When you really think about it, taking a razor to your body seems like a dangerous thing to do. And yet we do it all of the time, sometimes even daily, without making a bloody mess (at least… not much of a bloody mess, usually). While the risks of shaving are relatively minor, like ingrown hairs, razor burn, or skin irritation, they’re still extremely annoying. The actual culprit isn’t the shaving cream you use or your shaving skills, though, it’s your razor itself. And—I’m about to blow your mind here—the multi-blade one you’ve been relying on for all these years actually isn’t your best option for a smooth shave.
According to pros, the best type of razor is actually a single blade—or “safety”—razor. “The reason why multi-blade razors cause irritation and inflammation is because they are designed with a combination of dull and sharp blades,” says Karen Young, founder and CEO of shaving essentials brand Oui the People, which deals in single-blade razors. When you’re dealing with more than one blade, you wind up blunt-cutting the hair below the surface level of your skin, which leaves behind all kinds of jagged stubble. Board-certified dermatologist Shirley Chi, MD, is also onboard the single-blade razor train. “Multi-blade razors can cause more damage and nicks on the skin’s surface, which will increase irritation and lead to the likelihood of razor bumps,” she says. “Single blades minimize the trauma to the skin and therefore cause less razor bumps.”
Multi-blade razors also slough off dead skin cells, and when your hair starts to grow back through the follicle it can cause irritation. “Especially after you shave, you’re removing that first layer of dead skin cells, and your body starts to regenerate itself,” says Young. “Anything that gets trapped in that follicle tends to grow back into it, especially if you have curly hair like me.” And voila: the perfect recipe for inflammation.
Besides the number of blades you’re using to shave with, the blade’s angle—aka how it bends and presses into your skin—also matters. “The tighter the angle is, the more sensitive the shave is,” says Young, adding that you want the blade to “scoop” up your hair rather than hack away at it straight-on. Then, there’s the blade exposure, which is how far the blade itself is sticking out between the safety surfaces it’s sandwiched between. “Ours is barely a sliver, which contributes to it being a very mild shave,” says Young, noting that men’s razors meant for beards typically have more exposure since it’s for coarser hair. If hundreds and hundreds of five-star reviews for Oui’s Single-Blade Razor ($75) are any indication, they sure know what they’re doing for a good, dolphin skin-revealing shave.
BTW: We debate whether you should shave above the knee (or not!). Also, here’s a pro guide on how to shave pubic hair without any issues.