Not too long ago we saw a study that suggested the average man spends 45 days of his life shaving. It was based on a five-minute shave, four times a week. There’s no doubt that the working-from-home era has curtailed the need to be clean shaven as frequently. Still, give or take a few days, that’s a lot of time spent on an activity that many regard as a chore. Like tooth brushing or hair washing, it’s just something that needs to be done.
Having the right tool for the job can, however, make shaving faster, easier and more comfortable, or longer and more pleasurable. Let’s take a look at the different types of razor out there, and which one is right for you.
What Are Disposable Razors?
The rite of passage to manhood usually starts with a disastrous experiment with a cheap, disposable razor with a fixed blade. These single-use, convenience items can be found in supermarkets, corner shops and hotel amenity kits.
Pros And Cons
“Disposable razors can be quite brutal on the skin, so I would only really advise these for young people shaving in the early stages of hair growth,” advises Mike Bell, a pro at Ruffians barbershop in Covent Garden. “The blades tend to be quite raw and blunt pretty quickly, so anyone with medium-to-heavy hair growth might find that the blade blunts during the shave, which can make quite a mess of the skin. This can lead to bleeding and ingrown hairs as the traumatised skin heals over the follicle and the hair gets trapped.”
The other downside to this type of product is that, like most single use plastic, it doesn’t get recycled, and ends up on our beaches. However, for anyone who’s ever forgotten their wash bag, they can be a godsend.
Teens or anyone with very light stubble growth.
What Is A Cartridge Razor?
A typical razor handle with a moveable, changeable head, that can contour the skin and last for several shaves. This type of razor has been around since the 1960s. The modern cartridge system is designed to be fast and convenient, with replaceable blades that can be used more than once. They can feature moisturising strips to reduce irritation and wire guards to help protect the skin from nicks and cuts.
Pros And Cons
“Multiple blades are good at ensuring a quick, clean shave and they hug close to the skin making it comfortable and smooth,” says Mike Bell. You might find that three blades can be better for getting into tight areas, such as under the nose, versus five. The extra blades can also be more likely to cause razor burn.
To make your blades last longer, “make sure you clean the head well in between shaves by rinsing thoroughly under hot water,” says Bell. “Once the blade begins to feel like it is dragging on the skin, it is time to change the head for a fresh one. Try to avoid using dull blades while shaving as they can damage the skin.”
Chucking out loads of overpriced razor heads probably isn’t great for the environment, but brands like Bulldog are doing more to make shaving sustainable, offering handles made from recycled glass bottles or biodegradable bamboo, and a postal recycling scheme with First Mile to turn used blades into renewable energy. With cartridge razors, you can also customise your set-up with a permanent handle that takes disposable blades.
At the high end, Bolin Webb craft expensive ergonomic styles in luxury metallic finishes that are compatible with Gillette Mach 3 blades, while Harry’s make easy-grip handles in fun colours at low prices. D.R Harris has a line of pastel shades and traditional materials such as horn and ebony.
Impatient and nervous shavers. These are the safest blades to use.
Double-Edge Safety Razor
What Is A Safety Razor?
A traditional steel razor with a fixed head with a guard and replaceable blades (some have an adjustable dial so you can get the exact space you want). The handle is typically shorter than modern cartridge razors, so brands also make long-handle versions for bigger hands.
Pros And Cons
“Safety razors are a great way of enjoying the ritual of a shave for those not dextrous enough to go for the cut throat,” explains Bell. “The facility for changing the blade is all part of the process, but be sure you purchase the best possible razors, like Muhle, a German company who have been in the business for many years and produce a fine blade with precision sharpness.”
These razors can often be purchased as a set with a badger brush to use with traditional shaving soap. Always use a rich moisturiser to replenish the skin because the moisturisers can be dehydrating. “One drawback is realising you need to change the blade in the middle of your routine,” says Bell. “It can be quite messy and hard to handle blades with wet, soapy hands, so always put the new blade in before you start.”
Because of the protective device between the blade and the skin, it’s relatively easy to use a safety razor without hurting yourself. Keep it at a 30 degree angle to the skin, and apply zero pressure. This light touch means less drag and irritation. It does take a bit of time – around 20 minutes to do a proper job.
If you take good care of your razor, keeping it clean and dry between shaves, it can last indefinitely, making it one of the most sustainable options, and if you can afford to invest, one of the most economical, as the blades are cheap to replace.
Traditionalists who like a safe shave, sensitive skin types.
What Is A Cut-Throat Razor?
Also known as an open or straight razor, this flip handle razor has a long, single blade and no safety features. The traditional barber shop razor has been around for centuries and holds a strong appeal for those who like a hot shave with all the trimmings.
“Shaving yourself in this manner is really taking the ritual to the most decadent level,” says Bell. “Anyone adopting this method will be happy to take time in prepping the skin and ensuring they have all the equipment, and most importantly, they will set aside the time to carry out the treatment in a relaxed manner.”
Pros And Cons
Open razor shaves are a lot more time consuming, even if, for some, that’s the joy. Expect a full shave to take 35-45 minutes. “Shaving with a single, non replaceable blade and keeping it sharp can be problematic, and with such a long edge, if you slip, there’s a chance you could cut pretty deeply,” Bell says.
You can polish up your blade wielding skills with a professional session – try booking an Open Razor Masterclass with Truefitt & Hill, or take your razor along to Geo. F. Trumper’s shaving school in London – to learn the correct technique with a one-on-one session from a master barber.
Barbers, seasoned pros, traditionalists, people who like to take their time.
What Is A Shavette?
What we have here is straight razor with a replaceable blade. “Modern barber shops will now pretty much exclusively use what’s called a shavette, which is a facsimile of a cut throat, but you change the blade for every use,” says Bell.
Pros And Cons
“The shavette is designed so that only the sharpest part of the blade protrudes from the base,” says Bell. “This definitely helps to reduce accidents. The base also has a safety function to hold the blade firmly in place.
“Ensure you invest in a quality blade. You can purchase the same type as you would use with a safety razor and just break them in the centre as they are designed to do. Sometimes when bending to break the edge might curl, so it’s a good idea to have a pair of scissors to trim the bent part off, to make sure the blade fits snugly in its home.”
Again, this type of razor is actually very economical. For beginners, Bluebeards Revenge make one that’s well regarded and very good value.
Barbers, anyone who wants a safe, classic barbershop experience at home.
What Is An Electric Razor?
An electric shaver has an oscillating head or blades, powered by batteries or mains electricity. Also known as rotary or foil shavers, these bathroom cabinet gadgets now come with a dizzying array of extra functions.
Pros And Cons
Electric shavers can be used wet or dry, and don’t necessarily require any water, soap or shaving cream, so they can be used anywhere, quickly. Dry shaving can be better for sensitive skins, which are irritated easily or prone to ingrown hairs. The oscillating heads are designed to comfortably contour the angles on the chin and neck. And it’s quick.
Electric shavers also come with changeable heads for precision trimming or blending the hair on your neck. You can also buy ‘vacuum’ styles that spare your sink by sucking the hairs into a compartment for easy disposal later.
Travel, being on the go, sensitive skin types.