Multi-Blade or Single Blade Razor?

By Steve Watson
October 11, 2020

Razor burn or razor bumps could be down to the type of razor you're using. Read the full article to find out more.

According to Gillette, multi-blade razors are “The best a man can get”. With up to five blades and a lubrication strip packed into a single head there’s no denying that Gillette’s products provide an ultra close and efficient shave.

But a what cost? There’s the cost on the pocket and, for some men, the cost of skin irritation and in-growing hairs. In terms of affordability, a pack of 4 Gillette Fusion cartridges will set you back about £15.00 from Asda and, depending on your beard, you could end up needing to buy replacements sooner than you’d like.

The shave itself might feel like passing silk over your face but the risk of post-shave irritation and ingrowing hairs is increased with multi-blade cartridges. The principle being the first blade lifts the hair out of the skin and the following blades cut it off before the hair retracts back beneath the skin. The third, forth or fifth blades catch any remaining hairs.

A five blade cartridge is effectively a five pass shave. Repeating a stroke 2 or 3 times over the same area is essentially carrying out a 10 or 15 pass shave. If your neck burns like a forest fire afterwards then little wonder.

A client booked in with me recently for a hot towel shave and asked my advice on how to tackle razor bumps on the neck. My first question was, “What type of razor are you using?” He was using a multi-blade cartridge razor, and experienced razor bumps a day or two later. The razor bumps following a day or two later indicated that the hairs were growing back beneath the skin, pushing up the surface. In some cases, this can result in ingrowing hairs leading to more serious problems.

I shaved Mateusz using an open razor (cut throat) and was interested to hear back on the results. Mateusz contacted me a couple of days later reporting no issues at all.

What are the options?

Open Razor (cut throat razor)

The traditional type is a solid blade folding design, where the blade folds into the handle (scales) when not in use. In addition to hiding the blade when not in use, the scales are a means of providing balance. Japanese style razors are a fixed design and do not use scales. The downside to any solid blade razor is the need to maintain the edge. If you choose to go down this route avoid buying cheap. Cheap razors use cheap steel and maintaining an edge is an ongoing battle.

Traditional folding open razor
Japanese razor

More recently, open razors with disposable blades are available, similar to those we use in our barbershop. Many of these accept the traditional double blade razors. Other disposable blade types, such as Feather, use specific blades, which can be costly. Choose carefully if this is your choice. Remember, the business end of these is the blade fitted into the holder, and the quality of the shave is ultimately dependent on the quality of the blade. Many open razors designed for disposable blades are all of a muchness but prices can vary.

Open razor for disposable blades

Safety Razor

In light of the problems encountered with multi-blade cartridges, the safety razor is making a comeback. Some models fix the blade gap, others are adjustable so the gap and blade exposure can be altered to suit your beard type and closeness of shave. Adjustment is achieved either by twisting the thimble on the handle or changing the plate. For more information follow the link https://sharpologist.com/new-crop-adjustable-de-razors-2/

Adjustable safety razor - thimble
Adjustable safety razor - plates

Like the open razor, using a safety razor does take some getting used to but once you've got the hang of it it's possible to achieve a super close shave without the post-shave irritation.

Summary

There are two immediate advantages to moving over to a single blade razor. One has already been discussed – reduced razor burn or razor bumps. The other is cost. As mentioned at the beginning, a pack of 4 Gillette Fusion cartridges will cost about £15.00 compared to a pack of Wilkinson Sword blades at most £2.00 for 5 double edged blades – 10 replacements.

Try different blades. The quality of the blade in terms of its material, grind, coating etc play a large part in the end result. Feather blades are ultra sharp - the sharpest blades I've used. For some skin types, Feather blades are too sharp, so care is needed to avoid damaging the skin. If you struggle to find blades we sell Wilkinson Sword and Feather blades in our barbershop.

For more info on achieving an irritation free shave follow the link to our post https://watsonsbarbers.co.uk/post/irritation-free-shaving

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Steve Watson
Author and founder of Watson's barber's

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