No matter how you shave (or how often), using the right razor is key. But pinning down the correct style of blade for your lifestyle, budget, and facial hair can be confusing: Do you go for drugstore cartridge razors, pivoting electric razors, or a good old-fashioned straight razor? Do you choose your razor according to your skin type or your hair type?
I spoke to 15 grooming experts to ask them about their favorite razors for all types of facial hair and cross-referenced dozens of blades. But no matter which style of razor you choose, says Tony DeAngelis, a co-owner of Blue&Black barbershop in Carroll Gardens, there are two other important factors when it comes to getting a good shave: heat and stretching the skin. As he explains, “Heat, whether from running the shower or the sink, allows hair to come off easier, which means less irritation. And stretching the skin while you shave means fewer chances of nicks and scratches because you’re creating a tighter, smoother surface for the blade to move across.”
If you already know what type of razor you’re looking for, use our handy table of contents to skip ahead. Otherwise, read on to learn about every razor on the list and even pick up some shaving tips along the way.
What we’re looking for
Using a cartridge razor is the method that most men learn first (and tend to stick to), especially because replacement blades are available pretty much anywhere. An electric razor is quick and efficient. Safety razors have been around for more than a century, but their recent resurgence is thanks to the closer shave they offer — plus they’re more ecofriendly and economical. And then there are straight razors, which are typically the domain of professionals but may also appeal to passionate shavers in want of more control.
Though cartridge razors may be ubiquitous, the majority of our experts favor safety razors over any other style. With a safety razor, you’re shaving with only one blade, but it’s important to realize that having more blades doesn’t necessarily mean a better shave, and multi-blade cartridges can increase the likelihood of ingrown hairs and razor burn. Another plus is that safety razor blades are far less expensive to replace than disposable cartridge blades, and they don’t generate any plastic waste. However, the type of razor and blade that’s best suited for you will depend on your particular facial hair and how often you shave, so we’ve included enough styles to cover a range of habits and types of hair. We’ve also included information about the blades for each razor and whether any come included.
We’ve also listed a number of dollar signs corresponding to each razor’s price range: One dollar sign means the starting cost of the razor is less than $20, two means it’s between $20 and $50, three means it’s between $50 and $100, and four dollar signs means it’s over $100.
Ease of use
If you shave every day, chances are you’ll be looking for a quick razor that doesn’t require much maintenance. If you’re more of a once-a-week shaver, you may have more time for a lengthy routine complete with badger brush and hand-thrown bowl. But there are plenty of people who fall somewhere in between. We’ve let you know how easy each razor is to use out of the package.
We’ve also considered the “ease of use,” ranking each razor, below, by its level of difficulty right out of the package, from total beginner to novice to expert.
To help you make an informed decision based on your specific time constraints and shaving habits, we’ve noted any extra convenience features like wet-dry functionality and subscription blade refills.
Hair and skin type
All of the razors on this list are good for shaving, but some of them are better suited for tackling longer facial hair while others really only work on short stubble. In addition, our experts specifically noted when a razor is good for sensitive skin or anyone prone to ingrown hairs. They also told us which razors are best for achieving baby-smooth skin, which ones will help maintain a five o’clock shadow, and which ones are best for creating sharp edge lines.
Best overall razor
Razor type: Safety razor| Price: $$ | Ease of use: Time consuming at first| Difficulty level: Novice | Special features: Blades not included | Hair and skin type: Good for coarse hair
From speaking to the experts, I’m confident in saying that a safety razor — when used properly — is going to provide the best shave. But Mike Gilman, the owner of Grooming Lounge, and our other experts advise that using one comes with a learning curve — so at first it won’t be quite as effortless as shaving with a Gillette or Schick from the drugstore. However, they also say that most people are quick converts once they get the hang of it. “Using a safety razor is all about learning to hold the handle at a specific angle,” explains Patrick Butler, technical director of education and operations at Floyd’s 99 Barbershop. “Unlike a cartridge razor that will pivot easily, the safety razor needs to be guided by your own hand.” You’ll have to be mindful of the angle, pressure, and steadiness as you shave, he adds.
The Merkur 34C has long been my — and our experts’ — top pick. Thanks to its short, easy-to-maneuver handle, it’s an especially good choice for beginners. “The Merkur handle is thicker, which gives you more weight to hold onto,” Butler says. And Paul Langevin of barbershop Mildred New York says the sharp single blade of a safety razor minimizes irritation. That’s great news for anyone who’s prone to razor burn or ingrown hairs.
Best (less expensive) safety razor
Razor type: Safety razor | Price: $$ | Ease of use: Time consuming at first | Difficulty level: Novice | Special features: Comes with a five-pack of blades | Hair and skin type: Good for coarse hair
Both Joey Tasca of Brooklyn-based Persons of Interest and Mark Miguez of Friend of a Barber like the razors from British shaving company Edwin Jagger, but this specific one is a standout. It features a short handle that’s similar to the Merkur’s, above, and Tasca told us that it’s heavy enough so there’s “something powerful in your hand, which makes you less likely to cut yourself.” Miguez mentioned that he actually switched to this razor after bad skin experiences with Gillette and Bic cartridge razors — he hasn’t had any irritation with his Edwin Jagger. And despite being just $5 cheaper than the Merkur, the price includes a free five-pack of double-edge blades from Derby, a brand many barbers endorse.
Best open-comb safety razor
Razor type: Open-comb safety razor | Price: $$ | Ease of use: Time consuming at first, requires delicacy | Difficulty level: Expert | Special features: Replacement blades not included | Hair and skin type: Good for coarse hair
We thought we’d add an open-comb safety razor to the mix too, since many experts — like Peter Solomon, the owner of Boston’s Tweed Barbers — insist it’s the way to get the absolute closest shave. Solomon does warn, though, that open-comb razors are “known to be a very aggressive shave, so it’s best for experts who know what they’re doing.” His recommended razor, the Muhle R41, is lightweight, with a rather handsome gilded handle.
Best cartridge razor
Razor type: Four-blade cartridge razor | Price: $$ | Ease of use: Quick and easy | Difficulty level: Beginner | Special features: Comes with four refill blades | Hair and skin type: Good for sensitive skin
A method of shaving that’s familiar (and straightforward) to most is shaving with a cartridge razor. “The blades and razors are available everywhere, and they’re super-easy to use,” says Gilman. And according to Butler, Gillette continues to lead the industry with many different options to choose from. The brand’s ProGlide razor is one he uses on himself and one that works well with his sensitive skin. It has an outer coating of lubrication around each side of the blades, helping to smooth the skin before and after shaving, he explains. He also appreciates the flexball-style handle that lets the blade pivot and angle around the contours of his face. “This has saved me plenty of times as I try to shave under the jawline,” he says. “In the end, you are left with an amazingly smooth shave.” Rasposo is another convert, explaining that this razor “gets closer than any other cartridge razor that I’ve tried, and that’s a lot.”
Best (less expensive) cartridge razor
Razor type: Three-blade cartridge razor | Price: $ | Ease of use: Quick and easy | Difficulty level: Beginner | Special features: Refills not included | Hair and skin type: Good for most hair types
If you want to go the even more affordable cartridge-razor route, Gilman says it’s wise to stick with a classic. His pick, the Gillette Mach 3, uses a three-blade cartridge, which is a nice middle ground between the single blade of a safety razor and the five blades of some of the newest cartridge razors. “I just think the Mach 3 is the way to go,” he says. Steve Waldman, technical artistic director at the Hair Cuttery family of brands, similarly likes how the three-blade design allows you to get around any uneven spots on your face, especially under your nose and around the corners of your mouth. The Mach 3 is also the cheapest razor on our list, making it a great starter razor for teens learning to shave.
Best subscription cartridge razor
Razor type: Five-blade cartridge razor | Price: $ | Ease of use: Quick and easy | Difficulty level: Beginner | Special features: Refills available à la carte or by subscription | Hair and skin type: Good for most hair types
Langevin agrees with Gilman that a cartridge razor would be a better choice for “people who don’t want to master shaving with a safety razor.” The five-blade head of this Harry’s razor features a lubrication strip as well as a precision trimmer blade on the back side for hard-to-reach areas like sideburns. Langevin also says that Harry’s makes a good “disposable-blade system.” The brand’s razors and blades are available à la carte, but you can also sign up for a subscription blade-replacement plan through the brand’s website. So if you often find yourself using a dull blade out of laziness or forgetfulness, this is the razor for you. You can get the razor on its own, in a set with two cartridges, or in a set that includes three cartridges, the brand’s shave gel, and a travel case.
Best electric-cartridge hybrid razor
Razor type: Battery-powered cartridge razor | Price: $$ | Ease of use: Quick and easy | Difficulty level: Beginner | Special features: Refills not included | Hair and skin type: Good for long and short facial hair
Marissa Machado, a celebrity groomer and makeup artist, as well as two who shave regularly — Strategist contributor Kurt Soller and Bloomberg U.K. editor Conrad Quilty-Harper — like the OneBlade electric razor from Philips Norelco, another classic brand. The OneBlade uses cartridges that are meant to be replaced about every four months and is shaped like a more maneuverable cartridge razor, but it’s battery powered and features a vibrating blade, so it also recalls electric styles. Machado says that “it gives a smooth finish” and, unlike other electric razors, it’s designed to “be used with or without shaving cream.” She also praises its customizability: “It comes with trimming attachments, so it’s really an all-in-one product,” she says. Soller called it a perfect razor for travel because it’s lightweight, fits easily in a Dopp kit, and can be used wet or dry.
Best foil electric razor
Razor type: Foil electric razor | Price: $$$ | Ease of use: Quick and easy | Difficulty level: Novice | Special features: Replacement blades and foils not included | Hair and skin type: Good for short stubble
Langevin, barber Karac Ruleau of Mott NYC, and Heather Manto former owner of Austin’s Independence Barber Co. all recommend the Andis Cordless Profoil Shaver — Langevin uses the Andis 17200 and Manto and Ruleau use the slightly older 17150, but they are essentially the same. “It helps to pull out ingrown hairs and doesn’t cause razor bumps,” she says. It’s lightweight and cordless, making it easy to maneuver in almost any setting. Langevin says that the resulting shave is the closest you can get with an electric style, and shaving with foil razors can even reduce the occurrence of ingrown hairs. Ruleau adds: “It gives you a super-close shave without any razor burn, is durable and inexpensive, and doesn’t require a frequent charge.” But one note from all of our experts: Foil shavers like this aren’t designed to cut long hair and only work on short, “stubble length” facial hair. While that might seem limiting, Manto thinks it makes them a great choice for people who shave regularly. According to the brand, the blades and the foils should be replaced about every six months if you use it daily, which is pretty quick compared to other electric razors, but on the plus side, replacement blades and foils are easy to find and affordable.
Best rotary electric shaver
Razor type: Rotary electric razor | Price: $$$$ | Ease of use: Quick and easy | Difficulty level: Novice | Special features: Replacement blades not included | Hair and skin type: Good for acne- or ingrown-hair-prone skin
Butler has told us about this electric shaver twice. He appreciates the shaver’s cleaning pod — you dip the top of the razor into the pod after shaving and within a minute, it’s clean and ready for your next shave. This makes it a great choice for men prone to ingrown hairs and acne as it reduces any bacteria left on the razor. Although it works for a wet or dry shave, Butler prefers using it to shave wet — washing his face first, applying a shaving gel and letting it sit for a minute and then going in with the razor. The razor is cordless for convenience, and the whole thing is waterproof so you can use it in the shower. The shaver’s circular motion helps get a closer shave, and its pop-up trimmer can be used to clean up edges along the hairline, Butler adds.
Best electric trimmer for longer hair
Razor type: Electric trimmer | Price: $$$ | Ease of use: Quick and easy | Difficulty level: Novice | Special features: Comes with four length guards, blades require regular oiling | Hair and skin type: Good for longer hair and sensitive skin
If you’re looking for an electric option to tackle longer hair (or to use on sensitive skin), four experts have told us that Wahl’s Peanut is the best because it has a powerful motor, is easy to maneuver, and comes with four guards that will help you achieve the exact facial-hair length you want. (The Peanut, according to even more experts, is also great for shaving your head and manscaping.) DeAngelis calls it a “compact, sturdy machine that is going to cut what you need it to cut, but still allow you to work safely around your mustache and lips.” If used without those guards, the trimmer will cut facial hair down to a covetable five-o’clock-shadow length, say the pros, who note that a trimmer like this is also the best style of electric razor for people with sensitive skin — because it doesn’t cut so close, it’s less likely to cause irritation. While Wahl also sells a cordless version of the Peanut, most of our barbers prefer the corded style because they say it offers more consistent power.
Best electric trimmer for traveling
Razor type: Electric trimmer | Price: $ | Ease of use: Quick, easy and convenient | Difficulty level: Beginner | Special features: Comes with three stubble guides and ear- and nose-trimmer attachments | Hair and skin type: Good for most hair types
If you need a razor for trips, celebrity hairstylist Charley McEwan recommends the Wahl All in One. “It only has one setting, so it’s more for maintaining shape rather than replacing a larger trimmer. But you can do your ears with it too — not enough guys pay attention to the very fine hairs on their ears.” It comes with a nose trimmer as well, making it a solid 3-in-1 when you’re far from home.
Best straight razor
Razor type: Straight razor | Price: $$$$ | Ease of use: Steep learning curve | Difficulty level: Expert | Special features: Blade requires regular sharpening | Hair and skin type: Good for most hair types
“Handling a straight razor requires patience, practice, and discipline,” says Yvey Valcin, founder of Yvey Salon, who recommends that anyone wanting to master the technique uses the balloon technique. “Put shaving cream on a balloon, and shave it off with a straight razor to perfection. Do that over and over until you don’t pop the balloon, then you’ll know you’re ready.” Historically, DOVO was one of the razor-makers I heard about the most when I asked hot-towel barbers about their favorite straight razors, and Valcin joins three other experts in naming their Inox straight razor as the very best. Fellow grooming expert Arthur Iskhakov, owner of Barber’s Blueprint in New York, recommends the razor because of its five-eighths-inch blade, which he says is the standard for a good straight razor. If you are after something weightier, though, Butler recommends the brand’s Bizmark model for its solid construction, which is so heavy it actually helps with mastering your angles and grip.
Best shavette straight razor
Razor type: Shavette straight razor | Price: $$$ | Ease of use: Steep learning curve | Difficulty level: Expert | Special features: Replacement disposable blades not included| Hair and skin type: Good for most hair types
Another razor that’s been recommended to us often is this Dovo “shavette,” which is essentially a straight razor that accepts disposable blades, similar to those used in safety razors. Novelty aside, straight razors — and shavettes — allow for a unique degree of control while shaving, and since they are so low-profile and precise, they are great for detail work and shaping beards. But what’s particularly great about the Dovo shavette, DeAngelis says, is that it has a “lip on the front that makes it much safer: There’s nowhere for the edge of the blade to stick out, which greatly reduces the chance of you cutting yourself,” especially for first-time straight-razor users.
• Patrick Butler, senior director and technical director of education and operations at Floyd’s 99 Barbershop
• Tony DeAngelis, co-owner of Blue&Black
• Mike Gilman, owner of Grooming Lounge
• Arthur Iskhakov, owner of Barber’s Blueprint in New York
• Paul Langevin of barbershop Mildred New York
• Charley McEwan, celebrity hairstylist
• Marissa Machado, celebrity groomer and makeup artist
• Heather Manto former owner of Independence Barber Co.
• Mark Miguez of Friend of a Barber
• Conrad Quilty-Harper, Bloomberg U.K. digital editor
• Karac Ruleau, barber at Mott NYC
• Kurt Soller, Strategist contributor
• Peter Solomon, owner of Boston’s Tweed Barbers
• Joey Tasca of Brooklyn-based Persons of Interest
• Steve Waldman, technical artistic director at the Hair Cuttery family of brands
• Yvey Valcin, founder of Yvey Salon
Additional reporting by Liza Ambar Pardilla and David Notis.
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