Technology has changed our lives radically in the last century, mostly for the better. However, in terms of shaving, thats not the case. Todays guide makes the case for why a tried-and-true method, the double-edged safety razor, is still a cut above.
Todays dominant shaving method, the cartridge razor, is not at the top because its the best method, but simply because it makes the most money for the manufacturers. With aggressive marketing, brands like Gillette or the Dollar Shave Club have taught men that the cartridge razor with numerous blades is the way to go. In reality, the best shavers for men are decades old and sometimes predate sliced breadthe straight razor, the single blade razor, and double-edged (DE) safety razor.
Pros & Cons of A DE Safety Razor
Pro: A Safety Razor Costs Less
Over the course of a year or even 10 years, youll spend probably 10 times as much on a cartridge system than you would on a double edge system. The big difference between the cartridge system and a DE razor is that you get the handle for the cartridge razors for free, but youll pay anywhere from $1 to $4 for each cartridge. And if youre like me, that cartridge just lasts once or twice (especially if you have thick hair), and its painful to shave. On the other hand, with a double-edged razor, you have to invest $50 or maybe even $100 upfront to get all the tools you need, but then, youll only pay pennies for each blade thereafter.
Pro: You Get A Closer Shave
Simply put, the DE razor gets you a much closer shave. If you want a buttery smooth, baby-butt like shave, you need a sharper blade. On top of that, a sharp blade really helps to avoid any kind of razor bumps and skin conditions that you get with blades that are too dull.
How can you tell a blade is too dull? Well, if it pulls at any point in time when you shave, that means the blade isnt sharp enough. Every man has different hair; some coarse and thick, others soft. With a DE razor, you can pick exactly the right blade for your hair and your skin type. On top of that, you can change the handles and heads, and the angle of the razor makes it more or less aggressive. Considering these factors, you can find the right combination that works for your face. On the other hand, with a cartridge system like that of Dollar Shave Club, Gillette Mach3, or Fusion, it is just one-size-fits-all (but it truly doesnt fit anyone).
Pro: It Causes Less Irritation
Yes, you have to invest in high-fat shaving creams, but with a cartridge razor, they dont really work because they clog up the multiple blades. With the DE razor, you have full control of your blades, and theyre so inexpensive that you can afford to discard them after each use (even though I dont think you have to do so). Now, lets assume you throw your blade away after each shave. You still produce a whole lot less waste than you would with a cartridge system. So switching to a DE system means no clogged landfills, and a handle that you can use for a lifetime.
- It has a large upfront cost.
- You have to learn the right technique, otherwise, youre more likely to get a nick or a cut.
- It takes longer than an electric shavebut the result is also a lot better.
Fortunately, though, you can easily learn the technique, its really not a big secret. That being said, Rome wasnt built in a day, and youre not going to get your perfect shave the first time you use a DE razor. Frankly, the only time Id recommend using a cartridge system is when you travel by plane, because the cartridge razors are TSA approved, single blades are not. Personally, I just use an electric shaver when I travel, because I can also use that when I shave with a DE razor.
Comparing Single-Edged and Double-Edged Razors
Lately, a lot of new single-blade shaving systems have popped up, and people who firmly use a cartridge razor seem to be converting, so lets make a comparison to understand why they made the switch.
OneBlade and Supply Single-Edged Razors vs DE Razor
First up, well say that both are good products; compared to a cartridge system, theyre way betterwhich is why if most people switch from a cartridge system to a OneBlade or Supply system, theyre blown away (because their shave is better and they spend less money).
The OneBlade uses a feather FHS 10 blade, which is thicker than a DE blade and costs about 75 cents apiece. It used to be really expensive to get a handle, and youd have to pay anywhere from $300 or $400. Today, you can get a starter handle for just $20. The shave is great with the swivel head of the OneBlade; you get an experience that is very close to a cartridge system, but its much smoother and at a cost that is lower than a cartridge system (but above that of a DE system, especially in the long run). Why? DE blades cost you anywhere from 5 to 10 cents, maybe a little more for a sharper blade, but nowhere near the 75 cents.
On a rating system from 0 to 10 with 10 being the best, Id rate a DE shaving system as a 9. Its not quite a 10, because it takes a little more time and technique. The OneBlade system I would rate as an 8, because its still very good, its just slightly more expensive than a DE system.
The Supply razor has an injection blade which is from Schick. It also costs about 75 cents a blade, and there are 3 different angles so you can adjust how aggressive you want your shave to be. Ultimately, its also more expensive, even though the handle just costs about $75-150. Because of that, Id rate the Supply system an 8, too.
Bevel DE Razor
This is a double-edged razor, and the only reason it works so well and doesnt create skin irritation is because they use sharp blades, thats it! Personally, you can achieve that with any kind of DE razor, you dont need the Bevel branded products that are more expensive than other options in the market.
What You Need To Shave With A DE Razor
- A razor handle that comes with a head
- The right blades
- A high fat shaving cream. Dont use those cheap aerosol cans, they wont work.
- A post-shave product such as an aftershave or an aftershave balm. They help soothe your skin.
- A styptic pencil in case you cut yourself. It stops the bleeding.
How Do You Shave With A DE Safety Razor?
Step 1: A Pre-shave Routine
Before shaving, you can take a hot shower that makes your hair soft. If you dont want to shower, you can use a wet towel. The way I do it is I just make a towel wet, put it in the microwave for a minute, and then rest it on my face. Its very comforting, but it also helps my hair to get soft. If thats too much time for you, you can also splash your face with hot water for a minute or two until you can feel your hair is getting soft.
Step 2: Apply Shaving Cream Lather
If youre in a hurry, I suggest you get shaving cream from a tube; never use aerosol cans because they dont have enough fat. You can also use a shaving soap, but youll need a brush to lather it up and it takes a bit more time. That being said, using a shaving brush is probably the best way, because it puts the lather all around the hair and also may help to move your hair slightly away from your face, which makes the shave easier.
Step 3: Start Shaving (With The Grain)
First, by this point, you should have loaded up your head with a blade and make sure its all straight and not in there crooked, because you dont want to cut yourself. Shave in three passes (essentially, three rounds), with the goal of hair reduction. After passing over each area of your face three total times, from a different direction each time, your hair should theoretically be totally removed.
When you are just starting out, I suggest you stand in front of the mirror and look at the growth directions of your beard hair before you even start shaving or lathering up. If you cant remember how your beard grows, take a pen and paper and sketch out the directions you think your hair is growing. Its actually very simple, just look at it closely and youll see it.
Why is it important to do that? Well, in the first pass, you want to shave in the direction of your hair grain, which is much less stressful on your skin. Every man has slightly different growth directions, so its hard to make blanket statements. Personally, Ive memorized my growth directions so I know exactly what way I have to shave.
When you make a pass, always ensure that your skin is tight or stretched because if theres loose skin, youre much more likely to cut yourself. I always use my free left hand to stretch my skin just in the area where Im going to shave next. That can mean pulling at your sideburn from overhead, puffing your cheeks, or tightening your skin with your muscles (or using your tongue from the inside).
Depending on the head of your double-edged razor, you should hold your handle at an angle of about 30 to 45 degrees. Youll hear what the right angle is once you do the pass, as the hairs will audibly slice. When you do the pass, you want to be very gentle on the skin; dont have any strong pressure, just use gravity to slide down on your face. Ensure that you make short and slow strokes, which are also known as passes. When you start, make sure you shave in straight strokes.
Once youre a little more advanced, you can also have a slight stride, which means you move the razor at a slight anglethis kind of movement creates a stronger cutting motion. Alternatively, you could get a handle that is slightly angled, so if you pull down your handle straight, it always cuts the hair at an angle, therefore, enhancing the cutting motion just like on a guillotine. Frankly, I only suggest those angled heads for people with very thick hair, because it makes for a more aggressive razor. If you have just very thin beard hair, you still get the same result with a less aggressive razor, and your skin will thank you for it. Once youre done with 1 or 2 strokes, rotate the handle to the other side and use the other blade, repeating once or twice.
Step 4: Rinse The Blade
You can either do it under running water, or in a sink thats filled with water.
Check Point: How Are Things Feeling?
If you feel any kind of pulling or pain when you shave with a DE razor, it either means that you didnt do a proper pre-shave routine, that your blade is dull, or that your technique is still developing.
If you use shaving cream, you can clearly see where youve already shaved. Personally, I like to have a little bit of extra shaving cream in my free hand, so I can apply it after each pass. You cant have too much shaving cream on your skin when you shave it, after all. In the beginning, it may be tempting to go over the same area 3 or 4 times without reapplying shaving cream, but trust me, its better to have new shaving cream on there every time before you shave.
When youre just learning a technique, everything is going to take you a lot longer, so by the time you make it from your right side to the left side, you may already get a drying feeling on your face. You dont want dry shaving cream because it clogs up the razor and prevents skin protection. Therefore, if you can feel that it gets a little drier, wet your hand, go over the area again, and maybe reapply a little bit of lather or shaving cream just so everything is fresh before you shave over. The tricky areas are usually right underneath your nose and underneath your mouth. I use my tongue and puff air to make sure the skin isnt loose in those areas. Also, on your jawline, it can be hard to get it smooth all the way along, so what I do is I pull up my skin and tighten it, to ensure a smooth result.
Step 5: Do A Second Pass (Across The Grain)
Every man has different problem areas. For example, underneath my right ear, I always have to go in a different direction, otherwise, it doesnt get all the hair. The chin is another area where it can be a little bit difficult. Again, use your fingers and your face muscles to keep the skin tight and just shave in different directions, always reapplying the shaving cream. After you are done with the first pass, there may be still some residual hair in certain places. Thats when its time for the second pass. So you put shaving cream on your face with your hand or you lather up and use the shaving brush and then you cut, this time across the grain. Not against, but at a 90-degree angle to what you did before.
Step 5: Do A Third Pass (Across Or Against The Grain)
Most men may be done after a second pass but if you have thicker hair or if you want an even better and closer shave, do a third pass. This time, you may wish to shave against the grain. When I do this, it cuts my hair below the skin level and even after 24 hours, my face is just as smooth as if I would have just shaved it with an electric shaver. I know it sounds too good to be true, but my wife is amazed every time she feels my smooth baby butt-like skin in my face. When you shave against the grain, it can feel more aggressive on your skin and you can also hear the cutting motion more. Do be aware, though, that because hairs are being cut below the skin, this can lead to increased irritation for some men.
Step 6: Splash Your Face With Cold Water
Some people use ice water because they believe it helps your skin to close all the pores, and therefore, stop any kind of bleeding. I find regular cold tap water is just fine.
Step 7: Apply A Post-shave Product
This last step is very important to calm the skin. Every company that offers shaving creams also has post-shave products, each with their own scent. Old-school, all-alcohol products are not recommended, because they dry out your skin. Ive found that an inexpensive Nivea aftershave balm for sensitive skin is a great product, and it doesnt cost much.
The result of a DE shave is superior to any cartridge razor shave, and on par with systems like Supply or OneBlade. Some may argue its not quite as good as shaving with a straight razor, but that also takes a lot longer and requires even more technique. A straight razor is not something I would use on an everyday basis, simply because it takes too long. Its more something youd use on the weekends, when you truly want to enjoy the shaving process.
Can You Achieve The Result of A DE Shave In Less Time?
Let me share with you my shaving routine, which is geared towards the best result in the shortest amount of time.
- I start by taking a warm shower, not doing any other prep work with towels or splashing my face. Just taking a regular shower the way I would normally already does enough to get my hair in the right condition.
- I apply shaving cream out of the tube with my hands because that way, I dont have to lather up and I dont have to clean the brush and its super quick.
I use an electric shaver to get rid of all the excess hair on my face. This is the equivalent of the first and maybe the second pass, but its a lot faster and you dont have to pay attention to cutting yourself.
All you have to ensure is that your electric shaver is meant to get wet, because if it cant, you have a problem. I prefer it to be a wet electric shave compared to a dry electric shave, simply because it gets much closer.
- Once Im done with the electric shaver, I simply reapply the shave cream with my hand and go against the grain once with my DE razor. The advantage is that my blades last a lot longer that way, because its just one pass, not two or three.
- Afterwards, I clean up with cold water and add my post-shave balm. I can do all of this in about 5 to 6 minutes!
When youre starting out, it may take you a little longer, and this method has a disadvantage (in that you also have to invest in a waterproof electric shaver which can add $200 or $300 to the overall upfront investment). For me its totally worth it, because it saves me time and I think itll be worth it for you, too. Just calculate how much time you would save over the course of a year, two years, or five years!
Despite the fact that innovation often leads to increased comfort, speed, or ease of use, the fact of the matter is that the older ways of shaving are still supreme. A double-edged safety razor will give you a closer shave, with less irritation, and at a lower total cost. The choice is clear-cut!