Friday, 18 February 2011

How to shave 2: the blade

The previous entry on shaving tells only half the story - skin preparation and using the right stuff on it is important of course, but the right razor is equally so. My favourite shave by a mile is from the barber's chair as I've said; you relax, an expert takes care of you and you feel as though you're worth a million by the time you leave.

This would get costly as a daily occupation. So I've tested three different home shaves recently (at my expense, by the way, no freebies or bribes involved). You could call them reasonable, costly and flaming 'eck. Naturally I'm sticking with flaming 'eck.

First the cheapie. King of Shaves' Azor just does the job. It's available, as you can see, from £1.99. Replacement blades, for a good one, cost £9.49 for a pack of eight. It doesn't buzz, the head's not that flexible but you get a reasonable shave out of its three blades. You need to get used to the angle but that doesn't take long. The only thing is the cost of the replacement blades will add up.

Gillette's new Fusion ProGlide Power Razor has about a squillion blades, buzzes like a good 'un and gave me a considerably closer shave than I'd been used to from its predecessors. Like all cartridge based razors its replacement blades can cost a small fortune; six-pack for £16.89 from Amazon, which when you consider the razor itself costs over £10 less will make a lot of people think. A less expensive manual (no-buzz) version is available. I couldn't help but think a lot of people will end up paying a load of money for a bit of gimmickry over time. Which led me to believe it's not necessarily the one for me, although I do like the way it lights up blue when you start buzzing (see what I mean about paying a lot for gimmicks?)

The guys at The Valet put me onto the Merkur Futur. They sell it less expensively than Amazon and offer advice on using double-edged safety razors for newbies like me, so do shop around if you want to get one. It's expensive and noticeably heavier than the others; it's designed so that you keep it for years, preferably for life, so it's solid and well balanced. Merkur will sell you blades but the ones from Wilkinson Sword are just as good at £1.90 for ten. They don't last as long as the cartridge versions but they don't have to at 19p each.

The Merkur requires a different shaving technique from the others, and it needs a little perseverance. Have a look at the last shaving blog I did. Follow those instructions but when you get to the shave, remember to rest the round metal part on your face. I do mean rest rather than press. Apply no pressure at all and move in the direction of your hair growth - it's like using a fountain pen when you're used to using a biro, it's a much gentler pressure. You might not actually think you're touching your hair, which is normal and means you're getting it right.

You can adjust the angle of the blade for closer shaves - I've started on a 1, it moves up to 6, which I'm told is almost like using a cutthroat razor. Shave twice and replace the blade at least once a week - you can do that when they cost pennies. Rinse rather than rub the casing for cleaning - or take the blade out first, these things are pretty savage.

I've been using mine for a couple of days. I'm getting at least as close a shave as I did with a succession of Gillettes - probably better - and I'm fairly certain I'll be producing a lot less waste by disposing (carefully) only of the blades. It'll take time but over a few years not replacing the razor and buying blades for pennies, at some stage it'll become economical as long as I'm not tempted by another toy.

The drawback is of course that you need your fifty-odd quid to start off with, and it's ages before any economies kick in. You pays your money...


  1. I saw that a few years ago the OFT launched an investigation into the cost of replacement blades for Gilette razors - the mark up involved four figures followed by a percentage symbol. Really makes me angry.

    Unfortunately I cannot deny how much more superior they are to anything else you can get in the local supermarket - I use a Gilette Mach 3 Turbo Ultra 4 blade GTi testosterone injected buzzy model and it really does do the business as removing facial hair about effectively as it removes a significant portion of my monthly shopping budget.

    Hey's hard being a guy.

  2. The products are indeed great, but as someone has asked on Twitter one does wonder how much of the purchase price goes on marketing. Not that I have anything against a legitimate business marketing itself.

    I'm just aware that after switching to the Merkur I've reduced my monthly replacement bill to about two quid. I suspect it'll still take about a decade to work out cheaper than the King of Shaves.

  3. I'm afraid I plan to stick to my Lidl 2-blade razor: razor + about 30 cartridges are about £6. You can't buy razor or cartridges alone - it's simply not worth their while. Frankly, I can't tell any difference at all between this and a fancy Gillette one costing, overall, 10× as much; I've tried 2 or 3.

    I am, however, re-evaluating my use of the cheapest possible shaving foam - the 40p/can generic stuff. The difference from this to £2-3+ gel is quite noticeable, but that bumps the cost up considerably.

    I have tried using oil under the foam, but I couldn't tell much difference and shaving oil is /ridiculously/ expensive - a fiver for 20ml or something. The only relatively economical shaving oil I've found, from some aromatherapy outfit in Tescos in Douglas in the Isle of Man for about £3 for 50ml, they no longer stock.


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