The Stoic philosopher Epictetus famously stated that he would rather embrace death than shave his beard.Wow.
That’s taking it to an extreme!
A completely shaven face is indicative of good grooming habits and a professional attitude.
My first experience shaving was at the age of fifteen.
Back then – my choice of razor was plastic, the disposable type found in local drug stores. It wasn’t a pleasant experience.
It took years of experimenting with different types of razors and hours of practice until I got the hang of the ultimate way to shave your face – using a straight razor.
Nowadays I use each method depending on the situation and my needs – but I do have a favorite.
Have you experimented with various ways to shave your face?
What’s your favorite method?
#1 – Disposable Razors
These razors are designed to be discarded after one or two shaves. The plastic handle is permanently attached to a shaving head.
Disposable razors are inexpensive and sold in packs of between ten and twenty.
They are a great stop gap solution in an emergency which makes them ideal for camping or travel. The convenience of a disposable razor means you end up carrying less in your travel bag.
They have a comfortable handle but the light weight of the razor forces more pressure on the grip. It adds to the discomfort as getting the right pressure for a relaxed shave becomes a challenge.
The blades are made of flimsy steel and stay sharp for just a couple of shaves. The quality of these razors is sub par. The inflexible shaving head and poor quality blades deliver uneven shaves and result in ingrown hairs on a man’s face.
#2 – Electric Razors
The popular choice of regular travelers and men who are constantly on the move.
The design and function of electric razors has improved leaps and bounds in the past few decades. I use the Philips Norelco Series 9000 electric shaver. It is effective and gets the job done in a jiffy.
Pros: The advantage of an electric razor is they can be used on the go. Even in a car just before a routine Marine Corps inspection
Unlike traditional shaving – an electric razor can be used without shaving cream. A bathroom sink and water are not necessary – although preferred.
Cons: They are rarely as effective as a double edge razor in giving a close shave. Though electric razors are convenient and quick – many men complain of irritated skin after using them.
#3 – Cartridge Razors
Gillette Mach 3 is the most popular cartridge razor. These are simple to use and allow shaving with or against the grain of hair follicles.
Cartridge razors consist of a plastic or metal handle with a flexible center that allows the razor to follow the shape of your face. The replaceable cartridges contain up to six stainless steel blades.
The entire cartridge is replaced as needed. Each cartridge is effective for 3-4 shaves.
They are also the safest to use – a good shave takes about ten minutes and there is no danger of accidentally cutting while shaving.
The problem with these razors is the ever increasing price. At around $1 a shave – $350 a year, the replaceable cartridges are not easy on the pocket.
As the blade cuts through the beard – hair follicles get stuck in between the blades. Multiple passes are sometimes required to shave a cross section of stubble, causing shaving irritation and ingrown hairs.
These razors are environmentally wasteful and over time disposable razors work out more expensive than safety razors.
Decades of slick advertising claiming the advantages of a multi-blade cartridge over a razors hasn’t convinced men who are now making the switch to the remaining two types of razors.
I tested several cartridge razors. Do you want to know my preferred brand? Check out my Razor Ranking List here.
#4 – Safety Razors
Now we’re going old school. Safety razors are probably what your grandfather and in some cases – your father used for his daily shave.
A slight edge of a single razor blade makes contact with the skin – preventing the blade from cutting into the skin. Hence the name – safety razor.
These razors consist of a permanent handle with a metal head which holds a replaceable, single stainless steel razor blade with two sharp edges.
Depending on the frequency of use – these blades can be replaced once a week.
The cost of a safety razor ranges between $25 -$150. The cost of double-edge razor blades ranges from $.09 to $.70. That’s an annual cost of $36 for blades! And a well made safety razors lasts a lifetime with proper care.
Double-edge razor blades require a very light touch to effectively shave your beard. Since so little pressure is required – most men find they do not suffer from shaving irritation, rash or ingrown hairs.
Safety razors require hours of practice before they become easy easy to use. Careful attention is required to avoid nicks and small cuts. Also your initial investment is going to be higher (although within a couple months you’ll break even and then start saving money!)
My favorite safety razors are made by Merkur and Edwin Jagger.
View this Razor Ranking List for other safety razors I have used.
#5 – Straight Razors
Straight razors or Cut Throat Razors consist of a sharp blade that folds into the handle.
The permanent blade is made of hardened steel. The handle of the razor is made of wood, metal, horn, bone or plastic.
The blade and the handle are often engraved and customised to the preferences of the user.
The sharp edges of the blade provides the closest of shaves.
A straight razor will last forever but needs frequent stropping and honing to keep its metal edge straight and sharp.
The price of a straight razor ranges from $40 – $200. The existing blade does not need to be replaced – it can be sharpened at home.
A straight razor is the most cost effective method of shaving your face.
You can easily receive a serious injury from a straight razor because the blade can cut to any depth into your skin unless you are super careful.
It takes a lot of practice, skill, time and maintenance to get the process of shaving right with a straight razor.