This post was most recently updated on April 9th, 2019
As the old adage says, the old school is always cool.
The same thing could be said on the topic of wet shaving tools. Two of the most popular classic tools in shaving are straight razors and safety razors.
Both have become part of a lifestyle among traditional men in the wet shaving community, but which is one is better? The debate of safety razor vs straight razor has been ongoing for centuries. The answer always boils down to personal preference.
Keep scrolling to find out the difference between these two traditional shaving tools along with other razors like cartridge razor and double edge razor.
What Exactly Is A Straight Razor?
The straight razor is the first built razor designed to replace knives for shaving. They give the same blade feel but with a handle and an easy-fold mechanism. You can rarely see them these days because they’re too old fashioned.
Simply put, a straight razor is made of a single piece of metal. One side of the blade is sharp while the other side is blunt. You need a stable hand to use this type of razor because it can cut you if you’re not careful.
The good news is that there’s no need to buy replacement blades. The downside is that you need to do a little regular maintenance to keep the razor sharp. You can actually visit your nearest local artisan to sharpen the straight razor for you or you can do it yourself with a razor strop.
A razor strop is usually made from leather. It’s used to straighten and sharpen the edge of the blade to make sure that it can cleanly cut through the hair. It should last you for many years with impeccable care.
Now, straight razors have greatly improved in terms of convenience and safety. The most remarkable innovation is the shavette which has a straight body that accommodates an ejectable blade. This design always keeps the blade sharp and allows you to swap it out with every customer while still keeping its classic appearance.
Are Straight Razors Safe?
A straight razor may look like a lethal weapon when held near your neck but after a couple of days, you’ll realize that they’re quite safer compared to other shaving tools. For starters, straight razors are made with several blade profiles to suit the needs of men.
Straight razors with a round point blade end are made for beginners. The round end helps protect the users from cutting themselves when shaving as they provide room for errors. These blades are usually light to give balance and great ease of operation.
The French point and square point blades are really sharp and offer a close shave with little room for mistakes. Hence, this blade profiles are made for experienced shavers who have the skills in using a straight razor.
The safety of the straight razor also relies on the quality of the razor that you buy. Make sure that the razor is equipped with a good quality blade. And you should be able to hold the handle firmly to avoid mishaps.
Benefits Of Shaving With A Straight Razor
The biggest advantage of straight razors is its durability. Their construction is made of excellent quality and the blade is designed to be re-sharpened frequently. With proper maintenance, a straight razor can last a lifetime.
- Classic Design
Many men use the classic design of straight razors for a nostalgic experience. There’s nothing more manly than running a straight razor to your face in the morning. If you like the traditional experience of shaving, straight razor might suit your preference.
- Large Coverage
The straight razors’ blade is about 3 inches in length. This is way longer than safety blades or even any commercial razors in particular. With a long blade, it can cover a bigger surface in every stroke, eliminating the risk for irritation.
- Environmentally Friendly
Most shaving products produce a lot of waste. When a safety razor blade gets dull, you need to throw it away. Doing this for a long time will create a big dump on the environment. With straight razors, you only produce a little shaving waste that’s biodegradable.
- Reduced Maintenance Costs
The upfront cost of straight razors may be expensive, but the maintenance costs are very low. There’s no need to buy replacement blades all the time. All you need is a good strop to hone and sharpen the blade.
The Downsides Of A Straight Razor
The downside is you’ll surely nick yourself if it’s your first time shaving. The blade is very sharp and it’s a bit tricky to use. You need to learn the proper techniques of shaving if you don’t want to hurt yourself.
Another disappointing feature of straight razors is its permanent blade. Once it gets damaged, you need to throw the whole unit. This is usually a rare case but it can still be possible.
Although you can save on the costs of buying replacement blades, you need the commitment to re-sharpen the blade regularly. Do it every six months to make sure that you get a close shave each time. You may also need to change the way you shave when your skin suddenly gets sensitive.
How To Use A Cut Throat Razor On Yourself?
First, prepare your face by taking a hot bath to open up the pores and soften the hair. Exfoliate your face with a facial scrub to remove any impurities in the shaved area. Put a little amount of shave oil for lubrication.
Hold the razor with your thumb on the underside of the shank and the middle three fingers on the other side. Rest the handle between your little and ring fingers.
Now, it’s time for the action!
With the razor on your dominant hand, hold the skin taut and apply your first stroke. Start at the base of the sideburns and go down the cheek and do the same on the other side.
For the chin, shave perpendicular to the growth of hair and curl your bottom lip to shave against the hair growth. Next, shave the beard on your top lip and apply the strokes downward on either side.
Position the blade at a 30-degree angle to prevent cutting yourself. Shaving more than once in the same area can cause razor burn so remember to make small strokes. Once you’re done, rinse your face with warm water and then splash with cool water to close the pores.
How To Choose The Best Straight Razor
If you want to buy your first straight razor, it’s important that pick the best one out there. Here are the things that you should consider:
- Material: There are two materials that dominate the straight razor market – carbon steel and stainless steel. Carbon steel can maintain its sharpness longer and has a sharper edge than stainless steel. Stainless steel, on the other hand, won’t rust and slightly more convenient to sharpen than carbon steel.
- Blade Size: The size of the blade is the width from the spine to the cutting edge. It usually measures in 8ths of an inch, like 7/8”, 6/8”, 5/8”. If you’re a beginner, choose the smallest size as it allows you to see the cutting edge a bit easier.
- The Grind: These are the different shapes made when the razor is manufactured. Fuller grinds offer a comfortable shave that suits for beginners. Thinner grinds provide flexibility and can get close to your skin.
- Blade Profile: The profile of the blade can either be straight or smile in shape. Both profiles provide a great shave but if you have an angular face, a smiling profile is ideal to get a closer shave around your cheeks.
- Blade Point: Straight razors have different points or tips of the blade. They can be square, round, Spanish, and French. Choose round points to get fewer nicks and square points to have a more precise edge for intricate shaping.
- Handle: The handle can be made from various materials, like animal horns and plastic. Regardless of the material, the handle should feel balanced.
What Is A Safety Razor?
It wasn’t until the later part of the 1800s that safety razors were introduced. Also known as a double edge safety razor, the safety razor was made for hygienic purposes as the hazards of blood transfusion were known.
When you get nicked with a straight razor, some of that blood goes to the razor and got transferred to the next customer who suffers the same fate.
This is no longer a problem now as barbers of today use alcohol solutions to sanitize their razors. But back then the issue of sanitation was a problem, that’s why safety razors were made to allow you to change the blades.
Safety razors are the predecessors of the cartridge and disposable razors. With the long handle at the bottom, it forms a T-shaped blade holder. Thus, it’s safe to use because the blade is inserted between a cap above and a safety bar below to provide more flexibility.
Benefits Of Shaving With A Safety Razor
- Safe To Use
The selling point of safety razors is in its name itself- “safety.” The safety razor’s design allows only a small portion of the blade to stick out. This makes it safer to use as it only touches the skin at a certain angle. The safety bar also gives more flexibility which would dramatically minimize the risks of being nicked.
- Close Shave
You can achieve an exceedingly close shave with a safety razor. This is good news for beginners in shaving because you don’t get the same risk of nicking yourself with a straight razor. Forge about 3-5 razor cartridges because a single sharp safety blade can do the job.
- Easier To Use
Using a safety a razor is easier to use than a straight razor. Even beginners in razors can learn to handle this shaving device with practice. Anyone with shaky hands should opt this type of razor because it gives a lesser chance of getting nicked than with a straight razor.
Another good thing about safety razors is that you can use different blades to suit the different types of skin. When you grow a rash, you can just use a different blade that will be gentle for your sensitive skin. You can’t do this with a straight razor because it has a permanent blade.
- They’re Cleaner
You need to replace the blades when they get dull constantly. That means no bacteria and germs can get accumulated on the razor. Just imagine all that dirt and dead skin gathered in the blade for years. Disgusting right?
The Downsides Of Safety Razors
As mentioned above, you need to often change the blades of safety razors to maintain their best performance. This might be a deal breaker for some, but you can’t compromise safety with cost. Another downside is it doesn’t give that classic feeling that you get with a straight razor.
While straight razors have the steepest learning curve, the double edge safety razors aren’t an exemption. These razors also come with a learning curve although much less than a straight razor. You may also need to shave on the same area a couple of times since the blades aren’t made at the optimal 30-degree cutting angle.
How To Choose The Best Safety Razor
Picking the right safety razor isn’t easy. especially if you’re just beginning to wet shave. You need to consider a lot of things such as:
- Type Of Edge
There are two types of edge that you need to choose- single edge and double edge. The single edge safety razor is already rare nowadays but this can give you the closest shave with its thicker blade. Double edge safety razors give you the flexibility to use both sides but they’re not as sharp as their single edge counterparts.
- Razor head
You have two choices here- adjustable and stable. Many users prefer the adjustable razor head because it allows you to change the aggressiveness according to your shaving needs.
Also, check how the razor head fastens the blade. The gaps should be well-proportioned across the blade length.
The material, length, and weight of the handle determine the comfort of the safety razor. The handle can be made of metal that’s either in chrome color or covered in rubber. Premium safety razors have handles made of animal’s horn or high-quality wood for aesthetics.
The next feature to consider is the length of the handle. You can choose between short and long but the former is ideal if you like to have more control over the safety razor. For the weight, you want it to be heavy enough that you don’t need to exert more pressure when shaving.
Traditional Razors Vs. Commercial Razors
There’s a common assumption that disposable or cartridge razors are for the weak and traditional razors, like straight and safety razors, are built for the real men. The fact is that both allow you to get the quickest shave. You just need to choose the best quality.
Sure, a safety razor will give you a closer shave and less irritation. However, they’re not fast enough as commercial razors. A safety or straight razor needs a long learning curve to get used to the process.
In terms of ownership cost, the winner of the safety razor vs cartridge razor debate is the former. A safety razor or a single double-edged blade costs less than a disposable or cartridge razor. You get even more money saved with a straight razor.
The risk of cuts is pretty high with a straight razor and pretty low with a cartridge razor. However, the straight razor offers more razor blade control than its cartridge counterparts. Straight razors aren’t susceptible to clogging, unlike cartridge and safety razors.
What Makes A Safety Or Straight Razor Superior?
Safety or straight razors really stand out when used in a traditional wet shave. This involves a thick lather of soap, a brush, and a single blade. We use the one blade because it cuts better than multiple blades.
Contrary to what many manufacturers of razors and blades tell us, you only need one very sharp blade to shave. Multiple blades on disposable and cartridge razors often irritate the skin because they try to drag your skin on every stroke and cause more friction. If you have sensitive skin, a safety or a straight razor is a good option.
Another notable difference between straight or safety razors and commercial razors is the weight. Commercial razors are usually made of plastic, making them much lighter than the traditional ones. Safety or straight razors are heavy because they’re usually made of steel and wood.
The additional weight affects how you use the razor. With a lighter razor, you need to put more force in shaving downwards. Heavier models, on the other hand, requires less force and simply glide down.
Bottom line: A safety or straight razor will give a closer shave than a commercial one.
The Blade Matters!
Many people prefer to use disposable and safety razors for convenience. You don’t need to stop and sharpen the blades every so often. All you need to do is to change the blade when it gets dull.
Well, you can’t do that with straight razors. When the blade becomes dull, you need to sharpen it to bring it back to its optimum shaving performance. Or you can just buy a new one. This makes a straight razor less convenient to use than a safety razor.
As we already mentioned, a safety razor allows you to change the blades to suit your needs. This additional versatility can enhance your shaving experience as you can choose the degree of aggressiveness to suit your skin. Of course, you need to consider the cost of buying replacement blades.
A straight razor also needs some extra accessories to keep it in shape. You need a strop to sharpen the blade, a stropping paste, and a sharpening tool. If you sum the cost of all these accessories, it may be equal to the cost of buying replacement blades. Either way, both straight and safety razors are cheaper than commercial razors.
What to Treat for Shaving Nicks and Cuts?
There are many products specially created to treat small shaving cuts. They include styptic pencils, alum block, and special shaving nick rollers. If you’re in a pinch, splash cold water on the nicked area to stop the bleeding.
A great alternative for alum block is antiperspirant deodorant. The aluminum chloride in the deodorant will work as an astringent. To use, dab a little amount of the deodorant on the wound.
How to sharpen with a strop?
A strop can either be made of leather or fabric. To use, simply hold it against the strop and run it up and down. Ideally, you need to run the blade 20 times on a fabric or leather strop after each use.
Can I use a straight or safety razor to shave my legs?
Sure you can! A straight or safety razor can give you a close shave without any worries of ingrown hairs. Just learn the proper techniques and be careful in handling the sharp blade.
The debate between straight razors and safety razors will always be tight. There are many supporters at both sides attesting to the performance of their chosen method. The fact is that both have their own benefits and it all boils down to personal preference.
In summary of the straight razor vs double edge comparison, here are the two main points:
- Straight razors offer great control and durability. They also offer a slightly closer shave but they give you a higher risk of injury. They’re ideal for those who are willing to spend more time to get the essential skills to avoid cuts and nicks when shaving.
- Safety razors are obviously safer than straight razors and can allow you to change different blades. However, you need to replace the blades constantly which can be a big cost in the long run. They’re perfect for those who don’t have the time to sharpen and hone a blade.
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