Best Shave Kits

Updated May 2021
Header Image
Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
Bottom Line
Pros
Cons
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

62 Models Considered
22 Hours Researched
3 Experts Interviewed
74 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for Best shave kits

For many people, shaving is a chore, rushing with an electric razor as fast as possible before dashing out the door. Other folks take a different approach. For them, shaving is an invigorating morning ritual, a pleasurable experience that prepares them for the day. If you want to be one of the latter, you need a quality shave kit.

Sure, you could buy the items individually or make do with a cup from the kitchen, but that cheapens the whole thing. If you’re going to enjoy your personal grooming, your shave kit should be a synergic thing, designed so all the pieces work together. Does that mean shave kits are expensive? Far from it. Most people spend on a kit about what they’d pay for an electric razor.

We’ve been looking at the various shave kits so we can help you choose. Our recommendations underline the wide choice you have whatever your budget, and we look at things in a bit more detail in the following buying guide.

Get emails you’ll love.
Learn about the products you’re wondering if you should buy and get advice on using your latest purchases.
I1 
If you’ve never been to a barber shop to be shaved by a professional, we recommend you treat yourself at least once. It’s a great experience, and it’s not expensive. Not sure if it’s safe? Anyone using a straight razor is required to have a license, which must be on display.

Key considerations

Components

We think a good shave kit should include the following, and we say more about them below:

  • Razor
  • Shaving brush
  • Stand for the above (not always supplied)
  • Shaving soap (puck)
  • Bowl
  • Spare blades (from two to ten)
  • Balm or oil (for pre- and post-shave use)

As you shop, you’ll come across numerous different combinations of these elements. Most common is a stand that supports the brush (so it can dry) and the razor. Traditional safety razors tend to be supported. More modern multiblade models often have longer handles, so they sit in a “foot” at the base of the stand. Sometimes the razor and brush have matching but separate rests.

There are lots of different styles, and it’s largely a question of personal preference. However, it’s worth thinking about how the components will work in your bathroom — most people like them on display — or how they pack if you’re often on the move.

Vegans will want to choose a shaving kit with a synthetic brush to avoid animal products. The best of these perform just as well as traditional brushes. But be careful with descriptions. “No animal testing” doesn’t necessarily mean there are no animal-derived products in the kit.

Staff
BestReviews

Features

Color

Black is always popular, and inexpensive shave kits often have a steel stand and safety razor with a black plated finish. Chrome is also very popular. They’re both quite durable, but the plating will wear thin eventually, especially because these items are handled frequently. Stainless steel is a little more expensive but is highly corrosion resistant. And the material isn’t plated, so there’s nothing to wear off.

Bowl

The soap bowl is often the same material as the stand, but you’ll also find wood and ceramic bowls. However, know that wood doesn’t do well in a humid environment if it repeatedly gets wet and dries out. A good coat of varnish or similar finish is needed to prevent the wood from splitting. Traditional porcelain has a certain timeless look, which might be echoed in the razor and brush handles.

Razor

The type of razor you use is another important element. Today’s multiblade tools give a very close shave, but there are some who feel they’re almost like cheating!

If you’re going to go to the trouble of having a nice shave kit, then the traditional double-edged safety razor is perhaps the most common choice, though a number of kits do include a straight razor. If you’re thinking about the latter, it’s important to understand the differences in a tool that’s not as straightforward as it first appears. While other types of razors have disposable blades, straight razor shave kits often come with a strop and honing paste so you can keep the blade sharp.

Brush

The other major component that you need to think about is the shaving brush. The bristles make a big difference. Traditionally, these have been natural hair. Cheap ones can be made of horsehair, and boar bristle is popular, but most experts think badger is best because it’s softer and easier to work with. Having said that, many people with naturally oily skin or a thick beard prefer boar because it’s a little stiffer. It allows them to work the soap into their beard to soften it and increase exfoliation.

Synthetic fibers are now used more and more often, but care is needed when choosing one of these brushes. In less expensive shave kits, the brush can be substandard, less comfortable, and less effective at working up a lather. Conversely, in high-quality shave kits, synthetics can be every bit as good as the best natural brushes, and most people would struggle to tell them apart. We’re of the opinion that if you’re going to wet shave and turn a daily chore into a pleasant morning routine, it’s worth investing in the best you can afford. Spending a few extra bucks on the razor and brush are almost invariably worth it.

Soap

Shaving kits usually include shaving soap, and some include other grooming products, too. We can’t say much about these because each individual is going to have their own preferences in terms of consistency and fragrance. None of these products are provided in large quantities, so if you don’t like a particular item, you can try something else without spending a lot of money. Still, it’s worth checking in case a product has an aroma you find unpleasant.

Dyk1 
Did You Know?
It’s nice to have a wooden box for your shave kit, or perhaps a toiletry bag, especially if you regularly travel with your kit. Cardboard boxes are easily squashed and don’t last long.
Staff
BestReviews

Shave kit prices

Inexpensive: When you’re looking at inexpensive shave kits, be careful about what’s included. For example, you might find a kit with a stand, soap bowl, and brush but no razor! The cheapest complete kits cost around $25 to $40 and usually feature the modern three-, four-, or five-blade type of razor.

Mid-range: Good-quality shave kits with a traditional single-blade safety razor or straight razor cost around $50 to $90. They often include pre- and post-shave balm or oil.

Expensive: The most expensive kits, which can cost hundreds of dollars, include designer names and straight razor shave kits in wooden boxes. These frequently feature a high-quality brush, but the thing that makes the most difference is the steel used for the razor, which is often Japanese. You’ll also get a leather strop and paste to keep the blade in peak condition.

It’s important to think about the shaving brush handle, not just the material but the size. Some are quite small, which can be awkward to use if you have large hands.

Staff
BestReviews

Tips

As with most anything you want to do well, preparation is key. One of the great things about a good shave kit is you’re not hunting around for the tools. They’re all organized so you can relax and enjoy the process.

  • Wash your face with a scrub or cleanser. Standard soap can dry the skin. Rinse your face with warm water.
  • Use a pre-shave oil or gel. It softens your beard and lubricates your skin so the blade doesn’t drag. If you suffer from allergies, look for hypoallergenic pre- and post-shave oils and shaving soap.
  • Prepare your shaving soap or cream. Cream is easier to use, but a good soap is richer (and let’s face it, more authentic). Add water a little at a time. Remember that you can always add more water to make the lather wetter, but it’s virtually impossible to take it away.
  • Brush the soap liberally on the skin. Don’t overdo it. You want to be able to see and feel the contours of your face, not hack through a cloud of foam.
  • Shave in the direction the hair grows (where practical). A blade angle of around 30° is recommended. Too steep and the blade will drag; too shallow increases the likelihood of cuts. Rinse the blade regularly.
  • Splash your face with cold water to finish and close the pores. Apply your favorite aftershave or oil.
  • Don’t shave every day if you have very sensitive skin. Missing a day or two each week allows your skin to recover properly.
I2
Men only? We don’t see why. Women who usually shave with an electric razor or cheap plastic disposables might like to try using a shave kit. They’re designed to shave hair. Does it matter where?

FAQ

Q. Does a blade give a closer shave than an electric razor?

A. Here’s an argument that’s been going on since the electric razor was invented! The simple answer is that an electric razor has guards designed to keep the blades from cutting you, so the blades never actually touch your skin. It’s still possible to nick yourself because the face is an uneven thing and it’s always possible to catch some part of it. A blade in an experienced hand shaves closer.

Wet shavers argue that the process is more enjoyable because it requires you to take your time. Dry shavers counter that electric shaving is faster, which is generally true. It’s very much a personal choice. What we would say is that you can’t just try blade shaving for a day or two. You need to acquire the skill in order to maximize the closeness and the pleasure of a job well done. You probably ought to give it a couple weeks.

Q. Are badger brushes really made from badger hair?

A. Yes, originally from the European breed, which is now protected in many countries. Today, most badger hair comes from China where the animal is considered a pest. There are four grades of badger hair, starting with “pure” as the lowest, up to “best” and “super” to “silvertip,” which is the finest. The main differences are softness, which affects comfort, and water retention, which creates a rich lather more easily.

Q. Do I need to sterilize my razor blades?

A. Again, this is a personal choice. New blades shouldn’t require sterilization before use, but it’s impractical for them to have medical-grade cleanliness. If you’re at all concerned, you can dip them in hydrogen peroxide or alcohol for a minute.

 

Other Products We Considered
The BestReviews editorial team researches hundreds of products based on consumer reviews, brand quality, and value. We then choose a shorter list for in-depth research and testing before finalizing our top picks. These are the products we considered that ultimately didn't make our top 5.
See more
Our Top Picks