Besides a lubricant, the razor is possibly one of the most important tools used for shaving. A brush, while less common, is still preferred by some who are dedicated to an old fashioned shave. This guide focuses primarily on razors, but it will also touch on brushes and even razor/brush kits.
Choosing Razors and Brushes
The most important consideration when it comes to buying a razor is personal comfort. A razor that doesn't feel comfortable on the skin is not only a waste of money, but it's going to leave the skin irritated and possibly lead to breakouts, cuts or ingrown hairs.
Besides comfort, there's convenience and cost. If you're the kind of guy that likes to grab a new pack of disposable BICs while dashing through the grocery store to grab a pizza, chances are you're not too worried about a fancy schmancy razor. There's nothing wrong with sticking to something you like if you know it works well. But if your daily shave is less than average, you might want to consider switching to something a little more refined -- something that takes more effort than just throwing it out when you're done with it.
Cartridge razors are not only convenient, but they're reasonably priced and give a pretty good shave. The next step up, a safety razor, may not be quite as convenient, but the quality of the shave plus a low overall cost and durability make be worth it.
As for a brush, should you do decide to invest in one, you can be sure that it will last a lifetime. Feel free to indulge on something you'll enjoy everyday for the rest of your shaving life or hope that someone gets you a nice one as a gift.
Cartridge vs. Safety Razors
Cartridge style razors are the most frequently purchased types of razors namely because you don't have to spend a lot initially to get a decent shave. They are better than an ordinary disposable because you only have to buy replacement blade cartridges and you can hold on to the handle until you decide that it's time to chuck it and buy a new one. In the end you are wreaking less havoc on the environment than if you were to buy disposables. One the other hand, it's not the most cost effective method of shaving. A safety razor costs more initially, but it will last you forever and the blade replacements are cheaper than cartridges. The reason why safety razors haven't swooned over the entire shaving population is that they are less common. Standard cartridge razors of the drugstore variety are easy to find replacement cartridges for because these major brand razors are sold just about anywhere while safety razor cartridges are not.
The products mentioned below are some of the best cartridge razors around. The emphasis here is on the cartridge blades themselves and not as much on the handle design, since they are all relatively similar. The only ones that really stand out are the battery operated razors, which actually have something unique going for them. Otherwise, it is the blade cartridge that will make the most difference in how good a shave you get. Remember that some are compatible (like if you own a Gillette Sensor handle, you might be able to use Mach 3 blades on it). Check the manufacturers Web site before purchasing to double check.
* '''Schick Octo''': Just when you thought that it couldn't get any better than six blades on a razor, think again. This eight-blade wonder will be hitting stores in April 2007. While the handle is expected to cost around $13, the replacement blade cartridges are going to be priced on par with the Gillette Fusion or a little more.
* '''Gillette M3 Power''': This is like an oversized version of the Mach 3 spruced up with AAA batteries and a heftier than average price tag. From what users have said, the buzz is no more worth the bucks than you would spend on the original Mach 3.
* '''Gillette Fusion''': Not three, not four, but five blades! Despite the positioning of the blades, which is closer than its predecessors, it doesn't gunk up or drag too much. The skinny sixth blade helps get into tight spaces and helps shave around side burns. The jury says? Good shave but a bit pricey.
* '''Gillette Mach 3''': There's no review (that I have seen) that doesn't claim this razor to be everything a razor should be. It gives a smooth, close, less irritating shave, and it has a reasonable price tag to boot. Sometimes simplicity is as good as it gets.
* '''Schick Quattro''': This is certainly competition for the Gillette Mach 3, with four blades wrapped with eight wires. That means less nicks and less irritation. The only question is whether it's worth the extra money.
* '''BIC''': The cheapest of razors on the drugstore shelves have proven that when it comes to shaving, price and quality do have at least something in common. BIC is definitely the last on most folks list because they tend to nick and cause irritation. In fact, one reviewer calls them "evil." Go figure.
High-end cartridge razors that run up to $70 or more are made by the following manufacturers: Concord and Muehle-Pinsel. Some are compatible with razor blade cartridges such as Mach 3. The reasons for going with these pricier handles is that they will inevitably last longer and are usually ergonomically designed to fit the hand. They also have nice designs with more luxurious detailing on them. Otherwise, like with the more disposable cartridge razors above, the blade is what really makes a difference.