A safety razor, designed to protect the user from serious injury, is a razor where the facial skin is protected from all but the very edge of the blade. Prior to using a safety razor, most men used a straight razor. These razors, although still available today, are not used very often due to the skill and attention required for use.
Jean-Jacques Perret invented the safety razor. A rare safety razor design called “Comfort”, although not truly a safety razor, was a landmark design. In America, the Kampfe brothers patented the first safety razor in 1888. This razor featured a wire skin-guard along the razor’s edge. Just one side of the blade is used to shave and must be removed for sharpening.
Gilette manufactured carbon steel blades until the 1960’s. However, these rusted quickly and required the user to change the blades often. Stainless steel blades were produced and they didn’t rust and could be used repeatedly until blunt. Most blades are stainless steel now; however, carbon steel is still around but in a much improved fashion.
Until the early 1970s, most razors were designed to accept a single, disposable razor blade and had either one or two sharpened edges. This type of blade is no longer manufactured in the United States. Even though they aren’t produced in the US anymore single blade razors are often traded and sold through auction sites.
The replaceable blade cartridge was a new innovation that kept the risk of the user receiving a cut from the unprotected blades to a minimum. Most believe that many of the companies switched over to the cartridge type razor to be in better control of the blades used with their razors. Since the manufacturers could control what blades went with what razors they could drive prices to whatever point made them happy. Gillette produced the Trac II in 1971 and it became the first mass-produced multi-blade razor available in the United States.
Supposedly the twin blades that came with the Trac II allowed for a closer shave due to the first blade pulling the hair and the second blade cutting it before the hair retracted to the skin.
Through the control of the patents on the Trac II razor, Gillette was able to assure repeat sales of its cartridges. Competitors soon followed this trend in multi-blade razors. Gillette subsequently introduced a pivoting razor head that they claimed would more closely follow the shape of the face. After that they introduced the “lubricating strip”.
Bic came out with the disposable razor in 1974 where the blade and handle were both thrown away after use. Gillette followed Bic with its own disposable razor. These disposable blades are still in common use today. Even now there are those that prefer the double edge blade as opposed to the cartridge blade. Reasons for this include everything from cost to comfort. In 1998, Gillette introduced the first triple-blade cartridge razor, the Mach3. Schick’s response was the Quattro, a four blade razor. Gillette later introduced the Fusion brand shaving system which utilized a five-blade cartridge razor with an additional single blade for trimming.