Safety Razor Types – Which One to Choose (Beginners Guide)
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Safety razors have been in existence since the start of the 20th century. They started as basic shaving tools, but they’ve since gotten complex, and manufacturers have developed different types to meet different needs. Their differences lay in their blade loading mechanisms and the heads used for shaving.
To have the best shaving experience, you need to have the best safety razor. And to purchase the best safety razor, you need to understand the different types and their functions.
Below is a quick guide to the different types of safety razors on different fronts, including material, mechanism, and head types. We aim to learn how to choose a safety razor that’s perfect for your specific needs.
Basic Types of Safety Razors
The structure of safety razors is straightforward. A normal 3-piece razor consists of a head that includes a plate and a cap, which hold the safety razor blade. The head connects to a handle that’s either wooden or metallic.
How the blades are loaded, differs depending on the razor’s mechanism. But before we dig into that, let’s look at the basic safety razor types.
There are two broad categories; single and double edge razors. These refer to how many sides the razor exposes the blade for wet shaving.
Double Edge Razor
Double edge razors are the most common type. In fact, ‘double edge razors’ is a term often used in place of safety razors. With these razors, the blades are exposed on both sides of the cap allowing the user to use either end.
When wet shaving, you can rotate the blade in your hand to use the other side when the first side is covered in shave soap. In some razors, one side has an open comb which provides a more aggressive shave.
Speaking of aggressiveness, how aggressive are double edge razors? Well, it differs from one brand to the next. But generally, you can determine whether the razor is less or more aggressive by the cap’s curve. A larger curve means the razor is mildly aggressive since the blade is held at an angle. But if the cap is straighter, then it’s more aggressive and ideal for expert wet shavers.
While double edge razors are convenient for wet shavers, they are also economical for manufacturers since brands don’t have to worry about finishing one side of the blade.
Single Edge Razor
Single-edge razors are rarer than double-edge razors. But even then, they have a loyal following. Single edge razors only have an exposed blade on one end. Some people argue that this design provides a closer shave since the cap design is functional and brands don’t have to worry about symmetry.
Getting a new single edge razor is difficult, and when you find one, you’ll part with a hefty fee.
To secure the blade in place, safety razors have unique opening mechanisms. These mechanisms need to be well constructed to allow easy access but prevent the blade from wiggling inside. If it does, you could cut or irritate the skin as a result of the vibrations.
There are three types of opening mechanisms:
The three-piece opening mechanism is the most common type today. However, it’s not uncommon to come across two-piece razors where the plate is fixed to the handle. Such safety razors have knobs at the base of their handles which you turn to release the cap.
In other instances, the knob is designed to adjust blade exposure. These types are called adjustable razors, and they allow you to tune blade aggressiveness to meet your needs. If you have a more sensitive neck than your face, you can turn the razor to the mildest setting. You can then increase when shaving hardier spots and when you need to get a closer shave.
Butterfly mechanisms are rare today. The butterfly safety razor is designed as a single piece. At the base of the handle is a knob that turns to open the head from its center, allowing you to replace the blade.
Because of this, butterfly openings are considered elegant pieces and are in demand by collectors. Despite this demand, they are relatively inexpensive.
Every head plate comes with a safety bar that sits under the razor. This bar helps to ensure the blade is guarded properly and helps prevent accidental nicks and cuts. The design of the safety bar affects your shaving experience. A flat edge is gentler, and combed guards are more aggressive.
Safety razor head types are split into different categories:
- Safety bar
- Closed comb
- Scalloped safety bar
- Open comb
- Slant head
When wet shavers are talking about safety bars, they refer to flat blade guards. Although flat blade guards were common in the mid-20th century, most brands today prefer detailed finishes. Generally, safety bars are mild since only a small portion of the blade is exposed. This is great, but it also means less hair is caught, and you’ll need several passes to achieve a clean and smooth finish.
Scalloped Safety Bar
Scalloped safety bars are common in today’s safety razor designs. They are similar to closed comb heads but give a different shaving experience. Instead of a flat guard, the bar has a slightly sloping edge. As such, more of the blade is exposed without being overly aggressive.
A scalloped finish provides the best shaving experience if you have sensitive skin.
Closed combs provide a shaving experience that’s between open combs and safety bars – they aren’t too mild or too aggressive. Instead of the blade being exposed, it sports a safety bar protecting your skin.
However, closed combs have the added benefit of having spikes that guide facial hair to the blade. As a result, you can wet shave without cutting or nicking your skin. They are also a great choice for men who have coarse beard growth.
You should be extra careful when using open comb safety razors since they are super aggressive. The blades in these razors are exposed aside from the comb teeth that guide hair to the blade.
If your beard is extremely thick, an open comb safety razor is perfect. However, you need wet shaving experience because a mistake can end in disaster.
They are also great for individuals that don’t shave often. The open comb design will easily reduce thick beard growth. An open comb razor will get the job done in a single pass if you are pressed for time.
Slant heads have been the source of a heated debate, with some experts claiming that they are the most efficient in beard removal. Slant heads such as on the Merkur 37c hold blades at an angle allowing for scything blade motion, and the cutting energy is applied to the minimal blade surface.
Because of the angled design, less pressure is needed to achieve a clean shave. Some experts insist that this head type is ideal for thick and sensitive skin. Since the blade slices instead of cutting, there’s little skin irritation.
However, they have a steeper learning curve than most head types.
What Material Is It Made From?
Most safety razors are made from metal. Metals are hard and durable materials that hold razors in place. With the screws and opening mechanisms, other materials aren’t suitable.
With that said, some manufacturers use ivory, wood, or plastic to make handles. Some safety razors have knobs made from plastic as well.
Regardless of the handle material used, you should ensure it provides a good grip when handled with wet hands. Smooth and shiny handles may be beautiful but feel like soap on wet hands. Luckily, manufacturers add knurling designs to provide extra grip.
Most metallic safety razors are constructed from chrome-plated metals, including copper and brass. It’s also possible to find razors made from pure chrome (most of these are vintage safety razors). Unfortunately, chrome safety razors chip over time. On the other hand, premium safety razors are often constructed from stainless steel, which is more durable and sturdy.
Now that you’ve learned about the types of safety razors, you are better placed to choose one that’s perfect for your needs. If you need more help deciding, read through our safety razor buying guide. And if you need help learning shaving techniques, our wet shaving guide has got you covered.
Ruiru Kibet is passionate about beard care and male grooming. He believes it’s an art form and is happy to share his insight with men across the globe. He’s into wet shaving and evidence-based grooming, a passion that helps him analyze men’s grooming brands, products, and wet shaving practices presenting you with the best recommendations and advice. Kevin's profile on Linkedin.