If you are looking to find the best safety razor then you have come to the right spot and I will do my best to help you out.
However, there is not really a definite answer as no two beards are alike. Except for maybe identical twins.
What works well for one guy may be horrible for another. To find out what will be the best razor for you will depend on your specific wants and needs.
You can find tips on how to shave with a DE safety razor on this other post but keep reading for advice on what to look for when buying your safety razor.
- VIKINGS BLADE The Chieftain
- Beginner – Merkur Long Handled Safety Razor (MK 23C) Or Van Der Hagen
- Butterfly – Parker 99R – Long Handle Heavyweight Butterfly
- Slant – Ikon X3 Slant Head Razor
- Open Comb – Muhle R41
- Adjustable – Merkur Futur
- Edwin Jagger DE89Lbl
- Merkur 34C Heavy Duty Classic
- Kit – Bevel Shave System Kit
What To Look For In A Safety Razor?
As we mentioned, finding the right safety razor for you requires knowing what you want or need from it.
There are only a handful of factors that affect how your safety razor will work. The head and handle of the razor will play the biggest role in how your razor works. However, the type of blade you use will also have a big role.
Besides the physical elements, you will then see fashion come into play. There are many different finishes or designs on the handles and different types of plating materials.
These elements do not really affect how the razor shaves but if these things are important to you then it is worth considering.
If you have never tried a safety razor before you may be tempted to go for a mild razor out of fear of cutting yourself during the learning curve.
I would only recommend doing this if you have a very light beard or if you have the money to buy additional razors.
You should get the razor you think will work best for you period. Not one to learn with because then you will probably wish you had purchased a better razor from the start.
You are going to have to learn either way if you are used to using an electric shaver or multi-blade cartridge razor so you might as well learn on the razor you want.
Safety Razor Heads
The types of heads vary widely on safety razors and can have the biggest effect on the performance of the razor.
They are usually classified as open or closed as well as straight or slanted.
One is not necessarily better than the other. However, they will be more or less aggressive which is going to be a personal preference for you.
In general, you may want a more aggressive razor if you have thicker or coarse beard hair.
Those of you with sensitive skin or lighter beards may opt for a mild razor.
Some braver fellows actually prefer a slant razor for sensitive skin. If you think about their reasoning it makes sense, but you will surely need to test it out for yourself.
Slant razors are some of the most aggressive, therefore they could require less pressure and passes when shaving. This is said to help reduce irritation.
Let’s dive deeper into each type of head.
There is a wide consensus that closed comb razors are less aggressive than open comb razors. However, this definitely depends on which two razors you are comparing.
Closed comb razors have a safety bar underneath the blade that is there to, uh, provide safety!
The metal bar leads the shaving edge pushing down on your whiskers which offers less exposure to the blade and you may be less likely to cut yourself.
On the flip side, some guys say since there is more metal touching your face as you shave this causes friction. This cause the razor to jump around on the skin, which could mean more passes for a smooth shave.
Another thing about closed comb razors is they can get clogged easier than open combs. This just means you need to rinse your razor more frequently during your shave.
Not a huge deal but a consideration nonetheless.
Now, even though the closed combs have a safety bar, you can still find them with a nice sized blade gap and quite aggressive.
There are also several guys who say there is not difference in aggression levels between open and closed combs. It really comes down to blade exposure (gap) and the weight of the razor itself.
As we just mentioned, the open comb razors are usually considered more aggressive since there is more blade exposure.
Instead of a solid bar of metal like the closed comb, open combs have teeth which allow for less metal to touch your face as you shave.
Some say this results in a better shave since there is less friction and possibly less passes. This could also leave more lather on your face for the blade.
Others say the teeth help guide your hairs into the blade but this probably only happens if you have a couple days’ worth of beard growth.
The better tell of an open comb razor’s aggressiveness is going to be the blade exposure. While it may be inherently higher because of the open teeth, you can still find open comb razors with mild blade gaps.
Scalloped bars are another type of closed comb razor. Instead of a solid safety bar they scallop bars have mini indentions along the bar, like scallops.
These indentions are said to act like micro-combs, or less aggressive version of an open comb razor.
However, there is not any solid evidence that these indentions do much for the shave. They for sure won’t increase the aggressiveness.
They may possible reduce friction which could result in a better shave.
A good example of this is the Vikings Blade Chieftain, their micro-combs are very well pronounced on the safety bar.
Slant VS. Straight Bar
While not many brave souls reach for the slant bar, it can give quite an impressive shave.
Each side of the head has a slant so it puts a diagonal twist on the blade which allows it to cut with a slicing motion with much more efficiency.
If you think about it, a straight bar hits all of your hair at the same time when shaving creating a lot of resistance.
With a slant bar, the blade will hit different sections of your beard at different points creating less friction and a much more aggressive shave.
Some guys will not that they can get a smooth shave with just two passes with one of these vs. 3-4 with a more traditional straight bar safety razor.
On the rare occasion, some will also say these could be good for those with sensitive skin because of the whole less pressure, less passes theory.
The gaps between the blade and the cap of the head are known as blade gaps.
They can range from .25mm on the mild side to 1.75mm on the aggressive end.
Now, when you are dealing with fractions of a millimeter it seems very small. But when you are dealing with a super sharp razor blade, it can make a big difference.
The gap is going to be one of the biggest determining factors in terms of aggressiveness. The more the blade is exposed the more you will need to watch your technique.
Some razors are adjustable which allow you to change the gap of the blade by simply twisting a knob at the bottom.
These may be good for you if you are unsure of how aggressive you want to go or if you use different gaps for say your head over your beard.
The Merkur Futur is a good example of an adjustable safety razor. Even though it’s lowest setting starts on aggressive side of the spectrum at 1.12mm it can go all the way up to 1.75mm at the highest setting.
Safety Razor Handles
The handles on a safety razor play a role in the aggressiveness of the razor because of the weight it adds to the whole setup.
Besides the weight however, you will want to think about the overall length and type of grip that it has.
The length of a safety razor handle can range from just over 2 inches to just over 4 inches. Most reside somewhere between 3 and 4 inches.
The length may actually only come into play if you have larger hands. If you do then the shorter handles may feel small to you and could become awkward to grip when performing and against the grain pass.
Many guys feel like the shorter handles give more control. But you can always move up your grip on the longer handles to achieve the same affect.
What type of finish the manufacturer puts on the handle will also affect the grip.
Some safety razor handles come with a smooth matte finish, which some say can be slippery if your hands are covered with shaving cream.
Most metal handles will have a knurled, textured finish that allows for a steadier grip.
However, just like many features the type of finish is mainly a personal preference.
As to the weight of the handle, obviously the bigger it is the heavier it will be making the razor more aggressive.
However, the type of material used and the design will also come into play. Some handles are hollow so looks can be deceiving at times.
Most razors weigh somewhere between 2 & 4 ounces.
With the lighter razors, some men feel they need to apply the lightest bit of pressure for a proper shave however, as the weight increases you should let the razor do more and more of the work as to avoid any nicks.
Handles can be made of several materials:
- Chrome plated metal (most popular)
- Plastic resin
- Stainless steel
When you get into the wood and bone handles you are really going for looks there. They don’t really make the razor shave any better.
Handles and heads are often interchangeable. So it is not uncommon for guys to have a few of each and play around with different combinations to find their perfect shave.
Safety Razor Build – 1, 2 or 3 Pieces
When you are shopping for safety razor you will notice they come as either a single item, a 2 piece or 3-piece razor.
One piece safety razors are known as butterfly razors or Twist To Opens (TTO). These are great for convenience and many of the most popular razors are butterfly.
These have two doors on top of the head that close over the blade or open by twisting a knob at the base of the handle.
It makes changing blades really fast, however, you only need to change them about once a week anyway so the speed is not a huge added benefit.
One downfall to these is the doors that cover the blade could bend or break with the fall which could cause the razor to nor work properly.
Sometimes you will also see reviews of the knob that opens the razor becoming loose over time which is not good for safety!
However, there are many popular butterfly razors that should work just fine for many years.
The most common type of safety razor is a 3-piece setup where you have a base plate, cap and handle. The handle has a threaded screw at the top that connects all three pieces.
Guys love this because they allow for perfect alignment of the blade every time. Sometimes there can be wiggle room in a butterfly razor that can cause the blade to come off alignment.
I would like to say you don’t have to worry about these types breaking but there have been instances where the screw pops off the handle after a fall.
Usually this is on an older razor that might have some corrosion, let’s just say there are less moving parts.
Finally, you will also find 2-piece safety razors. These have the base plate permanently fixed to the handle.
The cap has a long screw that is inserted and then the handle is twisted on until it’s tight.
These are very similar to a 3-piece, you may find that you don’t have to handle the razor as much when changing the blades.
Don’t Forget About The Blade
OK, so far, we have spent all this time talking about the safety razors but remember the blade can have a big effect on the performance as well.
So, if you get your razor setup and are not particularly thrilled with how it is working for you, don’t give up on it just yet.
You may need to try several different blades to find the right razor/blade combo.
This goes back to the old saying of your mileage may vary (YMMV) which essentially means no two beards are the same.
Everyone will have different skin types which will determine what type of razor they need.
But it’s just a razor blade, aren’t they all the same?
No, absolutely not. They are generally graded as either smooth or sharp and will shave very differently.
You can use the blade to really fine tune your shave. For example, if you have an aggressive razor you can offset it by using a smoother blade or vice versa.
Don’t skip out on doing your homework on the blade!
Cream, Soaps, Oils and Other Accessories For Your Safety Razors
If you have been shopping around know I’m sure you have seen a lot of other products that you could buy to go along with your safety razor.
This was supposed to be cheaper?!
Well, it is and many of these extra products are more wants than needs.
You can find more detailed articles on those items here:
- Shaving cream
- Shaving soap
- Pre-shave oil
- Badger hair shaving brush
- Boar bristle shaving brush
- Shaving bowls
Can you keep using your favorite shaving cream or gel? Absolutely.
Many guys often start looking into the old-fashioned creams and soaps that you whip in a bowl to create your own lather to get a better shave.
You can find them with many high-quality ingredients that help reduce nicks and skin irritation.
Wet shaving enthusiasts like to try many different variety almost like a guy who loves craft beer.
It becomes more about the entire shave experience for them.
But, these are not necessary to use with your safety razor, whatever you are currently using will work just fine.
VIKINGS BLADE The Chieftain #1
Vikings Blade is an Australian company that puts an immense focus on quality. They use high quality Swedish materials in their Chieftain safety razor.
The Chieftain is a butterfly safety razor and like we mentioned earlier has their very own micro-comb on the safety bar.
These should help reduce friction and therefore also help prevent nicks and cuts.
You could call it a kit as it comes with 5 starter blades and a suede travel case.
This is Amazon’s number one best seller and comes highly rated at 4.8 stars with almost 3,000 reviews. Perfection is impossible but how much closer can you get?
You will be hard pressed to find another razor with such a high rating and that many reviews.
The Chieftain is not the most aggressive razor but still offers a close and smooth shave.
You will find happy customers of all kinds talking about how great this razor is, women, men, older, and younger. Experienced wet shavers and beginners all really seem to love the Chieftain.
Most of the complaints seem to be from guys who maybe didn’t have the best technique. Like when they say it doesn’t give a close shave.
You can get a close shave with any razor, some just require more passes than others.
Beginner – Merkur Long Handled Safety Razor (MK 23C) Or Van Der Hagen
Merkur’s 23C is one of the best razors out there for beginners.
It has a mild blade gap as well as a scalloped closed comb to help prevent cuts. The long handle is nice on this razor for guys with large hands or men with average hands.
Merkur has long been considered one of the better manufacturers of safety razors and the quality materials they use.
It is not the heaviest razor but that is why it is better for newbies and will be more forgiving if you have poor technique.
While it doesn’t have, a huge blade gap it shouldn’t clog either, many have said how easy it is to shave with this razor and keep it clean during the process.
This is also a highly-rated razor with over 5,000 reviews and not many common complaints.
Most people seem to love the smooth shave they get without all of the irritation that that cartridge razors tend to give them.
If you take the time to care for this razor and keep it clean and dry in between uses it should last you a very long time.
Leaving the razor or blade exposed to water for too long is not good for it.
Another great candidate for beginners is the Van Der Hagen.
This butterfly safety razor is about 3.5 inches long and also has the micro-combs in safety bar to help reduce friction as you shave.
The blade gap on this razor is very mild yet don’t get sloppy as it can still cut you without warning.
This German made razor is a brass metal plated with chrome which gives the razor enough weight that it can do most of the work.
This razor is also one of the most affordable on this list if you are not completely sold on the whole wet shaving idea you won’t have to invest too much money with this razor. Or it could be a great gift that has a high perceived value.
Many of the complaints are newbies that cut their face several times with the razor.
It is important to have the right expectations when buying the your safety razor. Know that you will have to learn the technique and cannot rush through your usual shave.
Obviously, there are better razors out there but if you are just looking to get your feet wet this will definitely get the job done.
Best Butterfly Safety Razor – Parker 99R – Long Handle Heavyweight Butterfly
Parker is another popular safety razor brand that has come a long way in the last couple years. They have been around for over 40 but in the last decade their quality has been on par with other big name brands.
The 99R is one of the better safety razors with a butterfly opening you can buy. It has a long 4-inch handle which gives it a nice 3.4-ounce weight so it can do the work for you.
It also has a solid brass frame that is chrome plated to help it resist corrosion for many years.
The blade gap is a little wider than the other razors mentioned so far giving it a more aggressive feel. Combine that with the weight of the handle you should be able to get a very efficient shave.
Some guys have said the butterfly doors are on the thin side so just make sure you are not too rough with it or try not to drop it.
This razor is great for both beginners and experience wet shavers.
Besides a few people who may have received a defective product, there were a couple complaints who said the TTO mechanism failed after a couple months.
It’s probably safe to assume these were just a bad batch as there are several positive reviews who have had theirs for over a year with no issues.
Best Slant Razor – Ikon X3 Slant Head Razor
If you are looking to invest more in just one razor the Ikon X3 would not be a bad choice with a slant bar.
Ikon is known for its quality and this stainless-steel slant razor is one of the best out there.
Some guys say you can hardly feel the blade cutting your hair and many only need two passes to get a smooth shave.
The handle is a little shorter being just over 3 inches but the steel in the handle still gives it a solid weight.
The head is made out of aluminum which helps bring the cost down.
This is one of those buy it for life type razors that will last a long time if you take care of it properly.
The angle that the razor cuts at really helps cut your beard hairs easier so that you experience less irritation or razor bumps.
The main down fall on this one is definitely the cost. It is about double most of the other razors on here, but you normally get what you pay for.
The other thing is if this is your first razor, expect some cuts. Just be sure to apply absolutely no pressure when using this blade!
Open Comb – Muhle R41
Muhle’s R41 is one of the great safety razors with an open comb you can buy. It is also known as one of the most aggressive razors out there.
In 2013, they tweaked it to give you a smoother shave. So if you like this one just make sure you don’t get the 2011 version, which can be unforgiving to your skin.
Muhle is known for their excellent chrome plating which helps the razors last longer. However, it is not perfect and the chrome could still get compromised if you get lazy with it.
The open comb really helps keep the blade free from stubble and lather build up. Like we mentioned earlier, this will reduce overall friction between your skin and the blade.
This razor is moderately priced and has a pretty good rating on Amazon with over 150 reviews.
When you read, what people say you will get a feel for the manliness factor that comes with owning this razor from its aggressive nature.
Guys usually grab one of these after owning at least one other razor.
Surprisingly, out of the few complaints, they actually said this razor wasn’t aggressive!
Maybe it was too hyped up and they had very high expectations.
You shouldn’t fear this razor though, just like others you need to take your time with it and you will be fine.
Adjustable – Merkur Futur
The Futur by Merkur is an adjustable safety razor.
It comes in a matte or chrome finish and as we mentioned earlier is on the aggressive side.
This is a two-piece razor where the head simply clicks in and out of the base plate to make for easy blade changes.
The Futur is long at 4.3 inches and heavier at 4.3 ounces adding to its aggressiveness.
This is a quality razor that could be great if you have thicker hair or like having an efficient shave. The blade gap becomes quite aggressive on the highest setting.
It might also be nice to use different settings on different areas of your face. If you are more prone to irritation in some areas rather than others.
Some of the negative comments talk about the adjustment mechanism failing which can happen with any of the razors that have moving parts.
Others say this was too aggressive for them so make sure you know what you are getting into with this one.
However, there are still many happy customers having over 500 reviews and a 4.5-star rating.
This could be another great second or third razor to look into.
Edwin Jagger DE89Lbl
Edwin Jagger’s DE89lbl is another very popular option on Amazon with over 4,000 reviews and a 4.4-star rating this one is a top favorite.
It actually shares the same head as the Muhle R89, the Muhle has a larger handle and some say their chrome plating is superior. However, this Edwin Jagger is a little more affordable.
You will see many guys preferring this razor over Merkurs for its smooth shave that it gives. It is not as aggressive as some others but may be more comfortable.
There were a couple instances where the handle broke off after a fall. You can’t really expect things to survive falls but a drop onto a rug on the floor shouldn’t be too horrible.
The manufacturer was quick to send replacements though so at least they stood by their product.
This seems to be the main complaint so just be sure to keep this razor dry in between use to prevent corrosion on the screw. You probably will want to let it air dry completely disassembled after each use before screwing it back together.
This is one of the nicer looking safety razors on the list. You can also get a handle that is ebony, ivory or lined chrome besides the flat chrome.
Merkur 34C Heavy Duty Classic
The Merkur 34C is a moderately aggressive razor with a blade gap of .71mm and solid construction.
It has a shorter but thicker handle giving it the “HD” but has a nice hefty weight and balance that you will enjoy throughout your shave.
The shorter handle will give you better control in hard to reach places like under your nose and other places.
This razor is often recommended for beginners. This could be great for experienced shavers as well depending on your beard type.
There are not many fans of the Merkur blade that comes with it so you will probably want to grab another kind with this razor.
If you already know what blade you like, great, if not there are several variety packs to choose from.
There weren’t many complaints, most of them were just guys who didn’t like the razor compared others.
Others seemed to have incorrect expectations for a safety razor and how it works.
Overall, this should be a quality razor that will give you several years of use with proper care.
Best Kit – Bevel Shave System Kit
If you are really looking to dive deep into wet shaving the Bevel Shave System Kit comes with just about everything you need. And it’s just a few dollars more than the Ikon above.
It comes with the safety razor, pre-shave oil, shaving cream, a badger shaving brush, starter pack of blades and restoring balm.
You literally get all of the extras mentioned before that are considered wants and not needs.
The razor itself has a sleek, modern looking design with a matte finish.
The kit itself is marketed towards men suffering from razor bumps. However, any of these razors will help with that.
However, combined with all of the extra accessories you are really setting yourself up for success.
The reviews seem to back up their claims with several guys who have sensitive skin loving this kit.
Most of the complaints were from those who simply didn’t like the kit or had trouble using the razor as a beginner.
Most people really love this kit however with 85% of the reviews being 5 star.
If you like the idea of this kit but don’t want to pay for it all at once you can get it as a subscription through Bevel’s website here. Just be sure to cancel before the 90 days is over if you don’t want to continue receiving the oil, cream and blades.
If you made it this far, thanks for sticking with us!
As you can see there are only a handful of elements that really affect how the safety razor will perform. Though within each of those elements there is a lot to consider.
Finding a good safety razor for you will depend on your beard type and your preferences. If you are new to wet shaving you may need to try a razor or two before you find the right one.
Either way, shaving with a doubled edge safety razor should be an enjoyable experience. So, if you are not feeling that way maybe it is not right for you.