In the world of shaving utensils, perhaps none are as well-known and common as the multi-blade razor. Safety razors, while being far less common, still provide a very relevant and easy shaving experience, however with a noticeable difference in priorities than their multi-bladed brethren.
As you are probably aware, we are a men’s grooming focused brand. And it’s no lie that every man out there (bearded or not) has to shave to at least maintain the clean lines of their facial hair, if not to maintain a clean-shaven look. All in all, to keep looking sharp, every man has to shave.
So, today, we are going to battle out the classic safety razor against the modern multi-blade “cartridge” razor to see which of these shaving tools is right for you, and what their respective pros and cons are. Despite what you may think, the overall shaving style and ability of these two similar-looking razors are actually quite different, and can mean the difference between a nice clean shave, and lots of razor burn.
So, here’s what we are going to talk about:
- What are safety and multi-blade razors, and how do they work?
- Pros and cons of safety razors
- Pros and cons of multi-blade razors
- Which razor is right for you?
So, let’s get shaving!
What Are Safety Razors?
Safety razors are certainly no longer as popular as their multi-bladed brothers in modern grooming practices. After all, safety razors simply look more old-school, as if something you’d see out of some old cartoon. However, they still provide a shave with characteristics that make them preferable to multi-bladed razors.
Safety razors are defined as a razor that implement a protective device between the edge of the blade and the skin. It was created by Gillette in 1903 and were the natural successor to the wildly dangerous straight razor, which was quite literally an open-edged razor-sharp knife blade used to cut hair.
Safety razors use a single dual-sided razor blade that can be replaced without replacing the entire head or cartridge of the razor itself. Essentially, it’s only the blade itself that needs replacing, and not a “cartridge” of blades. That single blade gives you two cutting edges (because it is dual-sided) instead of a single cutting edge that must be used at all times in the case of multi-blade razors.
Safety razors essentially took the market by storm by offering people a faster, safer, and more convenient shaving method without the need for constant blade re-sharpening or the danger of cutting your skin with an open blade.
How To Use Safety Razors
Safety razors can be used very similarly to how you use a typical multi-blade razor, the only difference being that safety razors have only one blade per side, which inherently becomes it’s advantage and disadvantage. To use a safety razor, simply lather on your favorite gliding product, whether that is shaving cream, gel, or butter. And shave by gliding the single blade edge of the razor across your skin in whichever direction you prefer. Against the grain for a closer shave, but with more potential irritation. And with the grain for a less close shave, but with more comfort and less chance for ingrown hairs or razor burn.
Because there is only one blade per side, it causes much less irritation than multi-blade razors, for reasons we will discuss later. However, it also doesn’t provide as close or “perfect” of a shave, because the single blade edge often needs to be flushed under water to clean away excess hair, and because the single blade does not work in tandem with others.
Safety razors, however, also tend to be more costly up front, but less costly to continue using. A pack of many individual razor blades (with two unique sides) often costs much less than a pack of many cartridge heads that multi-blade razors tend to use. And typically, you can get many more shaves for your dollar with a safety razor.
Pros of Safety Razors
- less costly over time (cheap blades)
- decreased chance of razor burn/ingrown hairs
- less razor drag and irritation
- Sustainability, less waste
Cons of Safety Razors
- More costly up front
- not as skin-close of a shave as multi-blade razors
What Are Multi-Blade Razors?
Multi-blade (or “cartridge”) razors, are razors that use replaceable heads or cartridges with multiple inline blades. This is probably what you see anytime you head into the shaving section of your local convenience or department store. There are packs of plastic disposable razors as well as packs of razor cartridges or heads to replace.
Multi blade razors are exactly that. They shave using replaceable heads, each one containing many small blades which are inline with each other. Typically anywhere between 2 and 4 of these inline blades are present within a single cartridge.
Gillette introduced these types of razors in the early 1970s, and they quickly became popular for how close the shave was, and how convenient they were to use and replace blades on.
Because of the nature of multiple inline blades, these styles of razor can provide a very close shave. Here’s how it works, the first blade in the lineup tugs on the hair and raises it slightly from your skin, while the other blades glide over and sever the hair which was raised, causing a much closer shave to the skin due to the dual raising and cutting action. This means that when the hair and skin settles, the newly cut hair sinks further into the skin causing a smoother feeling shave. However, there are issues with this method.
First and foremost, when hair is cut close or under the skin, the potential for ingrown hairs and irritation is immense. You are much more likely to experience redness, irritation, and razor burn from a multi-blade razor than a safety razor. And because all the blades are on the same side, every time one blade becomes rusty or clogged with hair, you must throw away the whole cartridge.
Pros of Multi-Blade Razors
- closer shave
- cuts more hair at once (saves time)
- cheaper up front cost
Cons of Multi-Blade Razors
- greater potential for ingrown hairs, irritation, etc.
- not environmentally friendly, lots of plastic
- more expensive over time
- less uses per cartridge
Safety Razors vs Multi-Blade Razors | Which One is Right For You?
The razor you choose will depend on exactly what you are looking to get out of your shaving tools. You’ll want to choose a safety razor if you prioritize comfort, sustainability, and cost over time, however, you’ll want to choose a multi-blade or “cartridge” razor if you are looking for the absolute closest shave possible, despite the potential irritation to your skin or costs involved.
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