What is a Safety Razor and Why You May Need One
The name of a safety razor almost suggests that it’s a tool geared towards teenagers or first-time shavers, like how safety scissors are meant for children. That’s not what a safety razor is about. A safety razor is a modified version of the kind of razor a barber uses to give you a perfect shave. If you’re looking to get a barber quality shave with a blade that’s a little easier to use, you might need a safety razor.
If you’ve ever used a shavette or a straight razor before, you understand how intimidating they can be. They’re not always beginner friendly tools. While a safety razor probably wouldn’t be entirely intuitive to a new shaver, it’s worth the effort to learn to properly wield one. When you’re eagerly seeking a close and smooth shave, a safety razor might be the perfect answer.
What is a Safety Razor?
A safety razor is a single bladed razor on a handle. It’s shaped much like the refillable cartridge razors that you’re probably used to. It’s easy to hold, and designed to give you a close shave while minimizing the risk of cuts and knicks.
Safety razors aren’t new. They’ve been used for well over a century. Soldiers were given safety razors in their care kits during World War I. People didn’t stop using them because they weren’t effective -- they stopped using them because new alternatives came to market.
Disposable razors and refillable cartridge razors were seen as an innovation. Cartridge razors have more blades and ergonomic handles. It’s easy to replace the blades, and they’re very travel-friendly. Once these became available in nearly every grocery store, people simply forgot about safety razors.
The important thing to keep in mind about safety razors is that newer does not necessarily translate to better. Safety razors have also improved over the years, and if you’re settling for a subpar piece of plastic, you’re potentially missing out on the greatest shave you’ve ever had.
How Do Safety Razors Compare to Other Razors?
What makes a safety razor so different? Why has something that seems like an antiquated design accumulated such a cult following? The answer lies in the way it compares to other types of razors. A safety razor takes a “some of column A, some of column B” approach by utilizing the best qualities of two other popular razors and providing the best of both worlds.
Cartridge razors use a series of blades to achieve a close shave. They’re designed to minimize dragging and reduce the potential for cutting. The idea is that each blade counts as one pass over the skin, with the next blade ready to grab up everything the first blade couldn’t quite get a hold of.
If the first two blades got everything, then the third blade is just dragging against your skin. The fourth and the fifth blades will be doing the same thing.
Cartridge razors are also relatively expensive to keep up with. Since they rely on multiple blades and require a plastic piece to fit them to the handle, the cost is a lot higher than merely replacing a blade. The frequency at which the cartridges need to be replaced and the additional materials that go into producing them make cartridge razors one of the most wasteful ways to shave.
Straight razors are what most barbers use. They’re similar to shavettes, which are straight razors with replaceable blades that are suited perfectly for easy home use. A straight razor utilizes one long blade to lift the hair from the skin and cut it as close to the surface as possible. The right tilt of the blade will allow you to accomplish a lot with a single pass.
The trick of the straight razor is mastering the angle. There is no buffer between your face and the blade. You need to approach straight razor shaving with extreme confidence and a very steady hand. The results you get are perfect, but only if your skill level is perfect. It might take you a while to master the technique.
Safety razors are a combination of a cartridge razor and a straight razor. They’re a razor head attached to a handle that feels intuitive and easy to use. They use a single blade, much like a straight razor. The biggest difference is that the design of the safety razor head is intended to protect you. It will help you find the right angle while minimizing the risk of scraping or cutting your skin.
Learning to use a safety razor is still a bit of a process, but most people don’t find it as challenging as switching from a cartridge razor to a straight razor. The shape and size of the razor feels familiar, making it a little easier to switch up the angles without too much thought.
Why Should I Switch to a Safety Razor?
When you master a safety razor, you’re getting the best possible shave with the lowest risk of damage to your skin. You’re using one blade at a time, which means you won’t be performing any unnecessary passes over your skin. Every stroke of the razor is purposeful.
You’re also going to save a lot of money and reduce your consumption of plastic in the long term. Blade refills are highly inexpensive, and because you’re only replacing the blade, you’re not throwing away a ton of unnecessary junk. This is a huge bonus for anyone who is trying to be a little more environmentally conscious.
How Do I Shave With a Safety Razor?
Before you start shaving with a safety razor, you need to be sure your skin is adequately protected. This means using both a pre-shave oil and a great shaving cream to keep the skin moisturized and reduce the potential for friction.
After you apply your pre-shave oil, try using hot lather shaving cream. Hot lather helps to plump up the surface of the skin and draw moisture into the hair shaft. If you normally have a coarse, dry, or wiry beard, you’ll find that applying a hot lather helps to keep it soft and manageable. You’ll run into fewer snags when your beard is cooperative.
Your beard hair grows in all different directions. Start by first shaving with the grain, and then shaving against the grain. If you wind up with stragglers, pass across the grain to pick up the few odd errant hairs that seem to be running their own agenda. You may not need to make this pass over your whole face -- just in spots where your hair growth pattern becomes a little less predictable.
A safety razor might change the way you shave. In this case, change is good. As long as you’re properly preparing your skin and approaching your shave with patience, you’ll find that you can master a safety razor rather quickly.
There’s nothing like a smooth, close shave on healthy and well-prepped skin. That’s what your barber does for you, and there’s no reason you can’t enjoy that same experience in your own bathroom.