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Here's an interesting economics question that's a bit broader in scope than a lot of questions on here.

I like to go clean-shaven. But razor blades keep getting more and more expensive, and that's not likely to change since they're literally the archetypical example of the "razor and blades" profit model.

There are various businesses that use electrolysis, lasers, or other techniques to permanently remove unwanted hair. As I understand it, such services are more commonly used by women, but it occurs to me that I could probably get this done for my face. If such a service means paying for an expensive treatment once and never buying razor blades again, there would have to be a break-even point, after which I'm saving money for the rest of my life.

Is there any economic data available regarding whether this is a good long-term idea?

  • Getting a little chatty in the comments. Hit up the chat rooms everybody =) – MrChrister Nov 19 '14 at 15:46
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Laser hair removal isn't permanent, you have to have several sessions to get all of the hair, each session costing hundreds. And then it may only last a few years before you have hair growing back again. It's not worth the money unless you have such a large amount that you can throw away several thousand.

As others have said, either buy blades in bulk or get a straight razor. They will be much more economical in both the short term and long term.

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No one here has mentioned electronic shavers.

I purchased one for about $120 two years ago. It's still going strong and I've only had it professionally cleaned one time.

I also find this method to be more time efficient as compared to shaving with a blade- I live in Toronto and commute to work and it is not unusual to see men shaving while sitting in their cars in high density highway traffic.

If I'm keeping this answer generic, there is also the added benefit of lower water consumption with this method. However, this is potentially negated by the cost of electricity used to charge the shaver.

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If your goal is to simply save money on shaving supplies, there are easier ways to do so. If you are buying the latest Gillette multi-blade razor cartridge, then yes, you are spending a lot of money on razor blades.

Consider switching to an old-fashioned double-edge safety razor. Pick up a nice razor for $20 - $50 (I like my Merkur HD), then buy the blades for cheap. I buy a 2 year supply of double-edge blades for less than $20.

If you really want to turn in your man card and get your facial hair permanently removed, then it is really easy to calculate the payback time. Just figure out what you are spending in razor blades, get a quote for lasering your face off, and compare. If you are paying $10 a year for blades like I am, the payback time is going to be long.

One more thought: remember, permanent means permanent. This is comparable to a tattoo, except tattoos are easier to reverse.

Others have noted that the procedure isn't really permanent. What I understand from reading (I don't have firsthand experience) is that it is temporary in the sense that you will eventually need to start shaving again, but permanent in the sense that you will never be able to grow a proper beard again, if you wish. Basically, it is the worst of both worlds: it won't accomplish your goal of not having to shave anymore, but will make permanent changes to your face. The fact that you will need to shave again, even if only occasionally, affects your payback time calculation.

  • Quick websearch says an old-fashioned non-safety "cut throat" razor can be had for $40. Add some costs for strop, stropping compound, and periodically either having it sharpened or learning to properly sharpen it yourself and getting the materials to do so -- which can also be used to sharpen everything from kitchen knives to woodworking tools -- but even so, I suspect the total cost is lower. Some skill is needed in using them, but probably not as much as we tend to assume. And knowing how to use one would be a sorta impressive skill, given how few learn. – keshlam Nov 14 '14 at 4:09
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    There is no need for the comment on your perception of masculinity. – Matthew Nov 14 '14 at 18:22
  • You can also consider learning how to use a straight razor. Fast, manly, and all you have to do is keep it sharp. A good one should last you a lifetime. Also, note that "permanent" hair removal products often don't truly remove hair permanently. Read the fine print. – JAGAnalyst Nov 14 '14 at 19:11
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    Just so everyone is clear, the answer was not intended to insult the OP, just an attempt at a little humor. I think it's a great question, and the thought of permanent hair removal has crossed my mind while shaving as well (and quickly dismissed for the reasons in the answer). – Ben Miller - Reinstate Monica Nov 19 '14 at 23:08
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    @BenMiller I agree. This is a good answer and you've edited out the questionable part. I think all the DVs are a bit harsh :( – Matthew Nov 20 '14 at 18:30
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The simple answer should be easy to find: Call your local place, inquire about the price, and then divide that cost by the cost of shaving supplies per year (don't forget to account for your time!) to get the number of years it would have to last to reach the break-even point. Some have indicated that laser hair removal does not last forever; if it does not last at least as long as the break-even point, then it is not more economical. If it does, then it is.

This is only one data point in the decision, but it should be fairly straightforward to calculate. Like all grooming services, I expect there is a range of prices, so you may want to call more than one location.

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