There’s no two ways about it: this is the Golden Age of the Razor. Guys nowadays have so much to choose from in the shaving department, from the good, old-fashioned cartridge razor (who hasn’t used a Gillette Mach III at least once?) to ultra-modern versions that come with more blades than you could count and vibrate and heat up. Then, for the hipster set or guys who appreciate tradition, there’s a contemporary crop of straight razors elbowing their way to the front, as well as electric shavers that make easy work of the morning constitutional for the clean-shaven and high-tech electric trimmers that keep beards in tip top shape.
Question is, what’s the difference between each, and is one better for a certain hair or skin type? We’ve enlisted top New York City barber and men’s grooming expert Jason Biggs of Babe of Brooklyn to help us navigate the wide world of razors and make choosing the best one a cinch.
The stuff of legends, straight razors were the gold standard for decades before the fancy varieties hit the market. “The classic straight razor is one of the original tools of mens grooming,” Biggs said. “Most men enjoy the routine of getting their favorite straight razor and lathering up with shaving cream and taking time to perfectly manicure their face.”
- Close, clean shave: The straight razor glides right up against the skin, slicing away hair close to the surface and leaving you with a smooth, clean shave.
- Cost-effective: Although its usage takes a little extra time, straight razor blades can be sharpened whenever necessary, and basically last forever.
- Good for all hair types: The straight blade easily cuts through all types of scruff, from light to coarse with ease.
- Not for sensitive skin: Biggs said the up-close action of a straight razor may be too abrasive for sensitive skin, so perhaps opt for a less-aggressive variety.
- Requires extra effort: In today’s in-and-out culture, the fact that a straight razor requires a bit more meticulousness as well as a sink and mirror (as opposed to an electric shaver, which could be used virtually anywhere) makes it a potential drawback for guys who like their morning routines to be ultra-minimal.
- Requires experience: Although it’s not rocket science, getting the angle of a straight razor right takes some skill, so go easy at first. If you’re still hesitant, ask your barber for a how-to.
We Suggest: The Art Of Shaving 5/8 Blade Straight Razor
Packing the same vintage vibe as the straight razor, safety razors are made to provide a close, clean cut that works well for virtually any place on the body.
- Close shave: Utilizing a single blade, safety razors glide right up against the skin to shear away whiskers right at the surface level.
- Prevents nicks and cuts: Biggs explained that safety razors are made with a guard that prevents the blade from cutting at unwanted angles, thus minimizing the chance of nicking yourself or cutting too close.
- Great for novice/careful shavers: If you’re new to shaving or cautious because of sensitive skin or a tendency to cut yourself, Biggs said safety razors should be right up your alley.
- Ideal for coarse, curly facial hair: The single blade and guard of a safety razor causes less irritation and nicks that could lead to infection, making them ideal for guys with thick, coarse or curly facial hair.
- Difficult to find: Although safety razors have been enjoying a menaissance as of late, Biggs said they can be difficult to find at regular stores.
- Expensive blades: Replacement blades for safety razors can run a bit more than other types.
We Suggest: The Bevel Double Edge Safety Razor
“Multi blade razors are some of the sharpest tools in a grooming arsenal,” Biggs said, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re the best. Some of today’s multi-blades come with a host of features, from models that vibrate as you shave to others that heat up in order to soften hair before cutting, but Biggs said that bells and whistles do not a perfect razor make.
- Closest shave possible: Considering several blades are at work, a multi-blade razor will provide the closest possible shave, leaving skin as soft as a baby’s.
- Easy to use: With no moving parts (like in a safety razor) and no blade sharpness to fuss with, all that’s needed to get a great shave with a multi-blade razor is some shaving cream and a few strategic strokes.
- Fun features: Like we said, there are a variety of multi-blade razors nowadays that pack in fun features, from self-heating models to those that vibrate. Ideal if tech is your thing.
- Costly: With more blades at stake and fun features to boot, replacement blades can be expensive.
- Not good for sensitive skin: “Multiple stokes of several razors at one time can highly irritate the skin,” Biggs said, so guys with sensitive skin should either stick to those with no more than three blades or opt for another type of razor.
- Works best on straight hair: Multi-blade action can actually cut hair slightly below the surface of the skin, increasing the likelihood of ingrowns for guys with coarse or curly hair.
We Suggest: The Leaf Kit Three-Blade Razor
“Also known as ‘box shavers,’ electric shavers are one of the best inventions in male grooming,” Biggs said. No water, no razor blades, no shaving cream needed. Just a clean, close shave and you’re out the door.
- Quick and easy: “For the guy that’s always on the go, an electric shaver makes getting that clean, smooth razor shave without using an actual razor possible,” Biggs said.
- No accessories required: Electric shavers come in both wet and dry varieties, but overall make it possible to get the job done without a host of products and messy application.
- Portable: Whether you travel frequently or tend to shave anywhere but home, the amazing portability of today’s top electric shaver models get the job done where and when it’s needed.
- Ideal for coarse, thick hair: Biggs said although electric shavers work well with all types of facial hair, they’re especially great at powering through dense hair with the same precision as a traditional razor, without the sensitivity.
- Need to be charged/plugged in: Like all technology, electric shavers either require a plug or a battery that must be charged, so plan accordingly.
- Expensive: The up-front cost of a good electric shaver can often run in excess of $100.
- Costly blades: Biggs said the foil shaving heads must be changed every month or so, depending on the model, and can run anywhere from $15-$50 a pop.
Don’t worry, bearded guys—we didn’t forget about you. For those who don’t care for a clean shave and instead opt for facial hair, an electric trimmer is all you need to keep your beard—whether it’s light scruff or a full-blown royal—in tip top shape.
- Great for on-the-go grooming: The ultimate in portability, trimmers can be whipped out and put to work when and where you need, with minimal mess.
- Precision: Most trimmers nowadays come with a variety of different sized attachments and length guards to help manicure facial hair at different lengths and hard-to-trim areas.
- Cost-effective: The cutting blades of an electric trimmer stay sharp for ages, and only require a good oiling every now and then rather than full replacement.
- Great for sensitive skin: Rather than cutting hair right down to the skin, trimmers leave a light dusting of scruff behind, sparing sensitive and reactive skin.
- None: Electric trimmers do just what they say on the box, that is effortlessly trim facial hair to the desired length without causing irritation to the skin. If you’re looking for a closer shave, opt for one of the razor options above.
At the end of the day, for most guys, the choice of razor comes down to how much you want to spend, how much time you have, and—perhaps most importantly—the type of skin/hair you plan to shave. Choose wisely.
We Suggest: The Bevel Trimmer