Shave like your grandad


It seems like yesterday. I was a spotty 13 year old boy, sporting some unfortunate wild fluff above my top lip. "Today’s the day. The day I become a real man" I thought.
Little did I know that it would be the start of over 20 years of irritated skin, ingrowing hairs and general poor skin health caused by modern shaving tools.

As I grew up through the mid 90’s and early 2000’s I saw the shaving companies release innovation after innovation. I say that in a tongue in cheek fashion. In reality all those so called innovations were just marketing and sales driven slants on an already stupid offering. I went through it all, one blade up to four. Different lubrication methods, from aloe vera shaving foam, oil and finally silicone based sprays. Pretty sure the last one was definitely not all that good for me health wise either.

The things I learnt about using all of the standard conventional shaving methods were:

  • I could only shave every other day, with a complete break during the weekend
    Don’t shave against the grain
  • Shaving oils were definitely the way to go
  • Moooooaarrr blades the better. Heck, if they made an octo blade razor I’d buy it

If at anytime I strayed from the above path I was punished with sore skin, ingrowing hairs and acne. Not very flattering for a man who was 34 at the time.

It was over a year and a half ago that I started looking at alternatives to the usual Gillette brand of razors. I’d taken a senior management position at a startup, but it came with the usual salary sacrifice in exchange for options… Or the potential for options, as anyone who has worked in a startup will tell you. Shares and options are never a solid thing.

With my earning potential suddenly limited I needed to make some cut backs. Looking through my monthly outgoings I saw that I was spending around £20 GBP on shaving products, which over the course of a year works out to be about £240.
This couldn’t be right? I was spending £240 a year on a process that I loathed. Shaving had to be one of me least enjoyable and most uncomfortable chores that I regularly had to do.

Yes, I know what you’re thinking. Just become a hipster. Grow a fine neck beard and don some drain pipe jeans that stop just above my ankles. Sure, there are some guys that can get away with that. But unfortunately I wasn’t one of them. If anything I’d look like I was the Hulks unshaven Hawaiian brother mid-way through his rage transformation.

With the hipster option quickly crossed off my list of solutions I hit the internet for some answers. After a few minutes I happened upon some fine shaving forums. Non of them extolled the virtues of mainstream commercial shaving products, but instead hailed the lost art of the safety razor. “That looks a little too posh for me” I thought. Chrome plated handles, badger hair brushes and specialist shaving foams.
It looked expensive. It also looked dangerous. Each week I’d be expected to insert a new double edged razor blade into the mount. “What if I don’t mount it properly or hold it incorrectly and it slices my face to kingdom come?” was my reaction.


Turns out it wasn’t expensive at all. Sure, the initial investment wasn’t cheap and involved purchasing the following items:

OK, so that’s an initial investment of about £48. I’ve heard the cheaper Jagen safety razors at £10 are quite good too, so you could give that a try. Just remember that these safety razors are designed to be passed down from father to son and the Edwin Jagger definitely feels like it will last for a century of use.

The other luxury I indulged in was the shaving cream. I’ve tried cheaper shaving creams/soaps and never been happy with the results. Either they didn’t soften my beard/skin enough or I found them quite drying on my skin. Also if you’re like me, you hate all things Sandalwood. For some reason they seem to add Sandalwood to a lot of mens toiletries. The smell reminds me of fragrances from the 80’s and makes me feel like I want to barf… Violently. Enough said, try the avocado version you’ll thank me.

I’m still going through my box of razor blades. I replace a blade every Sunday night, to be used the following morning. If you’re lucky the box will last you for nearly two years. One other thing is to experiment with the brand of blades. A lot of people recommend Derby blades if you're starting off. They're cheaper but not as sharp as Astra, which could be a good thing depending on your stubble and technique. I found them not sharp enough for my stubble so quickly switched them.
As far as disposables the only other thing that you’ll need to replenish will be the shaving cream, which I’ve found to last between 5 to 6 months. Yes, I know crazy right. You only need a very small amount of this stuff which lathers up incredibly.

Onto the actual shave. Well, I’ve got some good news and bad news. You’re going to be able to shave nearly everyday now because your skin will feel less irritated. Also, if you’re doing it correctly you should end up with less nicks and cuts.
The bad news is that it takes time and practice. A standard shave is done in three steps, where you apply the shaving cream onto your face and shave in a particular direction and only that direction. This is important. Remember it!

I start with a downwards direction first. Apply some more cream, then move onto a left to centre, then right to center movement. Finally I’ll finish by going against the grain in an upwards movement.
Don’t ever push down on the blade and don’t ever move it sidewards. You’re asking to get cut. If you need to get a bit closer, just lather up your face again and shave from a different direction. You’ll get more of the stubble each time.

Some people after they’ve finished shaving like to apply an Alum block to their face to close up the pores, disinfect any nicks etc. I tend not to do this as it dries out my skin. Instead I use a good moisturiser rather than any of the more aftershave products. I might not smell as good, but my skin definitely thanks me for it.

And there you have it. How I’ve basically saved myself a decent amount of money while always appearing well groomed. It’s scary at first, but you really have to ignore all that marketing vomit that the shaving industry has been pushing for years.

Filed under: shaving, lifestyle, grooming
Jonathan Conway

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