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