Grooming: Straight razor vs. Double edged razor

In the age of disposable multi-blade razor cartridges, some people are going back to basics and revisiting more traditional shaving tools, namely straight razors (cutthroats) and double-edged razors.  

Most recently, the resurgence of straight razors has been influenced by that shaving scene in James Bond Skyfall, but only after trying out straight razors myself did I realise how much effort goes into maintaining a 'shave-ready' blade. 

This article details a few of the pros and cons of a straight razor vs double-edged razor plus some post-shave skincare tips.

My first straight razor was a Dovo Astrale (available at TheInvisibleEdge) straight razor, Made in Germany. 

Dovo Astrale

The pros are:

  • Each blade is beautifully crafted and feels substantial holding it in the hand
  • Blade control is good and if the blade is honed and stropped properly, then 1-2 passes should result in a relatively close shave
  • The novelty factor is immense since the razors cost between 20-30x the price of a razor cartridge, but the blade can be honed many times to ensure a sharp cutting edge
  • Honing a blade takes a learning curve, but the experience can be quite therapeutic and makes people appreciate the zero waste mentality

The cons are:

  • People tend to be afraid to cut themselves while shaving, but the number of scrapes decreases after a few tries. Straight razors can also be used to shave legs, which actually works quite well since the skin is less sensitive and straighter. 
  • The learning curve is relatively steep since you also have to buy a leather strop to strop the blade before each shave (this ensures that the cutting edge is upright) 
  • Storage of the blade is also more cumbersome since straight razors cannot be taken in hand luggage on the plane and the carbon steel found in many high-end blades is susceptible to rust (drying the blade after each shave helps and oiling it for long term storage)
  • Investing in one blade means that the shaving experience is effectively the same with that blade, unlike with safety razors where you can shuffle between different blades to find your favourite brand

 

 For double-edged safety razors, the choice of razors is immense and the cost of the razors is much lower than their straight razor counterparts. 

As a comparison, Dovo of Solingen also produces a line of straight razors under the Merkur brand. I've been using Merkur razors for the last 16 years and after trying different blades, I usually tend to buy a pack of 10 Merkur Platinum-plated blades that are fairly sharp and do not irritate my skin as much as the sharper Feather blades that are from Japan.

The pros of double-edged razors are:

  • Cost per blade is extremely low (around 10p-70p) per blade and each blade is surgically sharp until it dulls, without the need to strop or hone
  • Many stylish double-edged razors are available and the blade can be assembled easily in minutes
  • Blade versatility is immense and one blade tends to irritate the skin less than multi-blade cartridges

The cons are:

  • Safety razors and razor blades could be confiscated from hand luggage, hence it is advisable to pack them up in your carry on luggage
  • Because the blades are so sharp, sometimes it is possible to injure yourself when you apply too much pressure. My recommendation is to do 1-2 pass only with minimal pressure. Also, shaving after showering is much easier, since the steam and soap soften the hair for a closer shave. 

After my shave, I have switched from alcohol-based aftershave lotion to using our own SootheSkin Atlantic Kelp & Rosehip Day cream, because it seems to calm skin irritation leaving my skin nice and refreshed. A splash of water on the face before applying the cream gives it a similar consistency as a lotion. 

In case of slight cuts, I've also got an alum block ready to hand that acts as an antiseptic to soothe razor burns etc. 

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