How to Shave – Wet Shaving Razors

Wetshaving razors: so much marketing, so much technology, so little attention by the shaver.  Many people think it has everything to do with the number of blades on the cartridge.  But in a lot of ways the blade count may be the least important aspect of selecting and using a razor.  Lets go through some of the variables and give you the knowledge you need to find the right kind of razor for you.

First you need to identify how you shave.  Are you going for a stubble look, a clean-shaved look, or do you want your skin to feel as smooth as glass?  Do you shave every day, every other day, once a week, or whenever you feel like it?  Do you have sensitive skin or are you susceptible to razor burn or ingrown hair?  How much do you want to spend on blade refills? Reflect on your goals as you consider these variables:

Blade Count

The obvious selling point to a razor: more blades equals a better, closer shave…right? Well, maybe not. The whole point of a multi-blade cartridge is for the first blade to pull out the hair slightly, with the succeeding blades making closer, but smaller, cuts.  But what if just two blades is adequate for your needs?  In that case any extra blades are just another opportunity for creating razor burn or a nick.  And the dirty little secret is that the angle that the blades are set at may be more important than the blade itself to the individual shaver. 

Blade Specifications

The blades themselves are manufactured under a set of specifications that include things like metallurgy, grinding, coating, etc. These specifications can vary between companies, and even between product lines within the same company.

Blade Angle

A razor blade can comfortably cut hair at an angle anywhere from about 30 to 45 degrees. Generally speaking a shallower angle is more comfortable but less efficient, and a steeper angle is more aggressive.  The angle set in the cartridge may be too shallow or too steep for your needs.  One four-blade razor design is notorious for giving many people razor burn because the blades were set at a steep angle.

Cartridge Design

Besides the number and angle of blades the cartridge must consider the spacing between blades and designed to incorporate additional features like skin pre-tensioners and lubrication without becoming too large.

Lubrication

All modern razor cartridges incorporate some kind of lubrication system to augment the lubrication provided by the shaving lather used.

Pivot Type

Most modern razors will pivot the cartridge head in some way to let it better follow the “shaving terrain.”  Some pivot designs are incorporated into the cartridge while other use the razor handle.  Pivot systems can also partially compensate for putting too much pressure on the razors.

Cost

All these features come at a cost.  However the cost of production may not have anything to do with the cost of the end product.  For example, a couple years ago one company was found to be generating a huge markup (on the order of 4700%) from the difference between the cost of manufacturing a blade cartridge and its retail cost.

The intent of all these features is to make shaving easier and quicker for the “average” shaver.  Unfortunately, much like a swimmer drowning in a lake that has an “average” depth of one meter, compromises and estimates must be made that may not be appropriate for everyone.  Much like driving an automobile with automatic transmission, some control is removed from the user.  And, also like buying an automobile, it is worth your while to experiment with several different designs.  Luckily the initial cost of a razor with a cartridge or two is low enough to try out a variety (in fact the whole idea of a low cost razor handle with replaceable blades is referred to as the “Razor And Blades Business Model”).

Or you can choose to reclaim control of elements of your shave.  You do this by learning–or re-learning–the skills necessary to shave with traditional tools like the single-blade safety razor.  Think of it like transitioning from a car with automatic transmission to a fun little sports car with a manual transmission.  Or you can take ultimate control of your shave by learning to use a straight-edge (“cut throat”) razor.

Next: Shaving Concepts You Must Know!

  • http://www.mikemcginty.com Josh

    Some great tips here. I never gave the number of blades or angle any thought when choosing a razor. I think a lot of us fall into the marketing trap (well, I certainly have) of certain manufacturers that more is better!

  • http://www.rixnerdesign.com Timothy Rixner

    I just recently have switched over to the traditional form of double edge safety razor and traditional lather/brush system thanks to the knowledge over at Badger and Blade shaving forum (www.badgerandblade.com). Just stumbled across your site. I found though when using store bought multi-blade razors that the less blades I used the less irritation I had. Keep up the great work. I can’t wait to burn some time browsing around here today.

  • Matt Ford

    Just wondering if anybody can tell me what the slightly curved metal razor pictured in this article is? I want one!

  • http://apetogentleman.com Ape to Gentleman

    @Matt Ford,

    We’re unsure exactly which razor that on is in the photograph is as it looks like it could be one of a few razors. We have narrowed it down to being either the Col. Conk Double track razor in Chrome finish, or possibly a Merkur Double track in Chrome…

    I trust this helps with your search Matt.

  • Ramesh Chandra

    I wish to suggest a design of a razor which might make shaving much more comfortable & virtually cut-free while following the face-terrain during shaving.

  • http://apetogentleman.com Ape to Gentleman

    Ramesh, this would be a great razor! The holy grail perhaps. The search goes on…

  • http://www.rahulgladwin.com Rahul

    I recently made a switch to a straight razor and got rid of my 5-blade schick razor. Shaving with the schick razor would cause my skin to become red. A straight razor feels good on the skin; I also replaced the canned shaving cream with hand-made shaving soap. My skin feels so fresh and there are no more red razor tracks on my face!