Benefits Of Straight Razor Shaving: Pros, Cons, Costs
The benefits of using a straight razor overrule the notoriety of its infamous cutthroat sharp edge and make it all the more irresistible with its Hollywood vintage charm. But does a straight razor shave matter if it is not done at the barbershop?
We will answer that today!
- What is a Straight Razor?
- Benefits of Shaving with a Straight Razor
- Close Shave
- Smooth Shave
- Lessens Ingrown Hair
- Milder to the skin
- Longer Lasting Blades
- Steel Over Plastic
- More Environmentally-Friendly
- Pros and Cons of Shaving with a Straight Razor
- Make the Switch
What is a Straight Razor?
A straight razor is a single-edge razor designed to give you the closest and smoothest shave.
A straight razor or straight edge razor is a shaving tool that goes beyond history, originating in the ancient civilization of Egypt to provide for the elite’s grooming needs.1 It is a cut throat razor which traditionally has a stainless steel blade with a pin attaching it to a resin-treated wooden handle, overall looking similar to a folding knife.
During the 1800s, there was an HIV scare alongside other blood-borne diseases.2 As a result, manufacturers started producing straight razor shavettes, which bear the same pivoted design but with a replaceable and disposable blade. However, some shavettes look like the Japanese Kamisori, wherein the blade and the handle are stationary.
Unlike other types of razors, the straight razor may be the most sophisticated design. Straight razors have 13 parts, with the blade, shank, scales, and handle being the basic ones, that all work together to the shaver’s benefit. Interestingly, some vintage razors have scales or handles made with tortoise shell, but was eventually put to stop due to animal preservation.
The modern shaving gear of today came from the Kampfe Brothers’ safety razors and King Camp Gillette’s revolutionizing cartridge razor.3, 4 With their convenient design, straight razors slowly became vintage paraphernalia only professional barbers enjoyed.
But today, straight razors are making a comeback. Aside from film sensationalism, people are beginning to realize and appreciate it as a better alternative to its plastic counterpart. But there is more to a straight razor than just being a sustainable option for men’s grooming.
Benefits of Shaving with a Straight Razor
If you have ever gotten a straight razor shave from the barbers, you will know how much of a luxury it really is. And there is no doubt that many men wonder what makes a straight razor shave better than regular shaving, and hence it being so expensive?
Well, it is all about the benefits that a straight razor shave could offer, which are:
- Close Shave
- Smooth Shave
- Lessens Ingrown Hair
- Milder to the skin
- Longer Lasting Blades
- Steel Over Plastic
- More Environmentally-Friendly
Straight razors made from high-quality materials like any Naked Armor straight razors can give you the closest shave you've always longed for.
Men became busier than ever with more job opportunities thanks to the second industrial revolution taking over the United States.5 With that, a clean-shaven face also became the rage for professional men.
Due to convenience, Gillette’s multi-blade disposable razors and safety razors became a hit. However, the cartridge razors won the battle of popularity thanks to their marketing tactics telling men that the more razor blades used, the closer the shave they get.6
The most common multi-blade razor with three blades works like this: the first blade pulls up the hair follicles, the second one cuts them, and the third makes sure that no hair strands are left uncut.7
Between a straight and cartridge razor, the straight razor is better for promising the closest shave you could ever get. The single blade significantly reduces the friction shaving imposes on the skin. Plus, it is easier to bevel the edge’s angle to cut the hair at skin level and there are no shaving cream residues or hair getting stuck in between layers.
Shaving with a cartridge is similar to shaving with five blades in one pass. Since the disposable blades are layered in different positions, one blade gets dull faster than the other.
The blades with different sharpness levels and thickness pointing at different angles disturb your skin through friction as you shave.7 As a result, you increase the risks of razor burn, nicks, and bumps, which you want to avoid to achieve a flawless finish or a smooth shave.
Lessens Ingrown Hair
Given that a straight razor blade cuts at skin level, there is no sharp angle on the ends of the hair left after shaving. It also helps get rid of dead skin cells that may cause abnormal growth of hair on the skin. Ingrown hairs and razor bumps occur when the hair pierces its way out of the skin while growing underneath, creating micro-wounds that later get infected.8
Not to mention, partnering your single-edge razor with the right shaving products, like a shaving cream, gel, or soap, also helps prevent this dilemma, even on intimate areas when shaving pubic hair.
Whipping a lather from an organic shaving soap using a shaving brush keeps the skin hydrated throughout the process, and it creates a sleek surface for the razor to glide on. Meanwhile, applying aftershave balms guarantees that you refreshen and disinfect any micro-abrasions on the skin, preventing further skin irritations and infections.
Milder to the Skin
Another one of the benefits of a straight razor shave is it is excellent for those with sensitive skin. Aside from getting a closer shave in fewer passes, you can also easily clean the razor blade.
The problem with some cartridge razors is you do not know how much hair is left stuck inside despite the vigorous shaking. With a straight razor, simply use a towel to wipe the excess lather and hair debris off the blade or rinse it clean for your next shave.
With a close shave and a clean blade, the straight razor smoothly glides on your skin with less risk for infection and stress on the surface.
Longer Lasting Blades
According to a study, hair produces microscopic chips on the blade’s edge, with damages varying on the shaving angle.9 The initial cracks in a new blade and the hardness differences on the blade make the razor blade all the more vulnerable to hair strands.
Gianluca Roscioli, one of the scientists spearheading the research, said that “The size of the chips are about 1/10 of the diameter of a human hair,” and the more one shaves, the more chips appear.10
The best straight razors have a hardness level of 61-62 HRC, making them thicker and more robust than DE replacement blades and cartridge razor blades.11 Not to mention if you invest in one with a Japanese or Damascus steel blade, it will take a while before chips appear.
Investing in maintenance and learning how to sharpen a razor blade is the only way to keep a sharp razor, especially a straight razor blade, and make it last for a lifetime without needing to buy razor blades. Stropping a straight razor using a barbers strop every time before use levels whatever cracks are on the edge. Meanwhile, honing should be done every 3-6 months or once there is significant damage on the blade.12
Cost comparison of a straight razor and disposable razor over five (5) years
An average Gillette razor costs at least $11.13 Men who change razors twice a week spend an average of $88 per month or almost $1,000 per year! What is humorous is that the idea of spending $100 on a straight razor is an impractical decision.
Having these amounts in mind, a gentleman can easily save up for a straight razor, assuming he forgoes shaving for a month or two. Upon investing in that $100 shaving gear, there is no more need to buy a new razor for the rest of his days.
So, one straight razor can ultimately replace an average of $1,000-worth of disposable razors, hence, being the cheapest way to shave.
Steel Over Plastic
The weight of a razor does affect one's way of shaving, and lighter does not always mean better.14 In shaving, heavier is better because it accounts for a more effortless shave.
Straight razors are heavier than disposable ones because of their blade and handle material, which are made of steel and wood. Most men would prefer their razors are heavier because it tends to be easier to shave—especially on downward strokes.
However, the matter is not only whether or not the razor is heavy, and it is also about your ability to handle it when using all the different angles in shaving.
More Environmentally Friendly
With all the different establishments in the world trying to go green—paper and eco-bag rather than plastic bags, bamboo and metal straws instead of plastic ones, reusable lunch packs instead of disposable containers—it is also time to shift shaving routines to one that is kinder to the environment.
Disposable razors are primarily from plastic, and even the packaging they come wrapped in is plastic and is highly challenging to open. Whenever you throw away a disposable razor, you are contributing to landfills.15 Also, electric razors can be too resource intensive to manufacture, unless stated otherwise.
Meanwhile, straight razors can last a hundred years. You can even pass high-quality straight razors down to the next generation when taken care of with proper maintenance and sharpening.
If more people switched to shaving with a straight razor, the demand for disposable razors also lessens. The results benefit the Earth as resource-intensive manufacturing also decreases.
Come to think of it, using a straight razor for shaving body hair and facial hair not only benefits your shaving experience but is also good for the skin, pocket, and the Earth.
Pros and Cons of Shaving with a Straight Razor
A straight razor can be a handful, especially if you did not think it through before purchasing your first straight-edge. The list of the benefits of straight razor shaving could go on and on, but you also need to consider its cons.
Here are the pros and cons of using a straight razor:
- Smooth shave
- Close shave
- Good for sensitive skin
- Less ingrown hair
- Has a learning curve
- Blade maintenance
- Initial investment
Every shaving tool requires a learning curve, although a straight razor could be more challenging to master than other razors. You will learn how to grip a straight razor and pay attention to small details, such as where your little finger should go or how to do techniques like a free hand stroke. But remember, the more you use it, the better you will get. And the initial investment is significantly more affordable than constantly changing razors.
Make the Switch
With the cost-saving characteristics plus you contributing to the lessening of plastics in our landfills, the switch to straight razors would probably be heavier on your decision scale now.
In wet shaving with the aid of a straight razor, you are not just pampering your face by giving it a comfortable shave. Another benefit of shaving with a straight razor is that you are also turning a daily chore into an unwinding and relaxing activity.
You are the conductor of your face and facial hair. Besides, if you make the straight razor your stick, you will create perfect harmony.
When buying a straight razor, always choose one that is made of premium steel selections and wooden handles, like the razor collection from Naked Armor. All of our straight razors and straight razor kits are handcrafted and honed to perfection, making them shave ready straight out of the box—if not, we will gladly have the razor professionally honed for you at no charge. Get them on their own or as a part of a carefully-curated complete straight razor kit.
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Essential Naked Armor Reads:
Parts of a Straight Razor: Everything You Need to Know
How To Hold Straight Razors: Grips, Angle, and Shaving Direction
Types Of Straight Razors: Different Points
- J. Attebery, P. Kiger. 10 Amazing Ancient Egyptian Inventions. HowStuffWorks. https://science.howstuffworks.com/innovation/inventions/5-amazing-ancient-egyptian-inventions.htm#pt8. December 16, 2021
- History of AIDS. History. https://www.history.com/topics/1980s/history-of-aids. February 21, 2021
- From Perret to Kampfe: Origins Of The Safety Razor. Shaveworld. http://www.shaveworld.org/images/PerrettKampfe-rev2.html
- King Gillette. Lemelson. https://lemelson.mit.edu/resources/king-gillette
- Industrial Revolution. History. https://www.history.com/topics/industrial-revolution/industrial-revolution
- One Blade or 6? Is More Better?. Medical Bag. https://www.medicalbag.com/home/specialties/dermatology/one-blade-or-6-is-more-better/. August 25, 2014
- M. Shah. Why One Blade is Better Than Five. The Single Edge. https://supply.co/blogs/journal/why-1-blade-is-better-than-5. August 12, 2020
- How to Handle: Ingrown Hair on the Face. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-handle-ingrown-hair-face. March 7, 2019
- G. Roscioli, S.M. Taheri-Mousavi, C. Cemtasan. How Hair Deforms Steel. Science.org. https://www.science.org/doi/full/10.1126/science.aba9490. August 7, 2020
- N. Greenfieldboyce. Cutting-Edge Research Shows How Hair Dulls Razor Blades. National Public Radio. https://www.npr.org/2020/08/06/898577234/cutting-edge-research-shows-how-hair-dulls-razor-blades. August 6, 2020
- Razor_Blades. Badger & Blade. https://www.badgerandblade.com/forum/wiki/Razor_Blades
- How often should you hone your razor?. Badger & Blade. https://www.badgerandblade.com/forum/threads/how-often-should-you-hone-your-razor.34371/
- Average price of the leading razor brands in the United States in 2019 (in U.S. dollars)*. Statistica. https://www.statista.com/statistics/1058955/average-price-of-leading-us-razor-brands/. February 2, 2022.
- Razor Weight and Its Effects on Shaves. Badger & Blade. https://www.badgerandblade.com/forum/threads/razor-weight-and-its-effect-on-shaves.63643/
- Associated Press. Here's how to keep your razors from contributing to landfill waste. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2019/08/07/landfill-waste-how-prevent-disposable-razor-plastic-pollution/1943345001/. August 7, 2019
Hi Anna! Thank you for taking the time to read our article. Let us know how using a straight razor goes for your brother. We would love to know his results.
My brother has sensitive skin, so it’s always a problem to find the right razor to use for his stubble. It’s good that you brought up how straight razors are much milder to the skin, so those that are sensitive won’t have to worry about risks of infection and stress. I’ll be sure to suggest this to him before he goes to buy a new stainless steel razor to use soon. https://timelessrazor.com/shop/ols/categories/stainless-steel
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