Why We Are Qualified To Recommend a Double Edge Safety Razor
Prior to this in-depth review, we have spent countless hours publishing articles within the wet shaving realm that several men have depended upon to give them the very best information time and time again. From dissecting the difference in shave brushes to breaking down the differences between an aftershave balm when compared to splashes and lotions.
For this article we have spent over 100 hours looking at every single little detail in double edge safety razors.
Not only have we researched this topic exhaustively but we have also followed some of the very best wet shaving blogs, dove through interesting threads in forums like Badger & Blade, and even wadded through hundreds of reviews to see what actual users have thought about the safety razor they were using.
In addition we also ran a few analysis on user reviews compared to price to see what people thought about their select razor as well. To put it simply, we went nuts when it came to research and spared no expense in order to deliver the best information to you on selecting the right double edge safety razor.
When Using The Best Safety Razor for You – It’s Important To Remember The Basics
When it comes to shaving in general, no one component of the entire process can stand by itself. Instead there is much reliance on every preceding and subsequent step.
You can’t have a great shave with the best double edge safety razor unless you are using a proper shaving cream. In addition, a proper shaving cream is only so good as it relies on a quality shaving brush and well moisturized whiskers.
Therefore we always feel its important to reinforce the proper shave routine as much as we possibly can to ensure that all pieces of the puzzle are in place before the blade ever touches your skin.
Even if you have been shaving for years, its important to understand the components to make sure you aren’t doing any bad habits that can leave your face or neck area feeling irritated or downright miserable.
Showering or Using a Hot Towel Will Make A World of Difference
If there is one sin to the wet shaving routine that can never be committed, its going to be a proper shower or hot towel session. When shaving its absolutely critical that you always take a very hot shower (preferred) for several minutes as your very first step.
Why is this important?
When you shower, the hot water will help to open up your pores and most importantly soften your whiskers. When you don’t shower, the hair follicles on your face are extremely rigged and are susceptible to be pulled and yanked on when the razor passes. In addition the razor will have a harder time cutting through the follicle when compared to one that has been soaked in water and swollen up.
A hot towel does act as an excellent backup plan, however it simply won’t be nearly as comfortable as a shave when compared to showering.
The Optional But Definitely Worth Checking Out Step: Pre Shave Oil
Now there is a lot of back and forth between wet shave enthusiasts when it comes to the use of a pre shave oil. Some men swear by it while others find that it doesn’t make much of an impact in their overall shave routine.
From our experience we found that a pre shave oil does make a material impact on the comfort of the shave. Pre shave oils act as a secondly barrier between your skin and the shaving cream when it’s applied.
The core ingredients of any pre shave oil is typically a carrier and essential oil. Most notably is the carrier oil as it makes up the majority of any pre shave oil mixture. Carrier oils for pre shave oil will typically be a castor or jojoba oil.
Castor and jojoba oils are incredibly popular in several beauty products for both men and women – from beard oils to balms, lotions, and shampoos, carrier oils are a natural way to provide moisture to your skin or hair follicle when applied liberally.
Therefore when pre shave oil is incorporated into a shave routine, it will help to improve the elasticity of your skin to help prevent any tearing or nicks, and will allow the follicle to be a bit more pliable making for a smoother cut with the razor blade.
Essential oils found in pre shave oils act as an added layer of benefits (i.e. tea tree oil is a very common ingredient and is a natural antiseptic). Essential oils can also be great at providing skin toning, reduction of acne, and cures several other skin aliments along with helping the comfort of your shave.
If you are thinking about a pre shave oil – we recommend checking out our in-depth analysis on how we selected the best pre shave oil.
Ditch The Canned Cream – A Proper Shaving Cream (or Soap) Is Key
If your shaving cream still comes out of a can, its time to consider the alternatives. The best shaving cream that we reviewed was the 162 year old Taylor of Old Bond street. Taylor of Old Bond street has been trusted by men for generations and still continues to set the bar in this day and age as well.
But why is this so important?
Simply put, when you use a quality shaving cream like Taylor of Old Bond Street, it does a terrific job at locking in both the heat and moisture when whipped up properly. This heat and moisture allows for your pores to stay open and to further increase the pliability of your whiskers.
A quality shaving cream is also incredibly slick which makes for a much smoother shave that will allow the razor blade to glide effortlessly as opposed to any sort of skipping or chopping of the blade. A “dry” shaving cream like those found in the can varieties don’t provide this rich level of moisture.
In addition to being considered “dry”, a canned cream also is loaded with several chemicals that will dry out your face upon shaving. This dry face will leave you susceptible to general ashiness throughout the day.
When you compare a shaving cream to a soap, they are largely the same. However advanced wet shavers may be able to draw out a bit more of the lubricating properties of a soap compared to a shaving cream. If you are new to the whole world of wet shaving, we heavily advise checking out a shaving cream instead since they are more beginner friendly as opposed to soaps. In a pinch? The Art of Shaving also delivers relatively good shaving creams as well.
Shaving Brushes Aren’t Just For Decor – They Do Have A Real Purpose
While a fluffy shaving brush may seem a bit feminine for such a masculine routine – a shave brush should never be overlooked and will help to draw out the properties in the best safety razors.
Typically made of badger hair, these brushes do a phenomenal job at providing a gentle pre-exfoliation of your skin that will ensure that the dirt and oils found within your pores are loosened up prior to the first pass with your safety razor.
In addition to the pre-exfoliation, a shaving brush will help to make your whiskers stand on edge. When your hairs are on edge, this will allow for the blade to have a much cleaner cut of the hair follicle as opposed to any tugging or pulling. Conversely if you use your hands to apply a shaving cream, whiskers will likely be matted down against your face making it much more difficult for the razor to get a clean sweep.
While we eluded to effectiveness of shaving creams and shaving soaps in the previous section, many of these higher performing products do require you to own a shaving brush as they will be near impossible or difficult to apply otherwise. A brush will ensure adequate coverage of the cream that allows for both a slick lubrication and cushion for the blade to glide effortlessly.
If you are interested in a shaving brush, we invite you to check out our in-depth review of some of the best ones on the market.
All The Products Can’t Save You From Learning Properly
When it comes to using your double edge safety razor, many men often get tripped up on the proper technique for the first use that will leave a (likely) bloody mess on your face. Unlike a good cartridge or disposable razor that has the blades pre-set to the desired 30 degree angle – when using a double edge safety razor for the first time, you will want to mimic this angle.
What some men may do to ease into the transition from using a cartridge or electric based razor to that of a double edge razor is that they will first just shave their cheeks due to their relatively flat surface. This allows for you to get comfortable with the optimal 30 degree angle that will leave you with a comfortable shave afterwards. To get used to the technique further, you may want to then ease your way into the trickier chin area – again make sure that you always keep the razor blade at a 30 degree angle.
Now when it comes to the desired smoothness of the shave, you will want to go with either two or three passes for the razor. When using a double edge safety razor you will first want to go with the grain of your hair follicles. This will allow for much of the hair to be cut. However, when you rub your hand over your freshly shaved face, you will notice that there is some coarseness on your skin.
To get a closer shave you have one of two options at your disposal. For men looking for the ‘BBS’ shave (i.e. Baby Butt Smooth), you will want to go across the grain of your face.
With this optional step, you will want to first go downward for the first pass then towards your ear or mouth for the across the grain pass (second pass).
To wrap things up, for the last pass you will want to go against the grain on your face. This will give you the closest shave and the most desirable results from your double edge safety razor. Many men may feel that this goes against their learnings from when they first shaved. Traditionally when you use a cartridge razor, ingrown hairs may occur when shaving against the grain. However, with a double edge safety razor that has already made one initial pass on your face, the subsequent pass that goes against the grain will be fine (if done at the appropriate angle), shouldn’t allow for any increase prevalence of ingrown hairs.
A Few Points For Consideration
Keep Your Skin Tight
If you are starting to age and have skin that has a bit less elasticity or general folds in the skin, you will want to make sure that you always pull on your skin to make sure that the surface is tight to reduce any unnecessary chopping of the blade. Keeping a taut surface is key to comfort.
Study Your Hair Growth Patterns
When shaving with a double edge safety razor for the first time and making sure that you go with the grain, across the grain (optional), and against the grain, its important to take a moment and study how your hairs are actually growing in.
All men have different hair growth patterns, so what you may have learned from someone else will likely not apply when you go to shave yourself. Therefore don’t follow your favorite YouTube shaving tutorial on this – look at your whiskers and shaving accordingly.
This Isn’t A Body Groomer Tool
If you like to manscape by shaving your chest, back, head, or groin area, a double edge safety razor is not the best tool for the job. You will likely get nicked badly if you aren’t careful. While a double edge safety razor is technically of course a razor that can cut hair, there will be men out there that claim they can cut hair in any of the areas listed above, its best to leave that for the experts.
For general body grooming, we recommend using a mutigroom tool like the Philips Norelco 3100. Depending on the desired results, you may want to go with a swivel based head like that seen on the Gillette Fusion ProGlide (with the Flexball) when shaving your head and groin areas given the surface area and general curvatures (the Flexball makes a huge difference for these areas).
A Double Edge Safety Razor Is As Only As Good As Its Blade
When you are purchasing a double edge safety razor, you are truly buying a metallic handle and head. Virtually all razor blades used for double edge safety razors are can be swapped out of any system. Therefore if you want to use a Merkur 23C with an Astra or Derby blade, you can. Or what about a Edwin Jagger handle with Merkur or Feather blades? You bet!
Generally speaking, blades are largely a personal preference and results that some men find for one blade may not exactly be the best for another man. Luckily however, there are variety packs that do exist in the marketplace that allow men to try out a set of blades from differing manufacturers in order to select the blade that yields the best overall performance. Remember everyone is different, therefore what may work for one person does not necessarily mean it will work for you.
With many manufacturers, razor blades are incredibly cheap when compared to their cartridge or electric counterparts. Therefore when purchasing a box of blades for your double edge safety razor will likely last you not just a few months, but rather a few years! So be sure when selecting a razor blade for long term use, that you don’t just buy a box of razors that is necessarily the cheapest or one that has some slick marketing – get a sample pack and test a few out before investing in an entire box.
Aftershave Splashes, Lotions, and Balms – Not Just For Scent
Aftershaves can be a great way to either add flair or comfort to your post shave maintenance. While we outlined the differences between splashes, lotions, and balms in this post here are a few of the highlights:
Many traditional aftershave splashes contain alcohol which actually isn’t that great for your face. Alcohol when applied as a post shave ointment, while it may be an antiseptic to help flush out the pores through the terrible stinging sensation, it actually also completely drys out your face making for an ashy jawline that can be unsightly for some.
Several lotions, just like splashes do tend to also contain alcohol as well, and its generally recommended to avoid these products.
What we and many wet shavers alike prefer, is an aftershave balm. Unlike splashes, balms are used to hydrate your skin that was just fully exfoliated through the shaving process and will work to repair the surface. Balms do not contain alcohol and therefore will not give you any sort of post shave razor burn or irritation. They largely contain mild products that will leave you feeling comfortable throughout your morning. If you are looking for a recommended aftershave balm to try out, we fell in love with the Nivea Sensitive Skin aftershave balm, you can read our full review in our in-depth aftershave balm guide.
While balms can act as an antiseptic, many men may look for other solutions outside of balms for repairing any nicks or cuts that were experienced during the shave. What we recommend for those men, is to use either an alum block or styptic pencil for easy application to help stop bleeding.
Construction Of a Double Edge Safety Razor
While many double edge safety razors may look the same at first glance, there are several little nuances that separate each and every single one of these devices apart from each other. Razors can come in a variety of mechanical forms – two piece, three piece, butterfly, and adjustable. Here is an explanation on each one of them:
Two Piece Systems Are Considered To Be The Most Traditional
One of the classic designs of the double edge safety razor is the two piece system. Found in razors like the Merkur 37C and 34C, these razors have just a two parts – namely the head and the handle.
When comparing all the systems there aren’t huge advantages of one design over the other. Some men prefer the two piece simply because its less parts and therefore reduces the chances of anything breaking. When it comes to swapping out the blade, the two piece system is fairly quick as all you will have to do is simply unscrew the top of the head and drop the blade in. Being that you will only have to swap a blade once a week, this typically isn’t a huge selling point of one design over another.
Now when it comes to cleaning a two piece system over a three piece or butterfly design, it may be a bit more trickier. Given that the base where the razor rests cannot be removed, some men may either prefer or dislike this. Some men may wish that the base could be removed for a more comprehensive cleaning while others enjoy that the base is affixed to the handle which can provide leverage if necessary – overall though this is largely a personal preference and shouldn’t be a huge impact on deciding one double edge razor over another.
Three Piece Razors Are Among The Most Popular On The Market
Whether you are considering a Parker 97R, Edwin Jagger 89lbl, or the Merkur “1904” Classic, these double edge safety razors all come in a three piece design.
With the top of the head (also known as the safety bar plate), base plate (where the razor rests), and the handle all being independent pieces.
Many mens first ever double edge safety razor will likely be a three piece system simply due to its worldwide popularity. With a three piece system, men can thoroughly clean each part by either dipping it into a cleaning solution of their choice and take it a step further by polishing each component separately as well for long term use.
Unlike the butterfly or adjustable razors, both the two and three piece design contains no moving parts making it prime for long term use without any mechanical issues. A three or two piece design will have no direct impact on the quality or comfort of your shave.
Butterfly Double Edge Safety Razors
Another incredibly popular choice when it comes to double edge safety razors is the butterfly style (also known by some as ‘Twist to Open’). The butterfly design is what some would consider a single piece system.
To use a butterfly double edge safety razor, all you simply need to do is twist the bottom part of the handle and the head of the razor will open from the center to reveal the razor blade. Simply turn the handle in the opposite direction and the head will close back up.
With the exception of the adjustable double edge safety razor, the butterfly style is rather difficult when it comes to cleaning and long term use. Being that the entire system is contained to one piece that cannot be dis-assembled, trying to clean shaving cream that has been caked up or stray whiskers that have been wedged into the hinges of this razor can be rather difficult to reach without a makeshift toothpick or other narrow tool.
If proper maintenance/cleanliness is something that you look for when deciding on a double edge safety razor, then we recommend going with the two or three piece designs.
The Adjustable Double Edge Safety Razor
What makes an adjustable double edge safety razor so unique when compared to their butterfly, two, or three piece counterparts is that the adjustable system has a direct impact on the quality and comfort of your shave.
When looking at the Merkur Progress 510 for instance, when this razor is adjusted to a setting of 5 (considered the most aggressive), this blade will provide one of the closest shaves available from a double edge safety razor on the market today. For many men, this double edge safety razor can provide that often desired BBS (baby butt smooth), shave on just the first pass. However, with such an aggressive take on shaving, this blade can of course cause nicks and cuts rather easily.
Generally speaking adjustable double edge razors make for a great second or third razor purchase rather than your first simply given the nature of how aggressive the shave will be (i.e. its best suited for those who are experts in using a safety razor).
The beauty of this system of course is the ability to hone in on just the right set up for you that just simply can be achieved with any other systems on the market. Generally speaking, adjustable double edge razors tend to cost substantially more when compared to their stationary counterparts.
Open Comb vs Scalloped Safety Bar vs Slant Head
When examining safety razors closely, you will start to notice little nuances in the head design of them. Whether you are looking at the Merkur 37C that has a slightly slanted head (pictured top), or the Merkur 34C HD (pictured middle) that has a straight razor with a scalloped safety bar (also known as closed comb), and lastly the Parker 24C with open comb head (pictured bottom).
All the unique heads can provide a vastly different approaches to your shave. A misnomer about open comb razors is that they will provide a much more aggressive shave when compared to a scalloped safety bar or slant head razor. When it comes to selecting a double edge safety razor, head designs (whether its open comb, slant, or safety bar) can all have varying levels of aggressiveness.
Its important to know that the aggressiveness of the shave doesn’t come necessarily from the design of the head, instead aggressiveness is determined by how exposed the blade is within the head. Therefore if you use an adjustable based razor like the Merkur Progress 510, you can easily adjust the aggressiveness by simply turning the dial to increase or decrease blade exposure. What makes the Merkur Progress 510 different from other safety bar razors is that the default blade exposure of the head on the lowest setting may still be more exposed when compared to others.
With that being said, typically speaking open comb razors do generally tend to have a slightly higher level of aggressiveness when compared to a safety bar razor.
For the slant design, these heads allow the blade to slice through your whiskers in more of a guillotine fashion. Like any variety of razor heads out there, the slant design does have a learning curve. These heads make for a great second or third razor geared towards the intermediate or advanced wet shaver. Slant heads like open combs do have a tendency to run a bit more on the aggressive side with typically a bit more blade exposure.