The History and Benefits of Shaving with a Safety Razor
Its human nature to always be on the lookout for something newer and better, and unfortunately we have a tendency to associate the two together in our thinking that technology can provide the perfect answer to all of life’s problems. Nowhere is this more true than when it comes to shaving, with numerous companies out there trying to convince you that their newest 3, 4, 5 or 12 blade cartridge razor is going to give you the best shave EVER!
Still not convinced? Well what about the space age handle, specially designed lubricating strip and even a battery powered vibrating head! All this and more can be yours for a small fortune!
It might sound great, but the truth is that all you need to get a close shave is a single sharp piece of steel, whether it be a straight razor or a safety razor (top safety razors). One of the biggest benefits of shaving with a safety razor is just how close of a shave it gives. All you’re doing with those extra blades is subjecting your face to more pain and misery than is necessary. While they may be convenient and offer a decent shave in a short time, the more times a blade touches your face, the more irritation you’ll experience. Each additional blade multiplies the irritation that much more. Not only that, but they also contain inferior quality steel that isn’t nearly as sharp as the blades used in safety razors. Be sure to check out our list of the best safety razor blades on the market today.
It wasn’t all that long ago—back in a time when men were really men—that a straight razor was the only way to shave, and in truth, men were probably better off for it. Then came King Camp Gillette, who changed the world of shaving for good when he founded the Gillette Safety Razor Company in 1901. Although the safety razor had been around, Gillette found a way to develop the first disposable razor blade. Before Gillette, guys had to use a leather strop to sharpen their forged steel razor blades before each use, so his razors designed to be used and then thrown away when dull was a revolutionary idea. He then developed special safety razors designed to hold these new lightweight stamped steel blades and sold the razors for a fairly affordable price, in order to create a continued demand for his company’s razor blades.
Starting to sound familiar? Sell the razors for cheap and charge an arm and a leg for replacement blades? Nowadays its cartridge razors and all the major manufacturers are continuing on the model popularized by K.C. Gillette. I say it’s time to put a stop to it all and go back to Gillette’s one good contribution, that being the disposable blade safety razor. Check out our article on about the differences between safety razors vs cartridge razors.
Technology needs no place when it comes to your face. Traditional wet shaving with a safety razor or a straight razor remains the best way to get the closest, most painless shave possible and no amount of turbo chargers or vibrators are going to change that. And while shaving with a straight razor may seem badass, they take more time and patience than many of us are willing to put in, which basically only leaves the traditional double edge safety razor. Check out our article on about the differences between straight razors vs safety razors.
A Double Edged Sword
Back before Gillette patented his version of the safety razor, many men were just fine using steel straight razors and numerous men today still use them. That being said, luckily things have advanced a bit since then and I am glad that we have options. I know I said technology shouldn’t play a role in shaving, but I am thankful for at least one technological advancement where shaving is concerned—razor blades.
We’ve come a heck of a long way since the days of King Gillette and his stamped steel razor blades, as today’s new breed of disposable blades is truly a cut above the rest, if you’ll pardon my terrible pun. Super sharp titanium steel blades is now the norm and you just wouldn’t believe how incredibly sharp some of these little beasts are. Of course, the only thing better than being super sharp is being super cheap, which they are as well. Even some of the best brands like Feather will still only cost you pennies, which can quickly add up to a huge savings compared to the several dollars it typically costs per cartridge razor.
Ok, so now the bad news. Guess what, they’re sharp. They can and will cut you. If you’ve never used a safety razor before, be prepared to bleed a bit at first. You shouldn’t let this discourage you though, as we’re only talking about a few nicks (compared to the gaping wounds you could experience with a straight razor) and it only takes a few shaves to get a handle on the proper technique. If you’re just starting out, I’d recommend investing in a quality safety razor with a fixed head and safety bar, as these will help shield the blade and prevent cuts.
For you safety razor newbies out there, I’d highly recommend checking out our post on how to shave with a safety razor to learn more about how exactly you should hold and shave with it. It could save you a bit of blood, as it requires a bit more patience and a different technique than those dull cartridge or disposable razors you’re used to.
Benefits of Shaving with a Safety Razor
Now that you know all about the history of the safety razor (and hopefully how to use it), I’ll now tell you just why I think they’re so great. Not just great, but in my humble opinion the best all-around razor out there in terms of striking the perfect balance between affordability, convenience and shave quality. Double edge safety razors really are the total package and here’s why-
- Provides one of the closest shaves around. Only a straight razor or shavette gives a better shave.
- With patience and a good quality shaving cream or shaving soap, it could virtually eliminate pain, irritation, razor burns and ingrown hairs from your life. This is especially true if you use a good pre-shave oil to provide even more lubrication. The single, sharp blade usually only requires one or two passes for a close, smooth shave, while the weight of the razor means you have to use less pressure—all of which cuts down on irritation.
- Easy to get a hang of the proper technique compared to the steep learning curve for straight razors.
- Takes less time than shaving with a straight razor. While it does take a bit more time and patience compared to disposable and cartridge razors, the quality of the shave is well worth the extra couple of minutes.
- Probably the cheapest way to shave in the long term. While a quality new safety razor such as an Edwin Jagger or Merkur could set you back anywhere between $30 and $200, even the best razor blades only cost a few cents each. See how these two major players compare in our article Edwin Jagger vs Merkur.
- It’s the way a man should shave—real men need only one blade. No joke here. Shaving with a safety razor really does feel more manly that using those crappy cartridge razors. The feel of the heavy steel razor in your hand does make you feel more powerful and confident somehow.
- Provides better control, resulting in a smooth, even shave. The weight and balance of a safety razor are perfectly designed to fit comfortably in the hand and provide a smooth, almost effortless shave as the razor’s weight does all the work.
So now the only question is why aren’t you out there looking for the best safety razor so you can get started on what could easily be one of the best shaves of your life? Also be sure to check out this awesome infographic on the Beginner’s Guide to Wet Shaving that provides more points on the advantages of wet shaving as well as the infographic on the Science of Wet Shaving.
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Ben Rose is the founder and senior editor at Prim&Prep, the definitive guide to male grooming. He is a wet shaving expert, body grooming aficionado, and skincare guru. His work has been featured on many other prominent men’s publications including AskMen, Men’s Health, and GQ.