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Razors then and now

Kedar Kulkarni

Raju liked how his father looked when he had shaving foam on his face. He wondered how the foam helped in shaving. One day he asked: “Papa, why do you put foam on your face before shaving? And doesn’t it hurt while shaving?”

His father smiled and said: “I have been shaving for almost 25 years now. In the beginning I got a small cut while shaving but that was it. It is very safe to use a razor if you know how to move it. Those who do not learn that have to visit the barber. The foam makes the process of shaving easy as it makes the surface smooth. ”

Raju had noticed that the razors at the barber’s shops were different than the ones his father used. He then asked his father about the straight knife-like razors used by barbers.

“Sharp straight razors were used for shaving before the invention of shaving blades, the method then changed altogether. Self shaving razors called as safety razors were developed. Replaceable blades with double edge and superior cutting quality steel were invented and shaving became cheaper as the blade could last for more than just one shave. Shaving daily became more common practice with the advent of safety razors. Barbers still use straight razors with replaceable blades to shave and during haircuts. Due to the fear of spreading diseases like AIDS it is mandatory for the barber shops to sterilise the razors and replace the blades after each use.”

Raju’s father went on to tell him that safety razors come as a set with a blade holder, a cover and a detachable handle. The razor lasts for years with only the blades being replaced. Some older folk still have the old shaving sets. With the advancement in technology, disposable razors are such that they can be used for a few shaves and then thrown.

These days there are new types of razor blades being produced – twin three and four blades. The new trend is to use the same plastic handle but change the blades which may be twin, three or a four blade inserts. Electrical shaving machines are also available. Shaving creams, soaps or foams help lubricate and assist in the movement of the blade and also desensitises the skin.

(Writer is a mechanical engineer and runs a hands-on science activity centre at Margao)

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