Friday, July 10, 2020

Assured Double Edge Safety Razor (Dollar Tree)

Better than you might think possible for $1
If the notion of a “man-card” were real, mine would have been revoked...well, at least twenty years ago. I've just never been into the typical things that the stereotypical male is into. For example: I don't get a hard-on from putting food on a grill. I like the taste of grilled foods, but I don't gain excitement from the act of intentionally creating a fire just to primitively cook a dead animal. I “hate” cars in the traditional masculine sense: I appreciate their amenities, and I love that they get me from point A to point B infinitely faster than walking, but my wife literally knows more about car maintenance than I do (and at the rate my son is gobbling up YouTube videos of mechanics fixing vehicles, he'll know more than me by...next week). I hate the taste of beer, and will gladly go for a "foo-foo" drink instead either at home, or the bar (life's too short to pretend to like gross shit just to fit in). I don't like guns, I hate the thought of killing animals for sport, and up there with all of these things: I hate shaving.

I hate it. I don't know why, because I have thin, wiry hair that I could probably lop off with a butterknife, so it never takes me more than ten minutes, but I get no excitement whatsoever out of the experience. In fact, I almost dread it, frequently putting it off until I can no longer stand the feeling of the hair on my face, which—to put my hair growth into perspective—can be stretched out to a little over a week before it becomes a nuisance to me.

When I was forced to shave, I always used the multi-blade razors. This was both out of loyalty - I was a member of Dollar Shave Club for years - and convenience, as those were the only things I'd ever used (besides disposables, but they're the same idea). I always knew there were cheaper options out there, but DSC was fairly inexpensive (especially over name brand razors), reliable, and in the rare instance something went wrong (once in 3+ years), were quick to credit my account. (I don't mind paying a little extra for solid support, especially in this day and age where the customer experience seems to take a backseat to...well, everything else.)

Then one day, I just randomly decided to see how much money I could save without a razor subscription. I tracked down DSC's supposed supplier - which is easily found online - saw they were offering a pretty good deal that saved me a few bucks per cartridge, placed an order, and canceled by DSC account.

Everything went well with the order, and I was excited to be able to get several months' worth of razors upfront. I wasn't sure how well I'd do actually remembering to re-order them when I was running low (something I'm terrible about, and why the DSC subscription was so useful), but considering my wife and I shave way less frequently than we probably should, we would have a few months before we had to worry about that. (And no, we're not gross hairy messes, either; we just don't grow hair at "normal" rates.)
An Assured safety razor, after about 8 months of use.

Then, about three months after my initial purchase, came the devastating email from my new razor blade supplier: they were going out of business. Well, not exactly...they would presumably still be supplying Dollar Shave Club, and their razors could be purchased direct through Amazon, but they were closing down their own storefront. And considering they sold out of the razors I used about a week after I purchased them, and were still wiped out three months later, I decided it would probably be in my best interest to find a more consistent manufacturer to order from. I looked for a little while, and then after not finding anything that really stood out to me, kind of just put it on the backburner and forgot about it.

Well, as they say, you'll often find what you're looking for when you've stopped looking, and a short while after quitting my search was precisely the time I stumbled on Assured's version of a double edge safety razor, complete with five replacement blades, inside a Dollar Tree store. It was like a sign from the heavens...the (possible) razor solution that I was looking for. I mean, not only the handle, but five razor blades...all for $1? I struggled to comprehend the typical "how can the company make money off of this" for just long enough to realize that I didn't really care about the financial situation of the company; they're clearly making money off of it somehow, considering these are always available at DT stores, and that was good enough for me.

All I knew about safety razors is that they seemed to be the preferred tool of complete douchebags: the kind of person that thinks they're better than everyone simply because they use a certain item. In other words, a "man's man". I was definitely out of my league here, but I didn't even hesitate to throw that sucker in my basket; I wasn't going to let a complete lack of knowledge on the subject dissuade me from giving it a shot. Besides, you can get 100-count safety razor blades for about the same price as a single month's supply of shave club cartridges (no exaggeration), so I was game, if for no other reason than to save a few bucks over the course of...well, the rest of my life.

I have to be honest here: I think the general reason I hate shaving is because I don't really even know how you're supposed to do it. Granted, I also don't care to learn, which is why I've never taken the time to do a Google or YouTube search on the subject...or just asked someone in my family. My “technique” mainly consists of standing in a poorly lit bathroom, and just randomly going up and down my face until I think I'm done, or I get bored; the results are usually as awful as you'd expect, because I frequently miss small spots every single time, requiring me to go back over them later on.

I did make an exception for this, and watched a tutorial on proper double-edged safety razor techniques, simply because I was afraid I would end up slicing my face clean off without guidance. Unfortunately, it didn't really do much: even after viewing the entire thing, and learning the finer nuances of shaving, I still opted to go my usual route, just lightly raking it across my face in a vertical fashion until I was satisfied that I had done a good enough job. And despite my initial terror (I did have to use a disposable razor to “finish off” some hard-to-reach spots the first few times, because I was so sure I would end up taking off a layer or three of skin if I made a mistake), I have to say that I've kind of grown to like this setup; at the very least, I can see why people would actually get some satisfaction out of it.

As can probably be expected, it wasn't a perfect transition: I did nick myself a few times over the first couple of months as I got more familiar with it. But even those instances weren't nearly as bad as past experiences: I'm a bleeder, and would frequently have to hold a tissue over my face for several minutes to completely stop the bloodflow on the rare occasions I would carelessly slice my face with a multi-blade cartridge. Here, though, the blood would stop almost immediately; that seems to be one of the major benefits of using a single blade: Since they cut as close to the skin as possible, if you do slice yourself, it's only a single small layer removed, rather than the potential for repeated cuts as each of the multiple blades on a typical cartridge run over the same area.

Considering my background and interest in the subject, I can honestly say that I have absolutely no point of reference to compare this razor to, aside from what I've read online. To me, the razor itself, which is made of metal, is unexpectedly heavy, and feels very sturdy in my hand. I'm sure it still won't compare to the build of a $20 or $30 razor, but for $1, there's way more weight behind it than I was expecting. It uses a "twist" mechanism on the bottom to open the "doors" on the top, allowing for easy removal of the old blade, or installation of a fresh one, which takes about five seconds to do. This design also makes cleaning both the blades, as well as the razor itself, infinitely easier to do than it is with disposable cartridges.

In fact, I like it so much that after using up the five included blades (which took over a month for me to do), I went out and bought a different brand of blades from Amazon (at a rate of around $7 for one hundred, with free shipping), just so I can continue to use this razor. And over the course of the ensuing months, I have to say that I've gotten much more comfortable with it; there are still some sensitive areas of my face that I take some extra precautions around (like my jaw-line, which I feel is cartoonishly exaggerated and my nose/lip area), but for the most part, I can comfortably zip through my face with no nicks or cuts whatsoever. 

Now, it's not all unicorns and rainbows: Even though I like it, the more I use it, the more I'm sure this technically isn't a great razor. I've noticed that only one side gives me a great, comfortable shave, while the other barely seems to cut much at all; I have no doubts the more expensive ones are designed to give equal performance from both sides. And even though I'd be willing to bet I could find a (probably quick) fix for this online, my general uninterest in this prevents from even trying. Besides, it's honestly not that hard to stick to the one side...I've been using it so long now that I can almost immediately tell which is which, just from one swipe of the blade.

Also, the included blades aren't the best, something I can easily tell after having used a different brand for about six months now. I definitely wouldn't call them horrible, and wouldn't hesitate to use them if they were an only option, but these new blades seem to cut a lot better, and last a little while longer. Then again, I wasn't really expecting premium quality to begin with from the included blades, so this isn't really that much of a knock against it.

Despite its flaws, though, these remain a steal at this price point, and remain a solid "entry-level" option for people wanting to give safety razors a shot, without breaking the bank. If you love it, you can upgrade your handle and/or razors for an even better experience; if you hate it, the experiment only cost you $1...pass it on to someone else that wants to try one. It might not be the greatest shave on the planet, but I can almost guarantee it's the best shave you'll probably ever get for $1.

Overall: 8/10. If you're looking for a top-notch shave, well...you probably shouldn't be looking at a dollar store razor to begin with. However, if you've never used a double edge razor before and want to give it a shot, or if you want a decent "back-up" or "travel" razor to always have on hand, this is an enticing option. It's way sturdier than I was expecting, and while I'm sure the build quality is far from premium, it still functions just as well eight months later as it did straight out of the box. The main downside is quality control: only one side of my razor shaves well, while the other side seems to barely reach my face, and doesn't do much of anything at all. The included razors - while not being as terrible as you might think - aren't all that great, and don't last as long as more "premium" ones. 

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