The Complete Guide to Safety Razor Shaving for Women
Recently there has been a bit of a renaissance with regards to safety shaving. A lot of men are getting fed up with the cartridge razors due to the expense of the cartridges and also because they just don't get a great shave.
However, it's not only the men that are taking interest in safety shaving. Women are also starting to move across, especially those that have troubles with the multi-blade cartridge razors on their sensitive skin.
Can women use safety razors? Absolutely! Do we recommend it? Absolutely
Apart from saving money and reducing environmental impact, you'll also find that shaving with a safety razor (once you learn the technique) is likely to give you a better shave.
We've compiled a complete Q&A guide to safety shaving for women to get you started:
Will Safety Shaving Irritate My Skin?
Shaving with a safety razor is going to substantially reduce the amount of irritation that you get from shaving.
Safety shaving with a double edge blade means that only one razor edge will ever come into contact with your skin at any given time as opposed to 3, 4 or 5 with a cartridge razor - of course having so many blades run across your skin is more irritable.
The other difference is that the edge of the double edged razor is more exposed than with cartridge razors meaning that you'll get a better "cut" of the hair closer to the surface of the skin as opposed to the often irritable pulling sensation that can occur with cartridge razors.
Many women with sensitive skin find that simply switching to a safety razor eliminates the irritation that they commonly experience with cartridge razors.
Will I Cut Myself More Compared to a Cartridge Razor?
Given that the blade is more exposed, there is the potential to cut yourself more often with a safety razor. However, there is nothing to be afraid of, most women find that after a few times practising the technique they rarely cut themselves.
The modern day cartridge razor has a pivot head and a barrier of protection that allows you to move the razor in any direction, with as much pressure as you want, and still not cut yourself. The drawback of this, as I mentioned above, is a poor shave and irritation.
When shaving with a safety razor, there are a few key differences to remember:-
- You want to try and keep the angle of the head of the razor at about 30 degrees to the surface of the skin. Heads on safety razors don't pivot, so you have to control the angle yourself
- Don't apply any downwards pressure onto the surface of the skin. Unlike with a cartridge razor, you simply don't need to apply any downwards force with a safety razor in order to get a good shave. Applying downwards force will increase the chances of you cutting yourself.
Shaving with a safety razor is not difficult, you just will need a few "runs" or to make the transition from a cartridge razor to break bad shaving habits that have been picked up over the years. The biggest mistake is to shave with a safety razor as though it were a pivot headed razor.
How Often Do I Have to Change the Blade?
It varies from one blade to the next and from one person to the next. Generally speaking, a blade will last at least a week if you're shaving every other day on medium to coarse hair.
If you have light hair and only shave your body once every three or four days then you'll likely only need to change the blade once every two or three weeks.
The great thing about the blades is that they're extremely cheap. You'll literally save yourself a fortune by making the switch. Blades range in cost from $0.09 to $0.30 per blade. Given that you only need to change at most once every few weeks, you can see how cost savings add up in comparison to expensive cartridge replacements.
We actually did a cost comparison between safety shaving and cartridge shaving. The figures are "ballpark" but give you an idea of how much money you can save:-
As you can see from the chart, the saving is roughly around $250 year just from not having to purchase expensive cartridge replacements - that's $2,500 over 10 years!
Is Shaving with a Safety Razor More Time Consuming?
At the beginning, when you're just learning the technique, you'll find that shaving with a safety razor takes longer. This is normal with any skill that you're trying to learn for the first time.
Once you've got the hang of it, though, you should find that shaving with a safety razor doesn't take substantially longer than with a cartridge razor.
If you have thicker hair, then you might want to do a multi pass shave for the closest shave possible. This would mean initially going with the grain and then either across or against it. Doing a multi pass shave takes a little bit longer than with a safety razor, but nothing substantial.
Do I need to Use Shaving Foam?
Yes, you should always use some form of shaving foam as lubrication when shaving with a safety razor.
The likelihood is that you currently use pressurised shaving foam/cream from a can - if so, we recommend that you experiment with some more natural alternatives for a better shave (such as the Van Der Hagen kit that you can see on the right).
Canned shaving creams have been designed primarily with convenience in mind and are certainly not the best choice for the most comfortable shave. They typically contain isobutane/propane along with a number of preservatives that add nothing to the shave and for many people cause additional irritation.
Instead, consider purchasing a shaving soap and shaving brush. You can whip up a lather by dabbing the brush into the shaving soap in a circular motion. Applying the lather to the skin using the brush helps the hairs to stand tall, away from the skin, ready to be cut and the lather will give you much greater protection than anything you can get from canned shaving cream/gels.
Watch this very informative video to learn how to load the brush and create a great lather ready for shaving:-
The lather generating technique takes a bit of practice to get right, but the end result is a lot better than what you get out of the can - it's also far less expensive.
Is There a Safety Razor Especially for Women?
There are a number of safety razors tailored for women. Here are the most popular:-
Edwin Jagger is one of the most popular brands of safety razor both for men and woman. This particular model comes with coloured handles for a more feminine touch.
While not specifically branded for women, this razor comes with a long handle which is very useful for shaving certain areas of the body (such as the legs, for example).
Both of these razors are mid-range in terms of aggressiveness and are therefore good razors to start with.
If you decide that you want to choose a razor different from these two mentioned above then I would recommend staying away from "slanted" safety razors as these are quite a bit more aggressive and aren't the most forgiving of razors for a beginner.
What are the Advantages of Safety Shaving vs a Cartridge Razor
The first and foremost is that your skin will be less irritated as a result of the shave. Nearly everyone who makes the transition to safety shaving from regular cartridge razors comments on this.
However, there are other side benefits, including:-
- Less environmental impact - safety razors are a "buy them once, last a lifetime" deal, so you don't end up constantly throwing away replaceable plastic parts like you do with a cartridge razor
- You will save money - cartridge replacement blades are extremely expensive. We predict that you'll save around $250/year by switching over to safety shaving
- Less ingrown hairs - cartridge shaving is notorious for causing ingrown hairs. These problems usually vanish when you switch to a safety razor.
- A lot more customisation options - you can mix and match a range of blades, shaving soaps, pre and post creams to form a combination that best works for you and your skin. Blades, in particular, come in a wide variety of sharpness levels allowing you to choose just the right sharpness:smooth ratio for your best shave.
Safety razors make cleaner cuts than their cartridge razor counterparts. As evidence of this, see this micrograph of two hairs. The hair on the left was cut with a safety razor and the one on the right with a cartridge razor:-
A lot of people mention that their skin looks healthier after making the switch to safety shaving. I recently posted a thread on Reddit to ask what other people thought about safety shaving, and here is what most of the responses looked like:-
* "BBS lasts longer" basically means "Baby bum smooth shave lasts longer".
In the comment above, the author talks about how switching to safety shaving isn't cheaper once acquisition hits full stride. The author means that if you turn wet shaving into a hobby then it can become more costly (trying out new razors, creams, blades etc.). There is actually a very active group of passionate hobbyist shavers out there that spend thousands of dollars per year on trying out new shaving equipment.
What Shall I Do If I Cut Myself?
If you're new to safety shaving then you'll inevitably pick up the old nick and cut here and there. There are some great products that you can use to help heal nicks and quickly stop any bleeding:
Alum blocks are great for minor irritation - it is a natural product that contains great anti-septic properties for healing razor burn and minor nicks.
A block of this size will last many months, if not years with daily use. Well worth the investment at just around $6.
Hypoallergenic and fragrance free, soothes shaving irritation and stems bleeding from nicks or scrapes.
Natural ingredients, in a 60g (2.1oz) block for easy application, available online for around $9.
Can I Shave Myself Under the Shower?
There's no reason why you can't shave under the shower - you'll just need to make sure that you learn the correct technique so that you're able to efficiently shave standing up.
Can You Use a Safety Razor on All Body Parts?
Yes, you can use a safety razor in all places where you currently use a cartridge razor.
Here are some videos demonstrating how you can use a safety razor on each different body part:-
Using a Safety Razor on the Under Arms
Here the video demonstrates how you can use a "three way pass" to get a close shave in the under arm area.
A three way pass typically means going "with the grain" on the first pass, "across the grain" with the second pass and "against the grain" with the third and final pass.
Of course, if you're prone to irritation and don't care about having a super close shave, then you can skip the final pass.
Shaving your Legs and Ankle Area
In the video above, Tiffany is using an Edwin Jagger safety razor (the same one mentioned above in the recommended razors section) to shave her ankles and legs.
Notice how she keeps the angle of the blade at around 30 degrees and takes long, smooth passes for a comfortable shave.
There You Have It - That's All You Need to Get Started
Once you make the switch to shaving with a safety razor, there's no looking back. For more information about safety shaving, and how to get started, you should check out some of our other articles on the site:-
- The best shaving cream for sensitive skin
- The best safety razors for beginners
- The sharpest double edged razor blades - from top to bottom
- Shaving with a double edged razor blade for the first time
- Which is cheaper - cartridge or safety shaving?
Also, if you make the switch, be sure to let us know how you get on in the comments below - how did you find learning the technique? What kind of results are you getting?