Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Keeping the Safety in Safety Razors

I occasionally think about the best recommendations for new DE (double-edge) shavers. Part of the calculation includes quality of shave, but it also includes value as well.

Now if I were recommending the least expensive razors that have adequate quality, the leader in the clubhouse would be the Rimei RM2003 razor. However, there is a catch: I find that razor just a bit too aggressive for me to use it often. That's not to say that everyone will agree. Many use razors much more aggressive. And, frankly, for the mass of shavers out there, the RM2003 -- similar to the various vintage Gillette Tech designs (especially the post WWII designs) -- may be close to the ideal compromise between safety and aggressiveness. [Update 19 Sep 2016: The RM2003 is also good for a one-pass, with-grain shave.]

Those razors that are more aggressive, those ultra-aggressive razor designs, seem to appeal to a couple of legitimate segments of the DE-user market: those who can go for the ultimate baby-smooth outcome, and those who get satisfaction from using DE (safety) razor designs that are not really so safe (I think of this appeal of the aggressive DE as being the proving-one's-manhood appeal). [Update 19 Sep 2016: There is another market segment as suggested in my preceding update: those one-pass, with-grain shavers.]

As I've repeatedly written, my beard and face (and temperament, which is a bit impatient) are not well matched with aggressive razor designs or ridiculously sharp blades (Feather). For those whose faces (and personality) better tolerate extreme razors and blades, they may be able to routinely go for baby smooth. The owners of those same faces may also be able to shave with DE razors that approach being straight razors that masquerade as safety razor designs.

After all, if you have to carefully manage the angle of DE blade to face so that you don't peel off strips of your own hide, how safe, really, is that "safety" razor?

The safety razor was invented and successfully marketed for a reason. If straight razors were such a great tool for the daily shave, they'd still be remarkably popular today; but they are not. I, myself, have been tempted many times over the years to give the venerable straight razor a go, but the reality is that if I can't consistently get a blood-free shave with moderate safety razors, then it doesn't take a genius to figure out that a straight razor is probably not a great choice for me. Even if I could start out safely using careful technique, I know myself well enough to be fairly sure that by shave's end, I would be confidently rushing a bit and would likely incur injury.

So to anyone who asks (including both new and experienced DE users), I would suggest that discretion truly is the better part of valor. Stated less obliquely, this means that I recommend a safe safety razor -- one that is more likely to protect the user from needless injury.

On the other hand, my experience is that extremely mild razors are not terribly safe either -- at least not for me. This is because they are so mild that they encourage excessive passes and pressure, which is a formula for irritation and weepers.

Within the range of acceptable DE designs for my face for a daily shave with a sharp-enough blade, I once again repeat my options as follows:

  • Merkur 33C Classic double-edge razor
  • Merkur 15C open comb double-edge razor and related razors with the same razor head including the 1904 and the 25C long handle 
  • Gillette Tech, post WWII, double-edge razor
  • Gillette Slim Adjustable on mild settings


What's your experience? What do you think?

Happy shaving!

1 comment:

  1. Agreed generally. I used fully exposed edges to learn how pitch and danger correlate, though. And then there is the prevailing educational environment to consider. The Rimei is at least a good evaluation tool, a witching rod that clearly indicates where good shaves lie, in the field of technique.