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The Best Razors, According to Barbers

Photo: Moyo Studio/Getty/Getty Images

Getting the best shave comes down to having the best tools for the job. You’ll want to use a good shaving cream, of course, but the most important thing is to choose the right razor. A cartridge razor with disposable blades is the method most men learn first (and stick to), and replacement blades are available pretty much anywhere. An electric razor might be best for someone who wants to be as quick and efficient as possible. There are also safety razors, which have been around for more than 100 years and have recently surged in popularity because many feel they provide a better shave — plus, they’re more eco-friendly and economical. And there are straight razors, which are typically the domain of professionals, but may also appeal to passionate shavers because of the unique control they offer. The fact that countless different brands make different models of the same type of razor can make choosing the right one even more overwhelming.

To help folks find the best razors on the market, we asked 14 men’s-grooming experts — including ten barbers — about their favorites and combed through our archives to find other worthy options recommended to us before. The resulting selection of razors (below) features a style for pretty much everyone, including cartridge, electric, and safety razors, along with hybrid styles, and razors to use on sensitive skin. No matter which style of razor you choose, Tony DeAngelis, a co-owner of Blue&Black barbershop in Carroll Gardens, says there are two other important factors for 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.”

Best overall razor

Even though cartridge razors may be the most ubiquitous (and what most men learn how to shave with), 12 of the 14 experts we spoke with say that a safety razor is actually the best kind to use. The main thing it boils down to is the fact that with a safety razor, you’re shaving with only one blade — many of our experts told us that more blades do not necessarily mean a better shave, and that using multi-blade cartridges can increase the likelihood of ingrown hairs and razor burn. “The safety razor is the absolute way to go,” says Chad Beightol, the owner of New York City–based men’s-grooming store Consigliere. “You’re working with a single blade that is sharp, instead of relying on a multi-blade cartridge that is trying to trap the hair between the blades.” Paul Langevin of barbershop Mildred New York adds, “The single blade minimizes irritation.” Another plus is that safety razor blades (the best of which you can find here) are far less expensive to replace than disposable cartridges, and they don’t generate any plastic waste. The experts do admit that, at first, using a safety razor won’t be quite as effortless as shaving with a Gilette or Shick (and if you’d rather stick to those cartridge razors, there are some on this list, too). But they say most people are quick converts once they get the hang of it. We’ve written about safety razors before, and German razor manufacturer Merkur was the brand that came most recommended. The Merkur 34C remains our experts’ top pick, with many saying it’s an especially good choice for beginners because the short handle makes it easy to maneuver.

Best direct-to-consumer safety razor

Bevel Safety Razor
$44

Bevel is a newer safety-razor company that both barber Julien Howard and Beightol recommend. You can purchase the razor and blades on their own, but they also have subscription options for scheduled blade replacement, along with a full line of shaving products. The Bevel razor also has a bit of a sleeker, more contemporary look than the others on this list, and a slightly longer and narrower handle that might be more comfortable for some.

Best adjustable safety razor

Standard safety razors are pretty straightforward: The head of the razor closes around the flexible metal blade, which is then locked into a predetermined angle. This construction works well for most people, but some may benefit from being able to customize the angle at which the blade meets the skin. For someone with sensitive skin, a lower angle will allow for a gentler shave with less irritation. Someone with coarse facial hair, on the other hand, might prefer a more aggressive angle. It all comes down to personal preference, and that’s why Xavier Rodriguez of Fellow Barber and Peter Solomon of Tweed Barbers of Boston both recommend the adjustable Merkur Progress to anyone who thinks their safety-razor shave might benefit from some customization. It has five different blade-angle settings, and you simply twist the dial at the bottom to toggle between them. If you decide this is the razor for you, you’ll want to get some blades for it as well.

Best cartridge razor

Mike Gilman, the owner of the Grooming Lounge, agrees that a safety razor is going to provide the best shave when used properly. But he also notes that using one may simply not be practical for everyone. You need to be a bit more careful with a safety razor, so it’s going to take a little longer to shave; you also need to devote some time to learning proper technique. “For most guys, the method of shaving that works best, and that they are most used to, is shaving with a cartridge razor. The blades and razors are available everywhere, and they’re super-easy to use.” If you want to go the 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 compromise 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.

Best direct-to-consumer cartridge razor

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.” He likes Harry’s, however, which he says makes a good “disposable-blade system.” Like Bevel’s razors, Harry’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.

Editor’s note: While Amazon sells the razor with two blade refills, if purchased from Harry’s, you’ll only get the razor, hence the cheaper price.

Best cartridge razor for sensitive skin

Groomer and makeup artist Robert Reyes says that while “safety razors are great for sensitive skin, they can be a bit time-consuming.” So if you’ve got sensitive skin but prefer a cartridge razor, he suggests this Schick model that he personally uses. “It has lubricated skin guards that help protect the skin,” Reyes explains.