It’s time to shave off that beard! With nearly half of men in the US shaving being daily shavers, the clean-shaven look is officially back in style.
A freshly shaven face is a timeless staple, but razor burn or ingrown hairs can completely ruin the look. But what if you could get that baby-face look without the irritated skin? When you want a good, cheap, high-quality shave, nothing beats a good old fashioned safety razor. Sometimes, the old school is the best school!
Of course, now you have to ask, what sort of razor should I get? There’s a lot of them available, from antique Gillette pieces to shiny new ones from brand new companies—it can all get a bit confusing!
This guide is the culmination of months of researching, testing, and comparing—all to help you find the best safety razor on the market. So if you’re looking for a swift safety razor that will have you looking sharp, read on for the best of the best.
Table Of Contents
- The Top Ten Best Safety Razors
- MERKUR Classic 2-Piece Double Edge Safety Razor
- Feather All Stainless Steel Double-Edge Razor, Model AS-D2
- VIKINGS BLADE The Godfather Double Edge Safety Razor
- MERKUR Futur Adjustable Double Edge Safety Razor
- VIKINGS BLADE The Emperor Adjustable Safety Razor
- Bevel Safety Razor, Double Edge Safety Razor for Men
- VIKINGS BLADE The Chieftain ODIN Double Edge Safety Razor
- Rockwell Razors 6S Stainless Steel Adjustable Double Edge Safety Razor
- MERKUR Slant Bar Double Edge Safety Razor
- Parker 99R Safety Razor
- A Buyer’s Guide To Safety Razors
- The Benefits Of Shaving With A Safety Razor
- A Beginner’s Guide To Shaving With A Safety Razor
- A Short History Of The Safety Razor
Safety Razor Comparison Table
|MERKUR Classic Safety Razor||Closed Comb||3.28 in||77 g|
|Feather Model AS-D2 Razor||5 Feather Blades||3 in||90 g|
|Vikings Blade Godfather Razor||Open Comb||4.53 in||N/A|
|Merkur Futur Safety Razor||Closed Comb||4.3 in||128 g|
|Vikings Blade Emperor Razor||Adjustable head||4.25 in||N/A|
|Bevel Safety Razor for Men||Chromium Plated||4 in||90 g|
|Vikings Blade Chieftain Razor||Butterfly Open||3.75 in||N/A|
|Rockwell 6S Safety Razor||5 Swedish Blade||3.9 in||N/A|
|Merkur Slant Bar Razor||Closed Comb||3.28 in||79 g|
|Parker 99R Safety Razor||Butterfly Open||4 in||96 g|
The Top Ten Best Safety Razors
Not all safety razors are made the same way. Some are heavier, some are smaller, and some are adjustable. We’ve picked out the top ten best safety razors available on the market right now.
Among the ranks of today’s safety razor manufacturers, Merkur ranks near the top. They’re from Solingen, a city in Germany that’s been known for its blades since the Middle Ages, and they keep up the great tradition. Step into any shaving forum, and you’ll hear praises of them, and especially this particular razor.
The Merkur Classic 34C is a two-piece safety razor with a chrome finish that gives it a lovely, classy look. It’s 83mm (3.3 inches) long overall, and it weighs 77 grams (2.7 ounces). This is a bit on the heavier side of average as safety razors go, though all that weight is put into quite a small package.
Most of the shaft is knurled for easy grip, so you have no worry of it slipping out of your hands. Even the knob at the far end of the shaft is rigid for grip, so if you prefer holding your razor by the end of the shaft, you’ll be fine.
It’s a good beginner blade because you’ve got a blade that’s on the milder side of average. It hits the right spot of aggressive enough to show you what you can do while being mild enough to not cut you too badly if you mess up. It’s also small enough that it can go anywhere it needs to go; it has no trouble handling tight spots around your face as a larger razor would.
There are just about two things you can fault the Classic 34C for: size and edge. The handle is rather short, which may be difficult for some users, especially those with large hands. And while it is decently sharp, it tends to struggle with coarse hair, even when equipped with a nice sharp blade. It’ll do very well to start, but someone with a tough beard might want to graduate to something with a bit more bite.
On the whole, the Merkur Classic 34C is an excellent choice for anyone whether newcomer or experienced. It’ll serve your shaving needs without ever breaking the bank, and it’s our top pick for the best safety razor for men.
Where Britain has Sheffield and Germany has Solingen, Japan has Seki. These three cities are renowned for their blades, and Seki is host to Feather, who made the next razor we’re looking at. Feather has been making blades since 1932, and their AS-D2 is a fine example of their craft.
The Feather AS-D2 is a three-piece safety razor made entirely out of space-grade stainless steel (hence AS). It’s 98mm (3.9 inches) long overall, and it weighs 90 grams (3.17 ounces). That makes it a heavyweight in razor terms, though you’ll barely feel it when you have it in hand.
The grip is knurled with a diamond pattern for grip. The length of the handle means that only the largest of hands will find trouble with the Feather. The balance is also excellent, with the balance point being just under the headpiece. Overall, you won’t have any problems moving the Feather around your face, and it’s not so large that it’ll take up much room wherever it goes.
In terms of sharpness & aggressiveness, it’s very mild. It’s so mild that you have to be trying to cut yourself, and thus it makes for a very forgiving razor. The best way to use it is to load up a Feather blade, as they’re on the sharper end, and you need that extra sharpness to give the AS-D2 a little kick. Its build quality is excellent, as you can expect from a master of the craft. That stainless steel will last you a lifetime, enough that you’d pretty much have to be trying to destroy it, and it’ll clean up quite easily after you’re done shaving.
There’s no getting around one weakness: it’s an expensive razor, in fact, the most expensive on this list. I’d normally recommend a mild razor for newcomers to safety razors, as they’re more forgiving, but not with that price tag. Plus, the mildness means it’s not the best choice for those with tough beards. If you’ve got stubborn facial hair, you may be better served by putting a Feather blade onto a more aggressive razor.
There’s no doubt that getting the Feather AS-D2 will put a hole in your wallet. But no razor lives up to the phrase “you get what you pay for” as well as the Feather, and no other razor matches it for sheer quality. Feather’s eight decades of experience with razors show magnificently in this excellent product.
Though most of the big names are old and established, there are some younger competitors in the safety razor business. Vikings Blade has been around for some time, but this Australian company has only started making safety razors under their own name since 2015. The Godfather is one of their lineup of safety razors.
It’s a three-piece safety razor finished in chrome for that classy upmarket look, without the painful upmarket price. Overall length is 115mm (4.53 inches), and total weight is 98 (3.45 ounces) grams, rather on the heavy side. The handle itself isn’t your usual cylinder; it bulges out near the end and tapers off onto a conical bottom. This provides a natural place to grip the razor.
In terms of aggression, it’s a pretty mild razor. If you’re worried about irritation or cutting yourself, then the Godfather will do well for you; no matter what blade you’ve loaded into it, it’s a very quiet razor overall. Much like the Feather, you’d have to be trying to cut yourself with the Godfather.
It comes with a few extras: a leatherette and suede traveling case and five of their platinum-coated razor blades. These blades are rather mild, so experimentation is best to see if they work well with the Godfather itself for your shaving needs.
Its main failing is the grip. Even with the bulge, there just isn’t enough grip assistance on the handle, and users have repeatedly reported that it gets slippery, especially with wet hands. Also, the grip may be too long for some users, enough that it can cause problems when shaving certain areas of the face and neck. (You could always switch in a more convenient grip from a different three-piece razor.)
It may be a bit oversized, but it’s still a very comfortable shave for a quite good price. If you need a comfortable and forgiving razor that won’t lash out at you if you mess up, then the Vikings Blade Godfather is the razor for you.
They may be among the older names, but Merkur still knows how to innovate and stay ahead of the game, and their experience also means they know how to innovate and maintain their quality. The Merkur Futur shows exactly how they go about doing both.
The Merkur Futur is an adjustable safety razor with a chrome finish. It’s technically a one-piece razor, as the cap comes off to switch blades, but the term doesn’t really fit it. Its overall length is 114mm (4.48 inches), and it weighs a solid 128 grams (4.51 ounces). It comes second in both physical size and weight of every razor we have on this list.
The grip is smooth, without any knurling or other features to aid in keeping a grip. There’s an indented section just beneath the head, which is also the razor’s balance point, and this provides a natural place for your fingers to hold on to and gives you excellent control over the Futur. The shaft’s length means that even large hands won’t have much difficulty getting a good grip.
Its flagship feature is right there in the name: it’s adjustable. The head has six different settings to adjust blade aggressiveness, 1 being a mild shave, to the very combative 6. This means you can vary your shave performance based on need: stick with a mild setting for sensitive spots, and turn up the heat for stubborn places with tough hairs.
Its build quality is also excellent; to quote multiple reviews, it’s built like a tank. The most obvious point of failure is the cap, as it comes off to switch blades, but it isn’t at all flimsy. This is a razor that your descendants will inherit and use; it’s that well-made.
There are a few weaknesses we can mention. The price isn’t quite friendly to those just starting off, but that’s a common theme with adjustable razors. Plus it may be a bit overwhelming for new users, especially those who arrive unschooled into the world of wet shaving. A novice might not yet have enough knowledge or be comfortable enough with straight razors in general to properly get the most out of the Merkur Futur. On the whole, I wouldn’t recommend the Merkur Futur as your first razor.
Merkur scores a well-crafted goal with the Futur, and while it can be overwhelming, it will serve you well once you know your way around a razor, and it’ll never fail you. It could well be the last razor you’ll ever need to buy.
Another of the Vikings Blade lineup of razors, the Emperor is their top-end razor, being both adjustable and the most expensive. But the real question is, does it live up to the price and the name?
The Emperor Augustus is an adjustable safety razor finished in vintage bronze and cognac for that antique look. It’s 110mm (4.33 inches) long overall and weighs 134 grams (4.72 ounces). No doubt about it, the Emperor is the heaviest of the razors we have on this list.
The grip is a ridged shaft, not quite a knurled one but quite good for keeping a good grip. Even the largest hands won’t have any trouble holding on, not with a razor as long as the Emperor is.
Just like the Merkur Futur, the Augustus is an adjustable razor, and you can adjust blade aggressiveness as the need arises. Simply twist the knob underneath the head, with settings from 1 to 10 (though the 10 actually says max), and you’re in business.
It comes in two variants. The one listed here is the Emperor Augustus variant, but you might also find the standard Emperor in frosted chrome. There’s no difference in performance; the extra cost in the Augustus goes entirely to cosmetics.
If I had to pick out a problem, it’d be cost. The Augustus’ extra cost is entirely for a new coat of paint, but even the original frosted chrome one is still a bit heavy on the wallet. This is a common hazard of adjustable razors, but it can still put either version of the Emperor out of someone’s price range. Since it’s a twist-to-open, there’s going to be those little nooks that are a chore to clean. Also, Vikings Blade’s advice to towel-dry the Augustus after use for the sake of the plating indicates they’re concerned with the finish coming off; one more thing to worry about.
Cost and cosmetic issues aside, the Vikings Blade Emperor Augustus is still an excellent razor, with a good set of options for you to play with. If you want to feel like a Roman emperor and shave with a razor worthy of him, get it.
Black people can often have a peculiar relationship with shaving since their hair tends to be coarse and curly. What works for other ethnicities might not work for them, which is why Tristan Walker founded Walker and Company, and its flagship label Bevel, aim all their products at people of color. Their safety razor is part of the Bevel shaving system. You can buy the entire package from their website; it makes for a nicely complete system for beginners to start with.
Bevel goes for a look that’s minimalistic or even surgical. The Bevel is a three-piece razor with a chrome finish, with an overall length of 108mm (4.25 inches), weighing 90 grams (3.2 ounces). Overall, on the larger and heavier side for safety razors. The handle is textured for most of its length, to help with grip.
The Bevel is designed for use by men with curly hair. Curly hair has a higher chance of becoming ingrown, mainly because it’s curly, and thus tends to grow the wrong way if improperly cut. To avoid any skin irritation, it has a very small blade gap and thus is not very aggressive. This also means that less skin bunches up in front of the razor, and you get a lot less blade-to-skin contact until you get the right angle. As always, you can tweak aggressiveness a bit by putting in a keen blade; I always find a Feather blade does nicely.
The most major downside is that the handle doesn’t offer much grip assistance. The texturing does help reduce slip, but not entirely; a knurled handle would have been better. As the Bevel is a three-piece, you can switch it out with a different knurled handle if you decide you can’t work with the original.
If your topmost concern is irritation from shaving, then the Bevel Safety Razor is the one for you. It also makes a good beginner’s razor even if you’re not worried about skin irritation. Whatever your needs, Tristan Walker’s creation will serve you well.
Our third entry from Vikings Blade is their Chieftain. Of the three we’ve featured here, the Chieftain is their flagship razor, the one most people think about when they hear of Vikings Blade.
It’s a twist-to-open safety razor with a total length is 95mm (3.75 inches), while it weighs 82 grams (2.9 ounces). That puts it in the average for razors. The handle’s grip aid is its ridges, and it bulges out just a little in the middle, letting your fingers have a more natural grip. The model on Amazon is specifically the Chieftain Odin, colored in obsidian and rose gold; you can also find the basic Chieftain, which is a less impressive chrome.
Given its cost and aggressiveness, it’s intended to be a daily driver. (Well, the basic Chieftain, anyway; the Odin and its fancy clothing might not be as fit.) It’s in the middle of the scale for aggressiveness, so pretty much anyone can get good use out of it.
Similar to the Godfather and the Emperor, you get the same extras: a leatherette and suede travel case and five replacement razor blades. These blades are fairly mild, but they’re a good place to start in the absence of a sample pack. Try them out and see how you like them.
One downside is that the handle doesn’t offer much grip. The ridges help, but I’d prefer a smaller knurled pattern instead of the ridges, especially since they’re smooth-surfaced. Not really what you want when your hand’s wet and caked in shaving soap. Another is just that it’s twist-to-open, and has a bunch of moving parts that can break, most notably the butterfly hinges. This isn’t really the Chieftain’s fault, being an inherent weakness of all TTO razors, but it does hurt the Chieftain.
Thankfully, it’s backed by Vikings Blade’s warranty: one year just for purchasing it, upgradable to a lifetime warranty for the very low cost of providing feedback on their site. Quite an excellent offer if you’re concerned about the hinges or anything else breaking.
The Godfather is your razor for mildness, and the Emperor can easily be the last one you need, but for everyday use, the Vikings Blade Chieftain is the one.
Rockwell Razors is one of the newest companies on our list, having come onto the scene in 2014 with a Kickstarter campaign. Despite a few initial hiccups, they’ve recovered admirably, and the quality of their safety razors now matches any other manufacturer you’d care to name. They have a lineup of three adjustable razors, of which the 6S is the middle one.
It’s a three-piece adjustable razor, available in matte or matte black. It’s 95mm (3.74 inches) long overall and weighs 118 grams (4.16 ounces). Adjustables tend to be bigger on average, so this is no surprise. The surprise is instead in how it’s adjustable.
Unlike the other two adjustables on this list, the Rockwell doesn’t adjust with a knob. Instead, think of it as a three-piece razor with three customizable base plates. There are six possible levels of aggressiveness, as each plate is a different level on each side. The intent of use becomes clear: after you do your initial pass on a mild plate, you can switch it out for a more aggressive one, or even just switch to the other side of the same base plate. Numbers are marked on the base plate to make it clear what level you’re using.
The build quality is excellent. It’s made out of stainless steel (in fact, the same grade of steel as the Feather AS-D2), and thus it can survive pretty much anything you can throw at it. This is a blade that your son will inherit, as will his son after him.
There is still some room for improvement, and the main one is cost. Just like the other adjustables, it’s heavy on the wallet; in fact, it’s the second-most expensive razor on this list, beaten only by the Feather. Also, it can be fiddly to switch out the base plates, and you’ll have to do quite a bit of experimentation to find the right configuration for you.
But if you want a tough, well-built razor that affords you plenty of options, the Rockwell 6S is an excellent choice. It might be a large investment now, but it can do a lot of jobs on its own and save you the trouble of buying more razors.
Of course, Merkur has a few more pieces up its sleeve. You’d be forgiven for thinking that the Merkur 37C looks a bit weird, but there’s a method to that weirdness, as you’ll see in just a moment.
The 37C is a two-piece slant razor. Overall length is 83mm (3.28 inches), and it weighs 79 grams (2.79 ounces). This makes it smaller and lighter than most of this list, being average as razors go.
Note that word: slant. That’s why the head is asymmetrical. The head is constructed so that the blade cuts your hair at an angle, instead of straight-on. This produces a slicing effect on the hairs, instead of a more typical chop as a head-on approach does.
The overall effect is that you get a more aggressive razor with a closer shave than a standard safety razor. Anyone with thick, coarse hair will do better with a slant razor, as a slant will go through their hair with fewer problems than a standard one. It’s also good for sensitive skin, which may sound odd when speaking about aggressive razors; this is because you use less pressure when making your stroke, and so it doesn’t push as hard on the stubble, which in turn doesn’t push as hard on the skin.
The downsides are the usual for most slant razors. First is that the increased aggressiveness means that you have to be extra cautious when using them because that blade is very unforgiving of mistakes. This is not a razor we recommend for first-timers; make sure you have your fundamentals down before considering a slant. Unrelated to it being a slant is the size; the short handle means large hands may have trouble getting a good grip.
It’s a slant razor, and so it has a learning curve that we wouldn’t recommend for the first-timer, but there’s no disputing how well it slices. If you’re confident in your razor handling and you want a close shave good for sensitive skin, the Merkur 37C is the razor for you.
The problem with most safety razors is that they tend to be on the small side; just look at some of the others on this list and how we’ve noted how people with large hands might have difficulty. Hence the Parker 99R, specifically made to offer a larger, easier-to-handle option.
The Parker 99R is a twist-to-open safety razor with an overall length of 114mm (4.5 inches) and weighing 96 grams (3.4 ounces). That makes it a pretty large and chunky thing as safety razors go. The handle is knurled in a ‘barber-pole’ pattern that provides excellent grip. The balance is also quite good; you’ll barely notice the weight while holding it.
Parker razors tend to be aggressive, and the 99R is no exception, so beginners might wish to avoid it for a first razor. That said, the aggressiveness does work well with the weight, so using the 99R is all about letting the blade do the work. Of course, there’s always the option of switching in a milder blade.
Since it’s twist-to-open, blade replacement is a breeze. Just open it up with the knob on the end of the handle, toss the old blade, and drop in a new blade. No muss, no fuss.
It has two main faults. One is the blade aggressiveness, because it may well be too aggressive for someone still new to safety razors. The other is that it’s a TTO razor, with the accompanying headache of moving parts around the butterfly doors. Parker does make hinges of better quality than the usual, so they won’t wear out as quickly, but they’re still the major point of failure.
TTO aside, the Parker 99R is still an excellent razor with a good bit of aggressiveness and more than enough room for even large hands. If you’re willing to take a chance with the blade, it won’t let you down.
A Buyer’s Guide To Safety Razors
Of course, when a lot of safety razors look very much alike, it can be hard to tell what you should look for. These are the criteria we’ve used to evaluate the safety razors above, and what you should pay attention to if you decide to shop around.
Razor Body Type
Generally speaking, a safety razor can come in any three types: two-piece, three-piece, and twist-to-open. The general T-shaped silhouette is common to all of them, but even in that constraint, there’s still room for variation.
Two-piece safety razors have two parts: the razor body and the cap. The cap has a bar with a screw on the end, so that goes into the body and engages with a knob at the end of the handle. Unscrew that knob to release the head and switch out the blade.
Three-piece safety razors have three parts: the handle, the base plate, and the cap. The cap has a peg with a screw that goes into the handle, and the base plate is held between the two. To switch out blades, simply unscrew the handle, and the two head pieces come apart and give you access to the blade.
Twist-to-open (TTO) razors may also be called one-piece or butterfly. They have a knob at the end of the handle, just like a two-piece, but instead of removing the cap, turning the knob opens up the hinged doors on the cap. This is nicely convenient and saves time and effort; all you need to do is open up the head, remove the old blade, and drop in the new one.
Ultimately, user preference will determine which of these you should pick. However, we generally prefer two-piece or three-piece razors to TTO ones. The moving parts are prone to breakage, and the head is difficult to clean, which cancels out the convenience factor.
Razor Aggressiveness And Exposure
This is a topic that deserves an article of its own, but can be summarized as: how much damage is the blade doing? Aggressiveness is determined by several factors, but for our reviews above, we’re examining blade gap (how far a blade is from the guard) and blade exposure (how much of a blade can make contact with the skin between the guard and the cap). Razors with smaller gaps and lesser blade exposure are mild; go in the other direction, and you create an aggressive razor. This is also why adjustable razors exist; they let you vary blade aggressiveness as the need arises.
An aggressive razor can cut through tougher and coarser hair, and it cuts closer to the skin, but it’s also more likely to cause nicks and cuts specifically because so much of the blade is in play. This works in reverse for milder razors; you’re less likely to cut yourself, but the shave won’t be as close and the razor won’t deal with thick hair as well.
Note that it’s not all in the razor. Some measure of the aggressiveness is in the blade, as not all blades are made the same. Just like aggressiveness itself, the topic of razor blades can take up a whole article in themselves; for now, suffice it to say that you can temper a very aggressive razor by putting in a mild blade, or the other way around. The razor still plays a significant part, but there are some combinations you can consider.
Ultimately, there’s no ‘best’ level of aggressiveness, especially since it’s partially a matter of technique and perception. It’s best to experiment with razors and blades to see what level of aggressiveness works for you.
Ergonomics And Grip
You don’t want your razor to slip out of your hand and potentially get damaged, and dropping it puts a dent into your shaving routine. Plus you want a razor to be easy to use; you don’t want to struggle with it at the same time you’re shaving down your mustache.
The most common grip aid you’ll see on a safety razor is a knurled grip: a pattern of ridges on the grip. This is just about the most effective grip aid you can get, though there’s still good knurling and bad knurling. In the absence of knurling, anything other than a shiny surface is going to provide more grip, though some forms of grip assistance are better than others.
Weight And Balance
No safety razor is going to weigh all that much, so it’s less a matter of overall weight and more a matter of how that weight is distributed. Put another way, it’s a matter of balance. Is it blade-heavy or handle-heavy? Beginners still learning to let the razor do the work are better served with heavier razors than lighter ones, as lighter razors need a bit more skill to use without cutting yourself. Three-piece razors have an advantage here, as you can play around a little by switching out the grip for a lighter or heavier one.
The Benefits Of Shaving With A Safety Razor
Of course, we have to answer a few questions first. Why would you get a safety razor? What do you get out of sinking your money into the old school? Here are a few reasons.
They’ll Save Money Long-Term
Compared to cartridge razors, safety razors have a higher upfront cost; you’re buying not just the razor itself, but other products like shave oil and shaving cream are also advisable, and that’ll drive up the price a bit. But the long-term costs are a different story.
While the upfront cost of a cartridge razor isn’t that high, you’ll quickly start paying through the nose for replacement cartridges, especially if you go through them quickly. On the other hand, while a safety razor may go for much higher than a cartridge one, the blades are dirt cheap. They’re so cheap that it’s worth it to just buy a pack of 50 or 100 and be set for the whole year.
Let’s put it this way: If you switch out cartridges every week, the total cost over a year of a cartridge razor and weekly replacement comes out the same as buying a safety razor, 100 blades, a shaving brush, and a tub of shaving soap…and the safety razor with its extras will last you two years.
And this isn’t even considering electric shavers. You can only beat the value of a safety razor by getting a dirt-cheap electric shaver, and the shaving experience won’t be as comfortable or as close. The only place an electric model beats a safety razor is speed.
They Shave A Lot Closer
This is the one undisputed advantage that manual razors (straight, safety, or cartridge) have over their powered counterparts. An electric shaver requires something between its blade and your skin, or else you will get cut. A safety razor doesn’t move nearly as fast as an electric shaver does, so it can get in much closer. If you want to be certain of the closest possible shave, a safety razor is the way to go. The only way to get even closer is with a straight razor.
They Irritate A Lot Less
The more strokes you apply on a given area, the more chance there is of irritation, ingrown hairs, razor bumps, and other such unsavory things happening on your skin. A safety razor avoids that by minimizing the number of strokes and razor contact that takes place. Plus, since there’s only one blade, you get exactly one instance of razor contact for one stroke. Not like a cartridge razor, where you get two, or three, or even more instances of razor contact for every stroke.
They’re Easier To Control
Since a safety razor is smaller, it’s a lot more responsive to your hand and it’s easier to move around. It can even fit in smaller spaces that larger shavers have trouble dealing with, even if it’s a larger model. Plus the weight of a safety razor compared to a cartridge means that it’s got a bit more inertia; you won’t be throwing it around as much.
They’re More Sanitary
A proper wet shave involves a good lather of shaving soap, and razor blades should be changed out regularly; they hardly last much longer than a week anyway. This combination makes for an environment unwelcoming to germs and bacteria, especially if you clean your shaver often.
They’re Easy To Clean And Maintain
Disposables, you just toss. But cartridge razors are a pain, and electric shavers need even more attention, for all that they try and make them easy to clean. But a safety razor? It’s just a few chunks of metal! And unless it’s an adjustable or TTO, there aren’t even any moving parts. All you need to do is unscrew the razor into its component parts and give them a wash and a rub down, and you’re done. No fuss, no muss, no headaches at all.
They’re Better For The Environment
Most electric shavers or cartridge razors are made with plastics and come in plastic blister packaging and don’t even get me started on disposable razors. A safety razor? Not only does one have a much longer service life, but the only waste product it produces is used razor blades, and these are recyclable. Earth has had more than enough plastic choking it up; the less we use, the better off our planet will be.
A Beginner’s Guide To Shaving With A Safety Razor
When it comes to shaving with a safety razor, we’re really talking about wet shaving. You can dry shave with one if you don’t have the time, but there’s only one way to use your new safety razor. Here’s a little guide to how to do a proper wet shave, the same way your father and grandfather did.
Step 1: Prepare Your Tools
Always have everything ready! It’s an annoying break in your morning routine if you discover something isn’t there and you have to go and get it from the last place you left it. Have everything ready: your razor, shaving soap, shaving brush, shaving mug or bowl, and a washcloth. Make sure your razor blade is still fresh; switch in a new blade if the current one is approaching the end of its service life.
Step 2: Warm Water Pre-Shave
Your pre-shave routine should use warm water. Wash your face with it thoroughly. This serves several functions at once: Washing your face moisturizes and softens out your facial hair. It also opens up the pores and removes dead skin cells from your face. All this makes for an easier, more comfortable shave with less risk of nicks and cuts.
While you still have the warm water on, prepare a glass of warm water. You’ll see why a few steps down. Then fill up your shaving bowl with warm water and let your shaving brush soak in it.
Step 3: Lather Your Shaving Soap
While shaving cream will do if you’re still getting used to things, shaving soap is a much better product, not to mention cheaper in the long run. Now, the proper use of shaving soap is worthy of an entire guide into itself, so we’ll give you just the quick version here.
First, we need to soften the shaving soap. At the same time you’re soaking your brush in the previous step, put a teaspoon or so of warm water on top of your shaving soap.
Now that the soap is soft, dump out the water you used. Also, squeeze out your brush, but not until it’s dry; you still need it damp, so just squeeze out the extra water. Then take your brush and load it up by swirling it in the soap in circular motions for about 30 seconds.
Then it’s time to lather. With the soap-loaded brush, go back to your shaving mug and swirl the brush around it, using brisk circular motions. You may need to add a bit of water to ensure it lathers up correctly. How long this step takes depends on your soap, but it’s usually around 3 to 5 minutes.
Once you’re satisfied with the consistency, apply the soap to your face using the brush. Small, circular motions are best, as this brings up the hairs and gets them fully coated. Start from the sideburns and go downwards.
Step 4: Find Your Angle
A safety razor is so named because of the features to keep the blade from cutting into the skin. While this means it’s difficult to cut yourself with one, it also means that proper technique is required so that the blade can get to the hairs you want to shave.
So, angle is important. You want the razor to be oriented about 30 degrees relative to your skin. The easiest way to do this is to place the top of the razor against your skin, handle perpendicular, then lower it until you can feel the guard bar against your skin as well. The razor is in between the top and the bar, so if both are in contact, the blade is close enough to the skin to cut hair at a good angle.
And remember always to shave with the grain. Shaving across or against the grain can be done, but leave that for when you’re more comfortable with your razor and have got more experience. For now, go with the grain. Remember, the grain is the direction in which your hair is growing. To be sure, rub your facial hair under your fingers and note the direction where it lies flat.
Step 5: Short, Small Strokes
Anything you see on the ads with a razor cutting a long strip of hair is fantasy. With a safety razor, you want to do short, small strokes. Start from the top down. Pick an area no larger than your little finger, and give it exactly one pass. Don’t worry if you still have stubble after the first pass; the goal of the first pass is to reduce the facial hair, not remove it entirely in one shot.
An important note while shaving: do not apply pressure. If you’re used to cartridge razors, you may have got the habit of pressing the razor into your skin to properly engage the blades. Drop that habit when working with a safety razor; let the blade do the work.
Step 6: Clean Out Your Razor
Remember the glass of warm water you prepared earlier? Every so often, dunk your razor head in it and swirl it round a bit. This knocks off the gathered debris and lather, and that makes for a smoother shave since nothing’s blocking up the blade.
Step 7: Second And Further Passes
The first pass was to reduce your facial hair; the passes after that are to cut closer to your skin. How many passes is up to you, based on how thick and tough your facial hair is and how close you want it. The usual number is two or three passes; more than that is much rarer. Reapply lather to provide the necessary lubrication. This is generally where people go across or against the grain, to get that lovely closer shave.
Step 8: Cold Water Post-Shave
Once you’ve cut all that needs to be cut, it’s time to rinse it off. Where your pre-shave was warm water, your post-shave should be cold water. Warm water opens up the pores; cold water closes them and helps relieve any wounds that you may have incurred during shaving.
Step 9: Aftershave And Moisturizer
Since we’re going old-school, consider aftershave. It’s intended to disinfect any cuts that may have occurred while shaving, soothe and moisturize the skin, and give you a little bit of scent. There’s a whole lot of aftershave brands out there and a lot of scents available; experiment as to what you like and incorporate that into your daily routine.
Of course, all that variety means that an aftershave might not always incorporate any moisturizer, especially if it’s heavy on the alcohol. Whatever you do, make sure to moisturize. Your skin needs the nourishment, especially after a nick or two.
Step 10: Service Your Equipment
Examine your razor and see if it needs any care. A good trick to extend the working life of a razor is to drop it into rubbing alcohol. Water on a razor blade leads to rust, and a rusted razor blade doesn’t cut nearly as well. Rubbing alcohol wicks water away, so there’s less chance for rust to form.
When your razor blade has reached the end of its service life, toss it. Don’t just drop it into the trash can; wrap it in tissue paper first. Or better yet, get yourself a razor bin.
See to the rest of your razor as well. Give it a rub-down with soapy water, or just a wash and a towel dry if you’re in a hurry.
A Short History Of The Safety Razor
Humans have been shaving with various implements for a long while now, starting off with sharpened seashells and flint knives, then on to razors of varying types, culminating in 1680, when the first straight razor came out of Sheffield.
It didn’t take long for someone to get the idea of putting a guard onto a straight razor, and that someone was Jean-Jacques Perret in 1762. The classic T-shaped safety razor first came about in an 1847 patent by inventor William S. Henson, but it wasn’t until the early 1900s that it became widespread. King Camp Gillette (yes, the Gillette) was granted in 1904 a patent for a safety razor using a disposable double-edged blade. Then, a decade later, Gillette was contracted to supply American troops in World War I with shaving equipment, specifically his double-edged safety razors.
That last event was the final catalyst needed to popularize the safety razor. When the war ended, the soldiers were permitted to take their shaving kits home, and that drove demand for both razors and replacement blades.
Since then, the market has continued to expand and other manufacturers like Merkur and Feather and Rockwell have entered the playing field. Gillette no longer makes safety razors, but their influence in kicking off the trend can’t be understated.
There are a lot of safety razors to choose from, each with their own merits. Do you prefer the craftsmanship of the Feather AS-D2? The versatility of the Merkur Futur? Or the aggressiveness and large size of the Parker 99R? Whatever your need is, there’s a razor for you.
A common piece of wisdom on the Badger and Blade forums is that each shave experience is a very individual one, and what works for one person may not work for another. So make sure to really do your research and assess your personal needs before you make a commitment to any of these razors!
It requires a little bit more skill and precision, but your shaving experience will never be the same once you start using a safety razor!