Straight Razor vs Safety Razor: Which One to Choose?

safety razor vs straight razor

The good old practice of shaving with actual tools has been replaced by the disposable and cartridge razors. I am not saying that they are not convenient but back then, wet shaving used to be an art and a skill, a matter of pride. If you’re one of those thinking to fall back on the older and more traditional form of shaving, then it’s wise to read all about it before taking the plunge. You definitely can’t afford to make mistakes with blades and razors! In fact, to begin with, you may be wondering which shaving tool is best for you. Well, there is not hard and fast rule, and the choice largely depends on what you’re looking for during and after the shave. Hence, I thought that it’ll be helpful to write about straight razor vs safety razor and the utility of these so that you can make a much more well-informed decision while making your pick. I hope that this post will help you decide on your next razor!

Straight Razor

straight razors for shaving

Image source: yourbestdigs.com

Straight Razors trace their origins way back to as early as 1680 in Sheffield, England. Thus, don’t expect any sci-fi level fancy gadget while checking out a straight razor. In fact, a classic straight razor is a single unit of stainless steel which acts as a blade. Naturally, this blade needs to be sharpened and honed regularly for maintenance and upkeep. This razor basically screams ‘manliest of men.’ In fact, they look like foldable knives! They are also known as ‘cutthroat’ razors. The single blade, if taken care of, can last your entire life! Hence, they have the least negative impact on the environment and on your wallet too. Just owning a straight razor is not all, you may even have to purchase a razor strop to keep your razor sharp and straight. If you don’t feel up for the task, certain local artisans and even retailers specialise in sharpening razor blades. Also, don’t forget to keep the alum block at hand to reduce the bleeding in case of nicks and cuts.

Of course, over the years, this straight razor has undergone some modification to keep up with the times. The revolutionary concept that keeps straight razor still relevant even today is the introduction of the shavette. Shavettes are basically straight razors with a blade that can be ejected and changed. You may find these at your local barber’s shop. The knowledge that shavettes are slightly more sanitary than straight razors, at least in public domain, gives it a slight advantage. If you have to choose between the two, it mainly depends on your personal preference. What’s common for either of the blades is the fact that straight razors are TOUGH to master and handle. Don’t think that you’d be a pro in a matter of a few hours or even days! Straight razors literally accept your blood as sacrifice in lieu of the mastery of the skill.

Advantages

Disadvantages

Sturdily crafted and the razor can last a lifetime. A single razor can be passed down generations and even act as sentimental tokens.

If the single blade is damaged, the entire unit becomes useless.

Due to longer blades, they cover a larger surface area, which means fewer strokes for a perfect shave. The skin will be less irritated since you no longer have to scrub one portion of your face over and over.

Straight razors only last  if you can actually maintain them. They need periodic (6-12 months) sharpening. That takes a lot of time and patience.

The handles of straight razors can be make to match your taste (whether in material or colour) as per your likes.

Takes a lot of practice and skill to use. Also, if you are just a beginner, you cannot graduate from mild to more aggressive blades. One blade is all you’ve got!

Once you master the art of using straight razors, using it feels great.

You have a greater risk of getting cuts and nicks from a straight razor. Unsteady hands could make you a blood donor.

Safety Razor

safety razor for shaving

Safety razors entered the shaving industry almost a couple of centuries after the straight razor. Irrespective of whether you are a young teen sprouting your first facial hair or an octogenarian shaving daily, the safety razor has an appeal for everyone. The humble razors gained popularity in the 1900s and were gifted as induction kits to soldiers fighting in the First World War. King Camp Gillette (last name rings a bell?) was awarded the patent for the double edged safety razor. The introduction of the safety razor was enthusiastically welcomed by all men as they could now have a close shave in half the time. Also, the chances of cutting oneself were reduced. They’re called safety razors because they came with safety bars that protected the skin from nicks and cuts. However, that doesn’t mean that they’re easy to operate. If you shave daily, it may take a week or two to get the hang of it.

It takes a while to understand how something that has ‘safety’ in its name can still cut you but that doesn’t mean you should stop trying! Once you find the optimal 30 to 45 degree angle, you’ll find it easier to manoeuvre the razor without any harm. You can eject and replace the blades in safety razors. If you look at it from the economic point of view, it may seem like a hefty initial expenditure but it evens out since the replacement blades are truly affordable. Even the environmental impact of safety razors is much smaller than that of cartridge razors. There are a few types of safety razor designs. They could be Two-piece, Three-piece, Adjustable, and Butterfly. When it comes to choosing among these designs, you should have in mind your skill of using a safety razor and how close a shave you wish to achieve.

Advantages

Disadvantages

It gives a closer shave than straight razor. It’s also much safer to use. Therefore, you no longer have to worry about your unsteady hands.

Don’t really get such a sense of achievement as you do when using straight razor (if that’s something you’re looking for).

The blades can easily be replaced when they become dull.

Even after having purchased the unit, you’ll need to continue paying for the blades, which can be a deal-breaker for some.

Most safety razors are double-edged, which means that you can use both sides. Double the efficiency.

They lack the ‘lift and shave’ capacity that cartridge razors have.

The replaceable blades are affordable and can be used for an entire week.

If you have a bushy beard, then you might just end up jamming the razor.

Straight Razor vs Safety Razor

Obviously, these razors differ. Knowing how they are in terms of certain features can be helpful for your to overall make up your mind about which one you’d like to try.

Read More: Best Products for Ingrown Hair

Ease of Use

Straight razor takes a long while to get accustomed to. On the other hand, on comparative terms, a safety razor is somewhat easier to operate.

Blade

Straight razors have longer blades (around 3 inches long) and the entire blade is exposed. Yes, it’s as dangerous as it sounds; whereas, safety razors have a compartment to house the removable blades that are locked in place by safety bars and a razor head.

Expenses

Straight razors are cheaper since all you need are the accessories for its upkeep. Safety razors need a constant supply of disposable blades that make them a little bit pricier.

Time Taken

While wet shaving, in general, is more time consuming than dry shaving; it’s actually straight razors that take an awful lot of time. Safety razors need half the time to give a decent shave.

Cuts

Straight razors have a greater chance of inflicting cuts while shaving. While safety razors probably have an equally fair chance, once you have figured out the angle, the risk of cutting yourself drastically reduces.

Razor Blade Control

The straight razor is literally you running the razor blade directly on your skin. Thus, you can control it much easier. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good thing!

Clogging

Clogged razors are annoying, that’s without a doubt. While you might face some of these clogging issues with the safety razor, especially if you have some prominent stubble; the chances of a straight razor clogging are basically negligible.

What is a Wet Shave?

wet shaving tips

So, I’ve mentioned wet shaving a couple of times above that might have left you wondering what it was. Well, as the name suggests, wet shave is just shaving but with water. A classic wet shave comprises of a rich and creamy lather created by soap or cream and a lathering brush. Lathering brushes are traditionally made of badger’s or boar’s hair. Another thing thing you’ll obviously need for a wet shave is a single blade razor (or any other razor).  By the way, straight razors and safety razors are both single blade razors. If you have delicate skin that gets greatly irritated while shaving, you should give wet shave a try. Cutting down on the number of blades used (one sharp blade is as good as six cartridge ones) helps to reduce the friction against your face. Thus, wet shaving with a single blade might be quite useful if you have sensitive skin.

Read More: Best Razors for Sensitive Skin

Single Blade Razor Advantages

The other advantage these blades have over cartridge and disposable blades is that single blade razors are made from durable material like steel, wood, or even brass. Obviously, these razors are long lasting and that always comes out to be cheaper. Also, the experience of shaving and the feel of the single blade razor against your skin is quite majestic. Say goodbye to razor burns, bumps, and ingrown hairs for sure. Single blade razors are sturdy and heavy, the balanced weight helps them glide down the skin. With cheaper razors you usually need to push and scrape. That’s both annoying and dangerous. Therefore, safety and straight razors can do a lot of work for you. The single blade razors also offer a much closer shave compared to any other razors.

Steps to Follow While Wet Shaving

Here are a few things you should have in mind and follow when trying to wet shave. Nothing too complicated but might be a good idea to do these things in order they’re given.

  • Take a quick hot shower so that your pores open up a little bit. That will also soften the hairs and make the shaving procedure a little bit easier. Alternatively, you can use a hot towel on your face for 5-10 minutes.
  • Apply pre-shave oil while your shaving brush soaks in hot water. Flick the brush to get rid of the excess water.
  • Place your shaving soap in a bowl, or put a drop of shaving cream. Lather up using the brush.
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    Now use it to spread the lather all over your whiskers. Use circular motions and try to cover all the hairs on your face.

How to Shave With a Straight Razor

Here are the steps you should follow if you’re using a straight razor. Do lather up the shaving cream as described before.

  • Grip the razor at the shank (not at the handle).
  • Hold the razor at a 30 degree angle in a downward facing direction. The handle should end up near your nose.
  • Use your free hand to stretch out your skin. That will help with avoiding cuts. That’s especially important for chin area.
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    Glide the razor along the grain. Rinse the blade after every stroke.
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    After 2-3 passes, rinse your face with cold water. Pat on some aftershave balm.

How to Shave With a Safety Razor

If you’re a safety razor lover, these tips might be helpful. Here’s a basic procedure you should follow if you’re using this particular razor.

  • Assemble your safety razor. Submerge it in hot water for a short duration.
  • Shake off the excess moisture and position the razor at a 30 degree angle to your skin.
  • Use your free hand to keep your skin taut.
  • angle-double-right
    Shave along the grain. Use short strokes to avoid any cuts.
  • angle-double-right
    Dip your razor in warm water and swirl it to dislodge any hair.
  • angle-double-right
    After 2-3 passes, rinse your face with cold water and slap on some aftershave.

Conclusion

In a nutshell, if you’re looking for a razor for daily use in your busy life, purchase a safety razor. Otherwise, if you want to shave as a hobby and have the time to dedicate to it, go for a straight razor. Wet shaving takes dedication but the final results are definitely worth the efforts. Now that you know all about wet shaving and the single blade razors, go ahead and purchase your first safety razor or straight razor! Have something to say? Leave me a message in the comments below!

Sources:

https://www.aad.org/public/skin-hair-nails/skin-care/how-to-shave

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shaving#Wet_shaving

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