Whether you’re a long time user of double edge safety razors or entirely new to the game you will no doubt have come across the term razor ‘aggressiveness’. We’re often asked by customers in the shop what aggressiveness of double edge safety razor is suitable for their beard type so we’ve put together this short guide to explain what determines aggressiveness.
What is Aggressiveness in a Double Edge Safety Razor
Aggressiveness is the term used to define how close a razor cuts the hair to the skin and how easily it moves across your face. A more aggressive razor will cut closer to the skin and won’t glide across your face so smoothly.
There are three design elements of a double edge safety razor that determine its aggressiveness: blade exposure, blade safety bar span and whether the razor is open or closed comb.
Blade exposure represents the position of the razor blade cutting edge in relation to the shave plane. To determine the shave plane imagine a straight line that intersects the safety bar and top cap (see illustration below). Blade exposure is considered positive if the blade edge sits above the shave plane, neutral if it sits on the line and negative if it sits below the line.
Double edge safety razors with positive blade exposure will provide an aggressive shave and those with neutral or negative blade exposure will provide a mild shave. Whether positive, neutral or negative each type can be adjusted in terms of aggressiveness by adjusting the angle of the shaver against the face.
Blade Safety Bar Span
This represents the distance between the razor blade cutting edge and the outermost edge of the safety bar (see illustration below).
The blade safety bar span affects the length of hair that can be cut and the amount of skin that comes into contact with the blade.
A large span will allow hairs more chance to stand upright after being flattened by the safety bar as the razor passes over your face leading to a closer, more aggressive shave. A larger span also allows your skin to bulge up between the blade and safety bar, which puts more skin in contact with the blade and again provides a more aggressive shave.
So, naturally, a smaller span will prevent hairs from standing upright and as much skin from bulging between the safety bar and blade edge leading to a mild, less aggressive shave.
It’s also worth mentioning that blade gap, which is different from blade safety bar span and refers to the gap between the blade and safety bar can have an impact on aggressiveness but less so than the three design elements we are covering here. A small gap will have less contact with your skin providing a mild shave. Large gaps provide more aggressiveness. Adjustable razors, such as the Merkur Progress, allow you to increase or decrease the blade gap with a simple twist of the handle.
Open and Closed Comb
Finally we come to the two head types. Open comb heads, those with teeth on the safety bar, will allow beard hair to stand upright as you pass the razor over your face and allow more contact between razor blade and skin, which will give an aggressive, close shave. Closed comb double edge safety razors tent to produce milder, less aggressive shaves but they are also capable of aggressiveness depending on the blade exposure and blade safety bar span.
What Aggressiveness Do I Need?
This will be different for everyone but as a general guide…
GO AGGRESSIVE IF YOU
- Shave infrequently
- Have long beard hair
- Have thick beard hair
- Have skin that isn’t overly sensitive and prone to irritation
- Don’t suffer from ingrowing hairs
GO MILD IF YOU
- Shave regularly
- Have short beard hair
- Have beard hair that isn’t course and thick
- Have sensitive skin
- Suffer from ingrowing hairs
So, in a nut shell, that’s it. If you need an aggressive shave go for a double edge safety razor that has positive blade exposure, large blade safety bar span, large blade gap, and is open comb. For a mild shave choose neutral or negative blade exposure, small blade safety bar span, small blade gap and closed comb. Now this is a very simplistic approach and to find your perfect double edge safety razor you’ll need to experiment with the myriad of options available to you.
If you choose an aggressive double edge safety razor you can help lessen the effect by taking time to prepare your skin pre shave with creams or oils to help soften your beard and lubricate the skin and also select a razor blade that isn’t as sharp as the Feather blades are, for example.