One of the things I love about using double edge safety razors is that there are so many levels and layers to it.

From where you start as a beginner to where you end up later in life are two completely different ways of shaving.

To some, you’re simply taking the hair off of your face so they don’t understand the appeal. But if you are reading this then I think you appreciate the act of wet shaving and are looking to graduate from a beginner to an intermediate wet shaver.

If that’s the case, then sit back and read my article on using an adjustable safety razor. To put more control into your hands and literally dial in on how you like your razor setting there is nothing quite like an adjustable double edge.

In this article, I’ll talk about what they are, how to use them and which one I think is best. To save you the suspense, I’ll go ahead and tell you now that I love the Parker safety razor called the Variant. It’s a newer adjustable that beats a lot of the competition.

What is an adjustable safety razor?

Simply put, an adjustable double edge razor allows you to change the exposure of the blade. The point is to make the razor more or less aggressive with the use of a dial to change the position of the blade.

Other double edge safety razors are fixed. Whatever the gap is it will forever be.

Many new wet shave enthusiasts end up with a safety razor with a slight gap so it is a more mild shave.

Once they are ready for a more aggressive shave when they have really learned to use a safety razor, they end up with a more open comb razor that shaves more aggressively.

Then there are those that like to have a razor that allows them to change the gap mid shave.

Why use an adjustable safety razor?

Everybody has different needs so the reason to use one will vary depending on who you ask.

Here are a few reasons to try one out:

  • Sensitive Skin – I have sensitive skin so shaving everyday with a safety razor is not a great idea. Even shaving everyday with a disposable 5 blade system will give me razor burn. Some people with sensitive skin still need to shave everyday, though so for them to use a safety razor would not be wise. Unless they could adjust it. So, you can shave with it open for a more aggressive shave on a Monday morning when you haven’t shaved over the weekend, and then as the week progresses, dial it down to a more mild shave as you go so you don’t turn your face into hamburger by Friday.
  • Varying Beards – Most guys have beards that are very thick in some areas while being thin in others. To use a safety razor that is very aggressive to deal with those thick areas would end up causing razor burn on the areas where the beard is thinner. Or, they have to use pressure when shaving over the thick area and end up with irritated skin there. Having the ability to change the aggressiveness means they can keep it mild in the easier to shave areas and then dial it in to be more aggressive in the thicker spots.
  • Changing Shaving Habits – As you learn the ins and outs of wet shaving, you may feel like you are ready for a more aggressive shave. Rather than spend money on a new razor it may make more sense to go with an adjustable once you graduate from the beginner level, but are not ready to go full in for an expert one right away.

How do they work?

There are two kinds of adjustable safety razors. Those that change the gap by moving the safety bar in and out so the blade is more or less exposed.

Then others will literally bend the blade. A bar is pushed up into the head at the center of the double edge blade and lift the center. A horseshoe shape is formed if you were to be able to see it from the side. As a result, the blade is less exposed as it is pushed up.

The kind that bends the blade also changes the angle, which can be a good or bad thing. The angle is not quite as flush when it is less exposed to it still has a bit of an aggressive shave with the higher angle.

With the type that opens the comb so the blade sticks out more, the shave is more or less uniform since the angle of the blade stays the same whether the comb is open or closed. In other words, they are easier to find the sweet spot of aggressiveness.

Parker safety razor

There are not many adjustable double edge safety razors out there that are easy to find. If you scour estate sales and flea markets you may find more of a variety, but on Amazon.com and even most brick and mortar stores, your selection is limited.

Not a problem, though since I think the Parker Variant is the best that you can get. It is around the middle of the pack price wise so it is not too expensive, either.

The one thing I will say, though, is this is definitely for those that have some experience and understand more how they like the shave.

The Variant bends the blade, and quite dramatically at that. So, there is a bit more of a learning curve associated with it that you don’t get with the more straightforward type that doesn’t bend the blade.

The weight of the razor is on the heavier end of the spectrum at around 96 grams. I tend to stay away from razors that are over 100 so this falls slightly below the threshold.

The handle is three inches long, which I think is a nice size for the size of my hands. It is short enough to give me plenty of control and maneuverability. It is a little bit longer than some other adjustable like the Merkur Progress, but only slightly.

I love the textured grip of the handle though. It has a texture that gives it a good non slip grip while not being overly textured and uncomfortable.

Even though the weight is more than I would like, it is excellently balanced. It doesn’t lead to hand fatigue if you are doing three or more passes.

The dial is very easy to use and can give a lot of accuracy. It goes from 1 to 5 with 5 being the most aggressive. But, it doesn’t click into each number. That’s what a lot of people are looking for as it can be adjusted more incrementally giving you much more customization ability.

As for other features, the Parker safety razor has a butterfly loading system. Simply twist it open and drop the blade in.

I like the looks of the razor itself and think that it is elegantly understated. The head has nice curves that give it a sort of Art Nouveau look to it without overdoing it.

Each side of the head is different, for even more personalization of the shave. On one side the teeth are scalloped and the other is smooth. The smooth side gives a bit closer of a shave while being a bit milder than the scalloped side.

It is made out of solid brass making it quite durable and then plated with chrome.

Basically, the Variant is everything you look for in a Parker safety razor and then some with the adjustability features.

How to use a safety razor

Using a safety razor is not rocket science, but there is a learning curve. If you don’t know how to use a safety razor, the first thing you need to learn is how to do a proper wet shave. If you follow that link you’ll get an in depth look at how best to prep your face for the shave.

Before you start shaving with the Parker safety razor, or any other of your choosing, you need to get yourself a good shaving brush. Preferably a badger hair brush from the list from the article I just linked to.

Lastly, take a look at this list of shaving creams. You can use an aerosol shaving cream from a can, but that would defeat the whole idea of using a double edge safety razor. Any one of the ones from that list will lubricate and allow your skin and facial hair to be properly lubricated. This is the key to a good shave and is just as important as the razor you choose.

Now that we have that out of the way it’s time for a quick guide on how to use a safety razor.

Evaluate

Do a quick check on your beard before you get started shaving. You want to understand which direction the beard grows in. Lots of guys have beards that grow towards their neck and then it reverses directions at the bottom and grows up towards the jaw. Some even have swirls of hair that look like whirlpools.

Then, you should understand where your beard gets thickest.usually it grows thicker around the mouth and chin. This is where the adjustability of the razor comes in handy.

No Pressure

The key thing to remember when you are just learning how to use a safety razor is to let the razor do the work.

You should never need to press the blade onto the skin. Besides the risk of a cut, it will also give you some serious razor burn.

The weight of the razor should be enough that all you are doing is guiding it while gravity does its thing and pulls the razor down your face.

Go With the Grain

The best way to get an ingrown hair or razor bumps is to go against the direction that your hair grows in. Not to mention it can cause a serious cut.

Ideally you are going to do two or more passes with the razor, but the first one should be with the grain or in the direction that the hair grows.

Starting with under the sideburns, shave downwards towards the jaw. Then go under the jaw until you reach the spot where it reverses direction and go up with the direction of the growth.

Take Your Time

Make sure you work methodically and stick to one area before moving on to the next. And take your time. You don’t need to rush this so expect it to take at least twice as long as you think it will for the first few times you do a wet shave.

Set aside enough time so that you don’t have to try to rush through this.

If you are only just learning how to use a safety razor then it is likely that your shaving cream will start to dry out on some parts of your face. If this happens just dip your brush in some water and rehydrate those spots.

Do Several Passes

Only going over the beard once with the razor is not enough to get a very close shave. It generally takes at least two passes, but three is even better. Guys with sensitive skin usually only go over the one time, but if you have sensitive skin there is no reason to be going for an adjustable safety razor.

After you’ve gone over once, then take the brush, dip in water and lightly go over your face again. You don’t need to lather it up, rather a thin film is enough.

Then shave again, but this time going at a 45° angle to shave from a different direction. If you go with the grain this pass, it won’t cut anything and if you go against the grain then you’re still risking some razor bumps and burn.

If you go for a third pass, repeat with the brush and cream just to get the face wet.

This time around you can go at an angle that is not too different than going against the grain. As long as there is barely any stubble that you can feel, you can get away with something close to 90°.

Tighten the Skin

Now, rinse your face in ice cold water to shock the skin and tighten it up. With your skin tight and your pores closed, the shave will feel very close and your face as smooth as can be.

Now throw some aftershave on there to really tighten the skin up and also to disinfect. You can go for the burn and put on an old school aftershave or just use a balm or cream that doesn’t have any alcohol.

Keep Things Dry

Ok, now you know how to use a safety razor and the only thing left is to make sure you take care of it. Namely, keep it dry. After using it, open it up and rinse and dry the blade if you plan to use it again.

Then rinse out the inside of the razor and let it air dry. If you have a stand for it, then that is the best way to store it so it can dry quickly and stay dry.

Final Thoughts

Using an adjustable safety razor is undoubtedly one of the best ways you can shave. I think it gives you a much close shave than a straight edge since it can be more easily maneuvered while still receiving the same benefits of the single blade.

Whether you opt for the Parker safety razor or another, then you will get years of use out of it. You can check out this article about the benefits of a safety razor if you are still on the fence about it.

If you have any questions about this razor or others, let me know. I love talking about wet shaving and safety razors, so will be glad to answer any of your questions. Got a favorite razor you’d like to share with us and our readers, then just leave a comment in the box below and let us know!

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Salvatore