Shaving using a straight razor requires a combination of patience, courage, and practice. It is not as easy as the way people see it in movies.
The first shave is not always pleasing. Expect to make a few mistakes here and there as you get to learn. Shaving with a straight razor requires skill and skills are learned.
So don’t be afraid to learn the skill as everyone goes through the same learning curve phase.
This article, therefore, gives a broad guide on how to hold a straight razor and how to shave with it.
Each step is clearly explained to provide the reader with all information they require to avoid the common mistakes associated with using the razor for the first time.
There are two straight razors; the one that uses disposable blades and the one that does not utilize disposable blades. If you are using a disposable blade, you will first insert a new blade in the razor.
This is done by gently inserting the blade between the two metal pegs and holding it firmly when closing.
Before they can be used, those straight razors that don't use a disposable blade need first to be filed.
The blade is filed by placing it at an angle of 30 degrees and stroking it 10 to 12 times in an X pattern to and from.
It is always important to start by preparing the face. Use a hot shower or a hot towel to soften skin hairs and open the pores.
Bloom the soap by pouring drops of water on its surface to soften it before lathering.
You can choose to either lather in a bowl or on your hand then gently smearing the lather on the face. It is, however, convenient and easy to lather on the back of the non-shaving hand.
Start by holding your blade correctly. One common mistake people make while holding the blade is using a strained clutch as if they are throwing a dart or holding a pencil.
Try holding the handle between your pointer finger and the middle finger while balancing the blade with the thumb (see picture below).
It is much more comfortable holding the blade this way as it gives you control to hold the blade between the razor and the handle correctly. Shaving behind the ears is a bit complicated, and you need to modify the grip.
When ready, place the razor on the part of the face to be shaved. You can use the blade dry or dip it in water beforehand. Most people, however, like it dry.
Hold the razor at an angle of 30 degrees against the cheek just like a safety razor. The 30-degree angle is considered the appropriate angle for the perfect balance between an aggressive and a smooth shave.
However, it is not necessary you always position the blade at that angle. You can always adjust it to suit your most comfortable position.
The shave gets more aggressive when you place the blade more perpendicular and milder as you lower the angle of the blade. Nonetheless, your freedom of movement is limited to only 5 degrees.
Past that, you risk cutting the skin while too mild cutting barely removes beard hair.
Always remember to use the grain of the blade as it is the only way to get a clean shave and keeping a good-looking skin.
This is, however, not applicable as everyone has a different growth pattern.
The picture above shows the growing pattern of different people and the appropriate shaving style for all of them. It is advisable that you know your hair growth pattern to avoid complications when shaving.
The picture above shows the shaving directions. Always shave in short, gentle strokes with the grain as opposed to shaving against the grain.
Straight razors attain longer strokes compared to safety razors. Let the blade over smoothly.
Don’t apply pressure on the blade as it will only tug the hairs making the whole shaving process uncomfortable.
If you feel the blade is not sharp enough, feel free to strop it even more. Your main aim is to reduce your beard with just one pass and not complete beard removal as this will irritate your skin.
Never hold the blade at a slicing angle as you would with a knife. In this position, you risk cutting your skin.
Start shaving your right side if you are right-handed and on the left side if you are left-handed. The picture below shows a shaving map and directions in which you can refer to. Use the map to plan your stroke’s movement.
Always start from the sideburns while moving slowly towards the jawline.
When lather and hairs accumulate on your blade, wipe them off with a clean towel or rinse it in a sink.
Using a towel is recommended as it ensures that you don’t get too much water on the lather causing it to wash off. Also, wipe your non-dominant hand when it gets too soapy or wet.
Now hold the blade with your non-dominant hand. Yes, start shaving your left side with your non-dominant hand. It feels uncomfortable at first, but you will get used to it as you progress.
You will realize that shaving your left side with your right hand is much more uncomfortable and you have either less control or no visibility of what you are doing.
You can always refer to the map for directions in case you lost track on the shaving pattern.
When done shaving, you need to take care of your skin to ensure it remains well hydrated.
First, rinse your face thoroughly with cold water to remove lather and any hairs stuck on the face. Cold water is advisable as it reduces irritation and closes pores.
If you have both the cream and the alum block, start with the cream. Applying the alum afterward locks in the moisture rather than preventing it from soaking into the skin.