· geek · mumblings ·

A couple of days ago, I had a brief conversation with HelgeG on Twitter about razors. He was thinking of replacing a cartridge razor with a safety razor. I heartily recommended it, having switched (for leg shaving purposes) from cartridges to a double-edged safety a while ago. That reminded me that I had meant to blog about it at the time, but had forgotten to do so.

Cartridge razors had annoyed me for some time: they are very expensive for what they are, the blades seem to go blunt after only a few uses, and they don’t even provide a very good close shave. So I decided to look into getting a safety razor. If you haven’t come across them before, safety razors are very simple: they use a double-edged razor blade, which is clamped (using a variety of methods) between two metal plates to form the head of the razor. The razors themselves tend to be sturdily made (often from stainless steel), and the blades are very cheap (especially if you buy in bulk). Since you are only having to throw away the blade itself (which is also recyclable if you fill a steel tin with used blades and seal it securely), it’s also somewhat greener.

In my research, I came across the Badger and Blade site, which turned out to press all my geek buttons. Here is a community of people who are very serious about their shaving equipment, and discuss (at some length) the relative merits of different designs, lathering and shaving techniques. They value well-designed implements that are built to last, and they enjoy the process of learning and mastering a new skill. Even if I had no interest whatsoever in razors, I would enjoy reading the forums, because that kind of geeky obsession with process and detail is exactly the kind of thing I adore. The fact that they also have a side forum to talk about fountain pens just confirms that it is my kind of place. What did surprise me, however, was that this apparent bastion of chapdom is also very welcoming to women. Quite a few of the members are women, and there are numerous threads on the technical aspects of leg shaving. It’s all very refreshing.

I’ll certainly never go back to cartridges. In case any other women (or men!) are thinking of taking the plunge, here’s what I use. I bought a pack of 100 Derby blades for £10 from Amazon (which at this rate are likely to last me for the rest of my life), a nice but cheap synthetic brush from The Body Shop, and I also use Body Shop maca root shave cream. Both are marketed for men, but there’s nothing fundamentally different between men shaving their faces and women shaving their legs. I suppose that the shave cream has a very mildly masculine scent, but I rather like it1. However, you can get proper shaving soaps and creams with a rose fragrance (Taylor of Old Bond Street make one, for example) and I quite fancy trying that one day. I ended up getting a Merkur 23C razor, which has a slightly longer handle, useful when you are reaching down your legs. I really enjoy the process of shaving now. Lathering up with the brush is fun, and the fact that you have to slow down and pay attention to what you are doing with a safety makes it a kind of zen activity. Oddly, the blade makes a lovely sound as it snicks through the hairs, and bursts the tiny bubbles in the lather. The key to the technique is to avoid applying any pressure, but to let the weight of the razor itself do the work — rather like learning to use a saw properly.

  1. Mr. Bsag uses the shave cream and brush too, but hasn’t yet made the jump to a safety. ↩︎