Consider your shaving needs
Because there are so many choices, first ask yourself: How often do I shave? Is my hair fine or coarse? Is my skin sensitive or prone to ingrown hairs? What area am I shaving: face, underarms, legs? The answers can help guide your purchase. Some razors swivel and pivot to better catch hair in tricky areas. Coarse hair may require sharper or multiple blades, while delicate skin may need extra lubrication to reduce friction. “The thing about shaving is every body is different. What works for you may not work for others,” says Adam Simone, co-founder of Leaf Shave.
Say no to disposable razors
Every expert I interviewed gave disposables a hard pass. Not only are the blades of a lower quality, which increases your chance of cuts and skin irritation, but the razors also last only a few shaves and cost more in the long run. Plus, they are horrible for the planet. The Environmental Protection Agency once estimated that about 2 billion razors and refill blades are thrown away in the United States every year, Simone says.
How many blades do you need?
A five-blade razor generally costs more than a three-blade, and the extra blades are often unnecessary. Once you get past two blades, you see diminished returns, Simone says, because extra blades don’t always deliver an enhanced experience. Think of it this way: Shaving with a five-blade is like shaving the same spot five times. “Ultimately, you want to use as few blades as possible to get the results you want to minimize the chances of skin irritation,” says Mark Herro, publisher of Sharpologist, a website devoted to shaving.
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Try several types and brands
Manufacturers tout the number of blades and/or the placement of lubrication strips along the top of their replaceable cartridges, but those things are window dressings, Herro says. What’s most important is the angle of the blades, the coatings, how it pivots (rocks bath and forth) and other hard-to-see details. “That means you may have to experiment with different styles to find the one engineered to best match your body,” Herro says. Because handles and cartridges are not interchangeable, he suggests buying a basic kit with a handle and two or three replacement cartridges to try before committing to a huge pack of refills.
Consider an old-school razor
Old-school single-blade safety razors (basically a razor with a protective device positioned between the edge of the blade and the skin) with replaceable steel blades are experiencing a renaissance. Newer models come in modern styles with pivoting heads and other features. “You can get a great shave with a single-blade razor, and we’re seeing more models at big-box retailers,” Herro says. A quality zinc alloy handle, made to last decades, will range from about $35 to $50, and replacement blades are inexpensive. If you’re unsure of how to use the razor, there are many instructional videos on YouTube and TikTok. Search, “How to shave with a safety razor.”
Eco-conscious consumers are looking for plastic-free razors that deliver a safe, close shave. Leaf uses recyclable stainless-steel blades; should the metal razor itself wear out, it can be recycled as scrap metal or shipped back to the company for disposal. Or if you’re looking for something disposable and easy to find, Schick’s Bamboo line is made with renewable bamboo handles and 75 percent recycled-steel blades. (Replacement cartridges, though, are still made with plastic.)
Factor in the cost of replacement blades
Whether you favor a safety razor or a cartridge-type, for both hygienic reasons and blade sharpness, you should replace the blade every six to eight shaves or two to three weeks (whichever comes first), says Adam Hurly, a men’s grooming writer and contributor to GQ. On average, you can expect to pay from 5 to 19 cents per steel blade (sold in bulk) vs. about $3 per replacement cartridge.
Are electric razors a good alternative?
Hurly is a fan of men’s electric shavers, which cover more terrain than a blade because of their wider head. Although they don’t give as close of a shave, “using an electric shaver is ideal if you want a clean-shaven appearance rather than a baby-smooth face,” he says. “There’s no restocking of blades, they prevent ingrown hairs, and you avoid razor cuts and skin irritation.” A good electric will cost you from about $70 to $150 and should last about three to five years.
Shaving creams soften the hair, hydrate the skin and provide lubrication and protection from the razor’s edge. Choose one with fewer ingredients, Herro says, and avoid anything in a pressurized can, because the propellant tends to dry out skin. That, in turn, forces manufacturers to pile on artificial lubricants. Stick to a cream that squeezes out of a tube, shaving soap bars or shaving oils. In a pinch, body wash or bar soap can work, but don’t use hair conditioner, which can make your skin almost too slippery, says Heather Muir, beauty director for Real Simple.
Don’t get hung up on gender-specific labels
Simone points out that most Leaf customers are women, because certain models are designed to shave large areas of skin, such as legs or underarms. Muir isn’t surprised. “I love men’s razors and believe they give a closer shave, because they are designed to cut coarser facial hair. And if you get a closer shave on your legs or underarms, you don’t have to shave as often,” she says. “In fact, I tried my husband’s razor and now only buy men’s models.”