Dorco or Safety Razor?
October 12, 2012 2:33 PM   Subscribe

Any ladies out there shave old school, as in, with a safety razor?

I'm trying to save money on the insane mark-up of disposable razors. Recently I accidentally lost my razor in a hotel while traveling, and now I have the opportunity to buy a new one. I considered Dollar Shave Club, then found that I can buy direct from Dorco at even a fraction of DSC's price. Also, I've been reading testimonials from men who say that the best shave is with a vintage safety razor, circa 1940's, and I'm considering that too. Way cheaper than anything. But.... I don't want to hack my legs up. And I'm not sure which blade to buy (seems there are different types of blades).

Any ladies out there successfully shaving on the cheap?
posted by luciddream928 to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (34 answers total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Yup, I shave with a safety razor and haven't hacked myself up, despite being terribly clumsy. I really like holding something solid and lasting, rather than a crappy piece of plastic. I wouldn't use it if I had children in the house, though.
posted by Bergamot at 2:38 PM on October 12, 2012

Best answer: I shaved my legs with a Merkur safety razor for a while, but have gone back to the Venus. The major issue for me was speed of shave-- I just don't want to be spending more than five minutes shaving my legs, and with the safety razor I had to go veeery slowly so as not to slice myself up (and even then, I'd end up with a couple of nasty nicks anyway). If time's not an issue for you, though, it's a good (and cheap) option.

Edited to add: I also found it very tricky to shave my armpits with the safety razor, but YMMV.
posted by oinopaponton at 2:41 PM on October 12, 2012

For a long time, I used the Gillette something something razor that had the replaceable blades, but yes, the price rose astronomically over the years and I hated the price increase nearly every single time I went to buy a package of cartridges. So, I decided to give the Venus disposables a try, 4 per pack for like $6, and I actually like them alot (pink package). I find that I can use one of them for quite a long time. And especially with colder weather ( = generally less shaving required).

I also use the Skintherapy shaving gel ($1.25/can). That might make a difference, too. I think decent shave gel + not-top-of-the-line razor works very well, at least for me. And is pretty cheap, IMO.
posted by foxhat10 at 2:42 PM on October 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Good to know... I'm really clumsy too : ) Thanks for the comments!
posted by luciddream928 at 2:43 PM on October 12, 2012

I don't know about safety razors, but there are ways to extend the life your razor significantly by using oil or by keeping it dry. Both methods have the same purpose - to keep water away from the blade when not in use. Something to consider if you end up using disposable razors.
posted by insectosaurus at 2:45 PM on October 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

The major issue for me was speed of shave

I agree, I like that I can shave my legs in the morning with one eye open, half awake and not worry about slicing my leg. Good point, oinopaponton.
posted by foxhat10 at 2:46 PM on October 12, 2012

Response by poster: Forgot to ask along the lines of brands for safety razors... does it make a difference? Merkur seems to be the most popular, but some of them look different.
posted by luciddream928 at 2:46 PM on October 12, 2012

Mod note: Folks, just a reminder: please don't do the "edited to add" thing - just make another comment. Edit window is for typo fixes!
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 2:52 PM on October 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Gillette "lady" razors are easy to find on eBay. Not sure what year they are from, maybe the 60s?
posted by cazoo at 2:58 PM on October 12, 2012

Best answer: I have the one cazoo linked and love it. I do have to go a little slower than I used to, but the only time I've cut myself is when I tossed it in my makeup bag to travel and forgot about it, then reached in without looking. I buy blades on amazon for pretty cheap - these.
posted by brilliantine at 3:03 PM on October 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: May I recommend the subreddit which is all about wet-shaving, including double-edge, single-edge, shavette, and straight-razor shaving. You can get a TON of advice about razors, blades, soaps, brushes, etc.

It's called Wicked_Edge

Yes, it's mostly men shaving faces, but there are plenty of women, often but not exclusively girlfriends and wives of wet-shavers. Here's the FAQ link about Wet-shaving for Ladies. And no, it's not just about leg shaving, and everyone's respectful on the topic of shaving sensitive places.

There's a little bit of lingo so please do read the glossary in the faq so you know what a "WTG pass" is, or "goo" or whatnot. (passing the razor with the grain, and "goo" is the kind of alleged shaving cream that comes in a pressurized can and spends its time drying your skin)

You're going to find that a lot of the talk is about soaps, brushes, blade brands, etc. Pre-shave treatment of skin and hair, as well as post-shave treatment of skin, are as important to a successful shave as the edge on your razor. You're looking at a moderate initial investment, followed by years of cheap shaving (see the sidebar for some selections based on a particular budget). You'll also see lots of talk of multiple passes-- yes, wet-shaving takes longer, but the care and time is worth it.

IIRC, the Ladies Gilette is the Double-Edge (DE) handle of choice for the women, but some prefer the longer handle of the Merkur. I've got a no-frills Lord L6 from Amazon, which I bought for the price alone. I like the Shark blades, but Lord blades have served me well and Astra SP has a great rep. (linked above by brilliantine) Feather blades from Japan have one reputation: the sharpest of them all-- this doesn't make them the right blade for everyone.

Finally, let me point out that there's a learning curve-- your first wet-shave won't be your best. But you probably won't razor yourself to death.
posted by Sunburnt at 3:08 PM on October 12, 2012 [3 favorites]

Not a lady-leg shaver, but my experience with safety razors is that 'speed' is not one of their universal virtues.

I am faster with a disposable that has a lubrication strips. The safety razor however gives a much closer shave, it just requires more prep.

Also, the blade matters, maybe more than the handle. I like the Feather brand blades from Japan: sharper and led to fewer nicks than what I found in the drug store (at this point I think those are more for windshield decal scrapers than shaving).

tl;dr - if you're going to try safety razor shaving, I'd recommend excellent blades and any handle you happen to like.
posted by zippy at 3:11 PM on October 12, 2012

If the idea is to save money on disposable razors, I extend the life of my disposables by months, using the method described in this youtube video. It sounds kind of insane, but it works. I do it in the shower just before shaving. Then you just have to remember to dry the razor off afterwards so it doesn't get rusty.
posted by stray at 3:12 PM on October 12, 2012

Response by poster: I'm leaning toward the Gilette Vintage. Any recommendations for sampler blades? Thanks again everyone.
posted by luciddream928 at 3:38 PM on October 12, 2012

I have for years now. You can go cheap or spendy on the handle.
But you only need to buy it once. The blades are cheap, mens section at walgreens.
and even recyclable.
posted by misformiche at 4:24 PM on October 12, 2012

Any recommendations for sampler blades

Pack of 10 Feather hi-stainless platinum coated. Also available in 30 and 50 and 100-packs!
posted by zippy at 4:25 PM on October 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Ha, I have the same Gillette lady safety razor! I'm never buying those stupid ripoff cartridge razors again.
posted by fiercecupcake at 4:53 PM on October 12, 2012

FWIW, I tried shaving my legs with one and did hack them up. They were OK for the long expanses of my calves but I ran into trouble along my boney ankles and knees.
posted by needs more cowbell at 4:59 PM on October 12, 2012

Best answer: I also use that identical blue sixties lady Gillette razor. I love it! To be honest, the first week I had it, I did nick myself a few times and I wasn't impressed with the closeness of the shave. Then all of a sudden, my skin suddenly seemed to adapt to the safety razor, and now not only do I rarely nick my legs, I also get a way, way closer shave than with a disposable. I get my blades on eBay for pennies each (I can't remember the brand, but they say super platinum, made in Israel on the side-- it's the brand that was recommended on one of those super intense shaving forums, and it is way way better than the pack of blades I bought at CVS, which sliced me up fierce).

I love that it's so much cheaper than the cartridge razors. I love that it's more eco-friendly. I most especially love that I feel like a glamorous Bond girl when I shave my legs now. There is just nothing sexy about plastic cartridge disposable razors.
posted by instamatic at 5:28 PM on October 12, 2012

I do! I bought a Merkur last year from here, and a variety pack of razors. I use it for legs and pits and have had a couple of tiny nicks but nothing more. I also have some nice soap and a brush. I love it, great razor, great shave and the cost after the initial outlay for the razor is pretty much nothing.

My caveat is that I'm the kind of person who shaves my armpits maybe twice a week and my legs maybe once a week in the summer and almost never in the winter. It does take a bit longer to shave with the safety so if you are an every day shaver you'll have to budget the time accordingly.
posted by Cuke at 5:58 PM on October 12, 2012

Pack of 10 Feather hi-stainless platinum coated.

Feathers perhaps have a more fearsome reputation than they deserve, but they're sufficiently unforgiving of a heavy hand not to be the blades I'd start with.

(I can't remember the brand, but they say super platinum, made in Israel on the side)

Personna. Same brand name as many drugstore packs, but much better.

Time and a bit of prep, even with a disposable, is what pays off most here.
posted by holgate at 6:24 PM on October 12, 2012

Yeah I don't think anyone recommends Feathers as a starter. Maybe down the line, sure, but not when you're starting out.
posted by Busoni at 6:27 PM on October 12, 2012

Dollar shave club. Check it out.
posted by oceanjesse at 6:29 PM on October 12, 2012

Best answer: I have a vintage Lady Gillette that I ordered from eBay (I swear it's identical to the one that lurked under my mom's sink for decades after she'd switched to disposables).

I like Feather and Personna blades. I recommend buying a multipack of different brands from Amazon, to try out different types and rule out what you hate and what you love, before investing in a lot of blades of one type. The only local place I can find blades is Walgreens, and their store brand blades are just awful.

My method of shaving is this: rub cheap jojoba oil into my legs in the shower, do my other shower stuff while my skin softens up a little, then shave using hair conditioner instead of shave cream (cheaper, just as effective).

I have definitely cut myself a few times, which I haven't done in many, many years, but the shave is also so much closer it's insane. I figure, I started shaving my legs with a disposable blade at eleven or twelve and had stopped cutting myself by mistake by the time I was thirteen, I'll probably be pretty much done cutting myself with a safety razor soon enough. I had gotten so lax with a disposable blade that I had forgotten how careful I had to be around ankles and knees back when I started--the learning curve seems to be just about the same.
posted by padraigin at 7:33 PM on October 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: @Padraigin - can you clean the blade after using the oil? Do you dry it off, and/or rub it on old jeans or a towel after using? I've never used oil for shaving but it sounds like a great idea. I second using conditioner, too, much cheaper and leaves my legs way less dried out. I hate the store-bought stuff now!
posted by luciddream928 at 7:42 PM on October 12, 2012

After I get out of the shower I take my razor, I rinse it thoroughly, and wipe the blade with a little witch hazel, which has alcohol in it. I just wipe it with a cotton pad but actually, I've heard using denim is great because it has sort of a stropping effect, and I might chop up some old jeans or something some time for that purpose and see how that works. So far though, I can get several shaves out of a single blade, and they're so cheap in bulk online that I'm still way ahead of where I was buying Venus or Mach blades in bulk at Costco.

I store my razor outside of the shower when I'm not using it, so other people's shower humidity doesn't affect it much.
posted by padraigin at 8:06 PM on October 12, 2012

I have a Merkur travel razor for legs and armpits. I like the weight of the razor and the length of the handle, I find it's much easier to use than any modern, light, multi-blade razor. You don't have to press at all, just let the razor lay naturally against your skin (a bit hard to explain, sorry). I often use straight jojoba oil to shave with. I find it helps to have a plastic bowl full of water to swish the razor in to rinse because our shower stream is kind of puny. When I'm done I rinse the razor with rubbing alcohol.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:11 PM on October 12, 2012

After shaving, I unscrew the handle far enough for a gap to rinse the blade and store the (Merkur) razor loose like this to let the blade dry. No effort, no rust.
posted by meijusa at 12:09 AM on October 13, 2012

I actually use a old-school safety razor specifically for speed in the shower. I have a lot of very thick hair, with a modern safety razor it can take up to twenty or thirty minutes to do my full legs what with rinsing the razor every five seconds and the hair getting trapped. With an old-school safety razor it takes five.

I did hack up my legs a little the first time I used it, but it was because I didn't have any practice. With a little time, you'll be able to do it super fast without having to worry about it. Now I use it on my underarms and upper inner thighs/pubic region without fear. Replacement blades are something like 90 cents each and last way longer.
posted by corb at 1:21 AM on October 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Seconding Feathers over Personas, and a true story: the razor oinopaponton linked to above is my back up razor (even though I'm a dude). My mother, who just turned 70, was visiting recently and saw it out on the sink and told me that was the same razor she grew up shaving with. My mother is a total badass, FWIW.

And don't forget to by an alum block; it'll solve all your nick problems right away.
posted by digitalprimate at 7:04 AM on October 13, 2012

Yeah I don't think anyone recommends Feathers as a starter.

I do. They were my first blades. I get more knicked with 'less fearsome' i.e. duller, more irregular blades.
posted by zippy at 10:37 AM on October 13, 2012

And don't forget to by an alum block, it'll solve all your nick problems right away.

Alum blocks are great for razor burn as well. I prefer a styptic pencil for nicks and cuts.
posted by thirtyeightdown at 6:13 PM on October 13, 2012

I am a lady who uses a long-handle Merkur safety razor and Feather blades; I will NEVER go back to disposables. Totally worth trying.

Despite being fairly clumsy, I've built up the confidence to shave pubic hair with my safety razor--no issues. Despite popular opinion, I recommend that you start with sharp blades such as Feather. Just go slow and use a light hand, you'll get faster over time. Duller blades will cause nicks; it is SO MUCH easier using a sharp blade. Buy Feather blades on Ebay to save money.

I use jojoba oil to soften the hair before shaving, then conditioner rather than shave gel. After I'm done, I dry my skin and apply witch hazel (in an atomizer, I use Thayers). I have super-sensitive skin and have never had a razor bump since beginning this routine.

My boyfriend uses a safety razor now after admiring my smooth shave/lack of nicks.
posted by turniphead at 8:17 PM on October 13, 2012

Response by poster: So I settled on the Vintage Lady Gillette I found on Etsy, cheaper than any I saw on Amazon besides the Lord. Thanks for the suggestions everyone! I'll definitely use the wicked_edge forum on Reddit recommended by Sunburnt. Let's hope I don't hack myself up like a virginia ham....
posted by luciddream928 at 3:24 PM on October 24, 2012

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