Aggressive vs Non-Aggressive DE'S: how to tell the difference?

Discussion in 'General Shaving Talk' started by tazorac, Jan 19, 2020.

  1. tazorac

    tazorac Member

    I'm still getting my feet wet with DE shaving and don't know all the terminology. Whats the difference between what some people coin an "aggressive" razor vs a less aggressive razor? Is it the blade exposure?

    I've used several different DE'S..and my Feather DE is the only DE that I can use without getting cut. I'm wondering is it because it's "less aggressive".
    brit likes this.
  2. brit

    brit in a box

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  3. Shaver X

    Shaver X Well-Known Member

    An "aggressive" razor gives shaves that tend to be close and more prone to irritation. A "mild" razor gives shaves that are less close and less prone to irritation. That is not to say that shave closeness and irritation are necessarily linked. Those are very general definitions, though.

    If you are getting cut with razors other than the Feather, it could just be a matter of getting your technique totally dialed in. The Feather is known for being mild.
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  4. Chuck Naill

    Chuck Naill Well-Known Member

    My definition of aggression is that the razor blade holder holds the blade in such a way that makes it more effective in cutting. The edge of the blade is more exposed and there is a gap above and below the blade. among DE type holders. With this type of blade holder, greater care is necessary.

    I consider the Barbasol Floating Head to be such a razor. This razor was made in the early 1930's. Other razors produced during this era include the Micromatic and the Schick injector with Bakelite handle. Just a theory, men from this era probably had some experience using a straight razor or handling sharp edges so that using these razors were of little or no concern.

    Today men wear stubble. To cut several days growth, a razor with a more exposed blade might be more effective and clog less.
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  5. Terry

    Terry Tool Admirer

    Agressive is in the hand, efficient is in the razor.
    Some razors are built to cut the hair easier than others.
    So they need more practice to use without any issues.
    If your new to this style of shaving, take your time, development of technique is essential for using the type of razors discuss here.
    Use one type of razor, one type of blade. Use this setup for an extended period, get proficient, then move to the next razor.
    Good luck!!
  6. ghostlife

    ghostlife Well-Known Member

    Aggressive to me is in the blade exposure and blade gap and a bit related to rigidity. Yes, the feather DEs are very mild shavers
    BigMike likes this.
  7. Sara-s

    Sara-s This Pun for Hire

    I think the weight of the razor can also factor in to aggressiveness.
  8. EnglishChannel

    EnglishChannel Well-Known Member

    DE razors fall into the group called "safety razors." That term is descriptive because these shaving tools provide the user with a level of safety or "protection" from the blade. They manage the exposure, blade gap, and to some degree angle of attack for the user.

    Terms used to describe the aggressiveness of a DE (safety) razor are trying to describe how "safe" the razor is to use, with respect to these factors (exposure, gap & angle)

    For instance, some people can get an excellent, smooth BBS shave from a Straight Razor or shavette... tools that provide NO protection from the blade AND do not manage exposure or angle (there is no gap since there is no safety bar). These devices would be by definition very aggressive, requiring that the user manage the contact of blade to beard and skin. They manage NONE of these factors.

    On the other hand most cartridge razors provide a high level of protection from the blade(s), giving the user a "foolproof" shave by managing ALL of these factors.

    So very "mild" DE's are more like that, whereas very "aggressive" DE's are less "forgiving" of your technique providing much less protection, similar to the Straight Razor.

    One last thing. Smoothness of the shave is determined most by the properties and edge of the blade and the angle of attack.

    Closeness of the shave is determined by blade sharpness and exposure.
    Edison Carter likes this.
  9. Chuck Naill

    Chuck Naill Well-Known Member

    One thing we can agree on is that no one agrees on how to define aggression. I doubt my grandfather back the '20's would have used aggression to describe a razor.
  10. Carson West

    Carson West Well-Known Member

    I've been wet-shaving for a couple years now, and I've found that the most critical skill I've had to develop was using a very light touch, very little pressure against the skin, less than a cartridge razor requires. This results in less irritation and fewer cuts. If the razor has sufficient weight, you can use that weight alone to apply the tiny amount of pressure needed to maintain contact between blade and skin. Remember, more strokes with the razor trumps more pressure. But of course excessive strokes can irritate as well. This shavin' thing aint easy.
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2020
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  11. Tallships

    Tallships Well-Known Member

    There are a number of factors in razor being mild or for a better word, how efficient is a razor , Blade Gap. Blade exposure, trajectory of the head, weight, handle length and importantly Razor Blade used and definitely Technique of user. Matching a blade with a razor is important, Example: If I were to use an old type closed comb Gillette Tech (mild razor) and use a not very sharp Derby blade, I'd get a poor shave But if I used a Bic or an Astra SP I could get a BBS. Technique is also a big factor. Technique is a matter of skill using a tool, once learned shave are a joy. After nearly 60 years of shaving, I still enjoy my morning shave.
    Shaver X likes this.
  12. feeltheburn

    feeltheburn Well-Known Member

    For me, blade exposure is the biggest factor in whether a razor seems aggressive or not. Unfortunately, it's also the most difficult to measure. Not that it can't be measured, it's just that you need a fairly specialized setup to do it. Thankfully some razor manufacturers are including measurements of exposure in their specs. I think that is a great development.

    Razor weight is a pretty important factor IMO too. A heavy razor can seem like it has more exposure than it does and "letting the weight of the razor do the work" can easily result in using too much pressure for my face. To make that even more complicated, balance can be important too. A "Head Heavy" razor can act like a heavier razor while a well-balanced heavy razor may not seem as heavy as it is.

    Blade gap IMO doesn't seem to be a large factor in aggressiveness. The Merkur Futur is a great example. It has a huge gap but feels like it has very low exposure to me. Use it with no pressure and it's smooth. I barely feel the blade when I use it but it's still very efficient. If you were to use any pressure with a Futur, I have no doubt it would bite you though.
  13. Carson West

    Carson West Well-Known Member

    I assess a razor's aggressiveness simply by the way it leaves my face feeling after a shave, in particular my chin, the most tender part of it. But some guys claim they get less irritation from aggressive razors because they don't have to make as many passes with them. So you have to experiment. By the way, of my 20 razors, my Feather Popular is the mildest.

    Your job will be to experiment with angles between razor-head and skin. I get the best results by using a sharp angle, but other guys are different. And again, train yourself to use the least amount of pressure to do the job. Most razors are weighty enough to provide adequate contact without any additional pressure. Those two skills will mitigate irritation and nicks.

    When guys say "no pressure," I think they mean "no additional pressure." I have a couple aluminum razors, and they're so light I can't use their weight alone to do the job. They won't cut at all. So I have to apply that tiny bit of extra pressure myself, pressure a heavier razor would provide for me.

    Just one more suggestion for preventing nicks: slow down.

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