The Safety Razor Secret

Tired of overpaying for hair removal? I tried a retro razor like my grandparents used and learned that some things are classic for a reason.

My stainless steel safety razor and pack of inexpensive double-edge blades cost me $21 and $13, respectively. You can typically find an old-fashioned safety razor on Amazon for about $30, and they can be had for even less if you watch for discounts (or use an app like Honey that will do so for you). Blades can be hard to find in person, but you can easily find them online if they're hard to locate in your area.

razor with blades

Four Venus razor cartridges used to cost me about $25 and last for about 4–6 months, so I was spending $50 a year (at best) to shave about twice a week. To get a safety razor, I spent $21 on the virtually indestructible stainless steel razor and $13 on a pack of 100 blades that lasted for two years, despite the fact that I use a fresh blade each week. If I hadn't given some blades to my mom and sisters after persuading them to get safety razors for themselves, it would probably have lasted for three years. I've saved $200 and counting by switching from cartridge razors to a safety razor, and I've never looked back.

Perks

  • Much less money spent on hair removal! Hooray!
  • A safety razor causes way less skin irritation than a cartridge razor because, contrary to what advertisers tell us, fewer blades make for a better shave! The more blades your razor has, the more times a blade passes over the same spot, and the more irritation it can cause. Post-shave itchiness was the main problem that motivated me to invest in a safety razor, and I'm happy to report a major improvement!
  • The closest, smoothest possible shave, because standard double-edge blades are so inexpensive that you can use a brand new blade for every single shave, if that's your preference. A truly sharp blade will always give you a better shave than one that's been dulled with use.

Drawbacks

  • There's a bit of a learning curve with safety razors, though it's pretty easily overcome with just a little bit of practice. Always try to keep the razor at a 45-dregree angle to your skin, and go slowly to avoid cutting yourself, especially when you're learning. I watched a few YouTube videos to make sure I was using mine properly and to learn how to put the blade into it correctly.
  • You might cut yourself a little bit more often than you did with a modern cartridge razor. However, none of my cuts have been heinous, and I doubt yours will be, either. I use a $2 old-fashioned remedy called a styptic pencil to quickly seal my occasional shaving cuts so I don't have to wear a bandaid. You just dampen the end of the pencil by sticking it under the faucet for a second and then rub it on the back of your hand for a moment until it produces a milky liquid that will stop the bleeding when you apply it to your cut. It stings a little at first, but it's convenient and effective.
  • You can't fly with razor blades in your carry-on bag. However, you can either put them and your safety razor in a checked bag (recommended by airport security in some places) or bring your empty razor in your carry-on and buy some blades at your destination.[1]

Safety razor maintenance is pretty simple. I make sure to rinse my razor after each use to keep it from getting clogged (swishing it around in a cup of water is the most effective method) and to keep my used blades in a designated sharps container that can be sealed for safe disposal. (If you just throw blades in the trash without something to contain them, they could cut the trash bag or even an unsuspecting worker or dumpster diver—eek!) I reused a 4-ounce plastic skincare tub that I labeled "USED BLADES" and keep in the cabinet under the bathroom sink.

Instead of (frankly overpriced and excessively perfumed) modern shaving cream, some people like to use a badger brush and lather and everything, but I prefer the ease, inexpensiveness, and moisturizing properties of straight up apricot kernel oil or sweet almond oil.[2] If you want something that will sink in really fast and play well with oily or acne-prone skin, try grapeseed oil. I do not recommend using coconut oil in the shower because it will clog your drain, and that's really not worth the hassle.


  1. I traveled with my sisters this summer, and we only brought carry-ons. I was able to find places to buy blades in both Barcelona and Prague without much difficulty. I Googled "razor blades Barcelona" to find advice from a helpful expat on a TripAdvisor forum, which directed me to Ganiveteria Roca, an old-fashioned knife shop that was fun to visit and offered a small selection of razor blades. In Prague, I found a pack of Wilkinson Sword blades in the pharmacy section of a large Tesco near our Airbnb. ↩︎

  2. Be careful not to slip in the shower, because oil will make it pretty slick. To be safe, I use a little bit of dish soap mixed with water in a spray bottle to degrease the shower when I'm done. ↩︎