As a hairy dude with a knack for trying out different shaving tools, I enjoy reading healthy online debates on which equipment is the best for the job. While purists won’t settle for anything less than a classic cut-throat, let’s just admit that it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.
Another section of beardsmen would argue that safety razor’s ease of use and forgiving nature makes it better for everyday use.
Both are right, you know?
So how do we put an end to the safety razor vs straight razor debate for good? I’d say we can start by clearing the basic concepts of these two major types of razors. Then we will move onto weighing in the pros and cons. Let’s hope that by the end of our discussion, we’ll have a conclusive answer.
Table Of Contents
- What Is a Safety Razor/ Double Edge Razor?
- What Is a Straight Razor/ Single Edge Razor?
- Differences between Safety Razor vs Straight Razors: The Final Showdown
- Reviews of 3 Best Safety Razors on the Market for Beginners and Shaving Gurus
- Reviews of 3 Best Straight Razors for the Closest Possible Shave
What Is a Safety Razor/ Double Edge Razor?
Double-edged razors are called so because they let you shave with both sides of the blade. The term “safety” in its name can be attributed to the fact that this equipment was designed to minimize the risk of injury. These razors feature a safety bar which is basically a blade guard. Closed comb designs allow less blade contact to your skin. While this could negatively affect the shaving closeness, it’s ideal for someone who is just getting started with wet shaving.
As opposed to this, open comb and slant safety razors are more aggressive in nature. While they ensure high-precision, super smooth and close shave with minimal passes, they can cause a bloodbath if you are not careful.
What Is a Straight Razor/ Single Edge Razor?
Straight razors, fondly called cut-throats or shavettes, are the manliest way to shave beard. Do you know why every barber worth his salt uses a single-edged razor? Because nothing cuts cleaner, closer and smoother like a simple SE razor. Let’s not even argue on that.
In straight razors, an ultra-sharp blade folds into the handle (also known as scale) like a pen-knife. The blade material is either carbon steel or stainless steel. Most razors are made from carbon steel as it is cheaper. But if you are a man of precision, go for an SE razor made with stainless steel blade. They are a little high-maintenance but the effort pays off. Stainless steel will hold the edge for a longer period if you take care of it well.
Even in this age of electric shavers, the demand for single-edged razors hasn’t diminished. I know a lot of people feel intimidated by the idea of bringing a tremendously sharp blade into direct contact with the skin. The fear isn’t irrational. Losing your focus for even a nanosecond while shaving with an SE razor lead to nasty accidents.
However, such close contact with the skin has a bright side too. It is able to clean up the toughest stubble with just one to two strokes. This reduces the risk of blade-induced skin troubles. Also, it allows you a maximum control over the shaving action compared to other types of razors.
Another big advantage of using SE razor is the minimized risk of razor bumps. Straight razor blades cannot practically cut the hair beneath the skin surface, meaning less chances of having ingrown hair.
Differences between Safety Razor vs Straight Razors: The Final Showdown
Straight razors or shavettes expose only online side of a long and sharp metal blade. There’s absolutely no layer of protection between the blade and the skin.
Safety razors let you use both sides of the blade and feature a guard to prevent too much blade exposure to the skin.
Due to its open edge design, straight razor cut super close to the skin, resulting in a clean-shaven cheek as smooth as a baby’s bottom. It also allows greater control over shaving angle, direction, allowing you to add neat details and definition to your neckline, mustache, and sideburns.
While shaving so close poses a high risk of injury, it can help you avoid skin burns rashes and ingrown hair growth at the same time.
Safety razors, as quite obvious from the name, are designed to reduce injuries while shaving. Although it has its limitations, it’s the best option for individuals who want a quick and close shave without much fuss.
Straight razors require honing, stropping and oiling from time-to-time which makes these tools a bit of a handful. Safety razors are as low maintenance as it gets. A simple clean-up and occasional oiling will help you keep the edges sharp for multiple shaves.
Now that you have learned what makes safety razors different from straight razors, I’m hoping you’ve figured out which type of razor to go for. However, my job doesn’t here.
Below I have listed and reviewed my top choices for the best safety and straight razors, in case you’re looking for recommendations.
Reviews of 3 Best Safety Razors on the Market for Beginners and Shaving Gurus
A double edge safety razor is for someone who wants precise shave but also loves his skin. It is much safer than a cartridge razor that exposes your skin to multiple blades in every pass which could potentially trigger skin irritation.
Safety razors, if used correctly, can help sensitive-skin people avoid burns and bruises.
Here are the detailed reviews of my top 3 choices for double-edged safety razors:
My first pick for this category sits high on both the price and performance spectrum. If you are a shaving hobbyist or simply someone with taste for finer things in life, AS-D2 is a must-have. This model is one of the finest safety razors by Feather, crafted with great care and engineered to give you the smoothest shave of your life.
A lot of folks say that the blade is on the milder side. I couldn’t disagree more. It’s mild only if you are not holding the blade at the right angle. The slim and lightweight head of the razor is paired with a hefty 3.5-inch handle for an incredible balance and maneuverability. From the pronounced knurling to the length, everything about the handle is top-notch.
Now, coming to the blade quality itself, the AS-D2 stainless steel has surpassed my expectations time and again. The platinum coating on the blade helps the extra sharp blade to glide smoothly across the different contours of a man’s face, resulting in a smooth and clean-cut shave.
According to Feather safety razor company, the blades are made using the same technology and machines used for manufacturing surgical blades. Also, the edges are honed to every last inch. It blades should comfortably fit any double edge razor.
Coming to the performance, what primarily makes these straight razor blades worth the hype is the precision. All you need is one light stroke to get the cleanest shave imaginable. If you have a super thick and coarse beard like me, you are in for a treat.
Moreover, tight tolerance makes the razor very forgiving, allowing you to get a super close shave without scraping your skin.
Hold the razor steady at a 45-degree angle, apply light strokes and the blade will take care of the rest. This is one of those rare breeds of safety razors that genuinely delivers close shave without razor burns, bumps, redness and scrapes.
Here’s another cool feature that makes me love Feather blades even more. The plastic dispensers they come in have slots in the back. Use them to safely dispose of the used blades in the trash can without worrying about injuring someone.
Despite being one of the sharpest blades to exist on the planet, the blade kind of starts to lose its zing after 3-4 heavy shaves. I wish they lasted a bit longer.
I am sure many of you reading this are a loyal fan of Merkur and you should be. These double edged razors are engineered to glide through the skin like wheels on a marble floor.
It can be difficult to find the best Merkur razor for your specific shaving needs out of the myriads of options they have put on display. So you must be obviously wondering why I have chosen to feature 37C here. What makes it so damn special?
For those who are running short on time, I would sum up my answer in just 6 words: blade efficiency and ease of use. Now, let me explain in detail:
The slicing motion of the slanted razor is especially suitable for shaving coarse beard. This blade would work best on someone looking to maintain their scruff and stubble. The blade’s contouring ability is unbelievable.
However, let me warn you that the blade on slanted razors can be pretty aggressive in nature. So if you are still learning the ropes of wet shaving, you should rather look for something for forgiving.
However, the good news is that the slanted head is compatible with all standard double edge safety razor blades. You can try Feather blades with this if you want a decent shave without the risk of nicking yourself.
The C in the 37C comes from chrome. The chrome finish is one of the key factors behind the aggressive nature of this blade. It makes the razor capable of taking down the toughest and bushiest beard with just 2-3 passes.
The design of the razor reminds me of old-school razors my father used to swear by. Its vintage-style 3” handle with a hefty head design provides a fantastic grip and balance. The length is just perfect for ATG (Against-the-Grain) passes. I like top-heavy handles like this also because the weight enhances cutting performance. You have to put very little pressure on your skin for a flawless clean-shaven look.
While the razor itself has no downsides as such, I wouldn’t suggest an aggressive slant bar razor to a beginner. Even a minor slip-up can cause nasty cuts.
This top-rated double-edged safety razor by Vikings Blade is an all-rounder when it comes to safety razors. It offers a solid construction with a traditional 3-piece design and medium aggression, offering the perfect balance between safety and close shaving.
The long handle makes it very easy to hold, especially ideal for wet shaving, irrespective of your experience level. This isn’t the case for some of its competitors that are also popular, like the Merkur HD 34C, which has got a significantly shorter handle owing to poorer handling.
There’s a good amount of weight, especially in the top part, which makes strokes smoother and more controlled. For the same reason, it doesn’t suffer from vibrations, rattling and stutters.
Despite being marketed as a ‘medium aggression’ razor, it still offers significantly closer shaves than cartridge-based razors. I honestly don’t find any good reason why someone would ever want to touch cartridge razors again after owning one of these.
What adds to the testament of this razor is that it’s used not only by men but a lot of women too for shaving their legs. That wouldn’t be the case if it wasn’t truly safe apart from offering quality shaves. The razor comes with a leatherette & alcantara case with mirror, along with a pack of complimentary Swedish 13C26 steel mild blades with platinum coating.
Thanks to its universal blade head, you can fit even third-party blades once the supplied ones by Vikings Blade run out. The Chieftain features a butterfly mechanism, which makes switching blades extremely easy and time-efficient. In fact, it only takes around 5 seconds to switch out blades. It’s also very low on maintenance, as you just need to dry it with your towel when you’re done rinsing it with water after your shave is done.
All in all, the Chieftain is a solid double edge safety razor for people looking for a close shave without wanting to try the riskiest blade configuration. It’s very comfortable to handle, and eliminates the need for applying additional pressure while shaving.
Although I don’t personally mind short handles on my razor, some find it a bit difficult to maneuver. If you are planning to shave your legs with a safety razor, you would get better use out of a longer handle.
Reviews of 3 Best Straight Razors for the Closest Possible Shave
Purists would say that shaving with a straight razor is a form of art. It’s true. The feel of sharp steel against the skin is poetic. If you are a true beard hobbyist who is ready to commit, the world of straight razors awaits you.
I have narrowed down your options to 3 models to help you make the right decision without having to waste hours reading a million reviews.
This might be the perfect razor for you if you’re looking for a super sharp single-edge straight razor and aren’t afraid to pay a premium. This razor is moderately lengthy at 5.6 inches (the actual handle is 4.8 inches), but it’s not an issue thanks to the solid grip thanks to the heat-resistant gum handle, which is also foldable.
The overall construction is sturdy, and it does have a bit of weight. The weight is actually helpful for achieving clean shaves, as you don’t have to apply much pressure yourself while using it. The balance is amazing, and the pivot is very smooth. The shank is textured so that it’s not an issue to hold it properly even with wet hands.
Being a professional-grade straight razor, you can achieve barbershop-level perfection with this model. The Feather professional blade that comes with it is extremely sharp, so you should always handle it with caution. In fact, it can be a bit too unforgiving at times, especially around the mouth and the chin area, so you should take extra care while using this razor in those parts of your face.
If you prefer a slightly less aggressive (and less risky) shave, you can always upgrade to Feather’s Pro Guard blades, which come equipped with foil guards for additional safety against nicks and cuts, at the cost of deeper shaving. It’s like attaching training wheels to a fast bicycle, you get some peace of mind at the cost of some performance while using the insanely sharp razor blades.
Replacement blades aren’t the cheapest, but on the flip side, I found them to be extremely durable and thus, they don’t need replacing every now and then, unlike cheaper alternatives. You have a few other options from Feather itself other than the stock blades and Pro Guard blades, so that adds to the flexibility of this straight razor.
Another premium straight razor from the stable of Feather, the most noticeable difference in this one is the lack of a foldable handle. It features a fixed, straight handle, which inspires more confidence to hold the razor firmly. The resin handle provides a superb grip.
German razors might enjoy slightly more popularity in general, but this Japanese machine is no slouch when it comes to offering you professional-grade close shaves. Its stainless steel body is not just heat resistant but holds its place against rusting, harmful chemicals, and other impurities. The rounded shaving head offers a smooth and soft shaving experience.
The blade head utilizes a one-touch mechanism and is spring-mounted. Thus dismantling and cleaning it is a breeze. I also found it great that this razor is also autoclavable. Changing the blades is a walk in the park, too. You just need to pinch the blade head once, and the blade will fall off.
Feather doesn’t officially recommend using third-party blades with this razor other than their Artist Club series of blades. So, if you’re serious about achieving close shaves, you shouldn’t opt for cheaper replacement blades once the supplied blade needs to be replaced.
If you need to clean the razor or disinfect it, please don’t use any other way other than boiling it or using ethanol on it, as it might damage the razor and blade materials.
There’s a great deal of comfort in using this Japanese razor thanks to its lightweight design and shorter handle. Some people might be put off by its price tag, but the old saying, “you get what you pay for” stands particularly true in this case.
The only noteworthy drawback of this product is that it doesn’t come with a protective cover. You’ll have to buy a cover (preferably a leather one) separately for safekeeping.
From the house of Black Widows comes this competitively priced straight razor, which still manages to hold its place amongst its much more expensive peers. A very comfortable grip and a balanced weight distribution make using this razor a breeze even for straight razor beginners. You can effortlessly maneuver it across your face without worrying about slips and falls.
Even at this price point, Black Widow is providing 100% stainless steel, which adds to the durability of this razor. Featuring an armature swing lock design, it’s very easy to insert a blade, and get started quickly. The ridges and the thumb notch are extra features designed to prevent slips, which is crucial during close shaving sessions.
It’s perfect for detailing, as the 1.5mm blade exposure is absolutely on point for that purpose. The 2.6 oz weight of this razor inspires confidence when you’re using it, and also reduces vibrations. So, you shouldn’t have a problem while using it even if you’re light-handed while shaving. The handle features a tension adjustment screw. It allows you to tighten or loosen the handle as per your personal preference. I found that to be a nice touch.
You get 10 double-sided super sharp blades from Derby, which is a well-known and reputable blade manufacturer. I personally think that the gold accent of the blade holder looks absolutely stunning in contrast to the matte black body of the razor.
This straight razor is built primarily for professional barbers and stylists, so it’s crucial that blade replacement is as fast and easy as possible, so that the blade can be changed for each new customer coming to the barbershop.
Keeping that in mind, the blade replacement mechanism indeed matches that kind of efficiency, making this razor a really good option for people who struggle with more complex blade loading and unloading mechanisms seen on more sophisticated razors.
The paint finish on the blade isn’t really up to the mark. And this one doesn’t come with a cover either.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. Safety Razor vs Straight Razor! Which one is the better choice for beginners?
A safety razor is definitely easier to handle for beginners, as the name suggests. Straight razors are meant for extremely precise and close shaving, and there’s very little room for error. In other words, if you make even the slightest of mistakes, you’ll be easily able to spot nicks and cuts.
That said, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to master shaving with a straight razor. A couple of YouTube videos might just be enough for you to get started, and you might do just fine if you just don’t take the power of a straight razor too lightly.
2. Safety Razor vs Straight Razor! Which one is the better choice for sensitive skin?
Straight razors are better for sensitive skin, because of the sharper blades and higher blade exposure. These two things make straight razors require less shaving ‘passes’, so it’s easier on the skin.
Safety razors, on the other hand, require more tries in general to achieve a clean shave, and that in turn irritates the skin more. Thus, safety razors are a worse choice compared to their straight counterparts for people with sensitive skin. You just have to master the technique of using a straight razor, as it requires handling with a bit more care compared to a safety razor.
The Bottom Line
Both straight and safety razors are serving the mankind for centuries. Calling one type better than the other doesn’t make much sense, to be pair. Most people find themselves on the fence because the fundamentals of both razor types are pretty much the same.
While straight razor is the ultimate shaving tool a man can have without an iota of doubt, it’s not for everyone. Safety razors don’t demand impeccable shaving skills which makes it a more feasible choice for most people. Although they don’t cut as close as shavettes, non-purists won’t notice much of a difference.
Finally, it all comes down to what aspects you want to prioritize in your shave and of course, your skill level.