Shaving: the moment when boy becomes man. A rite of passage that can leave you pretty cut up – quite literally. Like most things in life, good technique comes with experience, but a well-made razor goes a long way to helping you secure the smoothest, closest shave.
Since you are quite literally putting a blade to your own throat, there’s no excuse for lack of diligence when choosing your weapon. Some basics: you want a razor that can glide over the contours of your face, removing hairs without it leaving your skin looking as though it has been attacked by a cheese grater. The quality of the blades is more important than the quantity of them (otherwise we’d have razors with 30-odd blades by now).
Manoeuvrability is also key. You certainly don’t want to go over the same patch again and again. To skip a harsh leathery appearance after too much shaving, look for lubricating features such as a moisture strip that will soothe and help repair your skin as you shave (not to mention, indicate roughly when the blade is dull.)
“As shaving is such a personal thing, the importance of the right razor is second to none. Both the weight and shape of the razor will affect your shave, how you use the razor and how it glides over the skin,” says Matthew Hughes from top London barbershop Ruffians. “Be sure to try out a few different handles before you even start to look at blades. Also remember that blades vary in weight, which affects the sharpness of the blade.”
Getting it wrong in front of the bathroom mirror can result in a rash resembling aggressive acne, so once you’ve selected your razor, follow some shaving tips, too. Showering before shaving will open your pores and as a result, minimise irritation. Doing so also means your skin will be clean, helping swerve irritation (or worse, infections) caused by dirt.
If you shave every day or every other day, changing your blade every three weeks or so is advisable, says Men-ü creative director, Lloyd Hughes. “As a rule of thumb, if you feel yourself putting pressure on the skin to achieve a close shave, it’s time to change [otherwise] you can do damage to the skin and cause further problems like shaving rash.”
Thorough cleaning after every shave is a must. The blades can become a haven for bacteria and if there’s hair clogging them, on your face be it.
When washing your razor, never bang it to get the hair out. This can alter the alignment of the blades and loosen the structure. Not what you want when you’ve spent a few bob on the perfect razor.
Another faux-pas is drying it on a towel. While you may think you’re lengthening the lifespan of your blade, you’re not. Air drying is the best option. Plus, that towel probably isn’t as clean as you tell yourself.
If you have the money and the inclination, get a new blade for every shave, says Hughes. “Razors are often sold on the idea of being used for up to three or four shaves, depending on the stubble and how thick it is. However, I would suggest only ever use them once, especially if you suffer from any irritation. Use it, bin it, pop on a new one. It ensures a clean, sharp shave every time.”
(Related: The Best Beard Trimmers A Man Can Buy)
It doesn’t seem like natural progression for a pen company to expand into razors, but Bic’s disposable razors have been a quick and easy favourite since the mid-seventies. The fact that the company’s name has become a verb for the act of shaving will tell you that generations of men have trusted these throwaway blades to do the job. However, the company is also slowly evolving into more durable territory, and its Flex 4 razor is a perfect example of this. It has four blades and a pivoting head to better manoeuvre the contours of your face.
Buy Now: £4
An ever-evolving brand, which aims to remain at the height of innovation. It’s sometimes easy to snigger at its over-the-top commercials, but the fact is that Gillette spends more money on R&D than any other shaving company. That’s why they work. The ProGlide offers a masterfully close shave with ease. The much-touted FlexBall technology gives the razor easy manoeuvrability over granite jawlines and softer features alike, with the thin blades providing a close shave for sensitive skin. Perfect for the novice and the pro.
Buy Now: £7.43
Rather than offering a range of razors off the shelf, Harry’s is a US-based subscription service that recently expanded to the UK. Its growth is down to the reliability of two affordable razors, engineered to the highest standard and good looking enough to display on the bathroom shelf. With five blades, a flex hinge and a precision trimmer, the Winston razor incorporates ergonomic design with faultless performance in a polished zinc and chrome finish.
Buy Now: £18
(Related: The Best Moisturisers For Every Skin Type)
This well-established British brand takes the ‘no frills’ approach to razors, in the sense that its products are practical, efficient and affordable. Its founder set the company up in 1993 because he couldn’t find a razor with a soft enough touch for his own sensitive skin. The blades are made in Japan, where they know a thing or two about sharp steel, but today’s range also features modern touches. The Hyperglide, for example, offers more by way of lubrication thanks to a patented ‘superhydrophilic’ coating (read: really really slippery) across the entire blade face. The flexible head allows for a closer shave, and there’s a trimming blade on the reverse of the cartridge for those fresh cut lines.
Buy Now: £12.95
Philips is slowly edging its way into the clean-shaven market with a product that’s genuinely different to anything else in the men’s grooming aisle. The OneBlade is a razor-cum-shaver-cum-trimmer with (no prizes for guessing) one blade capable of moving 200 times per second. This hybrid means you can trim (with three different comb lengths), edge and shave without pulling or leaving a razor burn. It’s a good option if you switch between designer stubble, shorter beards and clean-shaven looks, plus it can be used wet or dry and, refreshingly, the blade is designed to last up to four months. Value for money? We think so.
Buy Now: £39.99
Purveyors of sabers and guns, Wilkinson Sword has in-house knowledge to spare when it comes to making a razor that cuts a close shave. The company made its first safety razor in 1962 more than half a century on, it’s German-made blades are still hard to beat. The Hydro 5 is the pick of the current range, with its hydrating gel strip that works to pump moisture back into the skin as it travels across. The five-blade razor also has protective guards to banish irritation by preventing hairs getting caught between the blades.
Buy Now: £9
It’s may not be as recognisable a name as some on this list, but Dorco is a 60-year-old family business, which has spent years perfecting the art of razors. Made in the technology hub that is South Korea, the company has a history of innovation and also creates own-brand products for supermarkets around the world. The sleek Dorco Classic razor is the world’s first seven-blade razor, with a strip infused with nourishing oils and antioxidants to soothe the skin as it works. Best of all, its ergonomic design promises you won’t be found going over the same area twice.
Buy Now: £14.66
There are certain iconic British brands to be proud of, and Bolin Webb is one of them. The company is a serial award-winner, revered for its uncompromising approach to design and the quality of its materials. If there was ever a razor to proudly display in your bathroom, Bolin Webb’s X1 Carbon and Stand is it. The Lamborghini of razors, the body has a carbon fibre top panel often found in luxury motorcars, capped off with a Gillette Fusion blade. Naturally. There are more affordable options in the range, but they all conform to the same sleek aesthetic and come with a guarantee of up to five years.
Buy Now: £350
The very definition of sleek minimalism, the Cornerstone razor looks sophisticated without sacrificing performance. Made from Japanese chromium steel, the five blades are designed to minimise irritation, while an aloe vera strip soothes the skin as you go. Available through the company’s tailored subscription service, you’ll have the products you need, delivered to your door at regular intervals based on how often you shave.
Buy Now: £14