Manly Mondays: Shaving

Let’s face it most guys hate shaving. I used to. It’s irritating and the razors cost an arm and a leg.

Around 8 months ago I started shaving with single bladed safety razor, and all the annoyances of keeping clean shaven have went away. If you haven’t shaven with a real razor before I highly suggest you try it out. Using a single bladed razor, shaving mug, a block of soap and a brush is one of the best things I have done to my morning shave. And here’s why…

Less Irritation and a Closer Shave

The biggest difference from moving from a five-blade razor to a very nice single blade razor is that my skin is much less irritated after my shaves. Five-bladed cartridge razors would leave my whole neck red, irritated and dry feeling for the whole day. In contrast the single bladed razor leaves almost no irritation.

This is because when you shave with a fave-blade cartridge you are actually shaving your face 5 times! When I used cartridge razors I would usually go over everything twice which meant that at the end of my shaves my whole face would have been exposed to 10 razor blades. With a single bladed razor, I can get a close shave with only 2 passes, which means much less exposure to the blade and much less irritation.

The fastest way to a close shave is to shave against the grain of your whiskers. This is tricky with a longer and more unwieldy cartridge razor and which is also light weight meaning you have to apply more pressure (increasing irritation) to get the same close shave.  In contrast my single bladed razor is very short and quite heavy meaning I have more maneuverability and can apply less pressure and get a good against the grain shave with less work.

If all of that doesn’t convince you, Janey thinks that I get a much closer shave with the single blade then my old Gillette cartridge razor. Which is really the only metric that matters.

Costs Less Per Month

In addition to the irritation, I also was tired of spending an arm and a leg on new razor blades. When I started out shaving I bought everything at The Art Of Shaving so I am using their prices here.

  • Pre-Shave Oil: $25 – Lasts about 3 months
  • Shaving Soap: $30 – Lasts 3-4 months
  • Aftershave: $40 – Still haven’t run out after nearly 10 months
  • Razors: $1 each – These are sold in packs of 12 and I use 1 a month

You can get loads of different soaps and pre-shave/aftershaves for about half of these prices online. A good source is  Classic Shaving which has a pretty complete inventory.

There is a fairly high upfront cost to starting to shave this way. You will need a nice badger hair brush, which will run at least $40-$50 (trust me it’s worth it) and a good razor. I use the Merkur HD 34C which runs about $50 on Amazon and everywhere else.

Once you get over the upfront investment the month to month cost if quite low, and for the quality of shave it’s really excellent.

How To

There are lots of good tutorials and videos out there on the internet on how to do a good shave so I’ll give you a few links and then a quick step by step. Put This On has a great video and Art Of Manliness has a good article with links and another step by step guide.

  1. Get a hot very wet wash cloth and warm up your face. This opens up your pores and gives you a close shave with less irritation.
  2. Apply your pre-shave oil to stand up and soften your whiskers
  3. Wet your shaving brush (using hot water) and put a tiny bit of hot water in your mug and build up a lather.
  4. Lather your face up this should go on thick, not watery
  5. Shave using short strokes with very little pressure with the blade about 30 degrees to your face go with the grain or you beard for the first pass
  6. Repeat 3-5 one or two more times going against or across the grain
  7. Wash your face with cold water. This will close your pores and redice irritation.
  8. Pat your face dry and apply your aftershave.

Tips & Techniques

If you are coming from shaving with a regular cartridge razor here are a few good things to keep in mind.

  • Keep the blade of you safety razor at about 30 degrees to your face.
  • Use short strokes with light pressure. Using too much pressure was the #1 reason I cut myself early on.  The razor has just the right weight and balance you need to get a close shave. Trust it.
  • Don’t shave it all in one go. It takes 2-3 passes (lathering between each) to get the best shave go slow and don’t worry about getting it perfect the first time.
  • An Alum Block is your best friend. When you do cut yourself (not if) this handy block an aluminum sulfate is a natural way to stop the bleeding fast. Buy one from Art of Shaving.

Shopping List

  • Brush – Whatever you do don’t get a boar hair brush. Stick with badger hair (about $50) or splurge an get silver tipped badger (about $150)
  • Razor – Look for something with good weight.  The Merkur HD 34C is generally regarded as one of the best you can buy
  • Pre-Shave Oil – This helps soften and standup your whiskers
  • Shaving Soap – Look for something that is all natural and has a good scent (or no scent)
  • Aftershave – Helps cool down your face after you shave
  • Alum Block – Closes up cuts and stops irritation


There are a few downsides to shaving this way. My biggest complaint so far is that the FAA doesn’t allow these kinds of blades in your carry-on bags, meaning if you want to shave this way on the go you are checking a bag.

The other is that is much, much easier to cut yourself. The blade is much more exposed to your face and the wrong angle or too much pressure will make you cut yourself. Although it doesn’t take to long to learn the right way to avoid cuts.

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