Ever since Moneypenny played that straight razor like a wand to seduce James Bond in the movie Skyfall, the razor has skyrocketed to an ultimate level of sexy sophistication. It’s now very cool to shave using a straight razor to the dismay of Gillette and Schick.
Alas though, none of us have a Moneypenny to do the shaving for us. So we have to make do with ourselves. And it’s not as easy as the way Hollywood depicts it in movies.
Shaving using a straight razor requires a combination of patience, courage, and practice.
The first shave is not always pleasing. Expect to make a few mistakes here and there as you get through with learning the basics.
Don’t be embarrassed by your accidental nicks and cuts as everyone goes through the same learning curve.
In this article, we’ll give you a broad overview on how to hold a straight razor properly when you shave so that you’ll get the best and smoothest shaving experience.
We’ll go through the steps clearly to provide the reader with the important information that they require in order to avoid the common mistakes committed by newbies everywhere when shaving with a straight razor.
There are two types of straight razors; the disposable and the nondisposable.
A disposable razor uses, well, disposable razor blades. To prepare one, you need to gently insert the blade between the two metal pegs and hold it firmly when closing.
For a non disposable straight razor--the type that Moneypenny was using on Bond--prepping is done by first filing the blade.
This is done using a whetstone or a grinding wheel.The blade is filed by placing it at an angle of 30 degrees and stroking it 10 to 12 times to and fro, in an X pattern.
The next step is to strop the blade. Stropping is essentially polishing the blade’s edge to give it a mirror finish and wipe away the remaining metal bits that were left behind after the filing.
Always start by preparing your face. Take a hot shower or wipe your face with a hot towel to soften the hair and open the skin pores.
Take your soap and bloom it by sprinkling drops of warm water on its surface. Blooming is a technical term which simply means softening the soap so that one can draw out the ingredients of the soap and not just those on the soap’s surface.
Lather the soap using a scuttle bowl or on your hand. Always remember to use the back of the non-shaving hand as it is more convenient and easy for lathering. Once the lather is prepared, you are now ready to apply it on your face.
Now comes the learning part.
Hold the handle between your pointer finger and the middle finger while balancing the blade with the thumb (see picture below).
When you hold it this way, it gives you easy control over the blade. You can maneuver it to reach the tricky areas on your face or easily modify the blade angle to give you a comfortable shave.
This is especially helpful when shaving behind the ears.
Practice holding the razor this way before attempting to shave with it. One common mistake that newbies make is holding the razor like you would a pencil or throw a dart. It will strain your grip on the razor and trust me; you don’t want a strained clutch on a straight razor. There was a reason why they were originally called the cut-throat razor in the old days.
Place the razor on the area of the face to be shaved. You can dip the blade in water first or use it dry; it’s all a matter of personal preference. Most people, however, like it dry.
Hold the razor at an angle of 30 degrees against the cheek. The 30-degree angle is considered the best angle if you are aiming for a perfect balance between an aggressive or smooth shave.
Aggression in a razor blade simply means the degree to which a blade is exposed to the face and beard, or conversely the degree to which the face and beard are not protected from the blade by the razor's safety features.
If you place the razor blade more perpendicular to the face, it gets more aggressive. But if you lower the angle of the blade, you get a smoother shave.
Always remember though that too much of an aggressive shave will increase the risk of you cutting the skin, while too much of mild shave will barely remove thick beard hair.
Remember to shave with the grain of your hair on your first shave. This is not a hard and fast rule though since everyone has a different hair growth pattern.
The picture above shows the hair grain patterns of different people and the appropriate shaving style for each 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.
When you begin to shave, don’t apply pressure on the blade as it will only pull the hair, making the whole shaving experience uncomfortable.
Never hold the blade at a slicing angle as you would with a knife since you will risk cutting your skin.
If you feel the blade is not sharp enough, feel free to strop it even more. The goal here is to reduce the number of passes required to get a clear shave. Too many passes and the blade will irritate the skin. This is particularly true for those with sensitive 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 with directions that 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.
A towel is recommended so that it absorbs the extra moisture that would otherwise cause the lather to wash off the blade. If you need to wipe off the extra soap from your face, use your non-dominant hand.
After finishing one side, go to the opposite side. Now hold the blade with your non-dominant hand. Yes, use it to shave the opposite side of your face. It feels uncomfortable at first, but you will get used to it as you progress.
In case you lose track of the grain, you can always refer to the map for reference.
After you finish shaving, you need to take care of your skin to ensure it remains well hydrated.
Rinse your face thoroughly with cold water to remove the lather, and any hairs stuck on the face. Cold water is advisable since it closes skin pores, reducing the risks for irritation.
Apply cream to moisture the skin and then top it off by applying the alum. Saving the alum for last allows it to lock the moisture in the skin.
For more tips on shaving with a straight razor, you can download our free ebook. Click Add To Cart below.