You’ve decided to give a single blade safety razor a try. Congratulations! But which razor? There several different types of “old school” safety razors. Some are based on designs that have been around for over 100 years. Others offer a new take on an old stand-by. Which ones are the best bets for beginners? Let’s take a look at some recommendations for safety razors under different circumstances. This is a major update of this article!
Why Trust This Article?
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Sharpologist specializes in getting the best, most enjoyable shave possible.
This list is based on the personal experience of Sharpologist‘s editor (me!), contributors, and readers who have actually purchased and used the products–plus over ten years of research from review sites and specialty discussion forums. Generally-speaking, shaving facial hair is the primary objective.
Click on the name below for more information on each razor:
So What Is The Best Safety Razor For Beginners
Contents – Jump To:
Just What Is A “Safety Razor” (At Least For This Article)?
Easiest Transition From Cartridge Razors
A Caution To Beginners: Razor Blades Are Not All Alike!
Just What Is A “Safety Razor” (At Least For This Article)?
There is some disagreement about just what is a “safety razor.” On one side of the spectrum are those who say it is any razor with a blade (or blades, in a cartridge) and some kind of design to protect the blade from exposing too much of its edge to the skin: anything from long-defunct vintage designs from 100+ years ago to the latest multi-blade, pivoted razor.
At the other end of the spectrum others will argue the term refers only to the classic “double edge” razor and designs.
But for the purposes this article I will refer to the term “safety razor” as a razor with a single, non-proprietary blade (where patents have long-since expired) and some kind of design that prevents excessive blade edge exposure to the skin’s surface.
There are a lot of excellent safety razors on the market (this article also has a ton of information about the different types and designs specifically of the double edge safety razor). But some are best wielded by experienced hands. For the “newbie” I think there should be some specific parameters:
- Reasonably available: the razor should be a brand that is in-stock, preferably from multiple sources;
- “Reasonably” priced: these razors will not be as inexpensive as mass-market cartridge razors you might find at the supermarket, but they should not be out of reach either;
- The razor head engineered to be more “forgiving” to someone learning their technique;
- The shave experience should not overly aggressive but still reasonably efficient;
- A handle with a good grip and balance;
- Easy to change blades.
Even given these criteria there are going to be different recommendations depending on the circumstances the shaver is looking for:
- Easiest transition?
- Lower-cost entry?
- “Conventional wisdom” recommendations?
- More flexible design?
What Is The Best Safety Razor For Beginners Looking For The Easiest Transition From Cartridge Razors?
Some classic safety razor designs, particularly the “double edge” variety, require the shaver to “unlearn” the way they’ve held a modern cartridge razor. This can cause some angst from “newbies” as they learn to hold a razor handle at a different angle.
However some single-blade razors are designed to use a hold-angle similar to that of a cartridge razor, making the transition much easier.
The OneBlade razor is not a classic double edge razor but if you want to make the transition between cartridge razors and shaving with a single blade as easy as possible, a OneBlade razor may be the way to go. It combines the best of both worlds: a pivoting head like a cartridge razor but uses a single blade. There are a number of models at different price points but they all use the same technology. It can make the transition from shaving with a cartridge razor much easier. Click/tap HERE for Sharpologist’s extensive review of the OneBlade.
The Supply SE razor, a follow-on to their popular “2.0” razor, is another razor aimed squarely at the wider consumer razor market, targeting those shavers who are unhappy with mass-market, multi-blade razors but also a little reluctant to dive head-first into niche’ safety razors because they’ve been lead to believe they require more “work” and are less “safe.”
The Supply SE uses “Injector” style razor blades. These are non-proprietary blades originally meant for use with the Schick (and later PAL) razors popular up to about 1970 or so, until fading with the introduction of multi-blade razor cartridges. However these blades are still available from several sources.
The Injector blade change method is probably the most “hands off” design of the old-school safety razor designs.
The Supply SE razor does not have a pivoting head but does have a very wide range of angles that it may be held with successfully (a wide “sweet spot”) and is quite suitable for a good, drama-free shave for the beginner (and even the more seasoned shaver).
Click/tap here for Sharpologist’s in-depth look at the Supply SE razor.
What Is The Best Safety Razor For Beginners Looking For A Low(er)-Cost Entry
Some of those interested in trying a safety razor may be naturally reluctant to “dive in head first” by purchasing a relatively expensive razor they may not be happy with. While none of the razors in this section can be considered “heirloom quality” by any stretch of the imagination, they are reasonably built for their price, have a convenient design for blade-changing, and provide a middle-of-the-road shave.
I link to Amazon for purchasing these two razors due to Amazon’s generous return policy, in case you decide these razors are not for you.
Vikings Blade Chieftain Jr.
This inexpensive razor’s 3.75” length is adequate for most hands: the handle’s knurling is sufficient to maintain a good grip for most people.
Vikings Blade describes the Chieftain JR’s shave as mild and most agree that’s accurate.
Click/tap here for Sharpologist’s coverage of the Vikings Blade line, including the Chieftain Jr.
There have been a number of Weishi safety razors over the years but in the last few years Weishi has “upped their game” by offering different models with a variety of handles, colors, and accessories (though they all share the same twist-to-open (TTO) head design as near as I can tell). The current big seller on Amazon is the “Nostalgic” model.
As a “value” brand from the Far East, quality control has never been Weishi’s strong point but it seems to have gotten better with the introduction of the Nostalgic.
While it is certainly no heavyweight razor the weight and balance is adequate. There is a fairly generous “sweet spot” for getting the optimum angle for your preferred shave.
Click/tap here for Sharpologist’s take on the Weishi Nostalgic razor.
What Is The Best Safety Razor For Beginners Who Want To Follow “Conventional Wisdom”
Would you rather make a single purchase you can (probably) use for the rest of your shaving life? Want to look for the closest thing to a “safe bet” in a safety razor? Here are some safety razors that are enormously popular in the “old school” shaving community.
Edwin Jagger DE89
While the Merkur 34c razor (below) has a single handle variant, the Edwin Jagger DE89 series has several handle options–though they all use the same head.
Construction-wise, the three piece design (top cap, base plate, handle) is generally considered “bullet-proof.” However the screw thread that connects the head to the handle (through the base plate) appears to be a weak point in the construction, with several reports of it breaking off if the razor is dropped. And the chrome coating may dull and tarnish over time if the razor is not dried and maintained properly. However, most agree that the DE89 is generally well-constructed.
The razor’s “aggressiveness” (some say “efficiency”) is right down the middle of the road: neither too harsh nor too mild, with a relatively wide “sweet spot” for getting the blade angle correct.
Click/tap here to learn more about the Edwin Jagger DE89 series.
The Henson AL13 aluminum double edge razor is relatively new but has been making waves in the wet shaving community for its engineering design and its shave. Its popularity with beginners is noteworthy here.
There are two versions of this razor the “standard” version which provides a very mild shave, and a “Medium” version that offers a little more aggressiveness.
Click/tap here for Sharpologist’s coverage of the Henson AL13.
King C. Gillette
Although comparatively new to the market, the King C. Gillette double edge razor’s primary advantage is its wide availability. You can probably find it at many drug stores/chemists, groceries, and “megamarts.”
It is also reasonably well-constructed (though some consider the razor’s smooth handle a drawback), competitively-priced, and provides an entirely acceptable shave.
Click/tap here to read Sharpologist’s coverage of the King C. Gillette double edge razor.
Merkur 34c /38c
The Merkur Heavy Duty (also known as the Heavy Classic, the HD, or the 34C) may be the the most popular double edge razor of the “modern” era. Merkur’s time in the market and this razor’s general reputation and reliability have made it a major name in the industry.
This razor features a good handle texturing and grip, good engineering design, build quality, and durability. Its simple, two piece design makes blade changing pretty easy.
Some reviewers gripe about the comparatively short handle. The Merkur 38C has the 34 head on a longer, heavier “barberpole” handle.
Most users consider the 34C’s shave quality near the high end of the “average” range.
Click/tap here to check out Sharpologist’s review of the Merkur 34C.
The Merkur 23C is a less expensive Merkur razor also often recommended to beginners. Click/tap here to learn more about the Merkur 23c.
What Is The Best Safety Razor For Beginners Looking For The Most Flexibility?
Some shoppers looking for a razor they can more “tailor” to their needs have some options here, too. For example, the adjustable razor.
One design element of a double edge, single blade safety razor is the size of the gap between the blade’s edge and the razor’s safety bar. The vast majority of razors have a set gap size: the amount of the gap distance is determined by the manufacturer for a particular model of razor. Adjustable razors can change the gap to make them more gentle or more aggressive.
Click/tap here for more information on adjustable razors.
A Caution To Beginners: Razor Blades Are Not All Alike!
No discussion about safety razors would be complete without mentioning blades. Many beginners think “a blade is a blade” and while blades may all look the same there can actually be fairly significant differences in the way a blade is made. Metallurgy (the metal or combination of metals used to make the blade), coatings, and grinding specifications (the blade’s “sharpness”) can all play a part in the production process.
So take the time to try a number of different blade brands to find the one(s) that work best for the razor you’re using (your skin, the mineral content of the water you’re using, and the shave lather you’re using play parts too). Some shaving vendors sell “sample packs” or “blade samplers” to make the process easier: you get a few blades of many different types. After you decide which one(s) work best you can then buy your favorites in bulk, saving a ton of money!
Are Safety Razors Better?
A lot of people think so. Although some use safety razors for the nostalgia factor, there are some quantifiable advantages:
Reduced chance of irritation (razor burn, ingrown hairs) for those with sensitive skin.
- Since single-blade safety razors don’t follow the “lift and cut” model of shaving, there is less of a chance of over-shaving an area.
Less expensive in the long-term.
- While this is a modest additional “up front” cost to shaving with a single blade safety razor, the long term costs are much lower due to the difference in blade cost vs. cartridge price. The return-on-investment generally comes after a year or two of use.
More environmentally friendly.
- Razors and blades are generally entirely metal, with little-or-no plastic content to clog landfills.
- Done properly, shaving with a single blade safety razor is just as close as a mutli-blade cartridge.
While most safety razor users believe the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages, there are a few inconveniences:
- Shaving with a safety razor generally involves “unlearning” some bad habits developed with shaving with a cartridge shave (though there are some razors on the list below that can mitigate that somewhat). There is a learning curve.
Travel with a safety razor can be problematic.
- In the US the Transport Safety Administration (TSA) does not permit safety razor blades in carry-on luggage on passenger airlines. You can pack a safety razor handle in carry-on luggage but you will have to either pack safety razor blades in checked luggage or purchase blades at your destination.
It can take a little more time.
Shaving with a safety razor may require a bit more time to shave properly and get good results. However, done efficiently, the extra time to shave with a safety razor can be minimal.
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I will be giving the OneBlade Hybrid a test once it arrives (it’s on the way). As I am using this to jump from cartridge to single blade, I thought it was the best option. However, it really should’ve been disqualified from your list here, as their blades can only be bought on their site (and they are quite pricy).
Keith Osmond says
Doesn’t the OneBlade use proprietary blades? And wouldn’t that disqualify it based on your own definition of safety razors? Not saying it wouldn’t be a good choice for beginners, but…
Glad to see the Henson on here. It was my first DE and it made my transition from cartridges to DE shaving very easy indeed. I’ve bought a lot of others in the last year and a half but my Henson Medium (and now my limited run AL13 Aggressive) is still among my favourites.
No, the blades OneBlade uses aren’t proprietary. They were originally made for the vintage Auto-Strop razor many years ago. Patent has long-since expired. However, Feather is the only manufacturer making that blade (as far as I know).
Question: can a person go to a local pharmacy , grocery store and/or local cosmetic supplies retailer and buy blades to fit OneBlade. Answer is NO. Question: can a person go online and buy a substitute single edge blade from another brand to use in a OneBlade Razor? Answer is NO. Question: does OneBlade require a SPECIFIC BLADE to work in its razors? Answer: YES…Then EFFECTIVELY Mister Mantic-59, the blade required is Proprietary in Substance if not exactly proprietary in form/production. The FACT is: a person who uses any of the current OneBlade Razors is FORCED to a Specific Blade from a Specific Manufacturer. It is irrelevant that the Patent is expired if NO ONE ELSE makes the blade except Feather there is no getting around that obstacle at present.
Ajax Lepinski says
Another fantastic article by mantic59!!!
While my DE experience is not as diverse as the author’s, I would like to submit my choice for the best beginner’s DE: the Razo Rock Lupo. The Lupo provides me with a close shave free from rash, papercuts or weepers. Of my thirty or so DE and SE razors, the Lupo is my favorite.
Which Lupo is advised they have the 0.58 0.72 and 0.95 safety bar or open comb ?
David Eastwood says
Good to see the Supply SE get a mention here. I’ve been using a Supply 2.0 for a couple of years now, and was part of the testing crew for the SE head. I thought at the time it was a little on the mild side for my taste, and the production version confirms that – but it is truly straightforward to use, and easy to find the angle. I think it would be a great option for a beginner, as you suggest.
However, I’m primarily using the adjustable Supply Pro now, and find it quite excellent. I’m looking forward to reading your impressions of it if/when you get a chance to review it.
I’m going to be trying a Supply Pro soon!
For the next revision of this article, I heartily recommend the Rockwell 2C. It is attractively priced at $USD30, has excellent fit and finish, is not inclined to nick, and provides the baseplate can be flipped over to provide two settings — R1 (the mildest) and R3 (the most popular). If one is so inclined, one can step up to one of Rockwell’s other razors later, but the 2C is a quality razor that will get a new wet shaver started at a modest cost.
Good suggestion, I need to add more about “adjustable” (continuous or base plate) razors. I kind of avoided it here because a lot of newbies tend to “turn it up to 11” on adjustables.
Alex from Australia says
No mention of the Rockwell Razors as there pretty good as a starter & professional model once you get used to them.
You buy an S6 and that’s all you;ll ever need for life.
I’ll be including some more discussion of ‘adjustable’ razors in the next update.
Paul Jones says
Leaf Razor, superb and extremely comfortable shave.
What happened to the great Sharpologist discount code/deal on the One Blade? I almost pulled the trigger on one of their razors, but the code since has been deactivated, I guess.
I’m checking on this now….
I’m surprised there’s no mention of the Weishi line of DE razors here; they affordable and well made safety razors that are fairly gentle to beginners. In fact, my first DE was a Weishi and it allowed me to develop good technique and shaving angles before going to more aggressive razors.
Gitti–Yes, I struggled with whether to include Weishi in this article. They’re available, affordable, and reasonably gentle. But well-made? I have found that their quality control is all over the road, depending on the model. But I will revisit the brand when I do an update on this post. 🙂
In that case, I’m glad I lucked out then; however, looking forward to that update!
With all respect, Mantic, the Weishi 9306F line, is all copper, just like vintage Gillette Superspeeds, which is far better than zamak that breaks after a 20cm fall, like the vaunted DE89. I started with Weishi and keep using it despite having EJ DE89 Kelvin and i get equally good shaves. Main difference, the Weishi costed me half the money.
Jason holt says
My favourite razors are ones that have a bit of character, like Murdock or Stag
One Blade to high $$
Think it came down in price, maybe.
The Core, I did not see it says where it is made.
Think you can only use thier blades. Has to be mail ordered.
Who else sells blades.
Reminds me of regular injector razors from years ago.
Usually mail order double edge blades with other stuff.
If I run out of double edge blades I can go to local grocery store has Wilkinson Sword. Open 24X7. 1/2 mile up road store that sells to hairdressers carries another brand.
I love my Parker 24c. I’ve been wet shaving since 2013, but it is my daily driver. It is very smooth and efficient- while making it difficult to cut yourself.
One blade ridiculously priced.
I prefer razor like this https://www.gillette.co.in/en-in They are more gentle for me and not so expensive
I think the Muhle R89 is also a good starter razor that can last a lifetime. It’s still my go to razor for how well it gets the job done, quick and easy.
For me, I am really enjoy using double edge razor. I travel frequently and I lost my razor so many times. So, the cheapest is the best to me.
Thanks for your information.
The Godfather Razor by Vikings Blade. The Gillette Tech head is very forgiving.:) This razor really helped me to hone my wet shaving technique.
You should consider adding the closed comb stainless steel Fendrihan MK II. The second version seems to be everything you suggested the first version oc/cc should have been.
Wilkinson Classic, best for beginners.
stan klonowski says
I would like to second the 34c. It is a great razor, I believe it is similar to the 23c but with more metal involved. I would also add the Feather Popular is a friendly introduction to de shaving.
Sorry for offtop. Dear sir, would you please tell me abot review of Wunderbar slant? Looking forward to read it.
A review is coming soon!
Honestly the best way to find the ideal razor, is to buy something, I chose a safe bet the de89, but I’ll probably end up switching to a 34c or 37c
Brian Fiori (AKA The Dean) says
Mark, aren’t there several Merkur razors using the same head as the 34C? I was under the impression the 42C (and several others) differed only in the handle. I might be mistaken about this, though.
I’d also throw a good vintage razor into the mix of possibilities. I have a nice pre-WWII Tech which I acquired about the same time as the aforementioned Merkur 42C. They are plentiful and inexpensive—or at least they were a few years ago. While I now have many more, and more aggressive, razors, I still use both of my “beginner” razors fairly often.
Brian, my understanding is the 42 has a slightly different head specification. I’ll verify that.
I’ve intentionally avoided recommending a vintage razor to the beginner because there are too many condition variables. However I will say that a Schick Krona, if found as “new old stock” would be good for a beginner.
Joshua Goldman-Brown says
A very timely article, as I am getting ready to make my first razor purchase. What do you think about the soon-to-be-released Rockwell Model T as an option?
Also, should one strop blades between shaves?
I would avoid getting the Rockwell T until the production model is launched and some initial reviews come in.
Jim Tarchis says
Blades are cheap my friend. Why hassle with stropping? If you must just throw in a new blade and shave on!
I would not include the Merkur 34C: there are better razors (more comfortable, more efficient) at lower prices.
I would certainly include the RazoRock Old Type: its feel and performance are excellent and it’s just $15. That one really should not be omitted. In fact, I’m surprised not to see it in the list.
The Fatip Testina Gentile is excellent: I would definitely include that instead of the Merkur 34C. The two are about the same price, but the Testina Gentile is a big step up in both comfort and performance.
I would list the Maggard V2 open-comb with one of their stainless handles as an alternative to the Parker 24C: same price, same head, but the Maggard handle is superior in materials and in the threading.