You’ve decided to give a single blade safety razor a try. Congratulations! But what are the best safety razors for beginners? 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. 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?
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. “Your mileage may vary!” Generally-speaking, shaving facial hair is the primary objective.
Amazon, Henson, OneBlade, and Supply links are affiliate.. Geni.us links may be affiliate.
Click on the name below for more information on each razor (in no particular order):
TL;DR So What Is The Best Safety Razor For Beginners
Low Entry Cost
Safest Conventional Wisdom
Contents – Jump To:
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?
Here are some of the best safety razors for beginners, in no particular order.
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 beginners 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 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.
Encalife “Luxury Razor For Men”
I find that the quality of the Encalife Luxury Razor For Men to be as good as many of the more well-known safety razors on the market but at under US $30 for the razor, razor stand, blades, and blade bank there’s a lot of “bang for the buck.”
The build quality of the razor and accessories is surprisingly good: the blade bank is acceptable, the razor stand is heavy enough to stay stable, and the razor itself disassembles and assembles smoothly and easily.
I get excellent shaves from this razor! I would classify the characteristics as the low end of the ‘average’ range of aggressiveness. Maybe a 4 out of 10? There is some blade feel but it is not excessive. I think the “sweet spot,” the range of blade angles that still provide an acceptable cut of stubble without being too harsh, is fairly generous.
Vikings Blade Chieftain
Vikings Blade describes the Chieftain shave as mild and most agree that’s accurate.
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.
Click/tap here for Sharpologist’s coverage of the Vikings Blade line, including the Chieftain.
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 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.
The Henson AL13 aluminum double edge razor 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 to check out my Henson razor review.
Merkur 34c /38c
The Merkur Heavy Duty (also known as the Heavy Classic, the HD, or the 34C) may be 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 character near the high end of the “average” range.
Click/tap here to check out Sharpologist’s review of the Merkur 34C.
The Parker 96R is one of Parker’s most popular razors and an easy recommendation here.
The 92R’s longer-than-typical handle is fully textured. All the Parker twist-to-open (TTO) razors use the same head (with minor internal changes depending on the type of handle used), much like how Edwin Jagger uses the same three piece head for their DE89 series.
The 96R has a fairly generous razor/blade angle range–in other words I can hold the razor at different angles and still get a ‘safe’ cut on my stubble.
The shave character of the Parker 92R may be just a bit more “aggressive” than average, with a fair amount of blade exposure. The 92R may be more appropriate for those with thicker beards.
Click/tap here to learn more about the Parker 96R.
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 razor 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.
Note that the Muehle R89 has virtually the same razor head.
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 the best safety razor for beginners 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 to find the best safety razor blades for beginners take the time to try a number of different blade brands to discover 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 razors in carry-on luggage on passenger airlines. You can pack a safety razor and blades in carry-on luggage or you can purchase safety razor 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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