For many men, shaving is an expensive chore. The price point for Mach 3 refill cartridges has leveled off at an average of just over two dollars per razor blade, but it's a stretch to get more than three shaves out of one. In the end it seemed to me like I wasn't getting a good enough value for the money I was spending. When I started using a safety razor, it was a revelation.
But just when I started saving money on razors, I started spending more on shaving cream. Until a couple of years ago, I didn't know that plastic is a key ingredient in a lot of hygienic products. This is not a lecture, but be warned: once you start using natural products, it's hard to go back. Your skin is sensitive, especially on your face, and it's worth it to pamper yourself a bit (don't worry guys with beards, there's something in this entry for you, too).
1. Harry’s Winston and Truman
Last spring, Harry's came out of nowhere with a solution to the cartridge razor blade not-a-very-good-shave-and-not-a-very-good-value problem. Harry's improves the whole experience with higher quality materials and lower cost. (The business model may sound familiar because one of the guys behind Harry's was a co-founder of Warby Parker.) There are two handle types—the Winston, with an aluminum body, and the Truman, composed of a zinc alloy core with colored polymer coating—that have a bit more heft to reduce the pressure you apply with each stroke. A year of Harry's razor cartridges costs $52.
Harry's isn't reinventing the wheel, just bringing it up to sensible standards. If you're not interested in safety or straight razor shaving, and have thought at least once about the expense of razor cartridges, then check out Harry's.
2. The New York Shaving Company Ivory Stout Safety Razor
Now that I've highlighted a cartridge razor method for shaving, I'll say that if you do want to move on from that method, a safety razor is a great option. It's more cost effective than cartridge razor shaving and the closeness of the shave is impressive. I use a safety razor and wholly recommend it. You may have a few nicks every now and again, but the close shave you get will make you wonder why you spent so much time using cartridge razors. I actually look forward to shaving, and when I need to grab more double-edge razor blades, I can get 25 of them (~50 weeks) for $3.99.
3. Ursa Major Stellar Shave Cream
I was first exposed to Ursa Major's shave cream thanks to a free sample from a store in Manhattan, and I was hooked immediately. I decided that I did not want to go the badger brush and mug route, and the scent and smoothness of Ursa Major's shave cream was a revelation after years of using gel and foam shaving cream. Everything Ursa Major makes is really nice, and often feels like something that should be reserved for a special occasion (the rationing means one bottle of the shave cream regularly lasts me about eight months or more). Their face wash and tonic are wonderful as well; sampler sizes and varying arrangements at Ursa Major's web store make great stocking stuffers.
4. Honeybee Gardens Aftershave
Probably the most natural product on this roundup, Honeybee Gardens's aftershave is as completely natural as an over-the-counter aftershave gets. It's a classic astringent, not a cooling cream or face toner or anything meant to give you that luxurious post-shave feeling that only exists in advertisements. It is going to wake you up and keep your skin from drying out, as well as cover up any nicks you may have made during your shave. The scents are all good and the bottle will last you more than a year, no doubt about it. I love the stuff.
5. Portland General Store Ginger Beard Oil
I have heard nothing but wonderful things about Portland General Store's grooming products for men: they smell really good, work really well, and have that extra something that makes your grooming regimen more pleasant every time. This beard oil is for those guys that have foregone full-on shaving for one reason or another. Beards can be a tangly, wiry, rough forest; this oil will moisturize, tame, and leave you smelling and feeling refreshed.