One Blade or 6? Is More Better?

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How to Get a Better Shave
How to Get a Better Shave

The average man will shave thousands of times during his lifetime. When young, perhaps while watching a brother, father, or grandfather shave, boys often look forward to the day when they too could shave like an adult. Initially, when coming of age, much like having a driver’s license, it’s fun. But you’re an adult now, and the fun quickly wears away. Like being sent on a milk run to the supermarket, or being stuck in traffic, shaving inevitably becomes a chore that adds another routine to an already hectic morning.

But does it matter how many blades your razor is packing? Do 6 blades or more mean a better shave compared to a single-blade razor? The answer may surprise you. Razor blades, much like shaving creams, come in a wide variety. Regular straight-edged and double-edged safety razors are still sold but are not as widely marketed as their counterparts. Commercials never delve into why having more blades is better. These marketing campaigns typically state that a person will get a closer shave with more blades. For some, shaving is an art form: the pursuit of achieving the closest shave without irritation, razor burn, in-grown hairs, and more importantly, avoiding having your face look like it went through a meat grinder!

Why More Blades?

The straight edge was the tried-and-true tool of shaving for quite some time. A single blade offered multiple angles to cut through facial hair. While primitive, the shave achieved was, and still is, one of the best a person can get. The technique necessary for achieving the perfect shave with a straight edge was just as important as having a sharpened blade. The goal for any shave is to have a clean, silky smooth face, without looking like you climbed through barbed wire or pulled a Sweeney Todd on themselves.

Gillette pioneered the disposable double-edged safety blade in 1901. It sold extremely well for nearly 20 years, due in part to a government contract to supply it to US troops during World War l. When the patent for it expired, many competitors began to fill the shelves with their own variants, while Gillette slowly conceded market share and profits. To counter this, Gillette then introduced a 2-blade razor, and continuingly changed or upgraded the razor blade as necessary in order to stay ahead of the competition. The introduction of 2- and 3-bladed razors necessitated the need for consumers to buy replacement cartridges, which were of course sold by Gillette. With more competition and new generations of blades came additional features, such as lubricating strips, razor wear indicators, comfort edges, and more.

Is There a Benefit to More Blades?

If 1 blade is good, then having 2 or more should be even better, right? Not necessarily. In order to achieve a close shave, the razor blade needs to cut the hair below the surface of the skin.  A single blade can achieve this using a wide variety of angles to glide across the face, but a double-bladed razor achieves this by having a blunt blade that hooks the hair follicle, pulling it up ever so slightly so that the second blade can make the cut. With 3 blades, the first and second blades work the same as a 2-blade razor, but the third blade essentially performs clean-up duty, ensuring nothing is missed. As more and more blades are added, they are essentially repeating the actions of the primary and secondary blade. By continuingly running the blades across the face, there is increased possibility for razor burn, skin irritation, nicks, and, by far the worst of all, an ingrown hair.

Many dermatologists recommend sticking with a single-, double-, or triple-bladed razor. Nicks are more common with multi-blade razors, as they push down on the skin, essentially causing a slight hill forward of the blade. More blades mean less flex or contouring of the blade to overcome the hill, inevitably leading to the need for an alum block or styptic pencil.

How Does One Achieve the Perfect Shave?

In an ideal world, facial hair would all be the same thickness. It would grow in the same direction, allowing for a quick yet bloodless shave. However, hairs grow in varying directions and have different thicknesses and types. There are thin hairs, thick hairs, curly and straight hairs, and bi-directionally growing hairs. The key to a successful shave is patience and preparation. It’s best to shave during or after a shower, but if time does not permit, you can still achieve perfection.

Ensure that warm water is gently splashed on the face. Water helps by softening the hairs and also acts as an additional lubricating agent in conjunction with your shaving cream. When applying shaving cream, a little bit goes a long way; apply a thin yet even amount to allow the cream to lather up fully. It’s important to use short strokes of the razor and to rinse the razor thoroughly. By keeping the razor wet, it will glide effortlessly across the skin. When done shaving, applying aftershave provides relief to the skin. Aftershave consists of antibacterial reagents that help prevent clogged pores and infection. Aftershave also includes astringents to help cleanse the follicles and skin cells, removing dust and chemicals that may make skin look dull, while also providing a nice clean scent. Shaving every other day will minimize nicks and ingrown hairs, especially when bearing down with a single-, double- or even triple-blade razor. Ensure that the razor blade is replaced every 5 to 6 shaves or when the razor itself seems to do more pulling than cutting. More blades will not result in a better shave; fewer blades with proper planning and preparation will.

Reference

  1. Are single-blade razors better than multiple-blade razors? Bevel Etiquette website. http://beveletiquette.com/grooming-tips/are-single-blade-razors-better-than-multiple-blade.
  2. Burns N. Shaving with five blades when maybe two will do. New York Times website. January 19, 2006. http://www.nytimes.com/2006/01/19/fashion/thursdaystyles/19skin.html?_r=0.
  3. Greidanus TG. Pseudofolliculitis of the beard. Medscape website. Updated October 12, 2012. http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1071251-overview.
    Safety razors. wiki.badgerandblade website. http://wiki.badgerandblade.com/Safety_razors
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  4. Nasr SL. Does it matter how many blades are on your razor? How Stuff Works website. http://health.howstuffworks.com/skin-care/beauty/hair-removal/how-many-blades.htm.

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