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If you’ve got coarse facial hair but sensitive skin, there may be no more annoying part of your morning routine than shaving. I grew to hate both uneven shaves and razor burn so much that for years I stopped shaving altogether — until I found it even more irritating to accidentally button my long beard into my shirt. But when one cartridge razor’s plastic handle actually snapped in half on me in the middle of shaving off a particularly knotty beard after a long trip. I tossed it in the wastebasket and never looked back at modern razors. Nowadays, I prefer remaining clean-shaven — and it’s all thanks to Merkur’s old-fashioned safety razor, the Mk34c.
SKIP AHEAD: Other safety razors to consider
It took me a while to figure out it was the right razor for me, though. Once I was shorn of my glorious whiskers, I had to reacquaint myself with what razors were now out in the market. For the most part, my choices seemed to be either electric shavers or three-or-more-bladed cartridge razors. Electric razors I’ve tried can’t seem to handle my facial hair well and have never left me with a satisfactorily smooth shave, so they were out.
Before I joined the beard brigade, I’d almost exclusively used those ubiquitous plastic razors with detachable cartridges that hold a row of parallel blades — razor companies seem to add a blade every few years, with the idea that more blades mean a closer shave. But for a guy like me with sensitive skin, it meant razor burn and bloody collars. And, as I noted above, I’ve found the plastic handles to be flimsy at times.
Until that point, I’d kept dismissing another type of razor out of hand as hopelessly out of date. But fans seemed to rave about them, and since 21st-century razors hadn’t fit the bill, I figured I had nothing to lose by looking to the past. So I ordered the highly rated Merkur razor, which has an average rating of 4.7 stars from over 5,200 reviews on Amazon.
It took a little getting used to — after my first shave with it, I had toilet-paper face all day because of the learning cuts. But it didn’t take long to get into the groove — compared to today’s plastic razors, the chrome-plated brass Mk34c has a short handle but is noticeably heavy, which, according to the company, is part of an intentional design that almost forces you to shave at the proper angle (30 degrees) to help ensure a closer shave. I’ve found the balance to be perfect for me. Working with a single, keen edge seems to give me much less razor burn than shaving with three or five parallel blades at once. And because the Merkur uses standard double-edged safety razor blades — the exact same kind your great-great-grandfather probably shaved with — I don’t have to spend a small fortune on replacement cartridges that can only fit one specific model from one specific brand.
I haven’t gone whole hog — I don’t use a shaving brush or shaving mug or anything — but I actually kind of look forward to shaving nowadays because I know my Merkur will leave my face smooth without leaving me in pain. I doubt I’ll ever have to comb soup out of a beard ever again.
Other safety razors to consider
I’ve come to appreciate the retro design of my Merkur, but if you’re into a sleeker look or want a longer handle, then you may want to look at these other, highly rated safety razors.
This brass-handled safety razor has been weighted to make cutting facial hair easier, according to the company. It also has a smoother, sleeker and more modern look than the Merkur Mk34c. The Bevel has an average rating of 4.4 stars from over 850 reviews on Amazon.
The Parker 99R has a handle length that’s more in line with modern cartridge razors but, like the Merkur, it uses its heavier weight for a closer shave, according to the company. It has an average rating of 4.4 stars from over 2,400 reviews on Amazon.