Practical Shaving with a Double-edge Safety Razor


Vikram Bath

Vikram Bath is the pseudonym of a former business school professor living in the United States with his wife, daughter, and dog. (Dog pictured.) His current interests include amateur philosophy of science, business, and economics. Tweet at him at @vikrambath1.

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46 Responses

  1. Avatar Doctor Jay says:

    This is pretty much exactly what I do with two changes: I use Edge gel, and I use disposable double bladed razors – I don’t care which brand. Disposables eliminate problems I have with losing things. Kiss My Face might well work, I haven’t tried it. I am set in my ways.

    I will shave against the grain. I’ve done this for a long time, mostly I don’t cut or abrade myself any more. This wasn’t always the case.Report

    • Avatar Vikram Bath says:

      The biggest incremental improvement in the OP is choosing the shower over the sink, which it sounds like you are doing. The actual manual razor part doesn’t really save that much time.

      Personally, I’ve never found double-bladed razors that cut my hairs well. Even the Mach 3 requires a couple passes sometimes. The Fusion razors do cut everything in a single pass, but they are quite expensive even on sale from Costco.

      Kiss My Face
      I haven’t tried a whole bunch of different ones and done a conscious comparison. There are shaving sites out there that insist that you should use something fancy and expensive, and having tried that I judged it silly. It doesn’t sound like that’s a problem for you.

      against the grain

      I imagine this will work for a lot of people. I’ve had enough bad experiences that I’ve just given up on it. Ingrown hairs do seem to be something that affect non-whites more for whatever reason.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        “Non-whites more for whatever reason”.

        It’s not so much a race thing as a “how curly/stiff your hair is” thing (which is obviously correlated somewhat). IIRC, the curlier it is, the more likely you’ll get ingrown hairs, especially if you go against the grain.Report

        • Avatar Doctor Jay says:

          This makes much more sense than my hypothesis about oil.Report

        • Avatar Vikram Bath says:

          My hair is straight, not curly. Each individual follicle, however, is much thicker than white people’s hair. I don’t know if that’s a factor as well.

          At any rate, I agree that it probably does have something more to do with what kind of hair you have than what race you decide to identify as.Report

          • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

            You need to hang out with more Italians, Greeks, and Jews of European origin. Probably some Slavs too.Report

          • Avatar Kazzy says:

            I’ve heard ads on podcasts for Bevel shave products, which is said to cater to coarse, curly hair. I’ve never used them, in part because my hair is pretty fine and straight (white!) and in part because I don’t really shave any more. But might be worth checking out.Report

      • Avatar Doctor Jay says:

        Yes on the shower. I used to use a fogless mirror, but now I don’t even bother. I know my own face really, really well, and I can feel spots that have been missed with my fingers.

        That’s interesting on the rate of ingrown hairs. I’ve had a few in my time, but not many lately. I expect this might have something to do with the amount of oil one secretes? That’s just a wild guess, I have no data.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko says:

        Shaving in the shower is a fairly irresponsible act for Californians (and many westerners) at this point in time. I realize it opens up the pores and provides both extra lubrication and spot-rising. But it’s simply not the best use of our remaining water.Report

  2. Avatar Mo says:

    The second process is the one I use and it still takes me no more than 6 minutes and that includes two passes, one with and one against the grain. It ends up being almost as fast and easy as using a cartridge. The major difference is that I have to concentrate more because my chosen razor, Gillette Red Tip Superspeed, is pretty aggressive.

    I think part of it is because I also multitask. There’s no reason I can’t put on deodorant and brush my hair at the same time that I fill my sink with hot water to wet my brush. Maybe I should count that time as “shaving” time, but that’s time I would have to spend in the morning anyway.Report

    • Avatar Vikram Bath says:

      6 minutes is much more reasonable. I’m not sure how Koeppel gets to 15. It is a piece primarily about cartridge razors, so perhaps he just wanted to pick a big round number?Report

      • Avatar Mo says:

        I think a lot of it is going for unnecessary closeness and precision. I could use my free hand to stretch the skin on every stroke I take and I’ll probably end up with a closer shave. I doubt that it is close enough to make it worth taking three times as long though.Report

  3. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    I can accept the use of the safety razor, as a principal benefit I have found with a straight razor is the single, sharp, strong blade as opposed to the multiple thin blades of the commercial razor-head cartridge. I can see the use of the safety razor as a convenience compared to the straight razor and its many associated rituals.

    But the oil really helps. I really like the oil. I really like how it lubricates the skin and helps me move the razor, even when I press it into the whisker. If that makes me a “metrosexual” so be it. (I suppose admitting that the oil smells good does make me a metrosexual, but yeah, it does smell good.)

    And the badger-hair brush is better than my hand. It applies the lather in a more uniform, faster, and longer-lasting way. I spend all of fifteen seconds running the brush under some hot water and then creating a lather from the soap. This isn’t that time-consuming.

    I timed my straight-razor shave this morning after reading the post. Eight minutes and fifteen seconds. I imagine the safety razor does go faster – but really, how much?Report

    • Avatar Glyph says:

      If you really want to look your best, you want a brush made from honey badger. You know why.

      Stink-badger brushes are best avoided.Report

    • Avatar Vikram Bath says:

      My shaving cream smells good too! I’ve tried oil before, and it didn’t work that well for me. I don’t know if I wasn’t applying enough or something else.

      Burt Likko: It applies the lather in a more uniform, faster, and longer-lasting way.

      To describe a bit of my facial hair right now, one streak of hair above one eye is raising into an arch of doubtfulness.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw says:


      I am a bit too scared to use a straight razor. Every now and then I like getting a professional shave as a treat but using one myself. Freaky man.Report

  4. Avatar hdg says:

    I’ve used a double edge safety razor for years. I have a typical old guy beard.

    In my opinion, razor blades don’t go south because of use. They go south because nobody cleans them and they corrode due to the nasty (water, shave cream/soap, old whiskers) environment that they are usually subjected to.

    After shaving, I spin the top of the razor off and take the blade out and wipe it off on my forearm or a washcloth (both sides). When I reassemble it, I leave everything loose so it will dry out. Takes maybe 15 seconds, and the blade (“platinum” of some persuasion) usually will last for weeks.

    The only caution is to tighten the razor back up before you shave the next day. Failing to do so will give your face the old bacon-slicer treatment. Not good.Report

    • Avatar Vikram Bath says:

      hdg: In my opinion, razor blades don’t go south because of use. They go south because nobody cleans them and they corrode

      That is my understanding as well. I do sort of brush it against a towel at the end. And I actually store it outside of the bathroom now since my wife once grabbed hold of it while fishing for something else and got a bad cut. They are cheap enough that that is all I’m willing to do.

      Incidentally, there are all sorts of old husband’s tales on the Internet about ways to extend the life of expensive cartridges. Honing them on jeans and such.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        I use one of these:

        I can’t tell you for sure whether it’s all BS though. I shave infrequently enough (once a week, sometimes less) that blades last me a while anyway, so it’s hard to tell if this is making a huge difference or not. A daily shaver would be a better test subject.Report

        • Avatar Vikram Bath says:

          Interesting idea. I notice that they do admit this:

          Blade Buddy is designed to maintain the sharpness of new or like-new razor blades. It is not meant to restore blades that are damaged, dull or rusted.

          It would seem this doesn’t help with corrosion, but maybe it’s still good enough to extend the life of your cartridges. Now that I think of it, the jeans idea probably has the same principle in mind of bending the edge of the blades back to approximately straight.Report

          • Avatar Glyph says:

            Yeah, at least conceptually it could theoretically work. I basically start using this the second or third time I use a blade.

            But again, I don’t go through that many blades a year anyway, since I generally shave so infrequently (incidentally, I am of the mind that shaving infrequently is actually part of getting a good shave – the whiskers are longer and easier to cut, and your skin has time to recover from being abraded).Report

  5. Avatar Brandon Berg says:

    When I shave in the shower, I get beard splinters. Hairs will stick to me and embed themselves in my skin.Report

  6. Avatar Rose Woodhouse says:

    I wonder why women are not encouraged to use badger brushes, too. Like, I’ve never heard it even mentioned.Report

    • Avatar Glyph says:

      Women don’t need no stinkin’ badger brushes.Report

    • Avatar Vikram Bath says:

      I think the same caution I extend to head shaving probably should apply to all areas a woman might want to shave.

      I do think it’s interesting that there hasn’t been a women’s movement in shaving cream brushes. They already have makeup brushes, which aren’t too far off. Some of them are large enough, in fact, that I think they could be used directly. It’s not like your shaving cream or oil cares kind of fiber is used.Report

  7. Avatar Reformed Republican says:

    You guys make me feel like such a Philistine for using an electric razor.Report

  8. Avatar Richard Hershberger says:

    I went through various iterations of shaving technique until I finally hit on the ultimate solution: I don’t shave. I go to a real barber (complete with striped pole and old magazines) (as contrasted with a “stylist”). I have him take the beard down short. Ideally it is just longer than the ‘itchy’ phase. I combine this with my regular haircuts. The beard getting a bit shaggy is usually an issue before my (extremely limited) hair, so I probably end up getting a haircut about a week earlier than I otherwise would. I could extend the process through home grooming, but avoiding the need for home hair grooming is pretty much my main goal in life. At this point I have it down to having to trim the mustache once in the cycle, when it starts growing over the lip in an annoying manner.Report

  9. Avatar Jaybird says:

    What’s your experience with the Gillette Fusion (if any)?

    Back when I shaved my face, I found that I could use, for example, the “Good News” disposable razor and get a good enough shave to get me to tomorrow. Sure, I had 5 o’clock shadow around noonish, but I was blonde enough that that didn’t matter really.

    When I used those exact same razors to shave my head, I probably needed 6 or 7 different pieces of toilet paper to deal with the nicks and cuts and dings and whatnot. My head felt downright peeled.

    I suspect that this method of shaving wouldn’t work for head shaving. There are too many things that could go wrong.Report

    • Avatar Glyph says:

      On my face, the Fusion provides a nice shave, but they are hella expensive, and the blades being closer together means that it gets clogged up with whiskers bigtime and is hard to rinse. Not even close to worth the extra expense over Mach 3’s, or knockoffs thereof.

      Maybe you need one of these:

    • Avatar Vikram Bath says:

      @jaybird ,
      I have used the Fusion, but as Glyph mentioned, I think you have to be some sort of Rockefeller to use it consistently. If all options cost the same, it would be my top pick, I think.

      I wouldn’t try using a double-edged safety razor on my head. Safety would be my number one concern for head shaving to the point that I would probably try Wahl “balding clippers” before any sort of razor. Among razors, I have heard some good things about the head blade that Glyph links to, but I haven’t tried it myself. For my hair, I just use regular Wahl clippers.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        Even if all options cost the same, I don’t know if I’d use the Fusion, like I said I feel like I waste a lot of time trying to rinse the cut whiskers out of it between passes. I guess if I were so rich that I could just throw it away when it clogged that could work.

        Though, as I said, I am an infrequent shaver, so my whiskers are probably longer than the average bear’s when I shave. Maybe for a daily shaver, the clogging would be a non-issue.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          I’ve never experienced clogging with the Fusion. A good stream of water gets everything out, in my experience.

          The Mach 3? I had to keep some sewing needles by the sink in order to clean that thing (between swipes, even!).Report

        • Avatar Chris says:

          Do you trim before you shave, if you go a while without shaving?Report

          • Avatar Glyph says:

            Depends how scruffy I am and how much of a hurry I am in.

            Often, no, since the answer to question #2 is almost always, “a huge one”.

            But obviously it’s preferred.

            But, even doing that, the whiskers are still longer than they’d be from just a day or two’s worth of growth since the last shave.Report

            • Avatar Chris says:

              I am similar in my shaving regularity. I might remember to shave a few times a month. Most of the time I just realize that I have a beard and trim it quickly before I leave the house in the morning.

              But when I do shave, it’s always in the shower with cheap disposable razors, which work just fine.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        Hrm. I get a good month of shaves out of a Fusion. As such, the industrial sized package of blades I get from the Costco last me more than a year.

        (Also: I’m worth it.)Report

  10. Avatar dragonfrog says:

    Since I currently wear a beard, my shave takes me less than a minute – just the small bits of my neck and cheeks where I don’t want my whiskers to extend to. When I go clean-shaven, my shave is still maybe three minutes, tops. I don’t use any products on my face – if I’m coming out of the shower, I just shave, otherwise I hold a hot facecloth over my face for a minute first.

    I use Astra stainless blades, mostly on the strength of their being really cheap – under 20c a blade for the 100-pack – and they last a week when I’m shaving my whole face, or almost a month if I’m just doing the edges.Report

  11. Avatar Sam says:

    1. Shaving sucks.

    2. I use a safety-razor, and I’ve tried almost everything else – but not a straight razor – but it all sucks.

    3. Shaving sucks for women too.

    4. What is wrong with us as a people that we’re horrified by hair? Ugh.

    5. Again, shaving sucks. I would never do it if my lady friend didn’t like it so much.Report