Sunday, April 17, 2016

Another Myth Busted?

When I discovered double-edge (DE) shaving technology, I fell in love with the close shaves that I could get. At the end of a day that began with a double-edge shave, my face felt as smooth as it was at the beginning of a day that started with a cartridge-razor shave.

That was when I formed the conclusion that a DE shave was superior to that provided by a cartridge razor. I added this to pre-existing reasons for DE shaves which include better economy and a smaller ecological burden.

Yet since I've returned to humble double-bladed cartridge razors for some shaves while traveling by air, I've had reason to question the superiority of a DE shave. It remains less costly than the disposable-cartridge alternatives and is clearly better ecologically. But a closer look at the shave-quality comparison is in order.

First some facts about my previous shaving habits with disposable razors including multi-bladed cartridge designs:
  • I always shaved in a single, with-grain pass.
  • For many years I had abandoned shaving soaps and shaving creams, and merely used bath soap for my cartridge shaves.
  • The entire time preceding my DE use, I paid little to no attention to matters of shaving technique and best practices.
So after DE shaving for reasonable time, I had learned to make multiple passes for a closer shave. I had also learned to shave against the grain with a DE razor, with techniques that included oblique (skewed-razor) strokes as well as slow strokes. Also, in my analysis of shaving instruments, I came to understand more about the hysteresis of the cartridge razor -- both how to use it most effectively, and also how to eliminate it when appropriate.

As a result of that, I found that when I applied my DE-shaving skills and knowledge to the use of my humble disposable, pivoting, twin-bladed plastic razor, I actually consistently achieved shaves of equivalent closeness and yet with less irritation and wounds than when I used my DE instruments.

I achieved these excellent cartridge-razor shaves by doing the following:
  • Using a good-quality shave soap and resulting lather
  • Making two passes with touch ups after that (first pass with grain, second pass against grain)
  • My with-grain strokes were rather quick and made with the razor square to the direction of shaving stroke. (Both these techniques maximize the effect of hysteresis; that is, the effectiveness of the second blade in the cartridge being maximally affected by the cut of the first blade.)
  • My against-grain strokes were made slowly and with the razor head skewed off parallel with the direction of the razor stroke. Both these techniques diminish the effect of hysteresis; the slow stroke gives the hair follicle time to retract after the cut of the first blade, and the skewed razor head effectively enlarges the distance between the blades in the cartridge. This lack of hysteresis in against-grain strokes will eliminate the additional risk of in-grown hairs, which is often attributed to cartridge razors.
My experience suggests to me that it is a myth that DE razors shave better than more modern cartridge-style razors. I would say that it is better shaving technique with DE equipment that provides closer shaves.

I would argue that believing otherwise is believing in a myth, now busted.

That said, I must again aver that I remain a committed DE shaver due to ecological and economical reasons. Hope you do too.

Happy shaving!


  1. I'd have to agree, you can get excellent shaves with a cartridge razor and a lot of people do. DE Shaving is just more fun :)

  2. With sensitive skin I would say that DE shaving gives me a more comfortable shave. With the disposable cartridge razors I never could go ATG without a lot of pain. The only ones I was able to use were the Schick slim twins. The smaller head with just two blades did a better job than those with the wider head. I think the smaller head size made made the transition easier. Personally I think that Schick made some changes in their blade sharpening process about the time I made the change. I went from getting about 5 shaves down to two. After two shave it became painful to use.

    The only advantage I had with the cartridge razors is that it made shaving the chin area much easier. I still have trouble getting the ol' chin cleaned up the way I like it.

    What's your method on shaving the chin area?

    1. Mostly my methods are described in the article above. I also use all the techniques of DE shaving: no pressure, careful/mindful strokes. It also may be the brand you're using. I haven't used Schick in many, many years, but I do use Bic triple-bladed and single-bladed non-pivoting disposables as well as the Gillette pivoting, twin-bladed disposable. The Bics were purchased just for testing. The Gillette razors I actually like a lot. IMHO, the twin-bladed cartridge style may be just right; more blades may be overkill.