Nothing will provoke a roomful of shaving nerds to a brawl more than a discussion of the merits of a single razor blade vis a vis a multi-blade razor.
We’re exaggerating, of course, but this gist is true. On online forums, discussions can get heated when discussing the merits or demerits of these razors.
While the opinion is generally divided into two camps, there’s also a particular segment of the shaving population that doesn’t really care which blade they use as long as it does its job. For these men, all razors are the same; the number of blades doesn’t make much of a difference in their shaving routine.
Here at Naked Armor, we think the number of blades matters. It’s the difference between making your shaving routine a tedious chore or a personal luxury that you always enjoy.
If you’re a newbie looking to buy your first razor, you can easily be distracted by the arguments for both types of razors.1 To simplify things, let us give you the low-down on which one gives the best shave. Because that’s what we are all after, a clean and comfortable close shave.
Here's what you can find in this article:
- Evolution Of Razor Blades
- Do More Blades Mean Better Shaves?
- Which Is The Right Razor For You?
Evolution Of Razor Blades
Multi-blade razors, like disposable razors and cartridge razors, are a recent invention.2 In 1971, when they produced the first two-blade razor on a consumer market already primed for convenience, it revolutionized the shaving industry.
Demand for it skyrocketed due to its presented advantages. Having multiple blades on a razor helps cut more hair in one single pass, and men love benefitting from this advantage as it doesn’t require much effort to shave with a multi-blade razor. Most men liked it because it was convenient, especially for a morning shave. Razor companies marketed it along the lines: the more blades a razor has, the closer shave one can get.
That is why shaving and razor companies went into a race to build and produce the razor with the highest number of blades possible. Seemingly, these companies make an additional blade every year like it’s a new technological advance. To get that supposedly best skin-level shave and experience, we need to purchase a new handle and a new set of upgraded razors.
The basic two-blade design evolved from three blades to five to seven.3 Today, top razor companies invest significant amounts of money into further research and innovation, all to come up with the best multi-blade razor.
Even though companies keep advancing their multi-blade razors, some men still wonder how many blades a razor should have to give you the best shave possible. If they evolve and add the number of blades, does it mean that razors with fewer edges are less valuable? Some dermatologists even suggest that two blades are more dependable as they prevent nicks. The razor head occupies less area on sharp curves and is much easier to control. Also, for example, a multi-blade cartridge razor has features that make shaving seemingly safer no matter the number of blades.
Traditional Single-Blade Razors
In contrast, single-blade razors, such as straight razors, safety razors, and shavette, have been around since the dawn of civilization.
The earliest accounts of shaving were recorded around 3000 BC when they used copper razors in ancient Egypt and India.4 Of course, it didn’t look like modern-day razors with one blade. It looked like this; an unwieldy tool that looked more like a farming implement than a grooming tool.
Nevertheless, it did the job well, and centuries after, it became the basic razor design template.
Fast forward to the 16th century, and the single-blade razor design began to evolve with the introduction of the Sheffield straight razor. A narrow blade, folding straight razor was made from Sheffield silver steel,5 widely known for its superior quality. It improved results and easier shaving, but only barbers were allowed to use it.
It wasn’t until the 18th century that razors became more than just practical and specialized tools for shaving. French inventor Jean-Jacques Perret dared to dream of shaving equality,6 so he invented the first modern safety razor. Now improved with a wooden guard, the razor became safe to use by anyone with any skin type, even with multiple passes without a learning curve.
The safety razor design would be later improved again by the Kampfe brothers in 1880. Still, it took another salesman, King C. Gillette, to innovate the safety razor into its modern-day design, like the double-edge safety razor. King Camp Gillette cornered the shaving market along the way and built Gillette Company into the profitable corporation it is today.
Modern Multi-Blade Razors
Things changed when they released multi-blade razors to the market. The popularity of a razor with one blade took a significant hit in the face of the multi-blade cartridges marketing pitch that a more number of blades results in the closest shave ever.
A 3-blade razor is a basic design where the first blade captures the hair follicle, pulling it up. The following blades cut the beard hair or act as backups to ensure no beard hair or facial hair is missed.7 But, when encountering more areas, like the neck and chin, on a sharp curve, controlling the angle becomes more challenging, and you are more likely to nick yourself.
Do More Blades Mean Better Shaves?
While the shaving industry has embraced the trend of multi-blade razors, it's important to question whether more blades truly equate to better shaves. Contrary to popular belief, shaving with multiple blades is not better as it comes with disadvantages, such as increased ingrown hairs and irritation, higher cost and environmental impact, limited maneuverability and precision.
Cons Of Using Multi-Blade Razors
Increased Ingrown Hairs and Irritation
The multiple blades on multi-blade razors pull on the hair follicles, which causes the beard hairs to curl back and cause bumps that make it harder to get a smooth, clean shave.
Higher Cost and Environmental Impact
The disposable cartridges and plastic waste produced by multi-blade razors can be expensive and harmful to the environment. Considering the urgency of the environmental crisis, it is essential to choose eco-friendly options.
Limited Maneuverability and Precision
Multi-blade razors may need to be more precise in hard-to-reach areas due to their bulky design and multiple blades, causing missed spots or uneven shaving.
Considering all these factors, it becomes clear that the idea of "more is better" doesn't necessarily hold true when it comes to shaving. Instead of chasing after the latest multi-blade razors, exploring alternatives such as a straight razor, safety razor, or shavette, may offer a more effective and economical solution while minimizing the risk of irritation and environmental impact.
Is A Single-Blade Razor Better Than A Multi-Blade Razor
So which type of blade should you pick?
If you're using a multi-blade and experiencing skin irritation and razor bumps, consider switching to a single-blade razor. With proper technique, single-blade razors provide a more comfortable shave with less irritation. Straight and safety razors and shavettes offer better results, a closer shave, and reduce the risk of razor burn, bumps, ingrown hair, and rashes.
Which Is The Right Razor For You?
When choosing the right razor for you, there are a few options to consider: straight razors, safety razors, and shavettes. Each type has characteristics that can influence your choice based on beginner-friendliness, blade quality, and aggressiveness.
- Straight Razors: This shaving tool demands skill and technique, offering precision and closeness, but requires regular maintenance and sharpening.
- Safety Razors: Safety razors are popular among beginners for ease of use and variety of blade options, providing a close shave with minimal risk of cuts and irritation.
- Shavettes: Shavettes, like straight razors, use replaceable blades for precision and convenience but can be aggressive, so caution is advised for beginners.
Regardless of the type of single-blade razor you choose, one thing is clear: for the best shaving experience, wet shaving is the way to go. And to elevate your wet shaving routine, consider investing in the Gaswain Safety Razor Kit.
The Gaswain Safety Razor Kit provides a luxurious, precision-designed shave experience with a single-blade design, shaving bowl, shaving brush, and soap. The shaving bowl holds your rich lather, while the shaving brush help creates that rich lather. The soap nourishes the skin and softens hair, making the shaving process effortless.
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Other Razor Stuff You Might Like to Read
- M. Singh. The 5 Major Types Of Razors & Which One To Use Based On One’s Skin Type. Mens XP. https://www.mensxp.com/grooming/beards-and-shaving/78894-different-types-of-razors-for-men.html. July 30, 2020
- A. Tarantola. A Nick in Time: How Shaving Evolved Over 100,000 Years of History. Gizmodo. https://gizmodo.com/a-nick-in-time-how-shaving-evolved-over-100-000-years-1545574268. March 18, 2014
- S. Mason. Different Types and Designs of Double Edged Razors. Original Shave Company. https://originalshavecompany.com/different-types-and-designs-of-double-edged-razors/. April 2, 2016
- The Editors. The History of Shaving and Beards. Almanac. https://www.almanac.com/content/history-shaving-and-beards. November 12, 2021
- Richard. The Editors. Any advantage to Sheffield Steel? Badger and Blade. https://www.badgerandblade.com/forum/threads/any-advantage-to-sheffield-steel.14469/
- Jean-Jacques Perret ( 1730 - 1784). Antique Print Map Room. https://antiqueprintmaproom.com/biographies/jean-jacques-perret-1730-1784/
- Why One Blade is Better Than Five. Supply Co. https://supply.co/blogs/journal/why-1-blade-is-better-than-5. August 12, 2020
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