Safety VS Straight Razor: Compared
Both the safety razor and the straight razor are experiencing a resurgence in popularity. More people are concerned about skincare, and shaving is one of the most crucial aspects of skincare for men. You’ll often find people completely dedicated to one type of razor or the other, with some men collecting razors.
If you’re looking to move away from disposable razors or refillable cartridge razors, you have two solid alternatives in safety razors and straight razors. If you’re not sure where to start, understanding the differences between these razors will help. They’re completely different designs of razor that require very different shaving techniques.
What is a Safety Razor?
A safety razor is a single bladed razor with a handle. The design should look and feel familiar. Structurally, it’s not extraordinarily different from a cartridge razor. It has a handle and a head, just like the plastic razors you’d find at the grocery store. Most people gravitate towards safety razors simply because their design makes them feel more intuitive to use. It’s not a drastic change from the way they were shaving before.
A safety razor is different from a cartridge razor in that it only contains one blade. Cartridge razors typically contain anywhere between two and six blades in the razor head. Contrary to how it may seem, fewer blades is better. The idea of a cartridge razor is to get everything in as few passes as possible, without risking the additional skin irritation that might come from a superfluous blade scratching against bare skin.
A safety razor contains a guard in the center. This guard is there to keep you from angling the blade too drastically or applying too much pressure. This minimizes the risk of cuts and knicks. Since you don’t have a free blade edge that can be rotated 360 degrees, you’re limited in the amount of mistakes you can make. Many people view this design as an insurance policy for a safer shave.
What is a Straight Razor?
Straight razors (and their brothers, shavettes) are folding designs with one long, free blade edge. Traditional straight razors are designed with blades like knives. They need to be frequently sharpened and cleaned. You sometimes see barbers working them on leather straps, and that’s usually enough to bring the edge back. They can last for several years with proper maintenance.
Shavettes are almost the same thing, except the blades are replaceable. The silhouette of a shavette is nearly identical to the silhouette of a straight razor. The main difference is that the shavette holds one long, thin, double edged razor blade. Rather than sharpening a shavette all the time, you simply replace the blade every week.
Straight razors and shavettes are functionally the same. Technically, a shavette is just a different kind of straight razor. It falls into the same category. Everything about a straight razor will be true about the shavette, minus the blade care aspects.
The Pros and Cons of Safety Razors
Safety razors are a popular alternative to other razors because most people feel that the pros greatly outweigh the cons. While safety razors seem like an obvious choice, you still need to be sure that they’re the right choice for you.
The Pros of Safety Razors
- Safety guard prevents knicks
- Easier to learn to use
- Blades are cheap to replace
The biggest appeal of a safety razor is that it’s designed to help mitigate some of the cuts and scrapes that people experience when they’re trying to use a straight razor. Although the guard isn’t perfect, it’s designed to limit the amount of damage you can do. It locks you into safer angles, making it easier and safer to use.
Another pro of safety razors, at least when compared to cartridge razors, is that the blades are inexpensive to replace. Cartridge refills often cost an arm and a leg for a pack of three to five new blades. You can get 100 safety razor refills for less than the cost of 5 cartridge refills.
The Cons of Safety Razors
- It’s probably not as easy to use as you think it’s going to be.
The biggest con to safety razors is the reason why so many people buy them and forget about them. Despite the fact that their design closely mimics a cartridge razor, the similarities stop there. You’re still going to have to learn a new way to shave. While it’s worth the effort, you need to be willing to make the commitment.
The Pros and Cons of Straight Razors
Straight razors aren’t for impatient people or nervous people. They take a while to master. Those who are experts at using straight razors swear by them, but they may be a special breed of people.
The Pros of Straight Razors
- A closely tailored shave
- Barbershop style luxury
- Traditional straight razors don’t need replacement blades
- Shave a larger area with a single pass
The biggest benefit of a straight razor is how close you can get. By adjusting the angle, you’re able to effectively lift and cut every hair on the skin as close to the surface as possible. This leaves behind a very smooth face. Many people have to go to a barber for that kind of luxury shave. If you’re willing to learn, you can achieve the same thing at home.
Traditional straight razors don’t use disposable blades. They’re a single blade designed to last forever, much like an expensive kitchen knife. You should evaluate the quality of a straight razor in the same way. If you find a great one, ll you need to do is maintain the edge. If you’re not interested in that responsibility, you can always opt for a shavette and swap the blade out once a week. It’s very inexpensive and easy to do so.
Another benefit of the straight razor is the length of its blade. If you prefer not to wear any facial hair, the large blade makes it easier to shave substantial swaths of your cheek hair or mustache in a single pass. You still have to be patient with the blade, but it won’t take an eternity to achieve the results you want.
The Cons of Straight Razors
- Difficult to learn
- High margin for error
Your barber might make a straight razor look like it’s nothing. He’s probably been doing it for decades. He mastered it, and now he can practically do it with one hand behind his back. If you’re making the switch from a razor with a handle to a straight razor, you’re going to need to forget everything you know. The process is completely different.
The perfect straight razor shave is largely dependent on the angle. That’s where the margin for error comes into play. The wrong angle can leave you with a patchy shave, or worse, a cut face. You need to start out very slowly. Watching tutorial videos and reading guides certainly won’t hurt.
Which One is Better?
You’re going to get a great shave from a straight razor or a safety razor. As long as you keep a sharp blade and properly prepare your face, your results are going to be perfect. Regularly wash and exfoliate, use a hot lather, and stay moisturized.
Nothing quite beats the closeness you get from a straight razor, but the potential for things to go wrong will always be a little higher. The best razor is one you’re comfortable with. Just make sure you’re setting aside enough time to learn how to use a new tool.