Safety razors have been around for years – in fact they were first widely adopted when they became part of the standard field kit that were issued to GIs in World War I.
Since then, men both old and young (well mostly young) wonder what a safety razor actually is and if it will have a measurable impact on their overall shave and wallet.
Now before we go into every facet about the safety razor, I want to just briefly talk about how they got their name and how they fit into the wide world of men’s grooming tools.
How The Safety Razor Stacks Up To The Rest
Before the safety razor was patented by King Camp Gillette in the early 1900s – the popular razor used by men at that time was the straight razor.
These straight razors required a significant amount of time to use given their long sharp edge and its overall narrow amount of room for error.
Straight razors required both sharpening and honing of the blade that was typically done by specialists – although leather strops were used for in-home honing of the blade as well.
Straight razors in particular have evolved over time into shavettes (more on this in a minute). However, many men still today collect straight razors and use them regularly – just check popular online communities like Badger & Blade or /r/wicked_edge for proof.
Now many barbershops across the United States and abroad still use straight razors due to the classic look and feel they achieve along with the unparalleled control they offer when shaving along hairlines, neck, and ear areas.
However, in most cases many barbershops typically don’t use the classic single metal piece straight razor, instead they typically rely on a shavette.
Shavettes are straight razors in the classical sense, however, they feature an injection blade so the barber can swap out the blade after every customer in order to prevent the inadvertent spread of disease and general bacteria.
Simply put, shavettes are more hygienic.
Beyond the straight razor, cartridge and disposable razors reign supreme in today’s world.
Their multi-blade design coupled with their lift-and-cut technology allows these razors to get an incredibly close shave in a single pass. Beyond the closeness of the shave, cartridge and disposable razors have their blades set at the optimal 30 degree cutting angle – which ultimately leads very little room for incidental nicks and cuts.
Of course cartridge and disposable razors definitely come with their downside which we will cover in just a minute.
Lastly, just for completeness, electric shavers definitely hold their own place among men’s bathroom countertops everywhere. Their dead-simple operating use along with a convenience that is unrivaled (I.e. You can shave while commuting to work – what a time to be alive!) make them a popular tool for men who are not enamored in the tradition that is wet shaving.
Don’t Be Fooled By The Name – Safety Razors Aren’t ‘Safe’
One of the common frustrations and misconceptions when it comes to safety razors is that they are incredibly safe and easy to use.
When searching around on YouTube you will see men shaving their face in only a couple of minutes or even more extreme – their head completely bald with incredible ease.
It’s really remarkable to see so many men flaunt their technique that will make first timers falsely believe that they too can do it just as easily.
Therefore, it’s important to understand that there is a learning curve when it comes to using a safety razor regularly – so expect to nick yourself a few times!
So, if they aren’t ‘safe’ like a cartridge or disposable razor then why are they called ‘safety razors’?
To understand the name, you have to look at the order of which these tools were introduced.
Being that the straight razor was the only shaving tool that preceded the double edge safety razor, by the standards back in the early 1900s the double edge safety razor was considered to be a break through at the time.
The most notable component of the double edge safety razor was the addition of the scalloped safety bar.
As pictured above, the scalloped safety bar was responsible for pushing your skin down and helping to tighten it out in order to get a cleaner cut on the whiskers. This is a world of difference regarding shave technique if you were accustomed to using the straight razor – which all men were at the time.
While you pull your skin to ensure tightness when passing the straight razor across your skin, it’s not nearly as imperative as when using a safety razor.
The Long Term Costs Just Simply Can Be Beat
If you are a man on a budget, or simply you like saving a significant amount of money on your grooming bill each year, then a double edge safety razor is one of the best options when comparing all the shaving tools on the market.
You see the problem that many men face is the high costs of replenishing cartridge razors on a regular basis.
While there has been a recent surge of subscription box companies like Dollar Shave Club and Harry’s that have cashed in by offering cartridge razors for an incredibly low monthly price (in some cases only $1 a month for the introductory plans), the lifetime cost of ownership for a double edge safety razor is incredibly small.
While the handles for a safety razor may cost substantially more (anywhere between $30 and $70), the cost for a box of blades will only set you back a few bucks.
When priced out, the average cost per blade from a top-notch manufacturer that will fit in to any double edge safety razors universal fitting will ring in at about .10 cents a blade.
Contrary to the double edge safety razor, a cartridge razor from a leading manufacturer will cost on average around $2.25 a cartridge head – that’s a 2150% increase over the cost of a double edge safety razor blade!
Depending On Your Skin Type– A Safety Razor Can Increase Comfort
If you experience razor bumps or general skin irritation after shaving when using a disposable or cartridge razor a safety razor may make a huge difference in comfort for you.
As we eluded to earlier, the cartridge razor employs a technology called ‘lift-and-cut’. This technology is great for getting a close shave on the initial pass, but it does have one major fault – especially if you go against the grain – and that is razor bumps.
When using a cartridge razor that cuts so close with this ‘lift-and-cut’ method – there is an increasing likelihood that the hair follicle will be cut too low beneath the surface of your skin.
Too low of a cut can be a disaster for your skin and shave comfort. This is due to the fact that when the hair follicle begins to grow back if it starts to curl in the slightest, the follicle will grow back into your skin and consequently cause an unsightly and perhaps painful razor bump.
So how does a safety razor come into this scenario?
Quite simply a double edge safety razor uses just a single blade to get the job done. This means that when making the passes over your skin you have complete control on how low you cut your whiskers.
Therefore, if you want to have a bit of coarseness then you can just make a single pass. Now if you want incredibly soft skin, then you can make three passes (with the grain, across the grain, against the grain).
The core takeaway with a safety razor is that you have unparalleled control on how many times a razor blade touches your face. Unlike a cartridge razor, you don’t have to have 5 blades graze your skin with every single pass.
Don’t Invest In A High End Safety Razor Only To Cheap Out On The Other Products
I believe it was Aristotle who said ‘The whole is greater than the sum of its parts’, when it comes to traditional wet shaving – especially with a double edge safety razor this couldn’t be more true.
When shaving in general, the types of products that you use on your face can make a huge difference in the overall comfort.
Most notably the shaving cream is largely the one product that will move the needle so to speak in order to achieve not only a close shave, but also a comfortable one at that.
Beyond the comfort, a quality shave cream will be terrific in providing a rich splash of moisture to your skin that will help to reduce post shave dryness and further reduce irritation.
We are a big fan of products like Taylor of Old Bond Street given its not only rich heritage (over 100 years) along with evoking scents of that classic barbershop smell through the use of sandalwood – beyond heritage and scent, this shaving cream will deliver a comfortable shave that is unparalleled compared to the inferior canned counterparts.
Proper shaving creams, which can be found widely through online retailers, have a profile of emollients and humectants that will help to not only whip up an incredibly slick lather, but also will help to keep your whiskers well hydrated and pores open throughout the shaving process.
Other notable products that are worth looking into are pre shave oils – which act as an additional lubricating layer that rests between your skin and the shaving cream. This oil helps to glide the razor gently along your skin.
Aftershave balms aren’t like a traditional aftershave splash that can sting your skin due to the inclusion of alcohol, but instead will help to provide essential moisture and nutrients to hydrate and nourish your skin leaving you in great shape for the rest of the day.
Thinking About Getting A Double Edge Safety Razor? Follow This Guide
There is no question that we are big fans of safety razors here at Tools of Men. While of course cartridge razors can serve a very good purpose should you be manscaping or shaving your head completely bald, the amount of control coupled with the cost savings you get with a safety razor just simply can’t be beat.
What type of double edge safety razor should you get?
To help with any first time buyer, we put together one of the most comprehensive guides we ever constructed in this thoroughly detailed post on some of the best safety razors in the market.
In that guide be break it down from novice to expert on all the little nuances when it comes to selecting a double edge safety razor that will work the absolute best for you.
Now if you do know exactly what type of razor you want to get, then a shaving kit is likely a great pick for you.
One of our personal favorites was the Merkur Barber Pole 38C shaving kit. It not only includes the highly regarded Merkur Barber Pole safety razor, but also includes a badger hair shaving brush, a 10 pack of Merkur blades, Taylor of Old Bond Street shaving cream, a shaving bowl, and styptic pencil (because we know those nicks are going to happen when you are first learning how to use a double edge safety razor).
Overall it’s an incredible deal that provides great savings!
When all is said and done, a safety razor is an excellent choice for men who are looking to have total control over their morning shave while also saving a few bucks along the way.