You’ve heard about safety razors, but what exactly are they? Should you use one? This guide will answer those questions.
My first razor was one of those rotary shavers you can pick up for next to nothing at a department store. And even though I barely had any stubble at the time, the razor still just didn’t work well.
A few years later, when I noticed I was getting some actual growth, I picked up a multi-blade cartridge razor. Although it delivered a much better experience than the rotary shaver, the cartridge razor had its fair share of problems.
That’s when I discovered the safety razor.
As it turns out, this “old-fashioned” device provides an excellent shave. While there’s a bit of a learning curve, it’s not as intimidating as it might seem.
Once I started using a safety razor, I couldn’t go back to cartridges. Even though I rock a full beard these days, the safety razor is still my tool of choice for trimming up and keeping things neat.
If you’re as curious as I was about the benefits of the safety razor, then you’re in the right place. We’re going to look at what exactly they are, why you should use them, and how to get the most out of the shaving experience.
What Is a Safety Razor?
A safety razor is a single-blade razor with a protective layer between the blade and the skin. This leaves only the edge of the blade exposed to shave with, lowering the chance of getting nicks and cuts.
The safety razor was developed as an easier alternative to the straight razor. Since straight razors expose the entire blade, they require more skill to use well, and it’s much easier to cut yourself (hence the straight razor’s nickname, the cutthroat razor).
With a safety razor, you still get the pleasant experience of a single-blade shave, but you reduce the risk of getting hurt.
Why Use a Safety Razor?
In short, safety razors can provide a better, closer shave.
To fully understand why this is, you have to consider how the design of the safety razor differs from that of the cartridge razor.
For this guide, I’ll be talking exclusively about how each type of razor performs with facial hair, but I’ll address body hair later on.
Most cartridge razors have sets of either three or five blades, and many of them feature a pivoting head that moves as you shave.
These design elements are often marketed as positive aspects — for instance, many razor advertisements claim that more blades equal more effectiveness.
However, this isn’t really the case.
When you use a cartridge razor, you’re making multiple passes of a blade over the same hair follicle.
Usually, that hair will be cut by the first blade to touch it, which means that none of the other blades are really doing anything except maybe irritating the skin.
This is also why it can be harder to do touchups with a cartridge razor — it’s like trying to draw minuscule lines with a king-size Sharpie.
While the cartridge razor has its place, it generally offers a less efficient and less customizable shave.
On the other hand, the safety razor’s design allows you to shave with more precision since there’s only one blade to work with.
In addition, you’re only making one pass of a blade at any given time, which can reduce irritation. Generally, you won’t have to make more than a few passes with a safety razor to get a clean-shaven face.
Another benefit is that safety razor upkeep is much cheaper.
While safety razors are more expensive, that doesn’t matter as much because the razor itself is a one-time purchase.
The real cost difference is in the blades. Replacement cartridges tend to cost about $3-$4 each, while razor blades are only about 5 to 10 cents each.
Additionally, cartridge razors force you to use a brand’s proprietary (and usually overpriced) blade cartridges. With safety razors, you can use any brand of razor blade. This allows you to not only cut costs but also find the right blade for your face.
And that fact also makes safety razors much more environmentally friendly. You’re consuming less and putting out less waste while getting more functionality and flexibility in your shave.
Of course, it’s not a one size fits all scenario, but these reasons are why many guys choose to use safety razors.
Types of Safety Razors
All safety razors are essentially the same thing — a blade mounted atop a handle — but there are specific types that vary in operation.
Single Edge vs. Double Edge
First, let’s talk about blades.
Most safety razors made today use double-edge blades that have two sharp edges, allowing you to alternate between them as you shave.
You can still find models that use single-edge blades, but these are few and far between. The simple reason is that single-edge blades are generally stiffer and more difficult to handle.
For that reason, I’ll be focusing only on double-edge safety razors for this guide.
Within the umbrella of double-edge razors, there are five main types:
One Piece (or Butterfly)
Butterfly razors are so-called because of their blade-loading mechanism. Twisting the handle opens the two top-loading doors that unfold like butterfly wings.
This allows for quick and simple blade loading and replacement. Of course, you still have to be careful when handling the blades, but the butterfly razor’s design makes that a bit easier.
Two-piece safety razors consist of a handle and a top. The blade’s base plate (also called a safety guard) is permanently attached to the handle. You twist the handle to remove the top and mount your blade.
Three-piece safety razors separate the handle, base plate, and top. Functionally, they’re similar to two-piece razors, but the extra disassembly makes for easier cleaning.
Slant razors (also called slant-bar razors) feature asymmetrical mounts that position the blade at an angle. This allows the blade to cut through the hair more easily.
For some guys, a slant is a complementary razor that they use alongside their main razor. Slants are especially popular among men with thick, coarse facial hair since it’s possible to remove more hair with less pressure.
Adjustable razors allow you to increase or decrease the amount of blade exposure. This changes how aggressive the blade will be when shaving — the more exposed the blade is, the more aggressive the shave will be.
Open Comb vs. Closed Comb
Any of those five safety razor types can have either an open or closed comb, which refers to the shape of the base plate.
An open-comb razor has a base plate that resembles a hair comb. These teeth catch the beard hair and direct it toward the blade, resulting in a more aggressive but also more efficient shave.
A closed comb razor has a straight base plate that hides most of the blade. This helps stretch the skin taut so the blade can easily glide over it, making for a less aggressive shave.
In general, open-comb razors can provide a closer shave, but there’s a steeper learning curve and it’s easier to nick yourself. Closed comb razors are more straightforward to use, but they don’t give you as close a shave as open comb razors.
That said, most safety razors today are closed comb, and you probably don’t need to consider an open comb unless you’re regularly growing out and then shaving your facial hair.
Safety Razor FAQs
If any of these questions have been on your mind, wonder no more, because we’ve got the answers here for you.
What Is the Point of a Safety Razor?
A safety razor gives you the benefits of shaving with a single blade while reducing the chance of getting cut.
Can a Safety Razor Cut You?
Yes, but any razor can cut you! That said, safety razors do require a bit of getting used to, but they’re no more dangerous than cartridge razors.
Do You Need the Bowl and Brush?
You don’t, but, in my opinion, using a brush to whip up a quality shaving cream or soap is the best part of shaving.
Can I Shave Every Day With a Safety Razor?
Yep! Many guys use a safety razor as their daily driver.
Can You Shave Your Pubic Hair With a Safety Razor?
Yes, but be careful. While you can shave any body hair with a safety razor, it’s easy to nick the more delicate skin on sensitive areas like your groin and armpits. Go slowly, lather up with a good shaving soap or cream, use a less sharp blade, and clean your razor afterward!
Should You Switch to a Safety Razor?
If you’re already happy with your cartridge or electric razor, then you might be wondering if it’d really be worth it to switch to a safety razor.
Like most things, it depends.
If you’re after a closer shave, then you should at least try a safety razor. This is especially true for guys with thick, coarse, or otherwise unruly facial hair.
A safety razor may also be a good choice if you struggle with irritation caused by shaving. You may not see a difference your first time using a safety razor, but once you get used to it, you’ll likely experience much less irritation.
Plus, if you go the whole nine yards and lather up some shaving soap in a bowl with a nice soft brush, you can elevate your shaving experience to something of a luxury.
There are good reasons why so many guys swear by safety razors. If you’re curious, then you should at least try one out for a few weeks and see how it goes.
Questions? Comments? Leave them below!