Slow Your Shave

My earliest memories are flashes of emotion and detail. Moments I recall now with a warm nostalgia. I remember looking up at my father shaving, the lighting in our bathroom being particularly yellow. I see my papi lather his face with bar soap and impossibly wipe away stubble. I recall the sharp smell of his Brut after shave. The thought of this is comforting to me today. As a child, I wanted to shave. It seemed important.
Years later, it would finally be my turn. My father, who recognized the importance of my first shave, gave me his safety razor to mark the occasion. I remember thinking how quaint and obsolete it was. A relic that meant nothing to the modern era. I had a beeper on my waist and a Palm Pilot in my pocket for all the phone numbers I just HAD to keep track of. I knew what was up. Plastic disposable razor blades were easier to buy in stores. I mean, did they even still sell razor blades? I lived in the time of the world wide web, online chat rooms hosted by MTV and carried my files on Zip Drives. Website addresses began with WWW. You know… The good old days. I appreciated my dad’s gesture, but there had been great advances in shaving technology. I would ultimately decide to go with a pack of yellow disposable razors. I put my father’s safety razor aside somewhere, only to loose it forever.
Fast forward 15 years: I’m driving in a car with some friends when one starts talking about his rediscovered interest in shaving. I paid attention if only because he discovered something interesting that involved the use of gadgets. He told us how he purchased a safety razor on eBay and a bristle brush on Amazon. He claimed his new way of shaving not only got rid of ingrown hairs, but made shaving fun. He said he now enjoyed shaving in the morning. 


His enthusiasm intrigued me and we later exchanged emails. He sent me some links and I purchased everything he recommended. This new way to shave he discovered was of course the same method my dad told me about years earlier. Through my friend I had re-discovered something I’d set aside years ago, as is the case with many things important to me today.

I encourage you to recycle your plastic razors so they can be turned into something useful. Consider this, a box of eight Mach 3 razor cartridges cost $25.26 on Amazon, pre-tax. Yes, eight. That equals $3.16 a “blade”. Let’s consider the Dollar Shave Club (a company who positions itself as a reasonably priced alternative to Gillette), their cheapest offering clocks in at $3 per blade, including shipping. The Perezidence blade of choice is the Japanese made Feather. On Amazon you can purchase a pack of 100 Feather blades for $29.50. That equals almost .30 a blade. I received my shipment of 100 Feather blades on May 1, 2013. I have three cartridges left and each cartridge contains five blades. This means one order lasted me over two years. Mind you, I grew a beard for all of last fall so I used less razors than normal.

“Isn’t shaving with a single blade inferior to Mach 3 Turbo’s triple blade technology?” You ask. “Look,” you continue, “the Dollar Shave Club offers a 6 bladed luxury model known simply as the Executive. How can a safety razor hold a candle to that?” Great questions. My answer: by not having more than one blade. When you employ a razor that has more than one blade, you increase your odds of getting in-grown hairs. For decades I accepted in grown hairs as an inevitable byproduct of shaving. I thought I must have sensitive skin. After one shave with my safety razor I had no ingrown facial hairs. None. Just watch this Mach 3 Razor blade commercial from 1998 make my point. Each blade pulls facial hair above the skin line, one after the other. When the precision air strike is ended, your traumatized facial hairs will live slightly below the skin line, allowing them to go rogue.

If you are one who does not like to sacrifice luxury for the sake of a few dollars and a couple ingrown hairs, perhaps I can further convince you of slowing down your routine by using essential oils to pre condition your skin. Pre-conditioning your face helps with irritation and feels great. Making your own pre shave oil concoction requires its own Perezidence entry, I’ll get to that at a later date. Suffice it to say, adding this pre-shave routine to your morning will turn an inevitable chore into a pleasant experience.


I must discuss a major downside of shaving with a safety razor: you can cut yourself much easier. Shaving with a safety razor requires more focus than you’re used to, especially if you’re coming from one of these multi bladed hydras which pivot and in some cases vibrate. None of these features here. You have to learn how to use the weight of the safety razor to glide up and down your face in smooth, confident strokes. You won’t be able to shave as fast, either. A shave with a safety razor requires you to go a little slower. You must pay attention to the hills and valleys of your face. To me, these negatives are not negatives at all. As a New Yorker whose pace is set by blinking do not walk signs and the rumbling sound of arriving subway trains, I appreciate being forced to take it easy.

There are some companies out there that are noticing the Mach 3 solution is being considered by a growing number of men as wildly expensive and unnecessary. So they are putting a slow culture fascade over their brand. Smoke and mirrors. My weapon of choice is a 1957 Gillette butterfly style safety razor I purchased on eBay. Just want to say, I’m not anti Gillette. I think their old razors are built to last and will outlive us all. If you go the eBay route, you’ll want to sterilize your razor to get it ready for use. You can do this by steaming it for a few minutes.

I recommend you purchase a bristle brush to lather your face with soap. I followed my friend’s suggestion and went with the cheaper boars hair brush. It may or may not exfoliate your skin better, but it’s all I’ve ever used and it works great. You’ll also need to consider a stand for your brush and safety razor. The stand neatly keeps your razor and brush together and looks cool, too. Next on your list should be shaving soap. I use Proraso shaving cream, eucalyptus and menthol. I’ve tried all their soaps and that is my favorite. The menthol tingle feels good after I’m done shaving. 

Finally, for after shave I use Thayer’s witch hazel. I know they sell a version specifically for after shave, but I just use the regular witch hazel. It’s good for your skin and doesn’t contain drying alcohol.

Somehow shaving has become a racket just like the ink-jet printer game. I felt like an un-empowered sucker every time I purchased more cartridges for my Mach 3. I thought the Mach 3 was the only way to go. I see today that the answer was presented to me at my very first shave by my father. Now that I’m a father myself, I know I’m going to try to introduce my son to all sorts of things I love and do. I know from my own experience that my son won’t always listen to my advice the first time and I guess I have to accept that. After all, that’s the way it is. That is the way of the world.



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  1. Justin

    My uncle taught me all about this. I use a Merkur razor with Astra Blades. I prefer my Terre after shave but like the Proraso too. It’s the only way to shave.

  2. Guy

    Great piece Hansel. I’ve often pondered the thought of giving the ol’ safety a go. My grandfather had a beautifully crafted blade sharpening box with small rollers that I always marveled at. It’s amazing how modern day capitalism has robbed us of the meaning in these small rituals. I wonder how many more are out there? In our small lighting business we basically just try to “do things the way out grandparents would have done”, and it’s amazing to see the response of people every day. Folks are completely mesmerized by simple things that would once have been the norm. Sometimes I wonder how we got to this point, but it’s always encouraging when some new (or rather forgotten) value is unearthed. Thank you sir!

    • hansel

      Love your comment. Yes, capitalism has hijacked our rituals through their commercialization. However, the pendulum is starting to swing in the other direction. Companies like yours that make functional products which are beautiful through their utility are changing the game, and doing it through capitalism. Companies like Gillette can attempt to join in this movement by purchasing smaller “authentic” companies (the Art of Shaving), but unless they acknowledge the uniqueness of what makes a company special in the first place, they won’t win. They’re just patching holes on a sinking ship.

      I wish you the best of luck, Guy. Thank you for your contribution. You are making things that matter.

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