What’s the Best Shaving Razor: A Guide

Although the beard has become more popular in recent years, most guys continue to shave [some or all of] their facial hair.

The average beard contains 6,000-25,000 hairs, each of which grows at a rate of 0.25 mm/day, making high-quality razors with sharp blades essential grooming tools for most men.

There are several different categories (and thousands of individual variations) of razors from which to choose, with each type of razor having its own set of advantages and disadvantages.

Since everyone has different skin and hair types, they have a variety of shaving needs; consequently, a product that works well for one person may not be optimal for others.

The “best” razor available on the market is a subjective term; one must select the razor which is best-suited to his individual needs.

Types of Razors

  • Straight Razor:  requires a relatively high degree of skill; propensity for nicks and cuts.  Capable of giving a close shave; can last a lifetime.Straight-Razor
  • Safety Razor:  requires time and some degree of skill; chance of nicks and cuts.  Close and consistent shave.
  • Cartridge Razor:  close shave with low risk of nicks and cuts.  Replacement cartridges are expensive.  Good for beginners and easy to use.
  • Disposable Razor:  convenient and inexpensive but usually relatively low in quality.Disposable-Razor
  • Electric Razor:  very low incidence of nicks and cuts but doesn’t shave as closely as a blade.
  • Hybrid Razor:  hybrid design between electric and cartridge razor; shave isn’t as close as that of a blade.  Portable.  Convenient.

Since I frequently use only a few of the different razor types, I focus this discussion on the types with which I’m familiar.

Cartridge Razors

Cartridge razors are probably the most popular type of razors currently used for shaving, with modern cartridges containing 3-6 blades.

Multi-blade cartridge razors lift the hair with the leading blade while it is cut below the level of the surface of the skin by the subsequent blades.

The razor handle and cartridges are generally sold separately, and the cartridges are replaced when the blades become dull (generally after only 3-5 shaves).Cartridge-Razor

  • Advantages:
    • Convenient; travel-friendly.
    • Capable of shaving quickly.
    • Ideal for beginners; easy to learn the proper technique.
    • Low incidence of nicks and cuts.
    • Replacement cartridges are readily available in stores and online.
    • Delivers a close shave by lifting each hair prior to cutting it, resulting in the hair being cut at a level below the skin.
  • Disadvantages:
    • Multiple blades may cause more irritation, resulting in razor bumps and ingrown hairs.
      • When hairs are cut too low (below the level of the skin), they sometimes grow back (inward) into the skin, causing ingrown hairs.
    • Replacement cartridges can be expensive.
    • Blades become dull after only a few shaves, which can cause skin irritation since the hairs are not cut as cleanly.
    • The cartridges are prone to clogging (between the blades) by natural oils, dead skin cells, and pieces of hair.

Safety Razors (Double-Edged Razors)

The safety razor was popularized during WWI, when King Camp Gillette was contracted by the US government to supply every American soldier with a shaving kit.

Safety razors fix the blade at a safe angle with only the edge of the blade exposed in order to help prevent nicks and cuts; adjustable safety razors allow one to change the blade exposure, which impacts the aggressiveness of your shave.

Guys with coarse facial hair may prefer a more aggressive angle, while those with sensitive skin may prefer a lower blade to skin angle.

During the past 5 years, they have enjoyed a recent surge in popularity likely because of their ability to deliver an excellent shave, although the technique requires some practice to master.Adjustable-Safety-Razor

  • Advantages:
    • Delivers a very close, clean, and smooth shave when used properly.
    • Razor blades are very sharp and high-quality; replacement blades are less expensive than cartridges.
    • Single blade cuts hairs at the level of the skin, which reduces the chances of razor bumps and ingrown hairs.
    • Less irritating single blade is well-suited for sensitive skin and acne.
    • Less expensive over time.
  • Disadvantages:
    • Requires more time and effort to shave than with a cartridge razor.
    • Relatively easy to use, but there is a moderate learning curve initially.
    • Bulky head and fixed blade angle may make it difficult to shave angular facial structures.
    • The head of the razor is fixed (doesn’t pivot).
    • Less suited for travel than cartridge razors and have to be in checked baggage for airline travel.
    • Higher incidence of nicks and cuts, especially when starting out.
    • Not useful for body grooming (manscaping).

Electric Razors

Electric razors can be divided into two different types:  foil shavers and rotary shavers.

Foil shavers contain oscillating blades that move back and forth while rotary shavers have blades that spin very quickly to cut facial hair.

Electric Razor
Foil Electric Razor

Foil shavers sometimes have difficulty shaving within the contours of the face and rotary shavers can bend into facial contours more easily.

Rotary-Electric-Razor
Rotary Electric Razor

The techniques also differ between the two; foil shavers require moving up to down and left to right while rotary shavers require a circular motion to avoid pulling out facial hair.

  • Advantages:
    • Quickest and easiest way to shave.
    • Reduces the incidence of ingrown hairs when used properly.
    • Most modern electric razors are waterproof and can be used with or without shaving creams, soaps, and gels.
  • Disadvantages:
    • Electric razors can provide an adequately close shave, although most cannot shave as close as a safety razor or cartridge razor.
      • Using shaving cream or gel allows the electric razor to cut hairs more closely and reduce skin irritation.
      • Foil shavers generally shave more closely than rotary shavers.
    • High initial cost, although they may cost less over time compared to cartridge razors.
      • Blades and foils usually need to be replaced every 1-2 years.
    • Since blades remove the outermost layers of skin and electric razors do not, it is beneficial to regularly exfoliate skin when using an electric razor.
    • Can initially cause irritation and razor burn; it takes some time (usually about 3-4 weeks) for the skin to adapt to using an electric razor.

Trial and Error

The best one can do from passive experience is carefully weigh the positives and negatives of a given type of razor and make an educated decision about which one to try first.

The most effective way to find exactly which razor is right for you is through trial and error; fortunately, if you’re not satisfied with your initial purchase, you are free to try other options in order to find which razor is ideal for you.

Similar to other products, there is no panacea with razors, and the ideal one for you is the one that provides you with the type of shave that you’re seeking.

At times, the ideal razor depends on your situation.  If I have a bit of time, then I like to use my adjustable safety razor; if I’m pressed for time, then I can get a close shave quickly with a multi-blade cartridge razor.

If I’m really short on time or if I’m at work and it’s not practical to wet shave, then a dry shave with an electric or hybrid razor will suffice.

Comments

If you have experience with using any of these types of razors, feel free to leave a comment in the “Comments” section below and let me know why you prefer or why you dislike a particular razor.

 

6 Replies to “What’s the Best Shaving Razor: A Guide”

  1. Awesome buddy, I definitely need one of the safety ones. Although the beard has become more popular in recent years, most guys including myself continue to shave [some or all of] the facial hair. I personally save it all haha. Thank you for the awesome review. Are both of these two types of savers produced in North America or in another part of the world?

    1. Hey,

      Yes.  I have been shaving all of my facial hair for about 25+ years now.  I’m a physician, so having a lot of facial hair is suboptimal for me.  Plus, I’m in my early 40s now, so I don’t need to look any older than I do.  LOL.

      The safety razors are really good and can deliver a very close shave, but they take a little more time, so they’re not ideal if you’re in a hurry to get somewhere (e.g., work).  They also require a bit of effort to learn the correct way to use them.  The replacement blades are really quite inexpensive even if you replace them after every since shave, so you can always have a really sharp blade for a good, close shave.

      As for the electric shavers, I think most of them are manufactured either in the US or the UK, but I’m sure that they are sold pretty much all over the world internationally.  I’m sure that there are other brands that are manufactured in Europe (e.g., Germany, Italy), but I would have to research it a bit to make sure. 

      Thanks for your comment and for your visit to my site.

      Ian

  2. Throughout the years I have used two of them. When I was younger I was using a rotary electric razor which was pretty good but many times the hair were being pulled instead of cut which was frustrating. I then moved on to cartridge razors and I use them ever since. I like deep shaving and this for me is the easiest and best way to do it. Only minus as you mention is the very expensive cartridges. It’s ridiculous how expensive these things are.

    1. About 25 years ago, I had a similar experience with my father’s electric (I believe it was Norelco) electric rotary razor.  It pulled some of the hairs out, and I had quite a bit of irritation afterward.  I really have not tried one since then, even though I am sure the quality probably has improved by then.  

      I like to get as close of a shave as I’m able to do, and I do have a safety razor, but I’m in a hurry a lot of the time, so I agree with you that a cartridge razor is convenient, is fairly quick, can deliver a close shave, and it’s nearly impossible to cut yourself too badly; however, the replacement cartridges are insanely expensive.  They’re so expensive that they have the anti-theft devices attached to them at the drugstores.  

      Another thing about them is that they dull fairly quickly, but as you mentioned, most of the time I’m in a hurry, and I like a close shave, so I guess for now I’ll just have to sacrifice price when I want convenience.

      Cheers,

      Ian

  3. I really like your straight forward, no puff approach. Meaning, instead of just dropping something and pushing people to buy it, you rather explain that the “best” is a relative term and will properly differentiate between people given their individual needs.

    I have always been a cartridge razor guy. And to that extent, I think you summarized the advantages and disadvantages perfectly. I mean, I thought I was the only one encountering that the blades essentially become dull after just a few times or the clogging that was happening. Which kind of illustrates perfectly that you know your stuff.

    As I have been leaning towards trying and electric razor, the advantages and disadvantages of them were profoundly helpful.

    Thank you. <3

    1. Hey,

      Thanks for visiting my site!  I think that what makes it difficult to find the “ideal” razor is that there is no single “best” for everyone, and it can involve some trial and error depending on your goals and the amount of time that you have.

      I’m kind of like you in that I generally use the cartridge razor because I feel that I am able to get a really close shave with them, and they are convenient and don’t take a lot of time.  In addition, they are relatively safe and it’s actually pretty difficult to cut yourself with one of them.  The down side is that they blades do become dull rather quickly, and the replacement cartridges are pretty expensive.  I have even tried some of the titanium blades and diamond-coated blades, and they stay sharp a little longer, but still only last maybe a couple of weeks at best if I’m shaving 3-4 times per week.

      As far as the electric shavers go, I have tried them a long time ago–maybe 20-25 years ago, and it seemed to irritate my skin pretty badly.  I’m almost positive that during that time, they must have come up with better technology and products.  They are good because they are really quick and convenient, and you don’t have to replace the heads nearly as often as you have to replace the cartridges on the other razors.  I have also read that you need to use them for 2-3 weeks before your skin gets accustomed to they way that they cut the hairs.

      Ian

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *