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What’s the Right Razor Type for You?

Not all shave tech is made equal. Here's what's worth using... and what's not.

As men have shaken off their social stigmas and started giving more thought to their grooming regimen, getting rid of stubble has become something of an art form.

That means you've got a lot of options. Some are (relatively) new-fangled approaches to the process, while some are more time-tested. Each has its pluses and minuses – it all depends on your level of commitment, budget, and dexterity. Learn the ins and out of each, and you can settle on whatever's just right for your routine.


Cartridge Razors

If this were a popularity contest, the cartridge razor would win. Every major razor brand offers a version of it, and there seems to be a competition for the maximum number of blades they can cram onto a single cartridge.

They're a step up from the once-ubiquitous disposables, and will get the job done, but they're far from our favorite option.

Pros

  • They're easy to use, since there's absolutely no learning curve.

  • The gratuitous amount of blades mean that you can get a really, really close shave. Too close, actually – but more on that in a sec.

  • Have cartridge, will travel. They're easily packable and TSA-friendly.

  • You can find 'em at any drugstore.

  • They’re designed to prevent nicks, which makes them ideal for the clumsy shaver.

Cons

  • They're really damned expensive. The big-name brands charge an arm and a leg for fancy multi-blade cartridges, and if you're replacing them every few shaves, that really adds up.

  • Because cartridges are a favorite of shoplifters, you’ll have to ask someone to fetch them from the burglarproof Plexiglas cabinet. And no one likes doing that.

  • They can actually give you too close a shave. The ridiculous number of blades cut the hair so closely that you can easily get ingrown hairs and irritation.


Safety Razors

This is the precursor to the disposable razor: a heavy base that you place a single razor blade into. It's what your grandpa probably grew up with.

They're a favorite of shave aficionados, since the single blade and manual shave angle (as opposed to cartridges, where the blades are slanted for you) both give you a much, much greater degree of control.

Learning how (and why) to use one will take you a few attempts. But once you get the hang of the process, using a safety razor is a dream.

Pros

  • They’re insanely cost effective. The handles can get expensive if you want a really nice one, but the actual double-edge razors cost next to nothing – like, a few cents per blade. That beats the hell out of a $20 5-pack of cartridge refills.

  • For dudes with curls or extra coarse hair – or anyone else – this will save you a world of hurt. Because the safety razor just glides over the surface of your skin, unlike the aggressive shear of multi-blades, there's virtually no chance of painful ingrowns.

  • They're customizable. You can find dozens of different razor blade options, each with their own slightly different level of sharpness and comfort. Get a variety pack for just a few bucks and find out what you like best.

  • You can reduce your stubble in a more controlled way. Do one pass in the direction of the grain for a good, basic shave with almost no risk of irritation. If that's not smooth enough for you, just lather up and repeat, this time going across (not against) the grain.

Cons

  • If you're used to a disposable or cartridge razor, there's going to be a slight learning curve. Expect plenty of nicks as you learn the finer points of finding the right angle and pressure.

  • It doesn’t offer the super close shave that you get with multiple blades. But again, that can be a good thing – too close a shave, and you're practically asking for ingrown hairs.


Straight Razor

It’s impossible to not see this as a potential weapon. If your life is a perpetual Throwback Thursday, then this ye olde razor is probably your jam. Otherwise, it’s terrifying.

They do look very cool, and you get endless bragging rights if you can master the art of using one. But these are not for the faint of heart.

Pros

  • You can get a barbershop-quality shave if you know what you’re doing. There’s a reason the professionals choose to shear with straight razors: it gives you the ultimate degree of control over pressure, angle, and sharpness.

  • They last forever. The only upkeep required to keep it in tiptop shape is the occasional sharpening, which means that in the long run, this could be your cheapest option.

  • There are some insanely nice, ultra high-end options out there if you want to go all-out.

  • Bragging rights. Lots and lots of bragging rights.

Cons:

  • An even steeper learning curve than the safety razor – it can take ages to learn the proper technique. If you’re not a professional and don’t want to butcher your face, this requires you to be slow and methodical.

  • There will be blood. Nicks are unavoidable until you get the hang of the thing. You need to learn how to carefully control the pressure in conjunction with a just-right angle, and you don't have the training wheels of the safety razor design to help guide you.

  • Some spots, like the upper lip, are really difficult to navigate.


Electric Razors

It’s impossible to see an electric razor and not think of those old Norelco ads. But while they may have fallen out of favor, there are still some anti-Luddite stalwarts who prefer to plug their razor into the wall.

Pros

  • It’s a totally dry shave. No shaving creams, gels, oils, or the like.

  • They get the job done faster.

  • Some of them have adjustable length settings, so you can opt to leave a little bit of scruff if you don’t like to be too clean cut.

Cons:

  • It requires proximity to an outlet, unless yours is battery-powered.

  • The shave won’t be nearly as close, so don't expect a fresh-from-the-barbershop-chair look.

  • They’re noisy. And ugly. And expensive.

  • They’re high-maintenance. Regular cleaning is a necessity if you want them to keep functioning.

  • You can’t use 'em in the shower unless you’re into electro-shock therapy.


Or, y'know, you could skip the shaving altogether and just grow a badass beard. Your call.

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