Choosing a Safety Razor. Which one is right for you?
A Great Shave
Close, smooth and great for sensitive skin or ingrowing hairs
Bulk packs of blades work out very cheap
Zero or minimal plastics, minimise landfill
Are you thinking of joining the growing number of men (and women) ditching the multi-blade cartridge razor with its costly blades and switching to a safety razor? Read on to learn just what a safety razor is, why they are so popular and which one you should choose.
What came before the safety razor?
Prior to the 1900s men shaved with straight razors, also known as open or cutthroat razors. A straight razor is simply a long and wickedly sharp blade, attached at one end to a handle.
As well as requiring maintenance with every shave ,the straight razor is downright dangerous in unskilled hands. No wonder gentleman who could afford it would visit their barber to have the job done by a professional!
These straight razors are still available though and can produce amazing results in the hands of a skilled enthusiast.
1900: Gillette introduce the first successful safety razor
Many attempts had been made to find an alternative to the dangerous and inconvenient straight razor, and all of these were technically "safety razors", but the term has come to refer to razors using disposable double-edged blades, clamped in a fixed head and all recognisably based on Gillette's revolutionary 1900 model.
Gillette's new invention was an immediate success, so much so that Gillette shaving kits were standard issue to US troops during the First World War.
What's so great about the safety razor?
How can something dating from 1900 be better that the multi-blade razors currently being marketed to me everywhere I look? And aren't the razors more expensive than my supermarket razor?
Cost: yes, the razor handle is more expensive than a loss-leader corporate multi-blade monster, but if well looked after it should last for years and over time the running costs are very low. Blades are very economical if you buy bulk packs and you can easily get 2 years worth of shaves for $20. Keep the savings for yourself instead of funding some multinational's marketing campaigns!
Performance: after a very short learning curve you can get outstanding results. You may well notice that any problems with ingrowing hairs clear up after 2 or 3 months.
Sustainability: depending on your razor and blade choice there will be few plastics involved or none at all. Blades are 100% metal and can be carefully stored with a view to recycling (and a lifetime's used blades will fit in a single coffee can!)
THE TECHNICAL STUFF
Types of Safety Razor
Bored already and just want a recommendation? Here are the two safety razors we recommend for newcomers to wet shaving.
Want to know more? Scroll on past!
The safety razor is a pretty simple tool, but there are a few variations to be aware of.
Unscrews into 3 parts for blade change: handle, head and top plate.
Top plate unscrewed by knob at base of handle, head remains attached. Less user contact with blade when changing.
Most common, the blade is protected on each side by a one-piece guard rail.
Less common, the blade is guarded by "teeth" a little like a garden rake. Some prefer for thick and heavy beards.
Various mechanisms used to adjust the blade gap for more or less aggressiveness.
The head twists the blade to an angle, giving more of a "slicing" action. More aggressive, not usually recommended for beginners.
Once common, now quite unusual, twisting the handle opens two flaps allowing the blade to be easily swapped over.
If you have large hands or are looking to shave your legs, the extra reach of a long handled razor might come in handy.
For a first razor it's generally recommended to keep things simple and go for a closed comb, non-adjustable model. Handle materials, two or three piece etc are all just personal preferences. After all, you want something that looks awesome on your bathroom counter!
THE CUTTING EDGE
What about blades?
The great thing about double edged blades? They are all interchangeable! Any brand will fit any safety razor.
That said, all brands are different and they are a very personal choice. It's impossible to give a recommendation, the best approach is to try out 5 or 10 packs of different brands before committing to a 100 or 200 blade bulk pack.
AN INTERESTING ALTERNATIVE
The single edge razor
A number of different single edge razor styles exist, often with their own loyal following. We sell the Supply brand which uses the "Injector" system to allow hand-free blade changes. The blade is held very rigidly for an excellent close shave.
"Nick-stop" technology virtually eliminates the possibility of cuts and nicks.