Hey, it’s Thomas. Today I’m going to talk about why you don’t need a bunch of different blades in your razor in order to get a close shave or as it’s called in the wet shaving community a “BBS” shave or baby’s butt smooth shave. The razor manufacturers have progressed over the years to the point where they are at five-bladed razors all in the name of getting the closest shave.
Maybe There’s Some Truth in “Multiple Blades = Closer Shave”?
If you’re only shaving with the grain, then there might be some truth, OK a lot of truth, in that multiple blades will give you a closer shave. The idea here is that each blade will progressively cut your beard/hair shorter as it passes over the hair. Unfortunately, the downside to having multiple blades pass over your skin is it can lead to more friction and irritation, hence the moisturizing strip.
Since a lot of men have sensitive skin the mere thought of doing an “across the grain” or “against the grain” pass might cause them to break out in razor bumps or razor burn. If you’re only able to do one pass, then it makes sense that more blades will give you a closer shave.
The Secret the Razor Manufacturers Don’t Want You to Know About
Sorry about that title, it sounds like it should be on a banner ad somewhere. Anyways, if you want the closest shave possible you are going to have to do multiple passes. I myself rarely do anything more than with the grain these days. I don’t care about having a super close shave. However, if you want a super close shave going against the grain is how you get that ultra-close shave.
As mentioned in the previous section, for some men this is a near impossibility due to razor burn. However, there are a lot of men that report that while they can’t go against the grain with a multi-bladed cartridge razor they are able to go against the grain with a straight razor or a safety razor. The one thing both these razors have in common is that they have only one blade.
Now I’m nowhere where near a shaving expert and I certainly don’t watch a million men shave each year like Gillette does, but if you take the same man you gets razor burn going against the grain with a cartridge razor, or with the grain for that matter, and doesn’t get razor burn using a straight razor or a safety razor, then you might wonder if it’s the number of blades that is causing the irritation?
Introduce A New Feature That Fixes The Problem Caused By a New Feature.
You’ve probably seen the comic where a person starts taking medicine to fix an issue. As it turns out, the medicine that they take to fix the original problem has side effects that cause another problem. To fix the second problem the person takes different medicine that causes another side effect and another problem. The cycle continues until they’ve come full circle with the last medicine that they take causing a side effect/problem that the first medicine was intended to solve.
As I look at the evolution of modern razors I can’t help but think of the above comic. A couple of years ago I came across a website that sold safety razors and DE blades. The website also had advertising literature for Gillette going back decades and possible before the 1900s.
Take a guess at what feature Gillette advertised safety razors being superior to straight razors. Go ahead, take a moment and think about it. I’ll wait.
The main feature that was being advertised was “nowhere more stropping”. They didn’t try to claim that it was a superior shave or gave you a closer shave. They were just promoting the fact that a safety razor was more convenient and didn’t have as much prep work or maintenance to maintain the razor.
I’ll have to go back and take a look at what point they started equating more blades with a better shave, but the more blades certainly caused issues prompting “innovation” to fix those issues. More blades caused shaving irritation, so they introduced shaving lubrication strips. The blades can’t be sharpened(or can they?), so they introduced the infamous blues strip that tells you when you need to replace your razor.
Now that they’re up to five blades they have had to introduce more features and innovation. The blade has become so large that you can’t use all of those blades to shave the area between your lip and your nose, so they had to add a single blade on the opposite side to allow you to shave that part. In the same vein, the razors so large it becomes hard to tell where to place it to shave your sideburns and to do any type of clean-up or edge work.
I suspect that the size of the blade is also why they added the “ball” to the razor. They needed a way for you to maneuver the much bulkier razor to hit curved spots on your face, such as your jawline where your jaw meets your neck, that just wasn’t possible with the existing attachment mechanism they had used for the Mach 3.
It tickles me to nowhere end, that in order for the razor manufacturer’s to go to a five-bladed razor they had to revert back to a single-blade design, the blade on the opposite side, in order to allow men to effectively shave all areas their face. Oh the irony.
Where Did All of This “More Blades = Closer Shave” BS Come From?
To be completely honest, I don’t know at what point the razor manufacturers started pushing the whole closer shave spiel onto consumers. I’m going to have to do some research to find out. However, I suspect it has to do with them comparing how close the current razor shaves against previous razor models.
To wrap up, all you need for a closer shave is to shave against the grain. This will give you a much closer shave than a multi-bladed cartridge razor ever can only going with the grain. If you can’t shave against the grain because of irritation it might be time to experiment and see if the cause of the irritation is due to the multi-bladed razor that you’re using. As in all aspects of life, there are nowhere guarantees that a straight razor, shavette, or safety razor will allow you to shave against the skin without getting razor burn or bumps. However, I’ve read many stories of men who have tried shaving with more traditional shaving implements and seen problems with skin irritation, razor burn and bumps go away.