If you’ve been shaving with a normal razor with a cartridge, then you are spending way too much money for an inferior shave. There, I said it.
And that includes the inexpensive monthly subscription boxes and shaving clubs. If you have sensitive skin, you especially need to keep reading.
The discount shaving industry has gotten a lot of press over the years. Dollar Shave Club grabbed headlines when Unilever acquired the company for $1 billion. Harry’s, another shaving startup, has gotten attention for also helping to lower the cost of shaving via their Harry’s razor. After all of the press, you’d think these companies provide the cheapest way to shave.
Except they don’t!
What the press has failed to recognize is that these discount shaving companies aren’t the best and cheapest way to shave. In fact, these disposable cartridge razors don’t even provide the best shaving experience. Stop paying for overpriced shaving cartridges! I have a much better alternative for you.
I mean, unless you’re the kind of person that likes to waste money for no reason.
Even these low cost startups that promise razors and cartridges for $1 dollar/month add a couple bucks for shipping and handling. In reality, their average customer will pay between $6-$8 per month for upgraded cartridges.
We are going to show you how over the past 6 years we have paid an average of 30 cents (yes, $0.30) a month to keep our faces cleanly shaven. But first, we introduce you to the double edge safety razor, which is the cheapest way to shave! And no, buying a cheap razor doesn’t mean you are sacrificing on the quality of your shave – quite the opposite.
What Are Safety Razors?
Ever wonder how your grandfathers shaved before razor cartridges and the electric razor? They used a safety razor. These things were built so darn tough and worked so well that Gillette had to invent a disposable razor to combat falling sales.
A safety razor uses double-sided razor blades, which is how this is such a cost-effective way of shaving. In many ways, the shaving industry is similar to the printer and ink cartridge industries. The ink cartridges are where the companies make all of their money. That’s why they are so expensive and are priced artificially high. Similarly, the big shaving companies all make their money on the shaving cartridges.
You can avoid paying crazy prices by forgoing the cartridge razor altogether and shaving with a safety razor. By utilizing extremely affordable razor blades, the safety razor is easily the cheapest way to shave. No artificial markups for no reason other than to profit off your desire for a smooth face.
To get started all you need is a safety razor handle and double-edged razor blades. If you want to impress your grandparents, ask if they still have a safety razor you can have. Some of them might use a straight razor (where the blade folds into the handle), but that’s different.
If getting a free one from home isn’t an option, this is the one we used to get started.
Don’t spend more on another one until you are committed to the safety razor lifestyle. Once you’ve used a cheap one for a while, we recommend getting one that’s easier to load and unload for convenience.
This is the one we both use now:
As we mentioned earlier, the real savings come from the fact that razor blades are dirt cheap. For $10 you can buy 100. You read that right, 100! That’s $0.10 (a dime) apiece.
The box of 100 can last somewhere between 2-5 years depending on how often you shave and how often you change the blade. In our experience, changing the blade every 10 shaves is conservative and you can even get more mileage than that out of each one. Some people change them much more often, but we haven’t had any problems with using them longer.
If you grow a beard like Paul Bunyan, then you might need to replace them more often, but the same thing would apply to conventional shaving cartridges.
Do You Actually Get A Better Shave?
Undoubtedly. This is one of the rare times when the least expensive method is actually far superior to the alternatives. While I’m a doctor, it doesn’t take an M.D. to realize the benefits of shaving with a safety razor. To begin, you have to understand that a safety razor is much better for your skin for several reasons.
The multi-blade cartridge razors like Gillette are designed to give you the closest shave possible at the expense of your skin. If you use a multi-blade cartridge, you probably like how smooth it leaves your skin. These multi-blade cartridges work by having the first blade grab and pull your hair while the subsequent blades do the cutting. In fact, they often cut the hair shorter than the surface of your skin.
What this means is that the day you shave you’ll have an incredibly smooth shave. However, the following day you may have tons of razor bumps, ingrown hairs, or razor burn.
Think of your hair follicles as blades of grass that are stretchy like rubber bands. What if instead of a normal lawnmower that travels across the surface of a yard, you had a machine that would pull the blades and stretch them out first before cutting. Surely, some of the roots would get stuck below the surface of the soil and have trouble coming to the surface. This is a perfect recipe for an ingrown hair.
This was actually one of the reasons we decided to try something different.
The safety razor helps you avoid those painful and unsightly side effects.
The safety razor is designed to cut the hair on the surface of your skin instead of pulling it and cutting it shorter. What this means is that your skin will have much less irritation and you’ll have fewer bumps and ingrown hairs. There are tons of instructional videos on YouTube to help guide your first couple of shaves until you’re a pro.
These are the blades we love:
Before switching to the safety razor in 2012, we were doing what everyone else does. We overpaid for the fancy razor cartridges with 3 or 4 blades. We spent approximately $10-$15 a month ($180/year) on cartridges. Yikes.
From 2012-2017 that’s $900 we would’ve spent on shaving products! Since switching over we have spent a grand total of $50 (1 safety razor and 2 packs of razor blades). We have saved a grand total of $850 since switching. $850 dollars is already a big number, but when you take into account the impact of investing that money it makes a big statement. Investing $850 in a stock market index fund from 2012-2017 would have grown to about $2,000!
That’s an extra $2,000 in your portfolio that will keep compounding while you sleep.
If you use Dollar Shave Club you can still stand to save a lot by switching to a safety razor.
Dollar Shave Club costs either $3, $6, or $9 per month depending on the quality of the razor blade cartridges you desire. If we look at the middle of the pack option, we’d still be paying 20x more per month. Now you can see why these shaving companies spend so much money on advertising to convince people that they deliver the “best” shave.
Heres’s a table comparing how much we saved by not using a “discount” shaving option like dollar shave club or Harry’s.
If the best and cheapest way to shave doesn’t sound appealing, then we don’t know what else to tell you!
One final consideration is the fact that using a reusable razor with safety razor blades is better for the environment. These blades and razors don’t contain plastic and can be used many more times. They can eventually be recycled and repurposed which is an added bonus if you love Earth as much as I do.
We’ve heard from a number of you who have purchased a shaving handle, blades, a brush, and cream and are ready to go.
The biggest difference between shaving with a safety razor is that you don’t want or need to press the blade against your skin. You simply let it touch your skin and then let is glide across the surface. When using a cartridge system it may seem like you get better results when you press firmly against your skin. The opposite is true here.
Avoid pushing into your skin. Simply let the weight of the handle itself do all of the work. We recommend 2 passes over your face. The first will be moving with the grain, and the 2nd (for those who want a closer shave) will be across the grain. Make sure to reapply shaving cream in between passes! We don’t shave against the grain, but if you plan to shave your legs (many do) just find a video so that you can be a pro!
This is the reason that shaving with a safety razor is far superior to a cartridge system! Remember, this isn’t only the cheapest way to shave, but also the best.
If you’re coming from using a cartridge system, we recommend watching a Youtube video of how to shave with a safety razor so that you can get the best results.
Other Considerations For Safety Razors
It’s pretty clear that we’ve had incredible results shaving with safety razors both in terms of our finances and shave quality. But there’s a few things you should keep in mind.
First, you cannot bring a safety razor blade on an airplane with you. The TSA will see them in the x-ray machine and confiscate them. If you plan to travel with the handle that holds the blades, make sure you remove the blade first. The TSA will likely see it in the x-ray machine and inspect the handle regardless. If you are a road warrior and fly for work constantly while needing to shave daily (hello grizzly IT and management consultants), then you need to think carefully about your optimal shaving strategy.
Secondly, and this applies to ALL types of razors and shaving equipment, make sure that you store things in a safe place where children and pets can’t reach them. If you have children who see you shave, they will undoubtedly want to emulate you, so just be careful. These puppies are sharp.
Lastly, go forth and enjoy the best shave of your life. Oh, and don’t spend all of your new-found cash in one place.
Francisco Maldonado, MD is a personal finance expert who was raised in poverty by a single mother and had to learn everything about personal finance on his own. In addition to running his personal finance site, The Finance Twins, with his twin brother, his site has been featured on Forbes, Business Insider, CNBC, US News, The Simple Dollar, and other top publications. Francisco is a physician who borrowed over $200,000 to pay for his medical training and understands debt payoff strategies and frugal living. He received his M.D. from the Mayo Clinic School of Medicine, the most selective medical school in the country, and a Bachelor’s degree in physiology from the University of Minnesota. He is currently a radiology resident at Northwestern University.