How To Make a Safety Razor More Aggressive (For Faster Shaves)

Sometimes the mild nature of a standard safety razor isn’t quite enough.   There are several ways to modify the aggressiveness of your existing razor instead of purchasing a new one. 

Safety razors can be made more aggressive by swapping to a more aggressive razor blade or shimming the razor blade to change the shaving angle. Shavers can also pick up a new safety razor with a more aggressive angle, a manually adjusting head, or a slant to increase the aggressiveness or closeness of the shave.

Read on to find out how to maximize the razor in your bathroom.

What is safety razor aggressiveness?

Let’s discuss some safety razor terminology.  

Beginner shavers will benefit from starting with medium aggression to learn to control the safety razor.  Mild razors are for those with sensitive skin or fine hair.  Aggressive shaves are often the choice of those with more thick growth and coarse hair.

An aggressive safety razor will often cut closer to the skin, cut facial hair at an angle, or offer a sharper blade. Aggressive razors allow the shaver to get a closer shave with fewer passes but can lead to irritation without proper technique and preparation.

Let’s take a look at the most important factors to consider:

Aggressiveness.  The aggressiveness of a razor refers to how much the actual blade edge contacts the skin. This is also called blade exposure. More directly though, aggressiveness can be thought of as the likelihood to cut the skin as well as hair. The classic straight razor would be considered the most aggressive shaver as there is nothing but the skill of the hand to prevent cuts.

Blade gap.  Some safety razors feature a safety bar.  The gap between the safety bar and the razor’s edge is known as the blade gap.  The wider the gap the more aggressive the shave because it places the blade closer to the shaver’s skin.

Blade angle.  The angle of the blade as it shaves.  The engineering of the razor’s head or cap will dictate the blade angle.  

Classic Shaving provides excellent visual references for these concepts here.

Blades.  Contrary to popular belief not all blades are engineered or manufactured the same way.  Some blades are manufactured with different metals, reduced-friction coatings, and vary in sharpness to produce a higher performance shave.  Different blades can perform better or worse depending on the safety razor but many times personal preference is key in blade selection.

How to make a safety razor more aggressive

If your mild razor isn’t cutting it then there are some options available.

Most standard safety razors are medium in terms of aggressiveness.  The medium aggression is attractive to novice and experienced shavers alike.  More aggressive shaves are perfect for longer hair, thick stubble, and coarser hair.  More aggression can mean fewer strokes which can be less irritating for sensitive skin.

Your standard mild safety razor can become more aggressive.  Many of these tips can be reversed or adjusted to return to the razor’s original aggression.

So…

The best ways to make a safety razor more aggressive are:

  • Blade selection
  • Shimming
  • Shimming with Tape
  • Adjustable razor
  • Open Comb Razors
  • Slant Razors

Blade Selection

The easiest place to begin in aggressiveness adjustment is with the cutting edge itself.  You could be unknowingly shaving with the mildest blade on the market and a simple change could have you on the most aggressive shave your razor can offer.

Also, the engineering of a razor combined with a high-performance blade can drastically change the shave experience.  

According to Gentleman’s Gazette, Feather Brand blades are renowned for their sharpness and aggressiveness.  This is the choice for more experienced safety razor users as they tend to be unforgiving.

BIC-Chrome Platinum, Bluebird, Wilkinson Sword are excellent choices. They tend to be more forgiving while still being aggressive.

Shimming 

A shim is often just a used razor blade with the cutting edge removed. 

The shim is placed either above or below the cutting blade as a means to expand the blade gap increasing blade exposure.  A used blade can be trimmed with scissors to remove the edge.

I’ll link to a good video on shimming below.

Two or Three shims may be used to create an even larger gap.   Users on the Badger and Blade Forum commented that shimming has helped with antique razors that were designed to fit thicker blades.  Shimming will not have a benefit for all razors, however.

Blade shims tend to stick to other blades and are accidentally discarded.  It is also difficult to be precise when trimming the shim.

You will need to experiment with your razor to determine the proper shim placement and thickness.

Shimming with Tape

John Moore recommends a different method of shimming using medical tape. The medical tape is roughly the thickness of 1.5 shims. The tape can be applied to the inside of the razor cap wherever a shim would be placed. 

Tape is also easier to trip and will not be as easily discarded. As with blade shims the placement and thickness of the tape should be experimented with for the optimum experience.

Adjustable Razor

If you have tried everything else then you may consider purchasing a new safety razor.

An adjustable razor will offer variability that 2- and 3- piece safety razors cannot. Most adjustable models feature a dial that opens or closes the blade gap to change the aggressiveness as necessary. Adjustables are ideal for those who aren’t certain how aggressive they want their shave to be. 

They also allow you to return to milder shaves without having to keep track of different razors.

Open Comb Razor

Open comb razors do not have safety bars allowing more contact between the blade and the skin. The distinctive teeth funnel longer hair and stubble into channels for more contact with the cutting edge.

These are generally considered the most aggressive razors.

Slant Razor

Slanted razors feature a shaving bar with a noticeable slant.  Slants shave by cutting stubble on a more efficient basis. 

If you have ever watched an experienced chef quickly cut vegetables you have seen a demonstration of the efficiency of cutting at an angle. Consider that most chef’s knives have a slight curve to their cutting edge. The rocking motion used when slicing creates an angular cut that reduces friction making the work nearly effortless. 

Slant razors work on similar physics and results in an aggressive shave.

If you haven’t seen a slant razor before, check this one out for a trusted example.