‘What do I need to get started?’ A question that many newcomers will ask themselves. There is a huge amount of information available and it can be a little overwhelming if you just want some good, inexpensive kit to begin.
To get started with Double Edge or Safety Razor shaving, you will need:
- Soap or Cream
- Aftershave lotion or Balm
Let’s start off with the razor. Ideally, we want something which isn’t too aggressive but still gives us a nice shave. Since open comb razors are considered to be more aggressive, I recommend going for a closed comb.
Merkur, Muhle and Edwin Jagger all sell excellent razors that are suited to a beginner but will also last years. Lots of the guys on the forum start out with one of these and use them long term in their rotation.
These can all be picked up for under £35 but you don’t need to lay out more than £15 and you could do a lot worse than go for the Wilkinson Sword Classic . I picked it up for £12 at the supermarket, it shaves well, looks good and comes with a pack of five blades to get you started.
Even cheaper is the first iteration of the Wilkinson Sword Classic which retails at around £5 in Boots, it also comes with a pack of five blades. This was the first DE razor I bought and the results from it are decent but most people who use it as their first razor will soon upgrade to something a bit more substantial.
Now we have a razor we need to load it up with a blade. Choosing the right blade can make a huge difference to the shave and finding the right one for your face can take a bit of trial and error.
Fortunately, well known and trusted vendors like Paul at Connaught Shaving offer blade sample packs. When you purchase a sample pack, you can work through these and see which suits your skin type without having to spend a lot of money.
The pack of popular blades linked above contains sixty blades and can be bought for under £10. I tend to get three or four shaves from a blade, so sixty will last a long time. Once you find a blade that suits your face and your razor you can order in bulk.
Why is a good brush so important to our shave routine?
The simple answer is Lather. One of the most important aspects of a good, irritation-free shave is creating consistently good lather. I wrote a tutorial with a video on how to build lather, you can read it here > How to use a shaving brush and soap
The brush also applies the soap to our face and in doing so lifts the beard hairs up to facilitate a more efficient shave. We have a few different types of brush hair available.
Badger brushes are still considered the best brushes throughout most of the shaving community. They are the softest (depending on the grade you buy), holds water well and can create good lather. They can also be amazingly expensive.
Boar brushes are a good option for starting out. They are less expensive than badger but the hair can be a little scratchy until the ends split and it is broken in.
Synthetic brushes have come a long way since they were first introduced. The new fibre being produced is much softer and more akin to some high end badger. They don’t take water on like a natural bristle does so they dry a lot quicker. This makes them an ideal travel brush or for use in high humidity areas. They also produce great lather and are very cheap.
I haven’t actually tried a Horsehair brush so I won’t comment on them.
Here are some good options for each:
Yaqi 24mm Synthetic – around £15
Semogue 1305 Boar – around £13
Vulfix Grosvenor 404 Mixed Badger and Boar – around £15
Wilkinson Sword Badger – around £4 at most supermarkets
Any one of those will give you a good start and serve well for years to come. Personally I am using synthetics more than anything else these days.
Soap / Cream
These days we are very fortunate to have a large variety of excellent shaving soaps available to buy. In recent years some excellent artisan companies have appeared and they produce some very good products. However, we don’t need to be paying a lot for our first soaps. On the UK high street, we can pick up some well-known brands very cheaply. These are the staple for someone starting out and who doesn’t want to spend a lot of money while they decide if DE shaving is for them.
The main protagonists that you want to look out for are:
- Palmolive shave stick – Can be picked up in most high street stores for 75p. Look in Wilko, Superdrug, local chemist shops.
- Palmolive shave cream – As with the stick, it’s readily available on the high street. Look to pay around £2.00.
- Boots shave stick – £1.75 at your local Boots store.
Applying post shave products will benefit your skin and lead to less irritation. It can also be very refreshing and make you smell nice for a while, what’s not to like?
Again I will recommend items available cheaply on the high street as well as some from online vendors.
- A Styptic Pencil is an astringent which will help heal small cuts. You will cut yourself while you are perfecting technique so spending £2 on one of these is a good investment.
- Alcohol based aftershave – My personal favourite, it will give you feedback on how close you shaved (by way of a nice sting!) condition your skin and leave a nice scent for a short while.
- After Shave Balm – Nivea is available from most supermarkets.
- Shaving Alum Block is similar to the styptic pencil but is designed to be rubbed over the shaved area. It is astringent and good for killing bacteria (not essential but a worthy purchase)
So for less than the price of an 8 pack of Gillette Fusion blades you can get all the tools you need to give DE shaving a try. You will need to adjust the way you shave if you are only used to cartridge systems however, in my opinion (and that of many others) the quality of the shave is much improved.
The majority of the guys on our forum will report that what was once a chore becomes a task they look forward to and enjoy. Of course, you need to put some effort in at the beginning while you re-learn how to shave with different tools but it is worth it.