The world of razor blades is a bit of a jungle. When I first started using a safety razor, I thought all blades are more or less the same. After a few misfortunate shaves, I realized the razor blade I use may actually matter quite a bit. I bought a sampler pack of different brands of blades and started trying them out. Some worked great, others left me wiping off blood and yet others were just average.
Below is a list of the twelve best razor blades for a safety razor. Read on to find out how to pick the best blade for you and what are the best options on the market. Before we jump into the safety razor blades, let's talk about...
First Things First
Before we dive into the razor blades, let's get two things straight:
- The quality of your shave doesn't depend only on the quality of your blade. What kind of pre-shave oil, shaving cream and razor you use matters as much as your blade. In other words, even the best blade in the world won't give you a good shave if you use crappy products to prep your face.
- The best blade is the one that give you a great shave. What works for one guy may not work for another. As you read the blade reviews below, keep in mind that these are subjective opinions. They are based on my experience with each blade and what other people have shared in forums and other websites. Just because I got an average shave with the Kai blades, it doesn't mean they won't work great for you.
Use this guide to get a general idea of what's good out there and what your options are. The best way to find the best razor blade for you is to get a sampler pack and try a whole bunch. That's what I did before picking Astra Super Platinum as my go-to blade.
One Blade Doesn't Fit All
I used to think all blades are more or less the same. Then I tried tried different ones and learned how wrong I was.
There is no universal blade that gives exactly the same great shave to every man. Whether a blade does miracles for you depends on the following things, among others:
Your Type of Facial Hair
Guys with thicker and coarser hair get smoother shaves if they use very sharp blades. Many shaving experts recommend the Japanese brand Feather as a good choice. The Feather blades are sharp and uncompromising and are guaranteed to cut through even through beard as thick as a barb wire.
The sharpest blade, however, is not the best. Using a really sharp blade on a soft beard and a sensitive skin may cause serious irritation and cuts. I have a medium thick beard growth and normal skin and still don't go for the Feather blades. I find them too sharp for my liking and they give me cuts.
If you have medium to soft hair, the Astra blades are a good choice. Many guys also praise Derby as a great go-to blade for thin beard and sensitive skin.
Your Skin Type
I already mentioned it briefly: what blade works best for you will depend on your skin type. If you have sensitive skin, go for blades with medium sharpness. They are less likely to irritate your skin. If your skin is normal and problem-free, you can go for sharper blades but, remember, the sharpest blade is not the best. Pick one that doesn't irritate your skin and gives you a smooth shave.
Your Shaving Products
Shaving is like soccer - it takes a team to put on a good game. The MVPs in your shaving routine are your pre-shave oil, shaving cream, your razor, and your razor blade. They all play their part in getting you baby-bum smooth face. Yes, your razor maybe the Ronaldo of your team but even Ronaldo can't win a game just by himself. Making sure you use good quality pre-shave oil, shaving cream and a razor would make a big difference in how much pain you are when done shaving.
Sharpness vs. Smoothness
Each brand of razor blade is unique in its own way and therefore it is hard to compare their features. When we compare blades we can talk about their durability, performance and different coating materials. The only characteristic that really impacts your shave, however, is their sharpness.
There is no universal scale, which ranks the sharpness of the different razor blades. Putting a number to the sharpness of a blade would be an exercise in subjectivity and ultimately pointless. We can, however, do a relative ranking of the sharpness of the most popular blades. Below is my take on such relative ranking.
On one side of the sliding scale you have "Very Sharp" and on the opposite side you have "Very Mild". The relative placement of each razor blade brand is based on my experience with the blade and my research of how other shavers have found the blade to rank relative to other popular brands.
For example, the majority agrees that Feather is a very sharp blade and there isn't much debate about this fact. Similarly, my research showed that Derby is a smooth blade (very mild), which will definitely fall to the right of most other blades on the list.
The tricky part is not about the outliers but about the blades in the middle. Is Astra sharper than Personna? I don't think it is, however, you may think otherwise. It all depends on personal experience.
This is why, look at the sharpness ranking to get a general idea how the popular blade brands stack up. This will guide you in picking a blade that works better for you.
How to Pick a Blade That is Right for You
The only way to pick the right blade is by trial and error. Some blade brands will advertise different coatings and materials used to make the blade but the only feature that matters is its sharpness.
To figure out what the right sharpness for your face is think of your beard thickness and skin sensitivity. If your beard grows thick ( you have some serious 5-o'clock shadow) and you have normal skin, a sharp blade will probably work best for you. Start by trying a Feather blade and see how it performs against your beard. If your skin feels sensitive and you get nicks and cuts, maybe Feather is too sharp for you. Go down a notch and try Kai or Personna Blue.
If you have soft hair and you don't even have to shave every day, you probably will do great with a smoother (less sharp) blade. Start with Derby or Merkur. If you feel pulling and tugging, this means the blade is too dull for you. Move up a notch and try Voskhod or Shark. Keep experimenting until you get a smooth shave with as little discomfort as possible.
A side note to smooth shaves: you are likely to get a smooth shave after your third pass regardless of what blade you use. The right blade for you, however, will give you a smooth shave with minimum irritation with less than three passes.
How I Went about Picking the 12 Blades on This List
Let's get to it! In prepping for this article, I went out and got 5-blade packs of the most talked-about razor blades in the forums and various places online. I tested each brand under the same conditions using the same pre-shave oil, shaving cream, shaving brush and razor. I took notes after each shave, which I've shared with you below.
Just because I liked how a blade worked on my skin, doesn't mean you'll like it. This is why, I scoured reviews of each blade and summarized what most people are saying about each blade brand.
Based on all this information, I came up with a score for each blade, which later on I decided to scrap. The reason for my decision is subjectivity. The nuances in the performance of each blade are so subtle that it is hard to objectively say that one is better than the other. Putting a star rating may also mislead you that there is a discernable difference in quality when such a difference is not present or is hardly noticeable. Statistically speaking, the star rating based one or even 10 reviews is not indicative of quality. Stars truly start reflecting quality when you have large enough number to be statistically relevant.
Considering all of the above, I decided that giving star ratings to each razor blade below would be more harm than benefit. If you are curious about them, let me know and I'll add them on.
Kai Double Edge Razor Blades
Kai is one of the two most popular razor blades made in Japan. The other one is Feather (see below). The Kai razor blades are made for from high quality medical grade stainless steel. The girl at the local shop where I bought them told me they are the preferred razor blade brand at many hospitals because of their sharpness and precision.
A unique feature of the Kai blades is that they are wider than most standard blades. This means that when you put the blade in your razor, a bigger piece of the blade sticks out. This is why many people consider the Kai blades to be more aggressive.
My experience with the Kai blades is less than stellar. I found them too sharp for my liking. Indeed, the only brand of blades sharper than Kai is Feather. The Kai blades left me a couple of cuts and more irritation than the other brands I tried.
Since they are more aggressive and very sharp, the Kai blades work best for thick beard and normal skin. Some reviewers categorize them as blades best suited for intermediate to advanced wet shavers.
The Kai razor blades sell on Amazon for $5.25 for a 5-blade pack or about $1.05 for a blade. This price makes them one of the most expensive blades on this list and among the razor blades I've seen. At the same time, however, some shavers report that they easily get five to seven shaves from a blade, while the average razor gets them two to three shaves. If this is a consideration, then the Kai blades might not be so expensive after all.
Feather Hi-Stainless Razor Blades
If you are looking for sharp, look no further. Feather are the sharpest blades you can get on the market. Made in Japan, this brand of blades is preferred by many wet-shaver pros because of their uncompromising sharpness.
The sharpest, however, doesn't always mean the best. The Feather blades are best suited for men with thick beard and normal skin. You may want to stay away from these bad boys if you have sensitive skin or are prone to nicks.
I found the Feather blades to slide very smoothly across my face. I didn't get any nicks and my skin irritation was minimum. The key to staying nick-free with the Feather blades, just like with any other blades, is to be careful. No matter how sharp or dull your blade is if you don't pay attention you are going to cut yourself.
The quality of the Feather blades is superior and some shavers report getting six or seven shaves out of a blade. Some people even report that their shaves got better after the third and fourth use of the blade. I used the Feather blade three time but I didn't notice any difference in the smoothness of each shave - they all were equally smooth and satisfying.
The Feather razor blades sell on Amazon for around $14 for a 50 piece set or approximately $0.30 per blade.
Astra Superior Platinum Razor Blades
The Astra Superior Platinum blades are produced in Russia under the license of Gillette. They are another good option, especially for shavers with more sensitive skin. These blades are not as sharp as Feather or Kai. They provide a nice balance between sharpness and smoothness, which makes them great for guys with thick hair and sensitive skin.
Astra Superior Platinum is my go-to brand. They have the right sharpness and, unlike Kai, I don't get any nicks with them.
A pack of 100 blades will cost you approximately $11.50 on Amazon. This price makes them very affordable - $0.115 per blade. I find that I can get at least four good shaves with the Astra blades without any tugging or discomfort. Their mileage makes them even cheaper - just under $0.03 per shave. For the quality you are getting, the Astra blades are a total steal.
Merkur Super Platinum Razor Blades
These German blades are one of the smoothest you can find on the market. They work best for men with medium-to-light beard thickness. If you are a guy with thick beard, Merkur may not do such a good job in giving you a close shave. As a result, you may be forced to do several passes, which may cause more irritation.
The Merkur blades are often recommended for newbies in wet shaving because of their smoothness. As a guy with medium beard thickness, I found the Merkur blades too smooth. I didn't get a very close shave and even after three passes, I still had some prickly stubble left behind.
You can get a 10-blade pack for approximately $7.50, which is about $0.75 per blade. The mediocre shave and the relatively high price make me put them back on the shelf and look elsewhere.
Wilkinson Sword Classic Double Edge Blades
Wilkinson Sword is another brand of blades made in Germany and owned by Gillette. Even though their double edge razor blades have their fans online, the company seems to have all but abandoned that side of the business. Their official website doesn't say a peep about their safety razor blades. Instead, they widely advertise that Wilkinson Sword is the official blade in Schick Quattro and Schick Hydro 5 cartridge razors.
The Wilkinson Sword blades are on the sharp side of the spectrum, maybe one notch under Kai. Some reviewers consider them well-balanced, not extremely aggressive but not very smooth either. The Wilkinson Sword blades did a good job on my face. Two passes gave me a smooth enough shave and I didn't bother doing a third one. In terms of sharpness, I found them sharper than Astra but definitely less sharp than Kai and Feather.
A 5-blade pack of Wilkinson Sword goes for about $3.50 or about $0.70 per blade on Amazon. Their price is very comparable to the Merkur Super Platinum blades.
Derby Extra Double Edge Razor Blades
These Derby blades are known for not being on the dull side and giving a fairly smooth shave. The Derby blades are made in Turkey and come coated with chromium ceramic platinum tungsten polymer. I'm no expert on metal coating and manufacturing but my basic research revealed that only the edges of the blades are coated with the polymer and it is supposed to prevent rusting and give you a smoother shave.
With or without a special polymer coating, shaving pros report that in the last several years, the quality of the Derby blades has gone down significantly. Some of the reviews I came across talk about inconsistencies in the quality of the blades and poor performance.
The Derby blades did a poor job on my face. I found the blades too dull for my medium thickness beard. The first pass left plenty of hair behind and the second pass didn't make my face much smoother.
On the upside, the Derby blades are very smooth and I found it almost impossible to get any nicks or cuts while shaving. The smoothness of these blades makes them a great choice for a beginner wet shaver or someone with soft and light beard.
The Derby blades will set you back about $8.00 for a 50 pieces. Their per-blade price is about $0.15, which makes them a pretty good deal. That being said, don't count on getting more than two shaves per blade. I found that they didn't perform as well after the second shave and with this low price, using a new blade for each shave won't break the bank.
Shark Super Stainless Double Edge Razor Blades
The Shark blades are very similar to Derby. They are not very sharp (still sharper than Derby) and provide and provide a decent smooth shave. In terms of quality, you are getting the middle of the barrel.
The Shark blades have gained some popularity online because of their extremely low price ($9.00 for 100 blades) and decent shaving job. If you are willing to compromise some quality for the sake of price, then the Shark blades might be a good option.
I found the Shark razor blades to be average. They didn't stand out in any way for me. The first pass left behind quite a bit of stubble, which the razor blade cleaned up properly on the second pass. I didn't notice any tugging of the blade, even though some reviewers have had this experience on their second shave with the same blade.
The Shark blades could be a good choice if you have medium to thin beard growth and normal skin. If you are just starting with your wet shaving game, you may want to start with Shark as their smoothness makes it less likely to nick yourself.
100-blade pack of the Shark blades goes for about $9.00 or $0.09 per blade. With a price like this you have nothing to lose, so give them a try.
Personna Blue Stainless Steel Blades
There is a proliferation of blades on the market called Personna. You have the Personna Red (the Israeli ones), which come in a red box. Then, you have two kinds of Personna Blue blades - ones for commercial use (the ones I have) and a different kind for medical use. On the shaving forums some people recommend picking the hospital grade blades over the commercial ones as they are better. Probably so. The commercial version I have tried, however, do a damn good job themselves.
I find the Personna Blue's sharpness comparable to the Wilkinson Sword's. They definitely beat Derby and Shark in the sharpness game but can't compete with Feather (what bade can, really?).
The Personna Blue blades get lots of love online not because of their shaving properties. Many guys cheer them on because they are made in the US. In a "by-the-way" manner, many of them add "and oh, yeah, they are also pretty good".
They, indeed, are. My shave with Personna Blue was a good one. The blades did a good job picking up most of the stubble on the first pass and left little work to be done for the second time around. The sharpness of the blade, however, was evident as often I felt close to the brink of nicking myself.
Other people who have used them have also found them on the sharp side of the spectrum and were relatively positive in their comments.
Because of their sharpness, the Personna Blue blades would probably be a better option for someone with thick beard and some experience in wet shaving. They go for about $12.50 on Amazon for a count of 100 or $0.12 per blade. Their price puts them right in the price range of Astra, which sell for about $0.115 per blade.
Bic Chrome Platinum Razor Blades
These are probably the most popular blades, oddly coming from a company making ballpoint pens. The Bic Chrome Platinum blades are made in Greece and come coated with chrome platinum and teflon, which helps them glide better.
In terms of sharpness, I found them to be very close to Kai. The Bic Chrome Platinum blades may be a good option for men with medium to thick beard growth but sensitive skin. In other words, if you like the performance of Kai and Feather but you find them too sharp, Bic Chrome Platinum might be just right for you.
Contrary to my opinion, however, other reviewers compare the sharpness of Bic Chrome Platinum to Derby - a blade on the far end in the smoothness category.
After doing some research on these blades I realized that I might have lucked out with a good batch. Many reviewers report inconsistencies in the quality and comment that they felt as if the blade was pulling their hair.
The divisive opinions on these blades makes me think Bic has some serious batch inconsistencies. Unfortunately, it is hard to know whether a blade is sharp or dull until you try it (or until you put it under a microscope). I'll probably finish the 5-blade pack I got and won't risk buying another one. Bic Chrome Platinum is not on the top of my list anyway.
If you still want to give them a try, Amazon sells them for $5.30 for a 10-blade pack. This price makes Bic Chrome Platinum an expensive blade - $0.53.
Voskhod Teflon Coated Carbon Steel Blades
Voskhod is brand of blades made in Russia, as you can probably tell by the name (prosperity, progress in Russian) and the letters. The packaging and the name of these blades remind me of the Soviet space program as depicted in the American movies from the 70s. In reality, however, I won't be surprised if the Russian astronauts used the same Voskhod blades.
The Voskhod blades are not the sharpest you can find. They provide a good balance between sharpness and smoothness, which falls probably just a notch higher than Astra.
The Voskhod blades slid across the stubble on my face more or less effortlessly but not as quick as sharper blades like Kai or Feather. I didn't get any irritation or nicks using them and they left my skin feel very comfortable after my third pass.
The smoothness factor of the Voskhod blades makes them a good choice for someone with sensitive skin and light to medium hair thickness.
The Voskhod blades go for about $15.00 for a 100-blade pack or $0.15 per blade. Considering the price and the quality, these blades are definitely on my re-purchase list.
Polsilver Super Iridium Blades
Polsilver is another brand owned by Gillette and made in Russia. The sharpness of the blade is close to the one Feather blades. At the same time, Polsilver Super Iridium are forgiving and work great for guys with thick beard or with medium one.
I really enjoyed shaving with these blades. They moved quickly across my face without feeling too sharp against my skin. The second pass wasn't a necessity for me but it did clean up some of the leftover stubble.
Overall, Polsilver Super Iridium is a great choice for blades. The only downside is that they come a bit more expensive than other good options. A 5-blade pack on Amazon will cost you $8.00 or about $1.6 per blade. This makes them the most expensive blades on this list. The upside, however, is that you can easily get four to five shaves out of a blade before experiencing inferior performance. If the price is not an issue, treat yourself and get these bad boys.
What is your experience with these razor blades? Let me know what you think in the comments below.