10 Facts About Open, Closed, & Slant Razor Heads That You MUST Know Before Buy

More and more men are starting to discover the double edge safety razor.  Not only do they offer better cost savings over the long run when compared to a cartridge razor, but they also provide unparalleled control (for better or worse) when it comes to the actual shaving process.

But here’s the deal:

There is a TON of bad information that gets spread around when it comes to the heads of the shaving systems.

To help dispel many of those myths about a few of the more popular shaving heads (open comb, closed comb, and slant), we wanted to take a deep dive into each.

Here are 10 FACTS about the shaving heads you should be familiar with before you purchase a double edge safety razor.

1. Open Comb Razors Aren’t ALWAYS More Aggressive

While its widely claimed that open combed razors will provide a much closer shave than their closed comb counterparts, this just simply isn’t always true.

While they are absent of the safety bar that’s found in the closed comb razors, open combs are designed to be able to cut a thicker and longer beard than a closed comb.

This ‘rake-like’ design channels the beard hair through the comb and up to the blade so there can be a clean cut without clogging.

So, if you only shave on occasion (i.e once every couple of weeks) you will want to go with an open comb razor over a closed comb as it will be able to get a much cleaner cut on your whiskers.

2. Close Comb Razors Are PERFECT For Every Day Shaving

As you may have guessed, if open combs are good for longer irregular shaving, then closed combs razors are perfect for just the opposite – daily shaving.

The safety bar on the closed comb razor will help press down the skin to make it taut – which is especially important if you are only shaving down a day or two worth of growth.

Closed comb razors like the Merkur 23C are perfect for men who are just transitioning from a cartridge or disposable razor background and are looking for very similar handle weight and length.

3. Slant Razors Will Be Best For Men With SENSITIVE Skin

Any man with sensitive skin or an unusually coarse or thick beard hair will agree that regular shaving particularly along the neck area can cause unwanted irritation.

Slant style heads on safety razors feature a closed comb design and cut in a much different manner than many of the other safety razors on the market.

Instead of cutting hairs straight on as you would with any other razor blade, the slant head attacks the hair at an angle (like a scythe).  This makes for a much cleaner cut on the follicle while reducing the pulling on the hair follicle as its being cut.

After using a slant head razor for just a couple of times, you will never EVER look back to your existing razor system.

4. When Looking At Aggressive Safety Razors It’s All About Geometry

As we learned in #1, an open comb designed head doesn’t necessarily mean that the blade will cut closer to your skin.

Instead, what you really need to pay attention to is blade gap and blade exposure.

While it’s incredibly difficult to compare one safety razor to the next in regards to these metrics, we found that the best way to determine if a safety razor is too aggressive is by just simply reading reviews or personal experiences about a particular razor.

Now, if you don’t feel like sifting through countless shaving forums and reviews to determine the appropriate level of aggressiveness for your next safety razor, then we would recommend going with an adjustable safety razor.

Adjustable razors like the Merkur Progress, Merkur Futur, or Parker Variant all offer different settings to change the blade gap on the safety razor handle.

This makes these types of razors perfect for beginners to experts who are looking to hone in on their shave technique and adapt as they get more confident with their passes.

5. Every Razor Will Perform Differently No Matter The Head It’s On

To further complicate the nuances between open and closed safety razors, another factor you need to consider beyond just the head design and blade gap is the actual razor blade itself.

Here’s the bottom line:

No two razor brands are alike.

What may work for some men may not work for you, and vice versa.

This is why it’s so popular to see in forums exchanges like this:

“Feather blades provided an insanely close and comfortable shave for me”

…followed up with rebuttals like…

“well I have thick hair, and a Feather blade gave me such bad irritation, I had to stop mid-shave”

Therefore, if you plan on purchasing a safety razor you must also purchase a razor blade variety pack.

This small investment (typically less than $30 bucks) allows you to EASILY test all the popular razor blades on the market.

This not only is incredibly helpful in determining the best razor blade for your whiskers and skin, but will further ensure that you don’t needlessly waste money on a box of razors that don’t work well for your skin instead.

Seriously, don’t skip on this if you want to get the most of any safety razor – closed comb or not.

6. The Parker 24C Is Considered To Be One Of The Best Open Comb Razors

This three piece razor by Parker is all you need if you only shave on occasion and want to get an incredibly smooth shave with just one pass.

Striking the perfect balance between weight and length, many men find this razor to be among the best open comb razors currently available in the marketplace.

As is common with open comb razors, if you only plan on shaving once a week or perhaps once a month, the head design of this razor will allow the beard hairs to be channeled directly to the blade in order to achieve a close, clean, and most importantly, comfortable cut on your whiskers.

Secondly, given the open comb design, it’s important that you always have both your hands in play while shaving.

One hand will need to guide the razor appropriately while the other is holding your skin taut so the razor gets a clean cut.

For the price and the performance that you realize out of this safety razor, it’s one of the best open comb designs on the market that provides a mildly aggressive shave.

7. Merkur’s Barber Pole 38 HD Is Among The Best Closed Comb Razor That Men Love

What’s not to love about the Merkur Barber Pole 38 HD!?

This closed comb razor is highly revered by men across the world for several reasons.

Like the Merkur 23C, this razor has an extra long handle which is perfect for men coming from a cartridge or disposable background.

But unlike the Merkur 23C, this razor has adequate heft to the body.  This means that when you go to make the passes with the razor blade, you can just simply let the weight of the handle itself do the cutting of your whiskers.

A tip of the hat to the classic barbershop pole, the etched handle provides adequate grip even if your hands were covered with a pre shave oil or shaving cream.

If you don’t mind stretching your dollars, this safety razor will be worth the premium.

Now if you are budget conscious and are just testing out the wide world of traditional wet shaving, then we would recommend checking out the 23C instead.  While the handle is just as long as the 38 HD (although the 23C is lighter), it carries a significantly lower price tag.

8. This Slant Head Razor Is PERFECT For Men With Sensitive Skin

Time and time again you will find so many men trying out the Merkur 37C for the very first time only to be blown away by the results.

Sensitive skin sucks, there is no denying that.

Even after spending countless dollars on shave gels, shave creams, and shaving oils only to find that you still experience severe irritation once you are done shaving is completely disheartening – even moreso if you must shave daily for work.

That’s why you often see men completely thrilled when they begin to use the 37C.

The unique cutting motion is just simply something they have never experienced before and delivers insanely great results.

But not only is the cutting motion on point, the closed comb design makes it perfect for men who shave daily while not having to worry about keeping their skin taut when making each pass.

Don’t let the unorthodox design of this razor get in the way of your decision making – you won’t regret using this if you have sensitive skin.

9. Your Razor Is Only As Good As Its Cream

If you are still using store bought gels with a safety razor, stop now and throw them away…


These so called ‘shave creams’ are anything but.

Often loaded with harsh chemicals, they do very little in providing a rich and lubricated base for the razor blade to glide along.

Instead of using a gel what you should be using is a traditional shave cream or shave soap (heck even a latherless shave cream would be better).

Traditional soaps and creams are often chalked full of emollients that provide a rich splash of moisture for your skin.  Not only will your open or closed comb razor glide effortlessly with each pass, but your cheeks will feel great as well!

Just be sure to pick up a shaving brush, as many of these artisanal shaving creams need a brush to fully bring out all their great qualities.

10. Patience Is A Virtue

No matter what type of head design sits atop your next safety razor, the simple fact remains, practice is key in order to get a close and comfortable shave.

Shaving nicks happen – it’s a part of the learning process.

But typically within a couple of weeks of shaving, it will quickly become second nature.

If you are looking for some great tutorials on shaving, be sure to check out YouTube for guidance.

Just whatever you do, be sure to map out the beard hairs on your face first to ensure that you don’t accidentally go against the grain on the first pass causing discomfort.

Adam Williams

As the lead editor of Tools of Men, Adam loves men's grooming products. Particularly of interest is managing facial hair and perfecting the art of the modern man's skincare routine. His work has been featured or quoted in several publications, including New York Magazine, Vice, Sharpologist, MIC, Elite Daily, and more. When Adam isn't working, he enjoys spending time with his two little kids who keep him both on his toes and young at heart.

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