At Beardy Pete’s Shaving Emporium we’re pretty big fans of the traditional wet shave. Obviously. But it’s not necessarily for everyone. Despite the many advantages of traditional shaving, some people are just happy with an inferior shave. They are content with being able to drag any old razor across their face in the morning. Or they might simply not be manly enough! And that’s fine. Only one person in this world can decide how you shave.
For those of you who are undecided, and want to weigh up the pros and cons of traditional shaving versus regular wet shaving, read on.
Traditional shaving isn’t the answer to life’s problems. It won’t make all your wildest dreams come true, but we genuinely believe it’s better. Below, we’ll explore the advantages and the disadvantages of both traditional shaving (using a DE or straight razor) and regular or modern wet shaving (using a cartridge or disposable razor). We’ve tried to be as objective as possible, and have included factors beyond the actual physical act of shaving.
DE razors & straight razors
Properly executed, with the right pre-shave preparation, quality products, and good post-shave care, nothing beats the closeness of a wet shave with a traditional razor.
Beard edging and maintenance
Traditional razors, with their single blade and fixed position, are far more effective tools when maintaining the neat, crisp edges of a well-groomed beard.
Better for the environment
This is a big one for use, and we talk more about it on our Environmental & Ethical page. If you recycle the blades, then traditional razors are zero-waste. Hopefully you’ll keep your razor for a lifetime, but if you do have cause to throw it away then it, too, is recyclable.
There is also very little waste when it comes to accompanying products. Many producers of shaving creams and soaps use recyclable materials for the containers. With shaving soap, refill blocks are available so you re-use the tub over and over. Or they can be re-purposed. the products themselves often contain all-natural ingredients, with no unnecessary or harmful chemicals.
Additionally, producers of traditional shaving and beard care products tend to be smaller companies, with bigger hearts and, better ethics and a good sense of environmental and social responsibility. Small-batch beard oil suppliers The Brighton Beard Company are a great example of this, the popular Bluebeards Revenge are incredibly forward-thinking and innovative in their approach to environmental sustainability.
Cheaper ‘running’ costs
Running a DE razor is incredibly cheap; replacement blades cost between 20-35p each. Compare that to a replacement Mach 3 cartridge, which comes in at around £1.80. That makes a double-edged blade between five and nine times cheaper than an inferior, non-recyclable cartridge.
A quality, well-looked-after shaving brush will last for years. Take care of your razor and it’ll last forever and a day.
A DE razor is a thing of beauty; shiny, expertly engineered, and beautifully crafted. Complemented by the addition of a quality brush and an attractive shaving bowl, a full traditional shaving kit is a sight to behold. It looks great on the bathroom shelf, shows you mean business when it comes to grooming, and sets you apart from the masses.
Despite their undeniable beauty, there’s something inherently masculine about DE razors and straight razors. The only way to get more manly would be to shave using a combat knife, with nothing but your sweat to lubricate the skin.
A traditional shave is more than just applying shaving cream then scraping it off again, more than just a routine. It’s a ritual; taking the time properly to prepare the skin, whipping up a luxurious lather in a bowl, gently massaging it into the beard with a soft brush, then artfully drawing the blade across your face. It can be quite therapeutic, and a good shave is a satisfying and fulfilling experience. Something that a nasty disposable and cheap can of gel just doesn’t deliver.
Shaving with a DE razor is very different to a using cartridge razor, many of which have pivoting heads and so are much more forgiving of excess pressure and poor technique. Despite also being known as ‘safety’ razors, DE razors can still very easily cut you. It takes time, practice and patience to learn how to use a DE razor, and more so with a straight razor. But then becoming proficient in any new skill does, like learning a language or becoming a ninja.
Higher initial outlay
A decent DE razor will set you back somewhere in the region of £30. Investing in a quality shaving brush can easily be double that, and good fixed-blade straight razors start at around £100. If you want to go super posh, then there are razors and brushes out there for hundreds and hundreds of pounds. We don’t suggest jumping in to that level of investment right away, if ever! And we have a great little straight razor from The Bluebeards Revenge, that uses the same disposable blades as a DE razor, for £9.99.
Air travel restrictions
You can’t take double-edge razor blades on a plane in your hand luggage. The razor itself is fine, providing there is no blade in it. Though you may be asked to show it to security staff so they can check. If you want to go international with your traditional shaving you’ll need to have hold-luggage. Or try and buy blades when you reach your destination.
Cartridge razors & disposable razors
Ease of use
Whereas traditional razors take a bit of practice to get to grip with, cartridge and disposable razors are comparatively much easier to use. Cartridge razors especially are much more forgiving of poor technique, owing to the pivoting heads which adjust the angle of the stroke. Although many people are unaware of the principles of a good shave, pretty much anyone can pick up a cartridge razor and make a semi-successful attempt at slicing hair off their face.
People are busy, we get that. And sometimes it’s difficult to make time for a whole shaving ritual. Cartridge razors and disposables lend themselves better to that ‘quick shave’.
Can take on planes
Unlike double-edge blades and straight razors, you can (currently) take cartridge blades and disposable razors onto a plane in your hand luggage. We say ‘currently’, because rule change often so it’s always best to check before you travel. Also, rules might be slightly different in other countries, so check that too.
Being easy and cheap to manufacture, and produced in their masses, cartridges and disposables are available from anywhere you would expect to find shaving products. Every supermarket, every pharmacy, every convenience store. Even vending machines, and some hotels include them with their selection of complimentary toiletries.
Quite simply, the results yielded from using cartridges and disposables are not as good as with traditional shaving. There are steps you can take to improve the shave; ensure good pre-shave preparation, use a shaving brush, ditch the cheap gel and switch to quality shaving scream, learn proper shaving technique. These are some of the principles behind traditional shaving.
Awful for the environment
Due to the mixture of materials used in their construction, blade cartridges and disposable razors can’t be recycled. Billions are disposed of each year, going to landfill sites or ending up in our oceans.
In this day and age environmental preservation should be at the forefront of our minds in everything we do, so why anyone would continue to use disposable shaving products is beyond us.
Expensive to replace
Using the popular Gillette Mach 3 as an example, a replacement cartridge comes in at around £1.80, give or take. A pack of 8 cartridges costs in the region of £15, whereas a pack of 10 Bluebeards Revenge double edge blades costs just £2.99.
Encourages poor technique
While the forgiving nature of cartridge razors in particular is a distinct advantage of their use, many go through life without ever learning to shave properly. Their routine goes something like this: wet face, put shaving gel on face, scrape razor across face in various directions. The pivoting heads do most of the work in terms of angle, but they also encourage the application of more pressure, which contributes towards razor burn.
If traditional shaving is so great, why isn’t everyone doing it?
The decline of traditional shaving, and the introduction and subsequent popularity of disposables, largely boils down to three things; profits, convenience and marketing:
Every year we go through billions of disposable razors and blade cartridges. It’s truly incomprehensible just how much waste those things cause. But each one of those billions of plastic encased blades increases the profits and share prices of a company somewhere. The corporate fat-cats really don’t care how good your shave is, nor do they really care how many of their products end up in the digestive tracts of dolphins.
Shaving manufacturers figured out long ago that people love convenience, and that those same people need to shave. With the magic of plastic, they realised they can produce disposable razors in their masses for next to nothing. They can then keep making and selling them, over and over, for as long as people continue to grow hair.
With big profits come big marketing budgets. And the way some of these razors are marketed would have you believe that if you shave with a pivoting cartridge containing five blades, then you’ll be as successful as the celebrity they’ve thrown money at to endorse it.
The traditional ways of shaving were all but abandoned. The manufacturers favour mass-produced disposable units, for their marketability, and the high volume sales and increased profit margin they provide. And society favours convenience. Now, in any supermarket, cosmetics shop, pharmacy or convenience store, you will find some form of throw-away plastic razor. Try and find a physical shop that sells traditional shaving products.
This is perhaps an overly-cynical view of the modern shaving industry. Businesses need to make money, and some people need the convenience. For example, why should we continue to light firewood with flint when we’ve learned how to make an induction hob?
But traditional shaving should not be completely abandoned or forgotten. It’s an art, a skill. A ‘proper’ traditional wet shave, with a soft brush, a luxurious lather, a fresh, sharp blade in a well-balanced and weighted DE razor, is an experience. And with the world waking up to the need to take care of our planet, and finally starting to realise that the convenience of plastic won’t save us, maybe it’s time to pick up the steel again.