The great thing about using a straight razor to shave is that you are going to save a lot of money. You don’t have to go to Walmart or any of the grocery stores and buy one of those disposable razors every week. Its bad-ass and you are also being environmentally conscious.
For beginners, shaving with a straight razor takes some practice. When you are just starting out, you should go slow and be more cautious. It takes a little bit of a learning curve but it’s worth the investment.
The equipment needed for this task
- Shaving brush
- Shaving cream or soap
- Pre-shave oil
- Straight edge razor
- Leather strop to sharpen your razor
- Shaving bowl or mug
- Styptic stick or alum block for nicks and cuts
- After shave balm or lotion
Preparing to shave
Don’t have a thick growth of stubble or you’ll only make it harder on yourself. One or two days of growth will be more than enough to start with. You may use a trimmer first, if your stubble has grown too long.
Before you decide to shave, it is advised to wash your face with warm water or apply a hot towel to your face for a couple of minutes. This process cleans your face, opens the pores, lifts and softens the beard hair. It also hydrates your skin and this makes it a lot easier for the razor to slide across your skin and shave the hair.
Then apply the pre shave oil all along the beard area, mustache area and the neck area as well. This will help soften up the hair follicles. Pre shave oil also increases the skin suppleness. Supple skin does not cut or become irritated as easily as dry skin. You want to rub a little bit on your hands and then message it on your face.
Lather helps lubricate your skin so that the razor glides smoothly over your face. Use a shaving brush and a bowl to create the best possible lather. Canned shaving cream is not recommended. First leave the brush to rest in some warm water and then take out and remove any excess water. Ensure the water is not very hot as that would damage the bristles.
Now lightly cover the brush in shaving cream before using a combined stirring and churning motion until a thick lather appears. The more you rub the brush on the cream, the thicker the lather.
Apply the lather to your face in swirling motions. The shaving brush will also lift the beard hair and coat every single whisker. When the face is covered completely, take a few strokes to even everything out.
It’s important to keep your blade sharp before using to prevent pulling or tugging of facial hair. Hold your razor with your dominant hand and rest the first three fingers on the back of the blade. Rest your pinky on the blade’s tang and place your thumb on the side of the blade towards the handle. This grip gives you nice control of the razor. For some users a more comfortable position is to place two fingers on the font and two fingers on the back. Make sure you can hold the razor firmly and comfortably.
Start with the cheek on the side of your dominant hand. You want to stretch the skin with your free hand and make your skin as tight as possible to allow a smooth shaving surface. Stretch the area in the direction opposite of shaving. If you’re having trouble stretching your skin or if it’s slippery from the shaving cream, rub some wet alum on your fingers. This will give you a stronger grip even if you have a soapy or slippery surface.
Begin with slow even strokes and shave in the direction of beard growth. Hold the blade at an angle of around 30 degrees. Anything more and you risk cutting yourself. Anything less and you won’t cut the whiskers.
Lay the razor flat against your skin and then slowly roll out to find the perfect cutting angle. When it starts cutting, then that is your sign that you are going to have a good cutting angle. You now need to maintain that angle where the razor slices off cleanly instead of scraping.
Make sure you apply very little pressure and let the weight of the razor do the work. If you press too hard you might get razor burns.
You want to make really short precise strokes. Some people try to do long strokes but a short stroke gives you a better shave. Once you complete the cheek areas, begin to work on your chin and neck areas. The cheek areas are the easiest to work with. More difficult areas are the chin and the jaw line.
If you are a beginner, you can shave with the straight razor in stages. For the first couple of days use the straight razor for the easier areas and finish the rest of the shave using your safety razor. After a few days, work your way into the harder areas.
For the neck area, you can hold the razor straight like the Japanese style razor and then work your way up towards the chin from the base of your neck. Maintain the 30 degree angle all the way through. You can also bend your razor’s handle to get a little more grip on the razor. Elevate the chin and stretch the neck area as much as possible for a smoother flat surface. Take extra care as the skin in the neck area is vulnerable to nicks and cuts.
Before shaving the upper lip area, draw the upper lip down as much as possible and tighten the skin. Shave downwards. Similarly, for the chin area, draw your lower lip up as much as possible. This will make it easier to shave the area below the lower lip and the chin.
Each time you do a little bit more with your straight razor, you’ll feel more comfortable. Sooner than later, it’ll become second nature. For experienced shavers, you can shave across the grain and also against the grain for a very close shave. Two pass and even three pass shaves will give you the ultra smooth baby bottom feel.
Wiping the razor
When you’re done with your shave, just rinse the razor with a towel or bathroom tissue. Dry it off gently and be careful not to damage the tip of the blade. Let it dry in free air after that to avoid rust. After letting it dry for a few minutes, place it in a safe place.
Post shave – Rinse, protect and skin conditioning
Rinse your face, first with warm water and then with cold water or apply a cold towel. This closes the pores to stop skin irritation. You may rub an alum block on your face. Alum is made up of various minerals and acts as an astringent. It will seal off any nicks or minor abrasions that you might have.
If you went deep in a certain spot while shaving or got a razor burn, alum will give you a stinging sensation in that area. Let the alum layer sit for about a minute and then rinse off with cold water. Many people prefer alum over alcohol based lotions as alcohol can be very drying for your skin.
Then apply an after shave balm or a face lotion to add moisture to your skin. Apply evenly all around your face including the neck and chin areas. This will give you a cool, refreshing feel and it gives you an extra layer of protection during the day, especially in cold weather climate.