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Shaving 101 – The Double Edge Razor: Expectations vs. Reality

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I’ve been thinking back on my early days with a double edge (DE) razor.  I think it’s safe to say that there are still some general expectations or assumptions about DE razors by the general public that need a dose of reality.

Here are some common expectations (misconceptions? Myths?) about double edge razors. Plus my comments on the reality of the expectation.

Expectation: double edge razors are more expensive than cartridge razors.

A common answer from the old school wet shaving community is still “yes, but what you save on replacement blades will make it less expensive than cartridges over the long term.” But even that isn’t as accurate as it used to be. The fact is, now you can find perfectly acceptable razor handles that cost about the same as a typical cartridge razor handle from the mega-mart: the (plastic) Dorco PL-602, Razorock DE1, Baili BR179, and a number of others are perfectly adequate for the job at hand. And double edge blades are a fraction of the cost of the typical razor cartridge.

Expectation: double edge razors are more difficult to use than cartridge razors.

I don’t think they are more difficult to use…but they are different. I’ve always equated it as a skill, like learning how to ride a bike or play a musical instrument. There is going to be a period where you are unlearning one set of habits and learning a new set.shaving

Expectation: double edge razors are more likely to cause cuts than a cartridge razor.

Although as you’re learning how to use a DE razor this may be somewhat accurate I think that once you’ve gotten used to shaving with a DE razor it’s no more likely to cause cuts than other razors. And I think it’s less likely that you’ll get razor burn.

Expectation: you have to use lathering shave creams or soaps with a double edge razor.

Pish-tush! Nothing could be further from the truth. I use “brushless” products all the time with a DE razor, with good results. Now, I do think that lathering shave creams and soaps can generally give you a better shave than a “brushless” product, but that applies to using any razor.

Expectation: using a double edge razor will save money.

This is actually turning the first expectation back onto itself. Using a De razor can save you money in the longer term as long as you don’t “jump down the rabbit hole” of starting to collect the darn things…which happens to a lot of shaving aficionados. There’s even a name for it: “razor acquisition disorder”–RAD.

What were your expectations before you used a double edge razor, and what was the reality? Leave your comments below!


Shave tutor and co-founder of sharpologist. I have been advocating old-school shaving for over 20 years and have been featured in major media outlets including The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and Lifehacker. Also check out my content on Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest!View Author posts

12 thoughts on “Shaving 101 – The Double Edge Razor: Expectations vs. Reality”

  1. Thanks Mantic59 for all you do for our community. RAD temptation is real! I’ve had to discipline myself to stick to my two Gillette NEW long comb razors and Astra SPs. The NEW consistently gives me great shaves. A Baili 179 and Edwin Jagger DE89 LBL were too mild. And honestly I have saved a lot of money compared to the cartridges and disposables. But I still covet a birth year slim and black handle super speed! Ugh! Someday! Someday!

  2. I do get better shaves with DE. I used to get 5 o’clock shadow by 2 in the afternoon. Now, I get 5 o’clock shadow at 8 PM!

    The thing that I enjoy the most, is no stinging from my sweat! When I was shaving with 3-5 blade razors. I would have stinging from sweat.

    1. Brian Fiori (AKA The Dean)

      I can get a great shave with either. I rarely use a cart anymore. Just on the rare occasion I’m in an ultra hurry. Then occasionally I go to the Fusion. Both give me an excellent shave. But I the big difference for me is, the DE shave lasts longer. I’m look unshaven earlier when I use the Fusion.

  3. Let’s not forget recycling! I will get many shaves out of one DE blade, before I safely put it in the trash. I never toss a razor. However, I used to toss a lot of cartridges and plastic razors (because there is always a new one to buy). Can’t wait for the 10 blade cartridge! Ugh!

  4. Let’s be clear that the reason to use a DE safety razor is the same as the reason to choose a fountain pen. Because you enjoy it. I honestly cannot claim to get a closer or more comfortable shave with a DE than a Gillette Fusion. I like old school shaving because I’m a bit of a nerd and I enjoy fussing. Although my daily shave is old school i keep a Fusion razor around for travel because I only travel carry on. I also use a well-used Fusion cartridge to shave the hair on my ears (NEVER use a DE razor there!) and I use the trimmer to shave under my nose. I love old school shaving and encourage everyone to give it a chance, but there is no place for snobbery or judgement here. Regarding cost — I cannot get more than four or five shaves from a cartridge which means I would be paying close to $1.00 per shave. It reportedly costs Gillette about ten cents to make a fusion cartridge. That’s a pretty hefty profit margin. A DE blade costs me about ten cents and it’s good for three or four shave – which comes out to pennies per shave, so there is a significant cost savings. There is also an environmental consideration to adding all of those cartridges to the waste stream.

    1. I fell down the rabbit hole and have spent a bit on this “hobby.” That said, I can routinely get a closer, more comfortable shave with a DE than I ever could with a cart.

  5. My personal experience has been that DE blades ALWAYS caused me some bleeding. My Fusion ProGlide cartridge ALMOST NEVER causes even the slightest bleeding. Costs? TUSH-PISH! I always buy mine in sealed package on E-Bay. I never spend more than about $2.12 to $2.25 each. The cartridge lasts me about a month (15 shaves). That comes out to about 15 cents a shave. The DE blades may be cheaper but they don’t last as long. Anyway, I save on styptic pencils and transfusions.

    1. Saul, thanks for your comments as they are very relevant! Out of curiosity what DE razor and blades did you try? Have you considered a razor that has one blade but still uses a pivoting head?

      1. I’ve tried several but honestly don’t remember specifics. I do remember that Gillette is nothing but a profit making company. They extensively test their products in-house. Not because they are such skilled artisans but because they will make more money selling a product that works well. Yay! Capitalism! Somehow the current 5 blade mechanism cuts smoothly without causing gashes. I don’t know but it sounds like a one blade device is half of a DE device. It sounds more akin to a straight razor with a handle. They make horror movies about straight razors. I will soon be testing the Wal-Mart 5 blade cartridge. I believe it is similar to the Amazon blades. Have already tried the Schick.

  6. D Phillip Chandler

    My expectation and the primary reason I switched was to get a better shave. And I did, eventually. After 3 to 4 weeks (the learning curve plus experimenting with all the new razors acquired…) I did start getting better shaves. And they continue to this day.

  7. I was expecting the time taken to shave with a DE razor to be the same or shorter than with a cartridge razor. It is possible to have it be the same using a canned lather or brushless cream along with a single pass. But I’m not sure you can make it shorter without greatly reducing the amount of beard removed. But in general, if you use a good quality artisan soap and lather it up with a brush as well as do at least 2 or 3 passes, that shave is going to take longer. The quality and enjoyment factor will be better and higher of course.

  8. My biggest expectation before using a DE razor was that I was going to get as close a shave as a modern cartridge razor right off the bat. This wasn’t the case, not because of the type of razor, but because different technique is required. Those who are new to using the traditional safety razor need to be aware that their first couple of weeks of shaves aren’t going to be particularly close. Having learned how to properly use a DE razor, I am now able to easily obtain a baby butt smooth shave.

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