Unless you’re a hairless wonder, an incredibly late bloomer, or a hopelessly hirsute man-beast, shaving is a daily task that must be handled with care. While shaving is sometimes seen as a grooming obstacle we hurry to get over quickly and painlessly, it can also be — at its best (and if done right with the proper equipment) — a rewarding and uplifting start to your day.
More than simply a manly duty, shaving is a sacred ritual, and shaving the right way is good for your mug — providing exfoliation and protection for the only face you’ll ever have. Of course, a good shave is only affected by the proper device, and that means finding the right razor for you. The types and choices are myriad, so consult our humble guide and get on the right track to one damned good shave.
Soaps, Foams, Creams, Gels or Oils
Soap: Shaving soaps are the most traditional shaving lube around. Lathering takes more time (use a brush and a dish) since the soaps tend to be quite hard, and they’re also not as moisture-rich as creams. They also provide less cushion than cream but supply plenty of slickness. D.R. Harris Marlborough Shaving Foam ($31)
Foam: Usually the easiest to apply and remove, foams can also dry the skin. Look for a foam with skin conditioner like shea butter that’s better for your baby face. Proraso Refresh Shaving Foam ($9)
Cream: Creams are great for your skin since they are typically glycerine-based, but they lather up nicely with fingertips or a brush. Taylor of Old Bond Street Sandalwood Shaving Cream ($14)
Gel: Gels are highly concentrated and moisture-rich. Plus, they lather up with minimal effort and create a great base for a razor’s glide. Portland General Store Alpine Shave Jelly ($16)
Oil: Comprised of vegetable oil and essential oils, shaving oil or pre-shave oil helps condition facial hair prior to shaving for better lubrication. It can enhance shaves or creams, as well, making shaving easier. The Art of Shaving Lavender Pre-Shave Oil ($25)
Old School-Shaving Coolness
Your granddad was onto something well before the newfangled cartridge shaver emerged. Safety razors are, surprisingly, still a de facto razor for many men on the planet, and there’s a good reason why: the single blade with barely exposed edges prevents deep cuts (hence the “safety” moniker) while delivering an incredibly close shave. Though it takes a bit of practice to shave well with a safety razor, once you learn, it’s a thing of beauty.
Safety razors require very little pressure to deliver an excellent shave, and as a result they keep the dreaded skin irritation to a minimum. There’s also a range of styles — short handle, long handle, chrome, bone, rose gold, you name it. Twist the handle on the safety razor and the hood on the shaving head opens for easy blade replacement. The blades themselves are called DE (for “double edge”) and should be replaced about once a week, depending on how bristly your mug is. And compared to costlier cartridges, safety razor blades are incredibly affordable, costing less for a year’s supply than for a couple of packages of the high-tech cartridge blades. Another advantage? A man using a well-made safety razor is, to the female populace, dead sexy.
Weishi 9306CL Long Handle Black Double Edge Safety Razor: Sure, you can get a bargain safety razor, but you can also spend one Andrew Jackson and, with the Weishi, get a stealthy, long-handled prize. The copper alloy body is heavy and corrosion-resistant and boasts a black chrome plating. It employs the standard butterfly safety razor doors for easy blade swaps, and five blades are included so you can get plenty of practice right from the start.
Merkur 34C Heavy Duty Double Edge Razor: Solingen, Germany-based Merkur is known for quality, producing some of the best safety razors available today. The Merkur 34C HD Double Edge Safety Razor is one of their most popular, and for good reason. Great heft and feel in the hand along with a solid grip makes for safe and easy wielding in this chrome classic, especially when you’re less than 100 percent awake early in the a.m.
Baxter of California Safety Razor: Baxter’s version of the classic safety razor is a sight to behold. Made in Germany, the double-edged razor is chrome plated for long life, and the textured handle is not only practical but an old-school classic. It’s the kind of beautiful, affordable men’s accessory that makes you gravitate to better grooming. It comes with a pack of starter blades and an instructional card to show you how to shave properly. Now you have no excuse.
Art of Shaving Mühle of Germany Rose Gold Safety Razor: Distinguish your safety razor with gorgeous rose gold. Mühle of Germany adds opulence to your morning routine with its engraved rose gold-colored handle that gives both texture and a pop of color. The closed-comb design gives better shaving control and the exposed double edges keep blade life long without you having to rotate the blade.
Edwin Jagger Chrome Bulbous Double Edge Safety Razor: If you’re the guy who has to have all the best accoutrements, then Edwin Jagger will take your shaving gear up several notches with their appropriately fat, British-made safety razor. The hard chrome finish is resilient, while the grid pattern and great-in-hand, heavy, bulbous handle keeps things grippy and safe. And should you question its cost, just know that the damn thing weighs a quarter of a pound.
The Magic of the Styptic Pencil
In a lifetime of shaving (after puberty, of course), a little blood will be spilt. Regardless of your shaving weapon of choice, you’ll nick yourself hundreds of times. The old standby, toilet paper, is useful in a pinch — unless you forget to remove it before heading out into the world. For all other times, turn to the traditional styptic pencil — a medicinal hemostatic stick composed of astringents (mainly anhydrous aluminum sulfate) that acts to constrict blood vessels and inhibit the flow of blood from smaller vessels. Application is simple: 1. Locate the nick, 2. lightly wet the tip of the pencil and 3. apply directly and briefly. It will stop the bleeding on contact and dries with only a thin white layer than can be removed easily with water. It’s an old-school shaving tool that’ll have you wondering why you never heard of it. The Clubman Styptic Pencil ($3) and Hommage Styptic Matchsticks ($25) are great sticks to get you started.
When One Blade Isn’t Enough
If everything about you is high tech, from your curved OLED screen TV to your electric guitar, it would seem that a cartridge razor is your instrument of choice. Cartridge razors replace the razor head with an interchangeable cartridge, so the head and blades are a self-contained unit. The big manufacturers Gillette and Schick have spent millions of dollars on R&D, marketing and advertising to bring you annual updates to the cartridge razor, and great commercials.
From two blades to an astounding six, cartridge blades consist of a metal and/or plastic handle and, of course, the cartridge blades. Lubrication strips and pivoting and laterally shifting heads are some of the features manufacturers have imbued their razors with, and the newfangled ideas seem almost limitless. Speaking of limitless, prices for replacement cartridges seem to have run amok like an unwieldy firehose, and costs can now rank up to $30 for ten blades. Some men swear by them, but the jury’s still out on their ability to provide a closer shave than a safety razor, and it seems that skin irritation factor with cartridge blades is still an issue. Regardless of the controversy, cartridge razors are still the quickest and easiest way to shave.
Harry’s The Truman: Harry’s is taking the world by storm, and even their basic Truman is an exercise in shaving goodness. The easy-to-grip handle feels and looks great, and it’s available in multiple colors. The proprietary five-blade cartridge uses a “Gothic Arch” angle for a close shave by distributing pressure evenly across the face and throughout the stroke. Harry’s even adds flexible rubber hinges for forgiveness and a nourishing strip of aloe vera and Vitamin E for the followthrough. The fact that Harry’s is so focused on making you un-hairy is also a nice touch of irony.
Gillette Fusion Proglide Men’s Razor with Flexball Technology: It’s easy to think that the latest newfangled razor from Gillette is a gimmick, but the Flexball works shockingly well. The orange ball hinge allows the head to respond to your face’s contours, taking some of the work and pain out of shaving. The new blade cartridges use thinner blades with decreased facial resistance, while the Blade Stabilizer keeps the individual blades in place while they flex with your face. It also cares for your skin with an infusion of mineral oil and lubricants in the strip to keep the ride smooth.
“Yonge” Faux Tortoise Gillette Fusion Razor: This one is all about the aesthetics. The Yonge uses a standard Gillette Fusion cartridge but blesses the design with a chunky faux tortoise handle to dress things up. Plus, it adds great weight and balance to the razor, making it easier to cut through the morning duties with style.
Bolin Webb R1: If modern art is your thing, then this is your cartridge razor of choice. The long, gray, arced handle is a thing of beauty, easy to hold and maneuver, and the R1 uses a standard Gillette Mach 3 cartridge, so you know you’ll get a close shave. And the fact that you’ll want to display it proudly outside of the medicine cabinet makes it doubly good.
Art of Shaving Power Shave Collection Fusion Razor: The best combo of practicality and style, the Power Shave Collection Power Razor uses Gillette Fusion Power micro-vibrations to keep the shave smooth, while the big, polished chrome-and-black lacquer handle is both weighty and handsome. It even has a built-in Smart Technology indicator light that fades progressively with battery life so you never run out of juice. Sure, it’s over the top, but that hasn’t stopped you before.
High Speed, Low Burn
The electric shaver was born in 1930, when a man by the name of Colonel Jacob Schick received patent No. 1,757,978 for a radical new invention, the electric dry shaver. Born out of necessity after a gold exploration injury, Schick created his shaver to cut down on the time needed to shave while recuperating. He went on to establish Schick, Inc., manufacturing his new invention until it slowly caught on in popularity. These days, it’s responsible for the modern electric razor in all its varieties.
With a reputation for quick shaves along with a fairly high level of accompanying skin irritation, the new thoroughly modern versions change the automated shaving game by incorporating lubrication, quick recharge-ability, wet/dry capability and wet storage to make electric shaving more user-friendly and face-friendly than ever before. But all of this shaving technology doesn’t come without a cost. Be prepared to pay for a well-made, skin-friendly electric razor — anywhere from $50 to $300 and beyond. Replacement of the shaving heads will also cost you at least $50 a pop, and you’ll have to swap out every couple of years (or more frequently, depending on use).
Philips-Norelco 3100: Though it seems like the bargain bin shaver in this group, the 3100 has a robust set of features to make electric shaving easier. The Flex and Float system responds to your face, and the contoured heads with rounded edges help reduce irritation associated with electric shaving. The lithium ion battery provides 40 minutes of shaving on an 8-hour charge for those with serious beards, but you can also quick charge for three minutes and have enough time for a basic morning shave. It also has a built-in trimmer for ‘staches and sideburns, so you can look completely cleaned up.
Braun Series 3 380S-4 Wet/Dry Shaver: Braun’s basic Series electric shaver is still rife with features. It’s wet/dry so you can use it in the shower with shaving gels or creams, and it also delivers skin conditioners to protect your mug from irritations. The three cutting elements provide ideal shaving for long or short hair, and the Precision Long Hair Trimmer handles beards, mustaches and sideburns with equal skill. The rechargeable Ni-MH battery holds its charge over repeated recharges, and the LED display lets you know when you’re running out of juice.
Panasonic Arc5 Wet/Dry Shaver: The Arc5 uses a five-blade shaving head, delivering an arsenal of foils to cover the most hairy acreage, reducing the amount of time spent gawking at the mirror. Nanotech blades are angled at 30 degrees to attack hair from more strategic angles, while the pivoting head moves with the shape of your face. The high-speed motor keeps tugs at bay and maintains speed even when the battery charge dissipates. And when you’re done, the nifty charger also automatically cleans the head. Too bad it won’t get your coffee ready. Now that would be morning progress.
Philips Norelco 9700 Wet/Dry Electric Shaver: This one’s the Cadillac of electric razors with a price point to match — but it’s not all show and no go. The 9700’s supremely flexible shaving head uses a Gyroflex 3D contour-following system with three dynamic parts that each move independently of one another. There’s flex, pivot and tilt capability for each, so you get maximum movement and closeness. You can shave dry with confidence or make use of the Aquatec technology to shave wet with gel or foam for that extra measure of skin care. Pop the 9700 back into its charging station, and it’ll get juiced up, cleaned, lubricated and dried all on its own.
Neck Swords with Style
Popular way back in the 16th and 17th centuries, straight razors have suffered the unfortunate nickname “Cuthroat Razors”, implying that they’d deliver more than just a close shave. The level of skill required to do it well without spilling blood out of your carotid is high, but they provide a very close shave with nearly zero irritation. Straight razors are as simple as they sound — a permanent steel blade that folds into a handle, much like a folding knife. The blades are incredibly sharp, and there are no safety measures other than a steady hand and patience. Frequent stropping (sharpening) and honing of the hardened steel blade are vital to a good shave; cared for properly, they’ll last forever.
Straight razors range from the basic versions at $20 to exotic models costing over a grand. And before you go out and buy one, thinking a straight razor shave would be the coolest thing to do in your manly morning repertoire, it’s probably a good idea to head to your nearest old-school barber to have one done for you. Should you decide to move forward with one, we recommend staying off the hooch and keeping a steady hand.
Primary Elements of a Straight Razor
Anatomy: the make up of a razor, composed of blade, handle, pivot, shank, etc. Image here.
Point: the end of the blade on a straight razor. This can be a round, French or Irish, Spanish, square, spike, or muted point, or feature a Barber notch. Image here.
Width: the width of the blade, measured as a fraction of an 8th of an inch (4/8″ is 1/2″ inch but is referred to as a 4/8″, and 8/8″ is a full inch, but is referred to as 8/8″). Image here.
Shoulder: where the blade widens from the shank. Can be a single or double stabilizer, or shoulderless. Image here.
Grind: the way the blade narrows to an edge. The most popular versions are the full hollow, half hollow, quarter hollow, full wedge, frame back and faux-frame back. Image here.
Spine/Edge: self-descriptive terms, this is the top (spine) and bottom (edge) of the blade. The edge can be straight, smile, frown, or a honed out toe. The spine can be hollow, slightly hollow, almost straight and straight. Image here.
Parker SRB Straight Edge Barber Razor: This hugely affordable straight razor looks far more expensive than its sub-$20 price tag. Parker’s Straight Edge Barber Razor secures the blade with a snap lock, and the stainless steel blade arm is stronger than aluminum versions. It uses professional half blades, which make precision shaving easier, and the blade tips are rounded to keep injuries to a minimum. The Parker SRB is a fantastic way to get started with a straight razor, but remember to read up on how best to take on the task first.
Feather SS Japanese Straight Razor: This one’s the precision Ginsu bad boy of the group. It’s a fixed blade that doesn’t fold, which allows for better control than the folders. The blades are shorter than standard, enhancing finer shave work, which many straight blade shavers desire. The spring-mounted blade allows it to be dismantled for easy cleaning and blade replacement, and the stainless steel body lasts forever. Finally, the high temperature-resistant silicone handle provides ideal gripping for optimal safety.
Thiers-Isard Eagle Brand Red Staminawood Straight Razor: This French-made blade has the kind of old-school charm that makes straight razor shaving attractive. It comes with a completely hollow blade that spans the full length of the razor, a mirror-polished finish and a handsome, vintage-style gold-leaf Eagle mark on the blade face. The beautiful red stamina wood is easy in the hand and on the eyes.
Art of Shaving Ram Horn Straight Razor: If you sell all your things and move out to a cabin in the Montana woods, this is your razor. More upscale than even their Eagle Brand, this Thiers Issard crated blade uses pure ram’s horn for a true stunner of a handle. The carbon steel blade is crazy sharp and holds its edge better than standard stainless steel, and the double-edged, rounded nose 5/8-inch blade is hollow ground and bears the Art of Shaving logo. Each razor has an individual look thanks to the different pattern of the naturally sourced ram’s horn. It’s so rustic, you’ll want to start shaving outside.
Bison + Max Sprecher Signature Straight Razor: The ultimate straight razor is crafted in partnership with Max Sprecher, a world-renowned straight razor artisan (yes, there is such a thing). It uses high-grade carbon steel and quite massive 8/8-inch quarter-hollow ground blade that holds its edge beautifully, while the single-plate high-luster carbon fiber handle is a work of modern art. Though the razor has weightiness to it, its impeccable balance provides for great maneuvering. All of this is topped off with a Horween Chromexcel leather sheath with contrasting stitching that matches the twin brass rivets in the razor handle. It’s so stunning, you’ll have to decide between shaving with it and framing it.