Daily shavers may notice that after less than a week with a new razor that their blade becomes so dull that it leaves nicks across their face. By understanding how a blade loses its sharpness, you may be able to keep it longer while, at the same time, stopping ugly scratches on your face.
Razor blades go blunt or dull each time they are used to shave as the hair itself can cause microscopic chips and cracks. Using the proper shaving angle, properly cleaning the blade after use, and stropping the blade in between uses can help keep a razor from dulling or blunting as quickly.
Continue reading to discover other sources of dull blades and tips on keeping a razor-sharp blade from wearing out too fast.
What causes razor blades to dull?
Razors are made from one of the strongest elements on earth – metal. So you would think that only something more substantial would cause razors to become dull. But researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) discovered the opposite to be true.
The scientists found that a soft substance such as your hair can cause chipping and cracking to occur on the edge of the razor blades, which results in a dull blade over time.
Other factors cause your blade to become blunt:
- The angle you shave: The study found that the way a shaver holds the razor also causes damage to the razor’s metal. In addition, by approaching your beard at a slight angle rather than at 90 degrees, you may shorten the blade’s life. By moving your entire arm as you shave, you’re better able to keep the blade perpendicular to your face rather than just your wrist.
- Type of shaving cream: Many men are particular about the shaving creams or gels with many different factors, including the amount of alcohol that can dry out skin and smell. But thicker creams may be challenging to remove from your razor after using it.
- Debris left behind: Each time you shave, you remove a layer of dead, flaky skin. Over time, that debris combined with soap residue or shaving cream can build up and cause damage to your razor.
- Water: Many people rinse off their razor after shaving but leave it on the bathroom counter or in the shower without drying it. The water left on it can cause oxidation, which in turn leads to rust. A wet razor is also susceptible to germs and other bathroom bacteria. All of which can shorten the razor’s lifespan and, at the same time, can cause skin irritations and even infections.
- Type of hair: While hair is, of course, softer than metal, some people’s hair can be coarse and bristly similar to a copper wire. If you’re doing a little manscaping, you may find that pubic hair are even coarser. In that case, you may want to cut down the forest first with a clean pair of scissors first. If you’re at the end of no-shave November, you should also trim your beard before using your razor.
- Who’s using your razor: Sharing may be caring, so couples find it convenient to swap personal hygiene items. But when it comes to your razor, it’s better to be single than to mingle. Women tend to shave legs, bikini areas, and armpits, places men may not typically touch. Because of all the curves to those body areas, women’s razors are manufactured differently.
How long does it take for a razor to get dull?
One technique of using a safety razor requires three passes across your face. The first pass goes with the grain of the hair’s growth, the second pass goes across the grain, and the third and final pass goes against the grain.
In essence, you are using the blade three times per shave. This approach leaves your face as smooth as a whistle. At that rate, a safety razor should become dull within two or three days if you shave daily.
You can extend the usefulness of the razor to up to a week by taking only one pass across your face. People who use shaving cartridges typically only take one pass to get a clean shave. In those cases, shavers may find that their cartridges only last a week.
How to make razors last longer
The Occam’s Razor solution or most obvious fix to making your razor last longer is shaving less frequently. However, that’s not always possible if you work in a professional environment that requires a neat, clean appearance.
One way to keep your safety razor fresh is to use a wet, electric razor to make the first pass across your face. You can then use the safety razor for subsequent passes–that technique allows for a closer shave. Unfortunately, owning two different razors can be expensive and also time-consuming by having to switch between the two instruments.
Of course, different practices lengthen your razor’s life, depending on the type of razor used. Most men use either a cartridge razor that typically contains one or two blades, and some brands have up to five blades or a safety razor.
You can use different best methods to stretch out the razor’s life, depending on whether it’s a safety or a cartridge razor.
Make safety razor blades last longer
As mentioned, keeping hair and other debris off the razor extends its life.
After rinsing your safety razor, you can soak it in a solution similar to what your grandfather’s barber used. By submerging the razor, you remove germs that can damage the razor and cause ingrown hair and acne problems.
You can also sharpen a safety razor by using a leather strap or, more accurately, a razor strop. You can find some helpful stropping video tutorials on the internet that show the proper way to sharpen your razor. Some tutorials use a straight razor, but the technique is the same for a safety razor.
If done correctly, your safety razor could last several additional weeks or, depending on the quality, a few months or even a year.
Strops like this can be found relatively inexpensively and will last a lifetime if properly cared for.
In some cases, you can use the back of your hand just like men have been doing for more than a hundred years. This method is handy if you’re traveling and don’t have a strop available. However, you should still be careful because while your razor may be dull, it can still cause a nasty cut.
Making cartridges razor blades last longer
Similar to safety razors, cartridge blades also can be cleaned with something as simple as rubbing alcohol.
Alcohol acts as a disinfectant that removes bacteria such as shaving cream, soap, and tiny particles of flaky skin off of the razor.
If you don’t have any rubbing alcohol, at the very least, you should make sure that your razor blades are completely dry to avoid rusting and the growth of germs.
Since a razor strop is impractical to use on cartridge blades, you can use simple household objects such as a clean, smooth cotton cloth or denim jeans.
Take your razor and gently push it across the material 10-15 times. Make sure your jeans are on a flat surface (so you shouldn’t be wearing them). Push the razor away from your body so that you don’t accidentally cut yourself or damage your jeans.
This technique works, but you may find that you have better luck sharpening a safety razor because you can access both sides. Because of how a cartridge razor is constructed, you’re only able to hone the side that faces out.