Figure 1: Please Welcome Tonight’s Shaving Contestants in the Shaving Title Match of the Century!
(Note: Absolutely no inebriated capras were injured or maimed in the making of this article, but some were quite irritated with us.)
You wake up late because you forgot to set your alarm, or you have a pressing dinner engagement which requires a bit of touch up with the old lather and blade, yet you are lagging behind and don’t have time for the full and pleasurable lather-and-blade experience. To the rescue comes two fine choices which harmonize the speed of the cartridge with the versatility of the double edge blade.
Today I examine the strengths and drawbacks of two contenders for the world heavyweight title of Best Cartridge-Like Shaver: the newer Shavent shaver from Germany against the long-standing Leaf Shaver.
Versatility: The Name of the Shave Game
The primary selling point for these multi-blade razors is they make head and face shaving for the gents a breeze, while likewise the ladies can easily and naturally pick up either and conduct their personal grooming without major difficulties. The ultimate feel and function of the Leaf and the Shavent is to displace the store-bought cartridges which have given us sup-par shaves for far too long.
If the goal is to recruit more people onto Team Sustainable Shaving, both these shavers do an excellent job of gently welcoming fresh faces on board.
Like our trusty double edge (DE) razors, both the Shavent and the Leaf accept one-half of Double Edge blades, which are mass manufactured and cheaply available worldwide. While identical in function, the shave feel may be different to every individual from one blade brand to the next. We live in fortunate times since there are over 130 individual blade brands, and unlike the mainstream cartridge razors, double edge razor blades can easily be recycled.
Figure 2: Lots and lots of double edge blades.
Both the Shavent and Leaf have been examined beforehand elsewhere, so I need only touch lightly on their shave qualities and characteristics.
Let’s Start with the Leaf.
The Leaf razor is the long-established cartridge replacement frontrunner, having wrapped up their initial KickStarter crowdfunding campaign back in 2016. Deliveries began in 2017.
To their credit, Leaf Shave has continued to adjust the build of their shaver over time. The current iteration is slightly different than some of their first-generation offerings, and they’ve made a consistent point of hearing the concerns and complaints of their customer base, then implementing design changes appropriately. Some of these changes include modifications affecting blade exposure, revisions to the blade carrier trays (or Leaves?), placement of the blade retention magnets, changes to adhesive for those magnets, and even a few different logo designs on the handle. So, the evolution of the Leaf product reflects the “kaizen” design philosophy of the founders, where minor adjustments are readily implemented based upon customer feedback to make a better-quality product.
Figure 3: With the Leaf, both blade position and quantity affect the closeness and aggressiveness of the shave.
The Leaf offers versatility with blade position in the razor head; more blades and/or lower blades mean closer, more aggressive shaving. Like a cartridge, the leading blade does most of the work and whisks away most of the whiskers and lather, while the trailing blades clean up any stray whiskers the first blade forgot. This means faster hair removal with fewer passes, doubtless an important metric for customers who can’t get a fully clean shave with one pass of a single blade.
Figure 4: Leaf’s tapered blade exposure gives more options for those with sensitive skin.
The tapered exposure system of the Leaf allows the user to adjust blade quantity and position to accommodate sensitive skin area.
Shifting over to the Shavent
The newcomer Shavent comes from a small family-run outfit in Germany, fresh on the scene of producing shavers. While the Leaf razor has been around for years and garners many reviews, the Shavent has comparatively few video exposés, with the minority of them being in English.
Readers of my previous columns may recall my prior discussion of the Shavent razor here: https://sharpologist.com/shavent-razor-review/.
The Bald Brothers did another Shavent review here: https://thebaldbrothers.com/shavent-review/
Three video reviews can be seen here, courtesy of Shave & Butcher:
(Turn up your volume a bit.)
The SHAVENT razor – no more cartridges!
Comparing the LEAF razor to the SHAVENT
Leaf and Shavent razors side by side head shave & conclusion
Prepare for Review:
For this comparison article I contrasted both razors across a 4-week timeframe:
- First week shaving with only the Shavent.
- Second week shaving only using the Leaf.
- Third week using both the Shavent and the Leaf, doing “half-and-half” shaves where one side of the face (or head) is shaved with 1 razor, and the other half shorn by the other shaver.
- Fourth week experimenting exclusively with the Leaf and altering other variables such as shave soap type and blade type.
I’ve held constant the blade brand (Voskhod) in all initial shaves during the first 2.5 weeks, later switching to the sharper Nacet blades and milder Derby Usta blades in the tail end of phase of our contrast experiment. For the first 3 weeks I’ve consistently used Ariana & Evans shave soaps on account of their exceedingly slick lather properties, changing over to some other brands to better experience the variances.
Let’s see how they perform.
Leaf vs. Shavent: Fight!
Figure 5: Ready, Set, SHAVE!!
The Razor Head-to-Head Comparison.
My Shavent seems smoother and closer; with a full load of blades, shaves wrap up with slightly less irritation vs. the Leaf. The tighter blade spacing in the Shavent means the blade pack functions as a wide “whisker eraser”, with a smooth shaving action that leaves less irritation and gets a slightly closer shave. Meanwhile, the Leaf has more blade feel with a full load and tends to feel very slightly rougher in application to me. Later in the evening I notice very slightly less fresh whisker protrusion on the side which gets the Shavent treatment vs that of the Leaf, but the difference is minimal.
By my clock, I managed to cut down the time involved for a head shave by about half using either of these shavers versus a double edge, and the entire operation is at once easier and safer. This is a primary selling point for this style of razor for the many men in this world who found themselves “follically challenged”.
I’m presently much less prone to cutting something on the back of my head while using the “braille shaving method” to feel whether or not I’ve got full cleanup. With either shaver, gone are the days of nicking my ear or slicing my finger which holds down the ear during a head shave, unlike with a trusty double edge razor.
Like a cartridge, you can apply a bit of pressure when shaving. Mind you, something can still go wrong with any razor on your noggin if you get careless, and until humanity evolves eyes on the back of our heads you still risk injuring your occipital bun with any razors if you fail to give due attention to steady procedure. Simply because you can go faster with these cartridge-killer shavers does not mean you must.
The tapered blade exposure with the Leaf works splendidly. For wet shavers with sensitive skin, removing the lowest blade in the Leaf converts a Baby Bottom Smooth [BBS] shave into a Damn Fine Shave [DFS], and gives less irritation. Some “Loyal Leafers” swear by only using sharper blades in the middle and upper positions in the razor head. This transforms this shaver into a cartridge-like version of the much-vaunted Feather AS-D2, which is mild in blade gap and blade exposure, but efficient in shaving action when you pair it with a sharper blade.
By contrast, the Shavent doesn’t quite offer the same exact functionality, but still gives a solid shave. If you install the spacer first instead of the first blade, and use only two blades in the head instead of three, you still finish with about the same BBS shave but now with a few more passes.
To be fair, both Shavent and the Leaf admirably handle the sharper spectrum of razor blades, delivering a clean finish with less problems than you might experience with any double edge shaver with a large blade gap and positive blade exposure.
Due to their structure, both razors have a large opening directly under the first blade, for easy drainage of lather and hair. To its credit, the Leaf has the most generous spacing between blades. This makes the Leaf almost clog-free.
The Shavent by contrast has tighter blade spacing, smaller drain ports between the second and third blades, which makes clogging slightly more a hassle vs. the Leaf. Yet clearing the Shavent is not nearly as bad versus owning a thick beard and attempting to hack away at it with any common cartridge.
Consider these microscopic images of razor edges in various shaver heads:
Figure 6: Blades Edges of Various Shavers Under Magnification. (The dusty white flecks are residual bits of shave soap still adhering to the blades.)
As you can see above, even the Shavent doesn’t pack blades quite as closely together as a customary cartridge will.
With either “cartridge-like” shaver you ought to frequently rinse the back side of each razor head under the full stream of the faucet or submerge and vigorously swish in your sink water, with the Shavent requiring this somewhat more frequently than the Leaf.
The Shavent fully covers blade tabs but the tabs should be shorter and straight, at least for the first bottom blade. You may need to manually straighten them out after breaking, or cut the blades in order to load them evenly. The “stacking-up” structure of the Shavent head pushes you towards “saloon-type” half blades for maximum convenience, or manually trimming DE blade tabs, as I alluded to in my Shavent review.
Figure 7: These sharp blade tab corners don’t feel good when they scratch the inside of your ears or under your nose!
On the other hand, Leaf exposes the bent tabs of broken DE blades on the underside of the razor head, where they can occasionally nick the ear during a head shave; again you might opt to trim the blade tabs, use shavette half-blades, or load the razor with the bent blade taps pointing upwards to reduce potential nicks.
Razor Head Geometry, Blade Feel, and Blade Types:
While both razors have attempted to minimize the real estate involved in carrying half double edge blades, the Shavent has a slightly more compact head, partly owing to the larger 30° blade angle of the razor head and the “stack up” assembly of the blades in the head. The “crescent-like” relief on the back of the Shavent razor head makes for a much easier shave around the ears and under the nose compared to the Leaf.
The Leaf has wider spacing between the razor blades but the angle of approach is a tighter 20°. This makes for certain elements of the shave feeling ever so slightly more irritating, and I notice more red spots on the side of the face or head where I’m using the Leaf.
In a declaration which will shock no single living wet shaver, the sharper blade makes cutting the heavy brush of hair whiskers away easier with less pull and irritation. A full three-blade load of a sharper blade (Feather, Nacet, Wilkinson Sword, etc.) can last you the full week of daily shaves, with only mild discomfort towards the end and perhaps some very slight irritation at the start. For those with more sensitive skin, a triple load of milder blade edges (Astra Platinum, Derby Extra, etc.) will be comfortable from the get-go, but you could notice dragging or tugging halfway through your weekly shave regimen, which will necessitate another blade changeout. The default half blades which come with both razors – Derby Extra in the case of the Shavent, or Leaf Shave’s own proprietary brand for their razor – are exceedingly mild in feel, and this is perfect for any beginner. Versatility is the name of the game here, and both razors grant you the full spectrum of blade choice for you to experiment with.
Neither shaver has much in terms of blade feel, although what little there is you notice more using the Leaf with a full load of blades. The shave sensations you experience here are mostly in line with what you expect from any store-bought 3-blade cartridge, name-brand or otherwise. One missing element is the little rubber “pad” positioned just before the first cutting blade, but with a good helping of lather you find you can live without that gimmick.
Ease of Blade Replacement:
Figure 8: The Many Leaves Of The Leaf Razor
By any measure, the Leaf loads up much faster: you simply snap a DE blade in half, drop them in the stainless metal tray carriers, close it up and you’re off to the races. Shavent has more of a “Lego-like” assembly procedure, with more “fiddling around” involved if you are dead set on using your personal favorite DE blade snapped in half, unless you opt for the 15 or so brands of single edge “shavette” style half-blades.
To prevent misalignment of the head, it is advisable to trim down the tabs of the broken double edge half blades with heavy duty scissors or tin snips before inserting into the Shavent. The Leaf is more “set it and forget it”, where you simply snap your preferred brand of razor blade in half, install, then begin your morning shave ritual.
Shave Economics (Shave-onomics?)
You must acknowledge the twin factors of cost and availability when weighing acquisition of either of these razors. Undoubtedly the crown king of ubiquity goes to the Leaf shaver, since they have been around longer and are available in multiple finishes from various online vendors. The price tag for a new Leaf is $84 for the base kit, with the upgraded kit option weighing in at a $113 price point, which further gives you the blade stand, and additional 50 blade edges, plus a metal blade bank.
The Shavent arrives at your doorstep for €105 (including VAT) [~$126] plus shipping, and their deluxe set with extra blades and a blade bank is yours for €112 [$135]. Sadly, the Shavent does not yet ship to continental North America, which further necessitates the help of a friendly overseas colleague or a paid reshipping service.
A lot of money, you might say? Sure, but let us examine the long view of sustainability here:
Figure 9: The Long-Term Cost Savings of a Leaf or Shavent are Equivalent to that of a Mid-Range Single Edge Shaver.
As you can see, you pay a little more up front for either razor, then you shave much more affordably and sustainably for many years to come.
More explicitly, let us consider these sobering statistics from a recent New York Times article about safety razors:
Estimated lifetime cost of a daily shave, by brand:
- Gillette Fusion ProShield: $22,000
- Schick Hydro 5: $13,000
- Gillette Sensor3: $7,000
- Bic single-blades: $2,000
- Astra blades: $400
Thus, even those who balk at spending $100 or $150 up front on a cartridge-like shaver — or high-quality safety razor — can surely appreciate the solid long-term repair done to their wallets when tossing away those wasteful plastic shavers for good.
Then there’s the reduction in environmental harm: According to Adam from Leaf Shave, when you move away from the Big Cartridge cartel, you reduce both the carbon emissions attributed to the packaging, plastics and transport of disposable razor products, plus you additionally eliminate countless cubic meters of nearly-indestructible plastic waste which resides in landfills or oceans for eons. And with over one half trillion disposable razors being tossed every year, your choice of either the Leaf or the Shavent saves both the planet and your billfold.
Your First Shave & Shave Troubleshooter:
If you are new to this type of shaver, start with the mild half-blades included for your initial shave. Begin with loading two blades in the upper positions. Remember to be very gentle when tightening the screw(s) on either razor, as these are very fine threads and can strip out easily if you over-tighten them. You only need to gently snug them after assembly.
Gather and apply your slickest shave soap, shave gel or cream. Lather and shave as you would with a regular cartridge, using light to moderate pressure. Rinse frequently under the full stream of water from the back side of the razor head.
Resist the urge to shave with just water alone, as this can cause annoying clogging.
If you feel dragging, tugging, or resistance, consider a moderately sharp blade from the charts here. You should have on hand a blade sampler pack to experiment with. Remove the lowest blade if you experience irritation in delicate areas: neck, bikini line, etc.
Some Close-Shaving Final Thoughts:
Speaking personally, I enjoy and emphatically endorse both these razors! While nothing quite replaces the primal joy you experience when you mow down the bushy tufts of bristly whiskers with a double edge, shavette or straight edge – and I frequently revisit my beloved double edge slant razors for that job – both the Shavent and the Leaf lessen the time involved when you are in a rush, and they indubitably make the hassle of head shaving melt away.
If you’re looking to escape out of the rat-trap labyrinth of the Big Brand Plastic Razor cartel, the Shavent or the Leaf are excellent vehicles to bring you into the heaven of more comfortable and environmentally responsible personal grooming.
The Final Scorecard:
- Both take blades. Lots of choices of wonderful double edge blades!
- Faster, easier and more convenient shaves vs. a double edge.
- Easy to use and apply.
- Less irritation versus the cartridge.
- Much lower long run cost vs. mainstream shavers.
- Materials are presently die-cast zinc, so don’t drop them. (The Leaf will get a stainless steel option soon.)
- Both have slippery handles, so watch your grip! The Leaf offers a $5 silicone sleeve to get you a better grip. For the Shavent you must generate your own solution.
- Delicate screw closure mechanisms. Do not overtighten after installing blades! The Shavent has 2 screws, while the Leaf has 1 centrally-located closure screw. (In the near future, Leaf will change the closure / retainment mechanism.)
- While both are more comfortable to use than any cartridge, these may not be suitable for individuals with exceptionally sensitive skin, unless you make minor adjustments to your shave routine and technique.
Consider Either of These Cartridge-Killers if:
You are looking for a sustainable, eco-friendly shave yet you find the notion of double edge razors inconvenient or intimidating.
You are a head shaver, or a lady shaver.
You are a head shaver, and you find double edge razor shaves on the ol’ noggin to be lengthy or difficult.
You generally find double edge shaving to take too long in the morning; that is, you pine for the speed and “go-fast” simplicity of the cartridge.
You desire the versatility of choice in your favorite brand of double edge razor blades, as opposed to the “one size fits all” approach of the present cartridge cartels.
Lean Towards the Leaf If:
You are cost-conscious and interested in the most economical choice.
You are located within the United States (but models are available elsewhere in the world).
You don’t have many “nooks and crannies” which require close razor cleanup, e.g., You don’t shave under your nose or above / around your ears.
You have more resilient skin and multi-blade cartridges don’t bother you.
You desire the versatility of Leaf’s adjustable blade exposure.
Select the Shavent if:
You have very sensitive skin, especially on the neck or other delicate areas.
You are prone towards shave irritation.
You require the closest, most comfortable shave possible.
You don’t mind assembling and disassembling the small parts of the razor.
You’re not so clumsy that you might lose the small parts.
Full disclosure: The Shavent razor (and reshipping!) was purchased using my own funds. I was granted a review kit from Leaf Shave for purposes of generating this article. All other shaving hardware and software was purchased with my own monies.