The traditional safety razor from Baxter of California is supposed to shave at the surface, not below.
I’m prone to razor bumps. I struggle with ingrown hairs. And if every blade causes irritation, do I really want more with another multi-blade razor?
Here’s the thing: Multi-blade razors give you a close shave because they cut the hairs below the surface of your skin. Some men swear by them.
The first blade catches the hair and tugs it taut. The following blades slice it, and when it goes slack, it’s been trimmed just a tiny bit below the skin level. Sure, it feels smooth to the touch, but it can get ingrown as it tries to reach the surface again.
So when I saw a recommendation from a dermatologist for a single-blade razor, I thought I’d give it a try. The traditional safety razor from Baxter of California ($65) is supposed to shave at the surface, not below. Plus, it looks like a tiny version of a medieval weapon. I wasn't even sure how to use it, let alone if it would work. I decided to find out—and here’s what happened.
First off, it looked good. It had a nice heft. It was shiny. And it was double-edged, meaning there were cutting blades on both sides—kind of like a battle axe. Speaking of blades, they were sharp, too. In fact, from the first stroke there was a real satisfaction to watching this single blade clear a perfectly clean path in four days’ worth of stubble. Of course, the first stroke was on an easy, flat area of my cheek. Then it got trickier.
One of the innovations of modern razors is the many blades. Another is the pivot head. I have to confess, I missed the pivot head. Getting the angle right with the single blade was simple, but going around corners was a different story. The instructions—yes it comes with instructions—advise trying "shorter, straight strokes avoiding 'turns.'" (I can hear these old-timey shave experts scoffing as they put the word "turns" in quotes.) I shaved in isolated patches. It got easier. But I never quite figured out how to get those stubborn hairs right at the base of my nostrils.
I know what you're wondering—how bloody was it? There was blood. But this was no slasher movie. I was afraid I'd somehow lose control, slide the thing sideways, and give myself a razor gash. That didn’t happen, but the razor had a knack for taking off tiny pinpoints of skin. (Maybe they were leftover razor bumps from old shaves?) After the first couple tries, I had a few spots on my face that bled for a stubbornly long time. The good news is there were fewer of these every shave. I took that as evidence I was getting more skilled at this single-blade routine—but it could have been that my face was just getting less bumpy.
Tip: When you're going to shave your Adam's apple, use your free hand to pull that patch of skin to the side before shaving it. Much easier without the cartilage underneath.
With all the short, careful strokes, this may sound like it takes a long time. So I timed it. The whole process clocked in at under 5 minutes—even when I hadn't practiced very much. It felt longer because I was paying more attention than I had traditionally, but it wasn't eating up my morning.
Final verdict: Yes, the razor bumps got better. In fact, the evidence was immediate. After a shave, I usually have areas of raised, red irritation, especially on my neck. After my first single-blade shave, there was some redness, but the irritation wasn't puffy like it had been with a multi-blade razor. By the third or fourth shave, I wasn't seeing ingrown hairs anymore. That made the next shave easier and started a virtuous cycle—one I'm not interested in interrupting. Don't feel bad for my multi-blade razor, though. Sometimes I still cave and use it to shave right under my nostrils and where my earlobes meet my jaw. But I'm still training with the battle axe, so my days of multiple blades are numbered.