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Your razor–whether you use a cartridge razor, a safety razor or a straight razor–should be the tail that wags the dog on your accouterments decision. The shave cream, shave soap, shave foam or shave butter you eventually use should ultimately be determined by your razor, not the other way around.
The first step in your shave process is to choose a razor that best fits your shaving needs. Whether you choose a cartridge razor, a safety razor or a straight razor, will depend on the sensitivity level of your skin, the time you have to get a shave in and the quality of your shave.
If you want a higher quality shave, we suggest a safety razor or a straight razor. A single blade provides more control over your beard reduction and, especially in the case of the sensitive shaver, provide a less irritating shave.
When it comes to choosing a cream to match your razor, that decision will depend on a number of factors. Let’s discuss each as it relates to the varying type of razors.
A more recent invention, the cartridge razor was meant to be a one-size-fits-all solution, marketed to the masses of shavers out there. It requires less know-how, customization and sophistication to operate.
The downside to cartridge razors in their closely-set, multiple-blade design. When the hair is long or course or if the shaving soap/cream is too thick, the area between the blades on a cartridge razor can more easily get gummed-up with post shave stubble and lather.
The upside here is that most cartridge razors actually include some type of lubricating strip mounted to the cartridge head itself. The pivoting action of the blade and the side guard also help in preventing against cuts. This also means that the cartridge razor can be effective under a less creamy environment. Canned shave foams or even the regular shave in the shower are each more easily performed with a cartridge razor than a safety or straight razor without experiencing too much discomfort.
Unlike its cartridge razor cousin, the safety razor includes only a single blade set in a razor head with varying degrees of exposure, depending on your safety razor head type. The single blade design allows for a thicker swath of hair and lather to be scraped off the face with each pass. There is much less concern that a thick lather and long facial hair tug and pull against the lubricating against several closely-set blades, like what is had with the multi-blade cartridge razor.
The lack of additional guard protection and a lubricating strip also demands that you use something a bit thicker for protection against the blade. Canned shaving cream works for your safety razor, as long as you take the other necessary steps in preparing your face for your shave, but canned foam does not provide the thick protecting lather that can be had from a quality shaving soap or shaving cream.
There is additional benefit from a thicker, higher-quality lather as well: the smell. Canned foams and creams are made to be function over form and often lack the robust aroma of a quality shave soap.
If you determine to use a straight razor, you’re in for a treat: you are encouraged and can easily get a great shave with the thickest possible accouterments available. That’s because there’s no protecting bar to get cream and hair clogging the razor. Keep in mind, there is also nothing preventing you against literally cutting your throat.
As perhaps the most manly of shaving hardware, the straight razor allows the user a direct cut of the hair with no protection. This means the cream or soap should be at its thickest level possible.
Because shaving soap allows for a more customized viscosity, depending on the amount of water you apply to your puck or tin, I typically advise west shavers who use a straight razor, to opt for shave soap over shave cream. You can usually produce a thicker lather by simply adding less water.
As you determine the best shaving hardware + software combination for your face, consider the following:
Above all, make sure that your cream or soap decision is driven by the razor your use. Remember, canned shaving cream was invented to match the features of the cartridge blade and not the other way around.