Understanding Aggressiveness of Safety Razors

There are many factors that dictate the comfort of your shave – your blade, how well you prepared, the quality of your lather, the soap you used, and so on.  Many of these elements require some trial and error given that we all have different skin and facial hair types, and the selection of your safety razor is no different. Some razors are more aggressive than others, some with a larger blade gap, some with the blade at a different angle, while others exposing more of the blade, each obviously resulting in a different experience.  Below we will take a closer look at how the head of your razor dictates its aggressiveness.


An example of an aggressive razor is the Merkur Slant bar, like the Merkur 37c (review here) and 39c.  The slant bar tends to be favored by those who have a thicker more stubborn beards, but is also useful for times when you have several days growth. Slant razors have a larger blade gap, while the blade itself is angled.  The angle and gap allows the razor to perform more of a slicing action, rather than a simple cut.  The aggressive natural of the slant doesn’t make it the ideal razor for everyday or everyone – leading to irritation, nicks, and discomfort for some. Having said that, there are those who have sensitive skin who prefer a slant because it allows them to achieve a close shave with fewer passes.

The Merkur 39C Slant Head

39c slant


Many of the razors on the market today, like the Edwin Jagger 89lbl (review) and the Merkur Long Handled Classic fall into this category.  These razors tend to provide and ‘average’ amount of blade exposure and blade gap, giving you a nice middle of the road razor to work with, making these ideal for beginners – providing them an opportunity to experiment with blades and cutting angles. As you can see from the image below, these types of razors tend to use a safety bar, limiting the exposure of blade to skin.

The Merkur 1904 Classic 



As you would expect razors that are considered mild provide less blade exposure and gap than ones that are more aggressive, the Feather AS-D1 All-Stainless Steel Safety Razor is a good example.  The safety bar on these razors are also designed to truly limit the amount of blade to skin contact. Logically this type of razor is preferred by those with sensitive skin and disliked by those with thicker beards because of the repeated passes needed to achieve a desirable result.

Feather AS-D1 All-Stainless Steel Safety Razor



As mentioned in the opening paragraph there are many elements to a enjoyable, efficient shave, with the razor being only one of those elements. The blade you decide to pair with each razor will alter your experience as well – you may love a blade in you Merkur “1904” but hate it in you 37C.  Or you may experience that one days growth vs three days growth will provide yet another result depending on your razor. The good news is that finding out what works best for you is part of the joy in classic shaving.  Take your time, expect a bit of a learning curve and enjoy yourself.