How to Choose the Best Safety Razor for You – Complete Guide
OK, so you will notice that razor descriptions often mention how aggressive a razor is.
This sounds pretty scary when you don't know what it refers to - I mean, who wants to be messing with an aggressive razor blade, right?
Actually, there are three elements which determine the aggressiveness of a razor; the gap between the safety bar and blade edge, the blade angle and how much of it is exposed.
A safety razor is so termed because of the bar across the centre of the head that conceals most of the blade. Just the very edge is left exposed with the bar acting as a barrier to reduce the danger of cuts.
The more open the head is, the more aggressive it is in terms of shave, and the closer the cut. It also makes it easier to avoid clogging and keep it clean and clear between passes, especially if your hair is thick and coarse.
Being able to adjust the gap means that you can select a more aggressive setting for your face and a milder setting for more sensitive areas such as the neck, for example.
Less aggressive razors are better for sensitive skin or the more sensitive parts of the body, and are less likely to cause razor burn or cuts and nicks, particularly in the hands of anyone new to shaving with a safety razor.
If you are new to safety razor shaving, it is best to start with a less aggressive razor/setting until you have mastered the correct technique.
If a razor has an open combed edge, it means that safety bar has a series of comb-like grooves along the edge to catch coarse hairs, also opening the edge to give a more aggressive cut.
So a closed comb edge, where the side of the bar is straight, gives a milder cut. Some double edged safety razors, such as the Vikings Blade Crusader have a closed comb on one side and an open comb on the other to give more flexibility.
Some safety razors have a slant bar, which gives a more aggressive shave and is particularly good for a very thick, coarse beard but not ideal for safety razor beginners.
If you would like more information about slant bar razors we have a detailed article that you can find here.
Butterfly or 2/3 Piece?
A butterfly opening razor has internal, mechanical workings that open the head up for blade replacement. The head opens from the centre, with two flaps resembling wings, hence the term butterfly opening.
This is the most simple way of blade replacement, usually just requiring the twist of the end knob on the handle.
A two piece razor has the safety bar attached to the main handle and base plate by screws, which are removed to lift off the safety bar. The blade is then located onto the plate and the safety bar reattached.
The way a three piece razor works is for the complete head to detach by turning the whole handle to screw it off. The blade is placed between the plate and safety bar and then the handle can be twisted back on.
Although a butterfly opening is quicker and more convenient, the advantage of a 3 piece razor is that it is easier to clean and there are no mechanical parts to go wrong.
Weight and Balance
The weight of a razor varies, and tends to be a matter of personal choice. The thing to remember is that a heavier razor means that you will need to put less or no pressure on it yourself.
The lighter the razor, the more control you will have, and you will probably need to put on more pressure for dense areas.
Good balance is equally, if not more important than weight. A well-balanced razor is much more comfortable and easy to use and will therefore give a more even shave with less irritation.
It should be evenly balanced across the whole length, favouring neither handle nor head.
Choice of handle is important for a comfortable shave - some are slim and others more chunky, with variations in length and many handle finishes, from completely smooth to thickly grooved.
The handle is really down to personal choice, but as a practical guide I would say that if you have large hands a longer handle might be preferable. Also, the slight additional reach provided is useful if you are shaving legs and underarms.
If you have any difficulty with grip, think about purchasing a razor with a thicker, more textured handle - the rougher surface helps to reduce slipping and aids control.
There are also some designer handles and more feminine ones for ladies, eg. The Putali Ltd. double edged safety razor (pictured above).
How to Shave with a Double Edged Safety Razor
Firstly, you will want a good shaving lather and the ideal for this is a good shaving brush and cream.
Using a shaving brush helps to soften the beard and skin and helps to make the hairs stand up ready for shaving.
If you leave the brush in hot water for a few minutes prior to use, it will help you produce a good lather.
Wet your beard with warm water and then apply a thick layer of lather, making sure to cover the whole area completely.
You need to hold the razor at a 30° angle and allow it to glide across the skin without exerting any pressure - simply allow the weight of the razor to do the work.
For the first pass you will be shaving with the direction of hair growth i.e. downwards, using one inch strokes. As the blade becomes full with hair and cream, you can flip it over and use the other side.
Make sure you rinse regularly to avoid build-up and take special care around the nose and lip areas, tightening the skin to make a smooth surface.
When you reach the neck area, again you should shave downwards.
Once you have finished the first pass, rinse the face and re-lather as before and then shave across the hair growth i.e. from ear to nose.
When it comes to the neck, shave against the hair growth (upwards).
Rinse and re-lather ready for the third and final pass, and then shave in the opposite direction from the second pass, so across the grain from nose to ear.
Once finished, rinse thoroughly and then use cold water to close the pores.
I hope you find this useful, but for more information and a video of the process, see our article Shaving with a Double Edged Safety Razor for the First Time.
Why Choose to Use a Safety Razor?
If you are reading this article, my guess is that you have already decided to start using a safety razor, but in case you are still considering, here are a few points that may help you take the plunge:
These are just a few of the benefits of using double edged safety razors, for in-depth information see our article 7 Reasons to Switch.