Today I’m going to talk about hair.
Not the nice, flowing mane of silky tresses kind of hair (don’t I sound like a bad romance novel?!?) but the other, less glamorous kind of hair. Facial hair. Leg hair. Underarm hair.
Not exactly a super exciting topic–but relevant. Because as a culture, we shave. Even if they sport facial hair few men do the full on Grizzly Adams style beard. (Note: if you have no idea who I’m talking about then either I’m too old or you are too young–Google him). While here in the North women might, uh, stretch things a bit between shaving sessions in the winter (hello long pants and shirts) most ladies do regularly use SOME method for keeping their legs and underarm regions smooth and hair free.
The flat out truth is that our modern razors and refills are expensive. They also are made out of non recyclable plastic that create a bunch of trash. Think about all the razor heads, the “holders” they come in and the packaging all that is wrapped up in sitting in a landfill for decades. . .
My husband in the past has used a Gillette Mach 3 Razor. The initial razor costs about $9. The refills (basically a replaceable head) cost about $25 for 10 cartridges. Bill says he doesn’t remember ever having to replace the handle part of the razor, but that he’d change his razor head every 6 weeks (he really stretches it out–most guys change them more frequently) . So rounding we’ll just say that he uses a 10 pack each year. That makes his total cost for the first year is around $34, then $25 for each year following that.
While that might not break anyone’s bank, it is a chunk of change. If those numbers were to remain constant over an average man’s shaving lifespan–let’s say for giggles from 20-60–that would be an initial outlay of $9 and then $25 a year for 40 years, or a grand total of $1,009 spent on razors.
I have it on pretty good authority that my husband keeps his razors for an unusually long time–so if you change them out more frequently then it’s even more money. If you changed them out every three weeks then go ahead and just double that to $2000 (plus the $9 initial investment for the razor). Of course in 40 years the price would likely go up AND they’d most likely stop making your particular style of razor and cartridge, so you’d have to invest in a new razor occasionally too.
Clean shaven men have been around for a long time–but disposable razors (where you change out the “cartridge” portion with the blades and keep the handle) have really have only been on the scene since 1970, and the fully disposable (chunk the whole thing) razors since 1974. So what did folks do before that?
Well, for a long, long time there were straight razors.
These were just what they sound like-a straight blade made out of metal. They would be used over and over, sharpened and stropped (run against a leather strap to keep the edge straight) regularly to keep an edge. They lasted an entire lifetime and could even be passed down to someone else when the original owner had no more use for it. You can still buy a Straight Razor for around $65. Actually you can buy them for less but go too cheap and I’d be a bit suspect personally. Also many of the cheaper ones require disposable blades.
The problem with straight razors are, well, they are a big honking sharp blade right next to sensitive things like your jugular vein, your lips, your nose. . . well you get the idea. They take a bit of skill and practice to use and you do need to be careful!
This style razor was eventually followed by the “Safety Razor”–which is what most folks, men and women, used up until the 1970’s. A safety razor looks a lot like the razors we are used to seeing–but the body is made of metal and they open up to accept a thin stainless steel double edged razor blade. This type of razor was safer than a straight blade because there is a protective bit of metal between your skin and the blade.
My brother has been using a safety razor for several years. After listening to him talking about it I went ahead and bought Yankee Bill a safety razor and a selection of blades for the Christmas of 2012. I chose the Merkur Long Handled Safety Razor on Amazon for $32.83. There were cheaper safety razors out there, but I wanted something that seemed well made and that had a decent weight to it. I purchased the “long handled” version after seeing that “long” was about the same length as the typical modern disposable razor. The “regular” sized razors just seemed really short handled to me. I also picked up 50 Ct Feather Double Edge Razor Blades for $13.88–which works out to $.28 a blade.
Yankee Bill has been using the razor for over a year now. He replaces the blades slightly more frequently than he did with the Gillette cartridges–about every 4 weeks. So that means he uses about 13 blades a year for a total cost of $3.64 a year. So the first year his shaving costs were $36.47, and then each year after that will be approximately $4.
If we do the calculations for the same theoretical guy as above with the disposables who shaves from the age of 20-60, then it’s $36.47 for initial startup cost and $4 a year after that for 40 years or a total of $196.47 lifetime cost.
That’s a difference of $812.53–possibly more depending on how frequently you change your blades.
Although you can’t find a safety razor in the aisle of your local grocery store, big box store or drug store they usually do carry the double edge razor blades. I was able to find some at my local Walmart for $1.76 a 10 pk ($.18 ea) and at the Family Dollar for $1 for a 5pk ($.20 ea).
To install the blade on a safety razor you must open the head of the razor. For a butterfly open you just twist the handle and the top opens so you can pop the old blade out and place a new one in. For a three piece you completely unscrew the handle from the head and then the head separates into two pieces with the blade sandwiched in between.
Using a safety razor is pretty easy–there are just a few differences. You don’t press down as much as you do with a disposable razor–you are supposed to let the weight of the razor do the pushing for you. Start gently and then slowly increase pressure if necessary. You do have to be a bit more careful–it is sharp and slightly more prone to giving you a nick (although it’s not a huge problem if you just take your time–and by time I just mean an extra minute or two).
Yankee Bill says: “You just have to be deliberate and go a little slower. The disposables are much more forgiving if you slip a little sideways–the safety razor on the other hand can give you a cut. It’s a little bit more of a challenge to trim under and around the nose with the safety razor because of that”.
After watching his success with the safety razor I decided to take the plunge for myself and purchased a Parker 22R – Long Handle Safety Razor on Amazon for $28.77. I chose that particular razor because I was able to get it with a different color finish than my husband’s razor (although now they seem to be selling it just in the silver). Since I don’t wear my glasses in the shower (of course!) I wanted to be able to easily tell ours apart. I haven’t had any problems with using the razor for my legs or underarm areas. It actually is a bit odd to get used to the fact that you don’t have to apply any pressure–but it works quite well! I have only given myself a small nick twice so far–and that was when I had a skin blemish that was raised up that the razor just clipped the top off of.
As you can see, using a safety razor can be a money saver over time. They use far less packaging and have far less waste (practically no plastic), and it’s easy to stock up on a large number of blades for a very small price–which is extremely convenient.
Do any of you already use a safety razor? Have I made any of you consider making a switch?