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Choosing between the different types of double edge safety razors can be a little confusing. 1-, 2- or 3-piece, butterfly, open or closed comb, adjustable, straight or slant? We get it, you just want a razor that works like a razor. For those new to wet shaving, a double edge safety razor uses a single blade with two cutting edges that is guided against the skin with the razor's head.
In this guide, we’ll run through the different types of double edge razors and hopefully, help you to choose the right razor for you. The truth is, it’s all in your head. The razor’s head, that is! The size, shape and weight of the razor’s head play the largest role in differentiating one razor from another.
STRAIGHT OR SLANT BAR
In a regular straight bar double edge razor, the blade is held at right-angles to the handle – giving a comfortable, predictable shave. This design works well and has been popular among all quality manufacturers of double edge razors since their inception. However, slant bar razors provide a different take on this traditional set up that has earned them a loyal fan base.
Slant bar razors use the same double edge blades, but hold them in place with a pronounced twist. In addition to adding stiffness to the blade, the twist adds a subtle slicing action as it moves through facial hairs, resulting in a closer first-pass shave.
For this reason, slant razors are considered to be more aggressive than a regular straight bar double edge razor, but the fewer passes required for a close shave has endeared them to people with sensitive skin that are prone to irritation.
1-, 2- OR 3-PIECE
In short, whether your razor separates into one, two or three pieces will have little or no bearing on the quality or comfort of your shave. It is simply the method in which the blade is held in place that will vary.
The most common varieties are 2- and 3-Piece razors. 2-piece razors have a handle that is fused to the base of the head, while 3-piece razors have a head that can be fully unscrewed from the handle. In each case, a blade is wedged between the head’s top plate and its base, and then fastened by tightening the handle.
1-Piece razors are commonly referred to as ‘butterfly’ razors. They are opened by twisting the bottom of the handle, which unscrews to open flaps at the top of the head. When fully opened, these flaps resemble the wings of a butterfly – hence the name. A blade is inserted between the flaps and the handle re-tightened to clamp the blade in place.
Below, you'll see popular examples of each type of these razors.
OPEN OR CLOSED COMB
Most safety razors feature what is known as a comb along the edge of the head. Closed combs resemble small grooves along the edges of the blade guard, while open combs – as the name suggests – appear as individual teeth, similar to a hair comb. Open combs are designed to guide stubble against the blade to more easily cut through longer or thicker hair. If you’re shaving regularly, a closed comb razor is our recommendation, although you shouldn’t notice any less of a close shave with an open comb razor.
ADJUSTABLE RAZORS AND AGGRESSIVENESS
When comparing double edge safety razors, wet shaving enthusiasts will often refer to the ‘aggressiveness’ of a particular razor on a subjective scale from mild to very aggressive. An aggressive razor is one with a blade that is more exposed than a less aggressive razor, and it is determined by tiny differences in the shape of the razor head. These aggressive razors will generally require fewer passes to achieve a close shave, though they may result in additional cuts or nicks for beginners, and can cause more skin irritation.
To complicate matters, tiny differences in the thickness, width or strength of blades from different manufacturers can cause two razor blades to perform differently – even in the same razor!
Enter: adjustable razors. Adjustable razors offer the user the ability to fine-tune the shape of the razor head and hence, the angle of the blade – allowing the user to find the sweet spot for aggressiveness, no matter the blade. These adjustable razors may use interchangeable base plates for the head, or alternatively, a screw-type handle that can be adjusted to achieve the same effect.
We’ve covered the essentials when it comes to choosing which safety razor is best for you, but just in case, you may want to consider the following as well:
- Handles - We all have different hands, and when it comes to safety razors, unfortunately, it’s not a case of one size fits all. If you have bigger hands, consider using a safety razor with a longer handle. Not only will they provide you with more control (thus preventing nicks and cuts from applying too much pressure), you also won’t strain your wrist and fingers when holding it. Vice versa, if you have smaller hands, a safety razor with a shorter handle will be easier to control and hold overall.
- Weight - The idea of shaving with a safety razor is to let the weight do most of the guesswork. Applying additional pressure isn’t necessary. If the safety razor is too light, you may feel compelled to apply more pressure than needed which makes you more prone to cuts. Similarly if the safety razor is too heavy, you might feel uncomfortable balancing it between your fingers for a long time. So what’s the best solution? The answer is in the middle - light enough to easily shave off hairs without applying any pressure, but also heavy enough that only minimal pressure is needed if you’d like to have a closer shave.
Hopefully this article has provided clarity on which safety razor will suit you best. Once you’ve decided on your safety razor, it’s time for the best part - using it in action! And we’ve got you covered with this tutorial on how to properly shave with a safety razor.
Updated May 2020