It's the age-old question (or more like decade old): How many blades should a razor have to give you the best shave possible? These days, companies will lead you to believe that four, or even five, is the minimum.
Why exactly do you need all those blades? We all want to shave less often, without irritating or cutting our skin. However, since very few scientists actually bothered to study razor types, it makes it easy for razor companies to claim that the more blades you have, the better shave you get.
Shaving is tricky and difficult, definitely not something that more blades can easily solve. Our hairy parts are different -- men have curvy chins and upper lips, women have long, curvy legs and concave armpits. As a matter of fact, the whole reason why razors have different handle designs is because they have to deal with differences between men’s and women’s curves.
And don’t forget about the bumps that our skin naturally creates around each single hair, which makes for another obstacle for our razors. In addition to that, you can completely forget the idea of your hairs standing straight up. Our hair grows in different direction, especially on men’s chins and necks and women’s armpits. To avoid irritation, hair should be removed in the direction it grows.
Based on what we know, more blades do seem to give a closer shave. However, blade number seems to be less relevant than your shaving technique. After all, none of us want skin dotted with nicks, razor burn, ingrown hairs, or even worse, acne.
For the closest shave, you only need to cut the hair below the skin surface. And no, razor does not dig into the skin, but in the case of multi blade razors, you get a closer shave than a single blade. To understand why, you need to know how they work.
#1 The first blade is blunt -- it hooks the hair above the surface; as you keep pushing it, the blade pulls the hair forward and up.
#2 The next blade is sharp -- coming right after the blunt one, it slices the hair.
In the case of razors with 4 or 5 blades, this process repeats twice! However, if this makes you worry about the nicks, you’re not the only one. Most of the dermatologists recommend two blades as they seem to prevent nicks, as the razor head occupies less area on sharp curves and it’s easier to control. They also happen when the razor pushes down on your skin, forcing your skin into a hill in front of the it. If the blade is the first thing the hill encounters, you get nicks! The simplest way to avoid them is to shave gently instead of pushing too hard.
However, nicks aren’t the only thing that concerns us when it comes to shaving. Ingrown hairs have always been a problem, and an avoidable one. Hairs can become ingrown in a couple of ways, but we can always trace them back to close shaves. The cut hair is sliced at an angle, having a sharp tip and retracts under the skin. Being sharp, it can pierce the follicular wall and grow into the surrounding skin.
The hair that’s most prone to becoming ingrown is the one on men’s chin and neck. Curly beard hairs are especially prone to this. The bumps that grow after this occurs are usually very painful and unappealing, but the worst part is that it can cause permanent scarring. Daily shaves prevent the hair from growing long enough to bend and enter the skin again. However, men with curly beards still are less lucky and are recommended to grow their beards. And if they MUST shave, many dermatologists advise leaving the hair a bit longer and just trim it!
We’ve covered nicks and ingrown hair, that’s it? Not really. Another injury to avoid are razor burns that happen due to high amount of exfoliation during shaves. However, avoiding them has nothing to do with the number of blades, but the shaving technique. Dermatologists say that dull razors are the cause of this. Instead of replacing your razor too often, try sharpening it with the Tap, the 3-in-1 razor unclogger, sharpener and holder. That way, you can avoid razor burn each time you shave. Let’s be real, the razor gets dull even after the first shave and with the Tap you can make your fifth use of razor feel like the first one!
To sum it up, the debate over the number of blades comes down to the tremendous variations in the way men and women wield their razors. Some people shave in 30 seconds, others take 30 minutes; some use 1000 strokes, some 100 strokes. It comes down to what you feel the most comfortable with. Do you own research and don’t be too afraid (or too careless) to experiment.