The double edge razor blade is a simple piece of steel with two cutting edges, one on each side of the blade. It mounts into a traditional safety razor and provides a close shave. Despite this straight-forward concept, there remains a lot of confusion about blades in general. How long do they last? How do you choose the right one? What is the safest way to store them? This article discusses double edge blades and answers some of the most frequently asked questions about them.
Where/How Are Blades Made?
The silhouette of a double edge safety razor is recognizable by men worldwide because blades are manufactured and distributed by companies across the globe. With the advancement of ecommerce and logistics, men have more options for blades than ever before. Here is a list of popular companies and where their blades are manufactured:
The manufacturing process contains several steps to ensure that the blades are produced to certain specifications. The blades begin as long strips of steel and go through several temperature treatments, coatings, and quality tests before they are packaged for traditional wetshavers. The show "How It's Made" visited a the Croma blade factory and documented the manufacturing process for their double edge blades in this video.
Like Croma, Merkur blades (displayed during the intro of this video) are also produced in Germany, but offer the most convenient blades for the U.S. market since they can be found commonly in many drug stores or men's gift shops. Other brands, such as Feather, are also extremely popular, too, since these are known for their sharpness. All of the previously mentioned brands can be found on websites of shaving suppliers in the U.S. and around the world. Buying online is recommended since the shaving industry has many reputable vendors and stockists that provide outstanding customer service. Also, many of these stores offer sampler packs of blades so that you can try different brands to see what works best for you.
Which Blade Is Right For Me?
One of the most difficult tasks for many men is finding the right razor blade for their beard coarseness and skin types. Because every person's skin and hair type is unique, it is very difficult (if not impossible) to recommend one blade over another. A blade that provides a smooth and comfortable shave for one person may be harsh and uncomfortable on someone else's skin. If you are new to wetshaving, start with a mild blade and experiment with different brands until you find the right one for you.
As you try different brands of blades, notice how the blade feels on your skin. The right blade will glide smoothly over your skin and provide a close and comfortable shave. If you experience any problems, here are some questions to answer:
- Do you feel like the razor blade is not making contact with your hair or you have to go over the same area several times? Your razor may be too mild for you and your beard may require more blade exposure or a larger blade gap in order to reduce the hair.
- Do you feel that the blade is making contact with the hair, but it is tugging or pulling and you have to apply more force to move the blade along? Choose a sharper blade. If you are using a Merkur, try a brand that is considered sharper, such as a BIC.
- Do you feel that the blade is scratching across your skin and it takes all of your stubble off in one pass? Your razor may be too aggressive for you. Your razor may expose too much of the blade's edge, so you may want to try a safety razor with a smaller blade gap.
- Do you feel burning or scratching in your final passes due to the friction of the blade on the skin, or your aftershave burns your face excessively? If you start out your shave fine in your first pass, but end with irritation after a second or third pass, then your blade may be too sharp for you. If you are using a Feather blade, try a Personna instead.
Many new wetshavers assume that the sharpest blade equals the best shave; however, you will quickly find out this is not always the case. Take into consideration the sensitivity of your skin and your hair coarseness, and it is clear that some trial and error is required in determining which brand of blades works best for you.
How Long Do DE Blades Last?
Based on the brand you choose and the coarseness of your beard, a blade should last you for at least three shaves. Popular blades, such as Feather and BIC, generally perform very well and can give the average person 5-7 shaves with each blade. Some men can use the same blade even longer if they don't have coarse beards that can wear the blade edge down quickly, or if they want to really stretch their dollar.
How Should I Store DE Blades?
New blades can be stored in their original packing until you load one into your safety razor for use. You can keep your blade installed in your razor for several uses, but thoroughly dry your safety razor with a towel after each shave. If you have several razors and rotate through using them or know that you will not be using a particular razor for an extended period of time, then remove the blade from the razor and either insert it in the next razor you will use or go ahead and just discard it into a blade bank.
Most of the popular razor blades on the market today are made from stainless steel or have special coatings that make them more resistant to rust. Because most men get an average of 5-7 shaves with their double edge blades, the blade will not be in use long enough to require special considerations for storage. Leaving a blade in the razor for a long period of time could increase the likelihood of rust or corrosion forming and damaging the finish of your razor, but on a daily basis it is acceptable to leave the blade installed in your double edge razor. When it is time to change your blade, remove it from your razor and drop it into a blade bank or sealed metal container for safe disposal.
Why Choose DE Over Cartridge?
Cartridge razors are considered "mainstream" in the U.S. (notice that none of the DE manufacturers listed above are located in the Western Hemisphere) and are marketed by two major players, Gillette and Schick. They appeal to many men because cartridges are advertised to be modern and high performing with innovative designs and multi-blade cutting action. The problem is that the blades of a cartridge are close together with extremely small spacing between each cutting edge. If your stubble is not short enough to fit between the blade gaps, the blade is unable to cleanly cut hair without requiring multiple passes along your skin, catching and pulling the hair, as well as constantly clogging during the shave.
The double edge safety razor, on the other hand, uses a single cutting edge that tracks along the skin at a much more comfortable angle and cuts the hair cleanly without grabbing or pulling excessively (provided you choose the right blade for your beard and skin type). Although you won't find many celebrity athletes promoting the double edge razor, there has been a strong resurgence in traditional shaving. Many men are returning to old-school shaving because it is more comfortable and more economical. Trying different brands and finding the right blade is part of the challenge, but worth the rewards.