve experimented with different shaving products, and I agree that a brush is essential. Have your ever tried barber soap? I don’t really suggest it. You don’t get that great of a lather and you end up smelling like old man.

  3. Aaron says:

    I’ve been shaving using a Merkur Classic and shaving brush since last summer and I haven’t looked back since. It is absolutely the closest shave I’ve ever had and it has changed shaving from a task loathed to a task that I actually look forward to in the morning. Also, to fit in some PF in this comment, it’s possible to find packs of 100 blades (which should last around 2 years) online for $25 USD or less!

    For anyone interested in learning more, check out http://www.shavemyface.com/forum/ . There is a ton of information there.

  4. GHoosdum says:

    Do you have sensitive skin? I do, and most blade razors make me bleed practically before they even touch my skin. I’m wondering if a classic safety razor would do the same. When I stay clean shaven, I tend to use an electric razor for the task, and even that causes the pores of my neck to bleed occasionally. Currently I have a beard (I tend to grow facial hair through the winter) that I keep trimmed; I find this much more comfortable than using a blade on my face every day.

    What’s the general concensus, from the standpoint of our valuable personal appearance, of upkept facial hair? Is being clean shaven always preferable?

  5. Nishant says:

    Interesting post. I recently got a free Gillette Fusion which I am using right now. Works great with any aerosol gel.

  6. William says:

    I grow a full beard myself. It is cheaper but I mostly have it because I am used to it and my wife likes it better.

    I do shave the neck and the cheek area but a regular schik 2 blade lasts forever (due to this small area). As you note, I can not stand disposables! I have no idea who they are made for. Even with a light beard, they are useless before a face is done.

  7. Rich G. says:

    I’m a huge fan of the safety razors and badger hair brush as well.
    I found some really nice shaving videos on youtube for those who may be interested in more information. I didn’t do the videos and don’t know anybody who did, I just thought they were really informative.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xjhIy9rgWQU is the introduction one and the rest are available from there.
    Rich, a fellow safety razor & badger brush aficionado, G. from http://www.simplerich.com/blog

  8. Trent Trent says:

    A well-kept beard is fine for personal appearance, in my opinion. Others may differ.

    I have no experience on shaving legs with a safety razor… hopefully someone else can chime in?

  9. acidspit says:

    You know, as a woman, I much prefer waxing than to shaving. There’s a bit of an upfront cost to buy the necessary equipment (wax, wax warmer, cloth strips, etc) but I’ve noticed that my hair is growing in finer and that I’m having to wax less often than when I first started. It also doesn’t hurt as much as you think it would. I’ve been waxing my legs (and underarms) for about 2 years now and I haven’t shaved since. Perhaps Sarah and I should have a chat about the benefits of waxing…

  10. db says:

    sarah — I use the Personal Touch razor on my legs, have you tried that? It’s semi disposable –you buy replacement heads but keep the stick.

    I normally have very good luck at not cutting myself with this thing, and I hate shaving my legs. I don’t replace the blade very often either. I do recall a period of time maybe 10 years or so ago where it seemed like I was getting bad razor heads and knicking myself a lot, but it seemed like a temporary thing. Or maybe I’ve gotten better at shaving.

    db

    P.S. — beard or no beard doesn’t matter to me so long as it’s well groomed

  11. Mitch says:

    I have no experience on shaving legs with a safety razor, either, but have you considered just not shaving your legs or only shaving up partway, depending on why you’re shaving them and the institutional culture you work in, if any?

    A couple of years ago I took back an hour a week by letting my leg hair grow out. Many people thought it was cool, a few seemed to think it was kind of weird, but I haven’t gotten any freaky comments and it did not seem to change the degree to which I get random come-ons when my knees are showing, even though I’m almost as hairy as a lot of guys. I also know 1. I can go back if it somehow becomes important to me and 2. I have a couple of pairs of Leggs Silken Mist if I’m in a pinch.

  12. Andrew says:

    I use a cheap Bic single blade safety razor and no shaving cream, only hot water. I have very little problem with ingrown hairs or irritation. I highly recommend this combination.

  13. I’ve been using the Merkur for a little over a year. It is amazing! In grown hairs are gone, shaves are closer, and because it is closer it will last longer.

    The first few times you use it you will probably cut yourself, mainly because the blade is so sharp and because you need to get used to the new angle of shaving. After that its smooth sailing.

    The ONLY downside I have had is that the blades are not allowed on planes (in carry on). So I still tend to take a different razor when traveling.

  14. too embarassed to put my name says:

    I’ve never shaved my legs either. I prefer to wear pants or long skirts anyway, and no guy I’ve dated really has cared, so it’s always been fine for me.

    For the underarms, I do what my mom, who is from Taiwan does: pluck. (Apparently, every woman in Taiwan does that.) It doesn’t hurt that much, and it only needs to be done every week or so. The longer you do it, it hurts less, and fewer hairs grow in. And, since this is a personal finance blog: tweezers last a long time.

  15. John says:

    I was just curious if anyone has had any experience with having their hair removed with lasers. I am asking more towards women who might get the hair on their legs permanently removed. My wife was considering it. I figured in 20 years it would pay for itself in time, money, & having a wife with smooth legs all the time wouldn’t be bad either.

  16. Susanna says:

    Re: leg shaving, I use a ladies Schick Quattro — semi-disposable, change only the blade — and also change the blades very very infrequently. Like maybe once a year? Or every six months at most. I suppose I don’t have the hairiest legs, but I shave several times a month. It’s a little pricey at startup ($7 or so with extra blades) but coupons run frequently. I never have cuts — used with aerosol shaving cream that costs, with a coupon, a dollar a can or free. Funny because my husband hates the Schick Quattro for men for his face.

  17. db says:

    Oh gosh, I don’t believe I’m discussing my leg shaving habits in the blogosphere! I’ve arrived.

    Anyway, I never said I shave my legs weekly. ;) I might get around to it monthly. I hate doing it. I cave in when my legs are getting itchy and I start to notice the hair myself.

    I’m always in jeans or slacks anyway.

  18. Sarah says:

    DB – yes, I think I’ve tried Personal Touch, but it’s been a long time (maybe college!). I’ve recently been using those bic disposables and once I’m through what I’ve bought, I’ll never use them again. They’re awful!

    Mitch – Oh yeah, I went to a women’s college and didn’t shave my legs for over four years (and I’ve got some seriously hairy legs). My work environment now would not stand for that and I do love wearing skirts, so that’s out. But it was quite freeing while it lasted ;)

    Oh, and db, I’ve never discussed this stuff on the web or off! Ah the internets…

  19. Mitch says:

    DB,

    This may or may not be obvious|helpful, but if it’s your hair that’s itchy, it’s probably because the ends are still sharp from shaving. If it’s skin, moisturizing or exfoliating, as you normally do.

  20. Getzly says:

    I love this blog, but this post seems quite a bit off-topic.

  21. db says:

    Mitch —

    It’s probably a little of both. I live in a dry climate and I have a difficult time remembering to moisturize daily — sooo….moisturizing is a good thing.

    At least I’m not terribly hairy, all things considered.

    This is a little off topic, but c’est la vie!

  22. Roger says:

    Casting another “yes” vote on the Merkur and badger brush. The brush with Shaving Soap is MUCH better than the can foam. It takes a little practice to get the lather right, but it makes a huge difference (even with a Mach 3). The soap runs about $5 for a round cake (pick a scent that doesn’t smell like an old man) and lasts about 4-5 months. Walmart sells a 10-pack of Personna blades for $1.50. They wear out a little faster than a Merkur, but are about the same sharpness on the first five shaves.

  23. Joey says:

    Great post. I had tried using a cheap brush I bought from CVS but after a few times it was nearly impossible to clean and the cream would make the brush dry rock solid.

    Is this because it was just cheap and not a badger hair brush? Are there any brush cleaning secrets? Thanks.

  24. mg says:

    I shave while in the shower – the resulting cut is far better because of the hot water and steam, especially as a I have sensitive skin.

    Here’s a tip though: I used to buy shaving cream / foam: it’s expensive, then I found that something as simple and cheap as dove soap (which, you’ll know, is softer and gives a better lather than standard soap) actually works as good as, if not better than these expensive creams and foams.

    Although dove soap is more expensive than normal soap: if you (as I do) only use it for shaving, it lasts a long time and is far more price effective than anything else. Give it a try.

  25. Wintermute says:

    Ordinary bath soap works just fine, and it cleans your face at the same time. Like ‘mg’, I use Dove. But that’s just a personal preference; probably any bath soap would do just as well.

  26. Exurban Jon says:

    Nice blog and excellent tips! I recently posted recommendations for an inexpensive, complete “retro shaving” kit at http://exurbanleague.com/2007/03/12/retro.aspx .

    Since beginning using my Merkur and badger brush, I actually look forward to shaving every morning.

  27. Kevin says:

    Trent & Sarah:
    If you watch your coupons and deals, you can get a supply of disposables (and even non-disposables) for cheaper than replacement razors. We typically throw away even razors that could have their blades replaced because to replace the blades would cost us more money than to buy new ones with the coupons in the paper.

    It’s a shame that this is such a waste economy, but does it make financial sense to pay 2x for blades when we can get entire razors w/ blades?

  28. Bill says:

    I also shave in the shower, using Dove, but with Gilette Sensor blades (refills cheap on ebay)

    No more cuts, but since I shave by touch, my sideburns aren’t perfect.

  29. Julie says:

    When I got married, I used a habit that my parents always used – for whatever reason, my leg hair doesn’t require quite as sharp a razor blade (safety razor with replaceable heads) as my husband’s facial hair does. So, we have the same razor “base”, and I use his razors after they’re too dull for him to use, but plenty fine for my use – no increased issues with razor burn. Also, since I tend to be clutzy and shave as fast as I can, the slightly dull blades cut down on the amount of times I cut myself.

    Also, I never use shaving cream, after I used hair conditioner in a pinch once. It works better for me (more of a “slicker” base for the razor to glide on), and I can buy the cheapest bottle I can find for much less, and it lasts much longer.

    My husband swears by his shaving soap (goats-milk that I found at a Country Peddler show one time – gets about a year’s use per cake, if not more) and his badger brush.

  30. Julie says:

    I’ve often wondered about the long-term financial impact of laser hair removal for legs/underarms/bikini area. The time savings alone would be huge, but less easy to quantify. The soap/shaving product, shower water, and razors it requires would surely offer a reasonable break-even point somewhere out in the future, esp. given an age in the 20s. However, I’ve heard that leg hair tends to thin after menopause. Definitely a procedure I plan to research eventually, if only to satisfy my curiosity.

  31. Chrys says:

    Oooh, I don’t know about that one.

    I agree about the badger hair brush — love it! The main important thing about a razor is the handle. A handle with nice weight provides a solid, more comfortable shave.

    Now, the part that fools most people — the cream or the soap:

    While you can get a can of gilette for $5-$8 a pop, it will last you a month.

    If you get higher quality cream, or even shaving soap, it may cost 2-3 times as much, but it lasts 2-3 times as long, and you get a better shave.

    I have Kiehl’s White Eagle, and the Art of Shaving’s sandstone soap. They together have lasted me 6 months already.

    Just wanted to give my 2 cents and make you richer :)

  32. Nick says:

    When I grew up (I feel old), we only had safety razors. I bounced around from electric, to disposables, over the years, and now back to square one, safety razors. I read an intresting thing, Gilette got away from safety razors when everyone started making blades for it, cutting into his profits.Not that there was anything with safety razors. There is something for everyone, thankfully, they still make safety razors, tried and true. Good article, and comments. Chow.

  33. feonixrift says:

    For lady’s legs, the best bet I’ve found: Get a men’s razor (I go with 5-blade ones, haven’t tried the old fashioned style, but for modern the more blades the better), men’s shaving soap (bentonite. seriously.), and a badger brush. Hot water softens skin and hair, which makes things go smoother. The 5-blade razors take a month or so to even start getting dull, and are sturdier than any women’s razor I’ve seen. Don’t let the gender fool you, “men’s” means “tougher” in this case.

  34. Dave Clark says:

    Just a note -your link to the music video for the shaving example is dead. It was pulled for use violation..great article though! I’ve just started using an old Gillette myself and working into using a shaving brush. Haven’t used the aerosol for sometime, use the cream in a tube and it’s terrific.

  35. Leslie says:

    Trent,
    Are you familiar with Clark Howard (noted frugal radio host)? He has been using the same razor blade for months by just making sure he dries it after each use. Here is a link to his archive, the story is the third one down, entitled, “Drying your razor blades extends shelf life”
    http://clarkhoward.com/shownotes/2007/08/31/

  36. PiFreak says:

    Yeah, I’m 16, and a girl. I’ve never shaved my legs, and don’t plan on it, it’s too time-consuming. The hair on my legs is pretty darn thin, and I wear a skirt once a month, so I just use a pair of $0.33 knee-highs if necessary. I’ve used the same pair for the last year. I wear shorts nearly year-round, but I’m friends with a lot of guys, and none of them have ever mentioned anything (even my boyfriend, who I’ve been dating a year). Underarms, I use my dollar tree conditioner, and 5/$3.00 razors which I replace about four times a year. I use dollar tree cshampoo as well, and go through 6 bottles a year. So between shaving, and washing my hair, I use all of about $5 a year. You gotta admit, that’s pretty frugal.

  37. Tao Kuei says:

    I generally buy a bulk pack of the single blade BIC razors. I find they do produce a close shave for about 2 to 5 shaves before I have to throw them out. I need to try drying them though, I’ve never thought of that.

  38. Matt says:

    @PiFreak: How is $2.40 for razors and 6 bottles of $1 shampoo = $5/year? :)

    I have a general question for those who use the double-edge Merkur razor…. does this razor work for people who have sensitive skin? With my Gillette multi-razor I still have problems, and I’ve been longing for a way to shave without irritation. I try to avoid shaving just because I get razor burn and irritation. Ugh.

    This is an issue I’m willing to spend the money on. But if saving money actually helps my shaving experience, well how can you argue with that?! :)

  39. Johnson P. Brushface says:

    @ Joey – my badger hair brushes don’t tend to dry in a clump between shaves but i do have a ‘horse’ (?!?!?) one I use for travel that does that…just give it a good rinse post shave & rest it on it’s bristles (usually on the hotel toothbrush rack) to dry properly…give it a quick ‘zizz’ the next morning & it should be ready 2 go…(& I whole heartedly endorse the lather from today’s modern beauty soaps while travelling!)

    That said…badger hair is by far the smoothest for application…(it’s like wiping ur bum with silk toilet paper by comparison)

    But badger or not…buy a proper stand for your brush that lets the bristles rest downwards..sitting it on the handle lets excess moisture gather @ the base of the bristles & weakens the glue (as it won’t dry as well between shaves) your poor brush tends to start going bald after a year or 2 of this & runs the risk of falling out completely…(and these things ain’t cheap)

    Johnson P. Brushface endorses this message :^p

  40. Beth says:

    My significant other and I save money on replacement blades by buying the same brand of razor and buying the replacement blades in bulk. We found that both the women’s and men’s refills fit both razors. They are the same. So we don’t have to get two different kinds.

  41. Jeremy says:

    I thank this blog for this post!!! I ended up actually purchasing a straight razor – yes, a “meat cleaver” like your grandpa used to use – and I’m not looking back. I’m still trying to get used to holding it at the right angle (this is the primary problem that safety razors + industrialization solved for men in the late 1800’s), but it actually does a fine job of shaving… and can last a LIFETIME. That’s big money savings. Also, a qaulity “silvertip” badger brush and stand will set you back at least $100, but it’s totally worth it. My morning shave isn’t a chore now!

  42. Kevin says:

    Of course, shaving in the shower means you are wasting water! In Australia, that means increased water bills, and also due to drought there are water restrictions in many parts of the country.

    I used to shave in the shower, but I get just as good a result afterwards in front of the mirror – and save water too!

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