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Why Do Safety Razors Have Two Blades? (Practical or Pointless)

Safety razor use has made a comeback in recent years. The double-edge blade segment accounted for 80% of the total global razor blade market in 2020. If you are shopping around for blades for your safety razor, you may wonder why most of the blades are double-edged.

Safety razor blades have two blades or a double-edge today because they still follow the original 1903 design. A double-edge razor blade allows the shaver to take two passes before rinsing the razor and can also be broken in half to fill a straight razor shavette or single-blade razor.

Many safety razor shavers prefer the close shave and cost benefits a double-edged blade provides. If you want to learn more about the history, production, and effectiveness of the double-edged blade, read on!

Why are safety razors double-edged?

Before 1903, the traditional straight razor was the shaving implement of choice. King Camp Gilette marketed the double-edged safety razor blade in 1903 and changed the course of shaving. 

Double-edged safety razor blades allow the shaver to get twice as many shaves out of one blade. Each edge contains a single sharp blade. Once the razor is rotated, another new, sharp blade is available.

King C. Gillette had an innovative idea but found it challenging to make the double-edge blade a reality. He went through 8 long years of prototypes before a wafer-thin, strong, safe, and cost-effective blade was marketable.

The first double-edged blades were made of carbon steel. They fit the three-pin design of the original safety razors. With the help of William Nickerson, Gilette invented the manufacturing process of heating, chilling, and reheating the steel to create thin, sharp, and durable blades.

Today’s blades are commonly made of stainless steel with a variety of coatings. The manufacturing process of double-edged blades has been streamlined and also includes grinding and polishing. The double-edged blades can still fit the three-pin razors of yesteryear and today’s modern slot razor designs. Most come wrapped in wax paper, which protects against corrosion and keeps the blades sharp.

Fun facts: Gilette only sold 168 double-edged blades the first year –  By year three, almost 600,000 had sold.

Gilette teamed up with Nickerson to perfect the double-edged blade.  They briefly considered putting “Nickerson” in the name but decided against it.  No one wants to buy a blade that reminds them of nicks and cuts!

What happened to single-edge safety razors?

Double-edged blades dominate the safety razor market today. You may wonder if a single-edged blade ever existed.  

Single-edged safety razor blades do still exist today for both a safety-razor style razor or a straight razor-style shavette. Typically, single-edge blades are more of a specialty product as there are fewer razor options on the market to use them.

The sharp cutting blade’s advantage is a close shave like no other. Double-edged blades are a great compromise and cater to a broader population of shavers.

However, the cons seem to mean little to the devout single-edge users. New Kickstarter campaigns have been recently launched, promising a resurgence of the less popular blades. The global single-blade razor market is projected to grow by 1.1% by 2028, fueled primarily by North American and European shavers.

Are double-edged safety razors better?

Ask any shaver, and they will tell you their favorite method of shaving. Some prefer traditional straight razors or single-edged blades. Some choose disposables.  Some reach for an electric razor. 

Shavers who choose to shave with a double-edged safety razor will tell you it produces a better shave with less hassle. The most common reasons for this choice are cost, ease of use, and variety. Many shavers also enjoy the ritual and tradition of classic safety razor shaving.

Both single-edge and double-edge blades cost pennies each. A quick Amazon search shows the cost difference being as low as 3 cents per blade. A slight price difference can add up throughout 20,000 lifetime shaves.

Double-edged razor blades are less aggressive than single-edged blades.  Aggressiveness relates to the closeness of the shave. Less aggressive blades may sacrifice a little on closeness, but they have a smaller learning curve. This means less chance of nicks, cuts, and irritation.

Since double-edged blades are the blade of choice for most safety razor users, the demand is greater. This high demand results in a large number of double-edge blade suppliers. The good news to consumers is a wide variety of different blade types.

Shavers can choose different blades for their unique needs.

Fun fact: Double-edged safety razor blades are ten times thinner than human hair!

Do you use both sides of a safety razor?

Shavers have many tool choices today. Even if you choose a safety razor, you can buy a double-edge blade or a single-edge blade.

If you choose a double-edge blade, you do use both sides of the safety razor.  That is the appeal of these blades- one blade, twice the shaves, lower cost, and less waste. Shavers can use one side for several shaves and then switch to the other side, or they can simply alternate sides during a single shave.

In today’s fast-paced, eco-focused culture, you can see why many shavers choose the double-edged safety razor. They provide an effective shave at a low cost. Add in the benefits to the environment, and you get an efficient shave solution.

Fun fact: Do you know why the Gilette company made the switch to disposable razors in the 1970s? The patents for the double-edged blade ran out, ushering in a new design.