In your quest for the best wet shave, you must first find the best safety razor. A quality safety razor provides a shaving experience that is truly superior to a cartridge or electric shave. What’s more, selecting the best safety razor for your needs can save you time and money in the long run.
This article will help guide you in your quest towards finding that Shangri-Lah of safety razors. We’ve scoured the web to bring you the most comprehensive guide on wet shaving, safety razors, and their accessories.
It will be a long trip, but by the time you reach the end of this article, you’ll know more about wet shaving than an 18th century dapper Englishman. What’s more, you’ll be armed with enough information to find the best safety razor you can find.
The Quick List to What's Best:
Table of Contents: This guide is very in depth! This should help.
Our Top 5 Best Safety Razors
So what exactly makes a safety razor the “best safety razor?” Choosing a safety razor is a bit like picking out a new automobile. There are a lot of things to consider, including a mix of preference and practical.
The size, material, brand name, construction, and durability are just a few of the things to consider when trying to determine what makes a safety razor the best safety razor. Beyond that, your specific skin and hair type will impact your decision as well. The razors we’re going to look at offer a good mix of value and options to give you a few ideas of where to start looking.
Merkur Long Handled Safety Razor
When it comes to overall value, the Merkur Long Handled Safety Razor is our #1 pick. Merkur is a German company and is well known among shaving enthusiasts.
They have a reputation for producing quality razors that last and this razor is no different.
What makes it stand out:
The Merkur long handed safety razor provides a close, quality shave. This razor is a great option no matter what your shaving skill level is. The extra-long handle is ideal for men with larger hands. The non-slip grip is ideal for shower shaving and the stainless steel construction and chrome finish prevents rusting from shower shaving.
Quality of the shave:
The double edged design means the blade sticks out of both sides of the razor, providing a close and quality shave. Whether or not this is the “best safety razor” for you, the quality of the shave is far superior to cartridge and electric shavers.
As an experiment, we shaved with a leading brand-name cartridge razor before shaving the same area with the Merkur. We found that the Merkur provided a much closer shave, cutting follicles that the cartridge razor had missed. We’re guessing this is going to be a theme with all of the safety razors we test here today.
What makes it the best safety razor:
Easy to use and clean. Good for people with larger hands, easy to hold with the non-slip grip surface. Provides a close shave. Any double edged blade will work as a replacement.
The Merkur long handled safety razor provides an exceptional shave that rivals more expensive competitors. This razor provides a closer shave than cartridge brand razors, is easy to use as well as clean and maintain. The Merkur is our #1 choice for overall quality, affordability, and performance. We feel confident labeling this the best safety razor on this list.
Good for: experienced wet shavers and novices alike. A no frills razor that delivers on quality and value at an attractive price point. If you’re looking for a combination of value and durability without anything extra, this is the best safety razor for you.
Just got myself a Merkur Safety Razor! I can't wait to try it out. Thanks @imanscape1
Vikings Blade Double Edge Safety Razor
The Vikings Blade Double Edge Safety Razor is a manly styled safety razor that delivers on many levels. The heavy duty construction approximates the feeling of Thor’s hammer if one could safely use that to shave with.
What makes it stand out:
The unique butterfly razor head design makes replacing worn out blades quick and easy. The weight, heavier than many similar brands, adds a feeling of strength and durability. Overall a quality safety razor that provides a close, comfortable shave.
Quality of the shave:
The Vikings Blade Double Edge Safety Razor provides a close, quality shave on par with other safety razors on the market. A unique feature of the Vikings blade is their microcomb feature, designed to minimize the aggressiveness of the blade.
The microcomb feature, in short, limits the blade exposure to prevent accidentally cuts. The benefit is a razor that is easier to use and minimizes the chance of cutting yourself. On the other side, this also prevents the blade from making as much contact with your face.
Despite fears that the microcomb system would negatively impact the closeness of the shave, we still give the Viking high marks. As with all of our reviews, we tested the razor against a leading brand of cartridge razor. We found the Vikings Blade Double Edge Safety Razor once again provided a closer shave than the cartridge brand.
It should be noted at this point that opinions on the pros/cons of the microcomb feature will vary. As a bonus, Vikings Blade offers a 100% satisfaction guarantee on all of their products. If the microcomb, or any aspect of the razor isn’t for you, simply return the razor with no questions asked.
What makes it the best safety razor:
The only safety razor “endorsed by Vikings” (although we’re not 100% sure that’s accurate). Comes with five replacement blades and a carrying case. The quality butterfly head design makes blade replacing quick and easy. The microcomb feature is ideal for those new to wet shaving or are less experienced with safety razors.
There is nothing wrong with this safety razor in terms of the quality of the shave it provides. At nearly $10 more than our #1 pick Merkur this razor provides a similar quality shave. However, the kit includes a carrying case and five replacement blades. We consider this the best safety razor for vikings. Also, it’s a great safety razor for beginners.
Good for: Newcomers or moderately experienced wet shavers. The butterfly design makes changing blades an easy task. The microcomb feature may turn off the more hardcore shaver and endear the newcomer. The case and replacement blades included make this an attractive gift for any manly Viking.
Shaveology DE Safety Razor Kit
The Shaveology DE Safety Razor Kit provides a little extra bang for your buck. They include some additional accessories and if you’re a frugal spirit that might excite you.
You’ll get 5 replacement blades, a leather protector for your razor, a Shaveology polishing cloth, and of course the safety razor itself.
What makes it stand out:
The Shaveology Safety Razor Kit provides a little bit of everything for your safety razor shaving needs. The kit includes the safety razor itself, five replacement blades, a polishing cloth, and a leather blade protector.
Quality of the Shave:
As with many safety razors, the Shaveology brand provides a good, close shave that is undoubtedly better than cartridge replacements. In our test vs. a leading brand of cartridge razor, the shaveology brand definitely picked up hair that was left behind.
The default blades that come in the kit are not the sharpest available so you may find a desire to switch to a sharper replacement brand. The type of blade that works best for you may vary greatly depending on your shaving style as well as your hair and skin type.
What makes it the best safety razor:
A great kit to start off with. Contains many additional products that provide value.
There’s a lot to like about the Shaveology kit and it makes an attractive starter kit for newcomers or as a gift. The polish cloth and leather blade protector are classy additions and add value to an already well-priced kit.
Good for: a gift to introduce someone to wet shaving. The kit contains all of the bells and whistles to make an attractive present. While there are better razors available for more experienced/dedicated shavers, this is a great place to start.
Parker 99R Heavyweight Razor
The Parker 99R Heavyweight razor is great for those with larger hands. You might not think that the extra weighted handle makes that much of a difference, but in reality it really does.
The long heavyweight handle makes it much easier to control for large handed individuals.
What makes it stand out:
The Parker 99R is a solid safety razor. It combines a few quality options to deliver an overall quality razor. It features a twist-to-open butterfly style design for easy blade replacement, as well as a textured handle for easy gripping. This also helps when using in wet conditions.
Quality of the Shave:
As expected, this safety razor outperformed the cartridge shave in our testing. After shaving with a leading cartridge razor brand, we were still able to remove hair with the Parker.
What makes it the best safety razor:
Butterfly design makes for easy blade replacement. No-slip textured grip works well for shower shaving. Razor comes with 10 replacement blades which is a great addition/upgrade to other similar kits.
Parker makes a great razor and the 99R is no different. The long-handled design is ideal for those with larger hands. A quality razor with a butterfly head for easy blade replacement.
Good for: More experienced wet shavers who are looking for a long-handled model to suit their needs. For newcomers, the butterfly head is a great feature to look for in blade replacement. No need cutting yourself if you don’t have to!
Merkur Futur Adjustable Safety Razor
The Merkur Future Adjustable Safety Razor is the big brother of our #1 recommendation. It gives a great shave just the same as the other Merkur, but has some fancier aspects such as adjustable angles and matte finish.
While these are wonderful aspects to have you can achieve a the same great shave from Merkur by creating your own angle. The added benefit of being adjustable wasn’t enough for us to make it #1. However if you’re about luxury then, yes! Get this one now.
What makes it stand out:
The Merkur Futur is an adjustable safety razor that allows you to determine the level of blade exposure. There are six different settings which range from mild to aggressive, depending on your needs.
Quality of the Shave:
The adjustable setting allows for an extremely close shave if desired. As usual, the safety razor far outperformed the leading cartridge brand razor. When tested on multiple blade exposure settings, the difference was definitely noticeable.
What makes it the best safety razor:
Adjustable blade exposure means you can choose how aggressive you want your shave to be.
If you want the option to set the aggressiveness of your shave, the Merkur is an excellent option and this razor is the Rolls Royce of the Merkur brand.
Good for: experienced shavers who want a level of choice with setting their blade exposure. This razor is not recommended for first time buyers or those who are not experienced with wet shaving. A little trial and error may be required to find the ideal blade exposure setting.
So which one is the best safety razor?
There are many fine safety razors available for you to try. Any of the razors on this list would make a great addition to your personal shaving collection. Determining the best safety razor for you is a question that we can’t answer definitively.
These five razors represent a good mixture of options, value, and quality for you to choose from. Consider your hair and skin type when making a selection. While we can’t make the choice for you, we’re confident one of these razors is the best safety razor for you.
Why Wet Shaving?
Now that we’ve covered choosing the best safety razor, let’s move on to wet shaving in general. Wet shaving is a lost art when it comes to personal hygiene and grooming. The method provides a shave that is superior to other forms of shaving in every possible way.
Wet shaving, when compared to cartridge and electric shave options, is a closer, more complete shave. If that wasn’t enough, it can also save you a ton of money compared to cartridge shaving. We’ll cover more on that in a moment.
If you’re wondering just what we mean by “wet shaving” chances are you already are familiar with it. Have you ever seen a movie or a television show that featured a scene with a man shaving? Was the scene was made more than 15 or 20 years ago? If so, you’ve probably already seen wet shaving in action.
Conjure up the memory of that scene and if you see the man standing in front of the mirror, using a brush to slather foam on his face and a metal razor you’re on the right track. Wet shaving with a safety razor isn’t just a method of shaving, at one point in time it was pretty much the ONLY method of shaving available.
Today, many men opt for an electric shave which, while convenient, does not deliver a close, quality shave. Cartridge shaving likewise is expensive and provides a lesser quality shave. Still, if you were taught to shave while standing in front of the bathroom mirror, you like had an introduction to wet shaving.
Wet Shaving 101: A Beginner’s Guide
Wet shaving begins with splashing warm water over the face. This helps open the pores of your skin and get the hair ready for shaving. Some men use a pre-shave lotion in addition to water. This helps to lubricate your skin and provide a smooth surface for the blade.
Shaving cream or foam is then spread over the face with a brush in a circular motion. The circular motion helps lather the foam and distribute it evenly. It also helps the hair stand up straight for close, even shaving.
The first thing you’ll notice is that shaving with a safety razor differs from shaving with a cartridge razor. While the concepts are the same, the main differences are the speed at which you shave and the angle of the blade.
When wet shaving with a safety razor, slow and steady wins the race. Trying to make too many passes too quickly will most certainly result in blood. Likewise, the angle must be carefully determined. The specific angle that suits you will vary. This is why finding the best safety razor for your face and technique is important.
Your specific hair type as well as the blade and razor you use will impact the ideal angle. Even the unique contours of your face will factor in. The best place to being figuring out your ideal blade angle is your cheek, which is the softest part of your face.
Begin with the head of the razor pointing directly towards your cheek. Slowly begin to angle the blade downward. Once you begin to feel the blade pressing against your skin you’re almost there. A general rule is to hold the razor at around a 30-degree angle.
Slow and steady wins the face
As you feel the blade press against your skin, slowly let the razor fall downward against your face. This is where you’ll need to experiment a little with angle and technique. The best advice we have is to go slowly and take your time until you get the hang of it.
When shaving with a cartridge or electric razor, there is a tendency to press the blade into your face. DO NOT do this. Remember, the blade is running directly across your face so increased pressure is a bad thing. This will dig the blade into your skin and cause you to cut yourself.
Another tendency with cartridge shaving is to go quickly. In fact, if you’re familiar with a cartridge shave, you’ve no doubt made several quick passes without thinking twice about it. This is another bad idea with safety razors.
You are making fewer passes with a safety razor and there is no protective strip as with cartridge shaves. Making several quick passes will most certainly result in cuts and should be avoided. Instead, simply let the weight of the razor and gravity do the work.
Once you’ve found the proper angle, let the razor cut the hair by making a slow, gentle descent down your skin. You’re not pulling it down your face so much as using your hand to guide it downward. Let the razor do the work.
The Bottom Line
Wet shaving with a safety razor is an exceptional choice for daily face shaving and the high quality and durability make it a great option for the dedicated manscaper as well. Whatever your desire, wet shaving with a safety razor delivers a classic shave that would make your granddad proud.
In the long run, you’ll learn to shave closer and better than ever before while saving money in the process. Now that’s a win-win any way you slice it. Yes, the pun was intended.
- Remember slow and steady wins the race.
- Pre-shave lotion helps lubricate your skin and provides a smoother surface for your razor to glide across.
- Shave with the grain of your hair. A common mistake is trying to shave against the grain of your hair. For most men, shaving downward will be "with the grain". Shaving against the grain increases the risk of ingrown hairs, cuts, and razor burn.
- Rinse with hot AND cold water. Hot water helps clean and wash away your shaving foam, oils, and any clipped hair that remain. Cold water then helps to close your pores to prevent any after shave cream or lotions from entering your skin.
What is a safety razor anyway?
Now that we’ve searched for the best safety razor, let’s delve into a little history behind the razor itself. Safety razors were, at one time, the premiere shaving option for men. They bridged the gap between a straight razor shave and the cartridge razors you may be more familiar with today.
Safety razors were first developed by Gillette. Up until that point, men shaved with straight razors. As the name implies, straight razors were just what they sound like: a straight blade that made direct contact with your face.
Straight razors afforded no level of comfort or safety to the individual. Shaving entailed running a blade directly across your face. When the razor became dull, you sharpened it. When the blade became too dull to sharpen anymore, you purchased a new one.
The introduction of the safety razor was a game changer to the world of shaving. The first difference was the idea of the replaceable blade. This meant no more sharpening or purchasing a whole new razor. When the blade ran dull you simply installed a new one.
- Need an affordable beginner safety razor? Check out this Weishi razor.
Ditch the 6 bladed modern day razor and learn to wet shave like a man!
It may be “your dad’s razor,” but he had a point.
Safety razors were widely used by men all over the world until about 20 years ago. Odds are your father or grandfather had one and used it as his primary shaving tool. In fact, this may even be how you were taught to shave, even if you never ran with it.
In brief, safety razors are constructed with a protective barrier in between the blade and your skin. This helps to minimize the risk of cutting yourself. Safety razors feature a disposable blade attached to a reusable, permanent head and handle.
Since the handle and blade head are permanent, only the blade is replaced. In the long run this helps save money on replacement and upkeep costs.
There will certainly be a learning curve involved if you are currently used to cartridge or electric shaving. Most noticeably you will discover that a safety razor does not require as much pressure as a cartridge shave. A little practice will be in order, but there a multitude of available resources online to help you make the switch.
Why Choose A Safety Razor?
So, why are we on a quest to find you the best safety razor? It’s a quest that has reasons that straddle between luxury and practicality. Luxuriously speaking, wet shaving with a safety razor offers a pleasurable grooming experience. It can be a calming, near meditative act that becomes a ritual more than a chore.
On the practical side, safety razors offer a quality shave that is closer and more complete than cartridge razors. If quality isn’t a good enough reason, how about the fact that it save you big bucks in the long run?
Quality of the Shave
Through testing our top five safety razors we found that each provided a better quality shave than a cartridge razor. We expected this in our results. However, the current marketing of cartridge razors would have you believe that they are superior.
If you listen to advertising, more blades means a better shave, right? Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth.
Shaving is about cutting. Plain and simple. Is there any other time you cut something that you wish you had more blades? When chopping wood, would you rather have 5 axes or one really sharp one? How about cutting meat? Five knives or one really sharp one that does the trick?
Then why would five blades be better suited to shave with instead of one? Safety razor blades are made specifically for shaving. And they’re really sharp. You don’t need more than one.
Better for Sensitive Skin
Believe it or not, a safety razor provides a better shave for those with sensitive skin. One blade instead of multiple ones means there’s fewer passes. Fewer passes with fewer blades means less dragging, scraping, and irritation.
A cartridge razor also requires you to apply pressure to your face with the blade. This, combined with multiple passes means you quickly scrape away your lather and are shaving against your bare skin.
Because a safety razor requires you to shave slowly and deliberately, you make fewer passes (if any) against bare skin. Fewer passes, fewer blades, and more lather combine for a better, closer shave more suited for sensitive skin.
Safety blades are rated based on their aggressiveness. If you have sensitive skin, select a less aggressive blade to start with. You can always experiment with others later. This is another reason why variety packs are great options for beginners.
- Worried about nicking yourself? Get an alum block.
How can a safety razor possibly save time when we just finished up saying how it’s a slower, more careful shave? Since a safety razor provides a much closer shave you will increase the time between shaves. If you used to shave three times a week, perhaps now you can get away with twice.
The length of time a single shave will take is not significantly longer than shaving with a cartridge razor, and with time and practice there will be less of a gap. Wet shaving does take a little extra planning, but it’s well worth it.
Don't waste money on shaving! Wet shaving is much much cheaper.
Value of the razor
As you see from our reviews, most of the safety razors we’ve discussed fall into the $20-$30 price range. This is comparable, or in some cases better, than the leading electric razors on the market today. One razor, the Merkur Futur rose into a higher price category but still is comparable or better to high end electric options.
Cartridge razors are typically less expensive than the initial investment a safety razor entails, although not by much. The average cost of a good cartridge razor (just the razor) is around $20. Safety razors average a little higher cost but last for much longer. When you consider the average cost of blade replacements for each, the value in safety razors become clear.
Let’s Save some $$$
Most safety razor blades are double-edged, meaning it is sharp on both sides and either can be used to shave with. This is important to consider when talking about the longevity of the blade and the savings it provides.
The average cost of the leading cartridge brand razor replacements is between $25-$30 for a package of eight. The variety pack we recommend offers 100 blades and for less money. Once you find a blade style you like the savings increase exponentially.
The average cost of a package of 100 safety razor blades is around $10.00, give or take a few bucks. Now remember, 8 cartridge replacements cost $25.00 or so.
Assuming you shave every other day, a typical double-edged blade will last about a week, especially by using both sides. This means that a single pack of 100 DE safety razor blades will last you approximately two years for $10.00
Let’s assume for a moment that cartridge replacements last twice as long as safety razor blades (they don’t). Eight cartridges at two weeks per cartridge is sixteen weeks or 4 months. In two years you will have purchased 6 replacement packs of 8 cartridges at $25.00 each.
If we assume that cartridge replacements last about as long as safety razor blades the savings increase by quite a bit. That pack of 8 now lasts two months instead of four. In two years you will have purchased 12 replacement packs at a total cost of $300.00.
This estimate assumes your replacement razor will last for two years. If it breaks, that’s another $15-$25 to replace it. Since they are typically made from plastic, this is not only possible, it is likely. The steel and chrome construction of the average safety razor is far more durable and liable to last.
The Best Safety Razor Blades
There are many varieties of blades on the market that will fit most standard safety razors. Generally speaking, you can’t go wrong with most any safety razor blade, however there are differences between them. For that reason, we recommend a variety pack if you’re not sure which blade you need.
The Double Edge Safety Razor Blade Variety Pack Offers a good mix of the top brands of blades available on the market. The pack boasts 100 blades from ten different companies that will work in most any safety razor available.
- Read our Astra razor blade review.
Which one is the best?
The best safety razor blade is a matter of preference, specifically with regard to the sharpness. This is the biggest variation among blades and one you’ll want to consider when selecting a blade. The blades in this pack represent a good mixture of styles to choose from.
Don’t know where to begin? Here’s some tips:
- Consider your facial hair: Is it fine or coarse? Thick or thin? Generally speaking, the thicker and coarser your hair is, the more aggressive a blade you'll want. The same applies for longer facial hair. If your beard grows quick and long, aggressive is typically the blade for you.
- Skin type: Do you have soft, sensitive skin or are you prone to acne or razor burn? A less aggressive blade is probably the way to go.
- Skill level: It should go without saying that as a newcomer you'll probably want to start off with a less aggressive blade and work your way up. No sense cutting yourself if you don't have to.
How long do blades last?
While your safety razor may last a lifetime, the blades are not so durable. Some men advocate using a new blade for each shave. Given the relatively low cost of replacement blades (as little as $0.10 each) this is definitely possible, if desired.
With each use, the blade will begin to dull. Unfortunately, blades are not designed to last forever. Depending on the length and coarseness of your hair, you’ll want to change blades every three or four shaves.
Either side of a double-edged blade can be used to shave with. This will extend the life of the individual blade. If one side lasts you three shaves, then a single blade will last for six. This means that a single $10 box of 100 blades may potentially give you 600 shaves.
Assuming you shaved every single day, you would shave for 20 months before needing to buy more blades. That’s $10 for 20 months’ worth of shaving. Try getting that from cartridge replacements.
- Check out these damascus steel straight razors.
How do I dispose of them?
A razor blades is obviously sharp and throwing it in the garbage is not recommended, especially if you have kids around. If you want to get really hardcore with your razor disposal, consider a Razor disposal case. It looks like a medical biohazard case (because it is), and will make people wonder things about you.
Another method of disposal is to place your spent blades in a large, empty pill bottle that you can set on the sink. A large, empty Aspirin bottle will hold around 50 used blades and can be safely thrown in the garbage when full. Just be sure to let anyone else in the house know what you’re doing, lest they have a headache.
If you must throw a razor blade out in the garbage, wrap it in several sheets of toilet paper or tissues so the sharp blades are not exposed. Whenever possible, dispose of it inside a box or container of some kind.
Let’s get a handle on things
Another key factor to consider when determining the best safety razor is the size and material of the handle. Most safety razors we’ve mentioned so far feature a stainless steel handle with a chrome or similar finish. One obvious benefit of an all-metal handle is of course durability.
Acrylic, plastic, or other materials can also be found in safety handle construction. These may be more aesthetically pleasing, but do not offer the same level of durability. Of course it’s up to you how durable you need your razor to be. Do you plan on running over it with a tractor? Go with steel.
Does size matter? Possibly.
The length of the handle is a personal preference. Most safety razors have a handle of around 3 inches long from end to head. For reference, this is slightly shorter than the long end of a standard sized credit card. Other razors, such as the Merkur Long Handled Saftey razor come in at just under 4 inches.
Shaving with a safety razor does not typically require your hand to grasp the handle like a baseball bat. Remember, you are letting the weight of the blade do most of the work. As such, most men find that the typical 3-inch handle works just fine. If you have larger hands, the extra inch or so on a long handled model can really make the difference.
Get a Grip
If you’ve got slippery hands or plan on shaving in the shower, the last thing to consider is the grip. Most of the metal handled razors will feature a no-slip grip for a more secure feel. Again, this is a matter of preference but it’s a pretty useful feature if needed.
By now we’ve talked about everything you ever wanted to know about choosing the best safety razor. The fun part is accessorizing. There’s no sense in selecting the best safety razor if you’re not using the best accessories.
Accessories, like safety razors themselves, run the gamut from practical to preferential. While you don’t 100% need a shave brush or shave stand to enjoy wet shaving, they certainly help. We’ve looked at and tested a number of products to deliver a helpful list of what you may want.
Brush up on your shaving
Another important part of the wet shaving ritual is selecting a proper brush. The shave brush is an important accessory for wet shaving. If you’re going to find the best safety razor, it’s important to remember the best shave brush as well.
The shave brush does more than just apply cream to your face. The bristles of a quality shave brush help prepare your hair for shaving while gently exfoliating your skin. When preparing your shaving cream, the brush is also vital to the production of a good, quality lather.
Before shave brushes, it was common to use your hands to apply any pre-shave water, lotion or cream. While this achieves the desired result of wetting the face, it’s not the ideal method. Patting or rubbing the skin with your hands flattens hair follicles and mats them down.
The shave brush serves two purposes. It holds moisture which, when mixed with the shaving cream or foam, produces a thick, full lather. The more moisture a brush can hold, the moister the lather will be. This helps to provide a smooth surface for shaving which reduces dragging on your razor.
The greatest benefit of the shave brush is its ability to soften and raise your hair before shaving. When shaving foam is applied with a brush, the motion provides a softening effect to your hair and causes it to stand straight up. This all contributes to a good, close shave.
Types of Brushes
There are two parts to a shaving brush, the handle and the bristles. In the past, the handle was made from a number of different materials such as wood, ivory, horn, born, and crystal. Today, brushes are mostly made from wood or a synthetic fiber.
The handle has very little to do with the actual performance of the brush. It is more of an aesthetic choice than a practical one. Unless the handle is made from an exotic or expensive material, the bristles will determine the cost of the brush.
The traditional shave brush is made from badger hair. Badgers are a protected animal in North America and most of Europe. As such, production of badger hair shave brushes is primarily limited to other parts of the world, notably China.
There are three kinds of badger hair used to manufacture shave brushes. They are Pure Badger, Best Badger, and Silvertip badger.
- Pure Badger tends to be a lighter hair that covers the majority of the animal’s body. It is the least supple of all badger hair and also typically the thickest.
- Best Badger refers to the finer, more delicate hairs that cover roughly 20% of the badger’s body. They’re longer and softer than the pure badger variety.
- Silvertip Badger is the most expensive hair type and refers to the fine, white-tipped hairs typically found on the animal’s neck. The flared, white tips create a thick, frothy lather and hold moisture greater than the other types.
Let’s talk Badger
Old timey barbers have often said “the brush is half the shave.” Following that tradition, we wouldn’t dream of not giving you a few options to consider when selecting a proper shave brush. There are certainly more brushes out there, but here is a good place to start looking.
Vikings Blade Luxury Badger Brush
This is a great badger brush by the same company that makes the Vikings Blade Double Edge Safety Razor. It features a heavy Swedish alloy base and an acrylic black handle. It also comes a carrying case.
At 100% pure badger, this brush is at the low end of the grading scale. It produces a good lather with mild exfoliation as well as solid moisture retention for even distribution.
All in all, this is an exceptional brush from a trusted producer that knows a thing or two about shaving. The price is extremely affordable and the brush comes with a carrying case as well for easy travel or storage.
If you’re new to badger brushes, you can’t go wrong with this piece to introduce yourself. As with any product, there are certainly higher end brushes available. However, this model is about as good as the “lower end” models get.
Ambroley Best Badger Men’s Shaving Brush
This brush rests a little higher on the badger hair scale. 100% Best Badger hair places this in the middle of the typical grading scale. It features a hand-made classic style wooden handle as well as a metal base. It boasts superior lather production and water retention to pure badger brushes and similar exfoliation.
The cost of a best badger brush is obviously a little higher. If you are interested in a middle of the road, quality option, this a good brush to use. Ambroley also offers a 90-day money back guarantee, no questions asked if you aren’t satisfied.
If you want to go a little higher end without breaking the bank, this is a solid brush to choose. The price is a little higher than pure badger but not as expensive as other best badger brushes available. A quality brush at an affordable price.
Parker Safety Razor 100% Silvertip Badger Bristle Shaving Brush
So you want the Rolls Royce of badger brushes eh? The Parker Silvertip is about as good as you’ll find without shelling out hundreds of dollars. Simply put, this is a fantastic shaving brush from the company that makes the Parker 99R Heavyweight Razor we listed on our best safety razor list.
100% silvertip badger hair means this is the top quality badger hair available. It creates a much smoother, silkier lather than other badger hair brushes and offers far superior moisture retention as well.
This is a large brush that has a lot of plume for extra coverage. The Parker Silvertip is a quality brush that is built for maximum effectiveness with a faux horn handle. The weight is solid and feels heavy without being overbearing in your hand.
There are silvertip badger brushes that cost considerably more and offer similar quality. The cost of this brush is nearly double that of the Ambroley best badger brush and that’s no surprise. If you want to treat yourself without going too crazy, this is the brush for you.
For an eco-friendlier approach, horse and boar hair are other materials typically found in shave brushes. Both are harvested humanely in a fashion similar to how sheep are sheered. If animal-free is your fancy, a variety of synthetic materials such as nylon are also used. Here are a few other options to consider.
The Semogue roughly approximates the quality of a pure badger brush. It is slightly lacking in lather production and not as soft as badger. With any boar brush, consistent use will split the tips of the hair and begin to soften.
Boar and horse hair is removed from the animal similar to the way sheep are sheered. This brush has the added benefit of being a more humane option for the animal-friendly shaver.
If totally animal-free is your goal, Parker also makes a very solid synthetic brush. The lather production and moisture retention is not up to par with a true hair brush. This brush will dry more quickly and delivers about as quality of an application as you’ll find in a synthetic.
Many brushes will lose hairs from time to time. This is completely normal, especially with newer brushes. As you break in the brush, this should subside and you’ll lose fewer hairs.
I love the smell of badger in the morning
One important thing to note about badger hair (or any animal hair) brushes is the smell. Often a new animal hair brush will arrive with a strong odor attached. It may be unpleasant, but this is actually completely normal.
Animal hair brushes are made from, well, animal hair obviously. The hair is sterilized before it is knotted into the brush. Sometimes this fails to completely remove the odor. In some circles the presence of an animal odor is considered a good indication of authenticity and quality.
In any case, you’ll want to clean your brush before using it. Use your normal shaving cream or a light soap to clean the brush. It may take more than one cleaning to completely remove the odor.
If a strong odor persists, soaking the brush in a solution of warm water and vinegar before rinsing and allowing to try may be necessary. This is rare, but it does happen.
Let’s take a stand
An often overlooked wet shaving accessory is the shave stand. A stand helps keep your shaving materials neat and organized as well as protected. Why bother selecting the best safety razor and best shaving brush if you’re not going to take care of them?
The main benefit of the shaving stand is to provide a drying rack for your brush. Badger brushes are popular because of how well they retain moisture. This moisture needs to dry properly so hanging your brush to dry is the best method.
Depending on the grade of brush you use, brushes can take several hours to try, sometimes longer. The proper way to dry a shave brush is to hang it, bristles down, and allow it to drip dry. Since this will get messy, a shave stand is a great idea.
The Sanwa Stainless Steel Holder provides everything you need in order to keep your shaving materials organized. It features a holding caddy for your safety razor as well as a brush holder for drying and storage when not in use. All of the metal components are stainless steel to prevent rusting.
The Cream of the Crop
Now that we’ve found the best safety razor, blade, and brush, it’s time to look for the best shaving cream. Choosing a good shaving cream is part of the shaving experience. Don’t underestimate the difference a good shaving cream can make. As usual, there’s a lot to consider when choosing the right cream for you.
What to look for:
- Lather production: If you’re applying with a brush, this is one of your primary concerns. A good cream produces a good lather.
- Chemicals: If you have sensitive skin, many chemicals and fragrances can burn or irritate your skin.
- Scent: Even without harsh chemicals, most creams will have a scent to them, so make sure you like it.
The first thing you’ll notice with many shaving creams designed for wet shaving is they differ from mainstream brands. These creams tend to come in smaller containers instead of the big, aerosol cans you sprayed on people during Halloween.
This may lead you to the false notion that these products don’t last nearly as long as the others. The truth is that a little goes a long way with these products. They don’t pack them in ten pound tins because they don’t need to.
Canned, aerosol shaving cream contains chemicals that pre-foam the cream. This is why they’re puffy and creamy right out of the can. Many wet shaving creams are small portions because you only need a little bit to achieve good foam.
A little dab will do ya. If you’re familiar with the term, “dollop,” that’s about as much as you will need. With a little trial and error, a 5 or 6-ounce tin of cream will last for months.
- Place a small amount of shaving cream in the center of the brush.
- Wet your hand and hold it in front of you with your palm open, facing up.
- Place the brush in the center of your palm and start mixing.
- You will notice the lather begins to produce immediately.
To not waste your shaving cream, start with a tiny portion, far less than you think you need. Use a ½ teaspoon measuring spoon from the kitchen and start with that. Make sure to wash the measuring spoon so you don’t get in trouble.
Let’s keep it clean now
On your path towards shaving nirvana, cleaning and maintaining your gear is the next step. We’ve already talked about the money saving qualities wet shaving with a safety razor can bring. With proper maintenance and cleaning, your safety razor and badger brush can last for decades.
Clean that razor
Now that you have the best safety razor at your disposal, it’s time to take care of it so it stays the best. Time and use will leave your razor stained, smudged, or otherwise dirty. Make plans to clean your razor at least once a month or as needed.
The biggest enemy of your safety razor is rust, though not from the razor itself. Metal razors have a brushed nickel or chrome finish. The finish protects the razor from rust but does nothing to prevent the blade from rusting.
If your blade is rusting, remove it from the razor. It is a good idea to never leave a wet blade in a safety razor for too long since rust can stain the razor’s finish. You wouldn’t want to shave with a rusty blade anyway, right?
- Disassemble the razor into however many pieces you can, usually this is two or three.
- Discard the old blade.
- Submerge the razor in a small pot of water.
- Bring to a boil and let the components boil for 15-20 minutes.
Easy, right? The boiling water will clean and disinfect the metal components of the blade. It should go without saying that this only works with all metal razors. Plastic and other synthetic materials may melt in boiling water.
If you don’t want to wait for the water to boil, a mixture of warm water and mild dish detergent such as Dawn or Palmolive will do just fine. A toothbrush and some Q-tips will help you get into the tight crevices of a butterfly head.
Avoid using bleach, jewelry cleaner, or strong chemical cleaners. These products may damage the finish on a metal razor or discolor acrylic handles.
To restore some shine, polish your razor with a clean cloth and a small amount of toothpaste. Sound weird? Toothpaste removes plaque and tooth stains without damaging tooth enamel. The same principle works on metal.
Let’s get that brush clean
Your badger brush likewise needs cleaning every now and then. With proper care, a good brush can last a long while. It’s important to keep it clean just as you would your razor.
We know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that brush can’t be dirty. The brush does nothing but touch soap and water so there’s no way it’s not clean, right?
Wrong. While this is basically true, there’s more going on. A badger brush helps slough off dead skin from your face so there’s that to consider. Repeated use will also create a film of soap scum around the edge of the handle.
Soap scam is a hard solid that forms when soap dries. Beyond looking bad, soap scum reacts poorly with water and leads to poor lather production. If that wasn’t bad enough, soap scum can also harbor bacteria which is definitely something you don’t want to put on your face.
More easy cleaning:
- Prepare a cup of warm water.
- Use a mild detergent and gently lather the bristles of the brush.
- Soak the brush (bristles down) in the warm water for 1-3 minutes, mixing occasionally.
- Remove the brush from the water and rinse thoroughly.
- Prepare another cup of water with a few drops of white, distilled vinegar.
- Soak the brush in the new cup of water for 1-3 minutes, mixing occasionally.
- Rinse your brush thoroughly and hang to dry.
Cleaning your badger brush should not take longer than a few minutes. Save yourself some time and clean your brush and razor at the same time. Like your razor, it’s a good idea to give it a good clean about once a month.
Let’s sum up:
- Choose the best safety razor for your needs. Consider your skin type, hair type, and level of experience. Keep it well cleaned and maintained.
- Quality blades batter. There are a number of blades to choose from. Avoid super cheap, pharmacy brand blade and elect for a more quality manufacturer.
- The brush is half the shave. Select a good one and maintain it well. Remember, badger hair works best.
- Find a shave cream you love. If the brush is half the shave, a good portion of the remainder is the right shave cream. Find a feel and fragrance you like that offers good value and quality later production.
- Clean your razors and accessories once a month for best maintenance or as needed.
- Enjoy the best shave of your life.
- Take over the world!
We’ve come a long way!
By now you realize that wet shaving with a safety razor is the ultimate shaving experience.
If you can, try to think of shaving as a ritual of hygiene and cleanliness instead of a chore. There is a resurgence in the popularity of the best safety razors currently. Many men are now considering shaving to be like any other hobby.
Take a little time and pamper yourself. Learning to wet shave with quality tools and accessories is an experience unlike any other. Shaving is about much more than simply hair removal. It’s also about looking and feeling great while taking exceptional care of your skin.
Hopefully you’ll come away from this article with a better idea of wet shaving and be well on your path to finding the best safety razor for you. Don’t forget, the brush, blade, and other accessories can really make the difference in your shaving experience.
There's a lot to Wet Shaving, but it's a process that can become relaxing and something you greatly look forward to. Plus there's no negative reasons to not wet shave. Just grab yourself the best safety razor and start going at it. No one's perfect when they start something so don't let being new hold you back.
Owner of iManscape