Getting started shaving with a Double Edge Safety Razor
February 26, 20215 min read
Whether you choose a safety razor for environmental reasons, financial ones or for the experience, one fact is undeniable - it’s a better shave. Safety razors are less irritating to the skin and shave closer for most than any modern cartridge razor, and that’s why we love them. While you can accomplish a shave by simply dragging the blade across dry skin, most folks wouldn’t find that very comfortable. We believe in elevating shaving into something truly enjoyable, so here are a few tips on how to shave with a safety razor.
Selecting your razor
With an overwhelming selection of handles available, choosing the right razor can be hard and confusing without help. We’ve found that almost everyone likes a medium to long handle with some grippy texture, the Hoxton Knurl,Merkur 23C and 20C which all fit the bill, are our best sellers. Most leg-shavers tend to choose a long handle to reach further down their legs, while I find a medium handle is great for working around my face. Men with beards will often go for the shorter Merkur 34Cfor maneuverability around their neck. If you want to see more options, check out our 5 favourite safety razors.
Open Comb? Slant? Closed comb? Do those terms even mean anything?
Yes. There are a variety of heads out there for specialized shaving and hair types. Slant heads offer a very aggressive cut, while the open comb can cut through a full beard in one stroke. For regular shaving, a basic closed comb (standard razor) is the way to start. They can hack through a surprising amount of hair and are rarely too aggressive. Once you get comfortable, feel free to experiment with a different head type or even an adjustable razor. These are safety razors that allow you to change the amount of space between the blade edge and the guard.
The most important step in preparing for your shave is a lather with a good brushand shaving cream or soap. The lather protects the skin and helps the razor glide, all making your hair softer and easier to shave. The action of the brush helps lift the hairs, allowing you to shave closer and with fewer ingrown hairs.
First warm your face with a hot, damp towel. This is best done after a hot shower, and will soften hair and prevent nicks. Massage in a light coat of pre-shave gel or oil. Warm a shaving mug or scuttle with hot water, then refresh the hot water and soak your brush, bristles-down for a few minutes. This improves your lather and softens the bristles, preventing breakage.
Using soaps and creams differ, but the general technique is: Load your brush with product, build a lather in your mug, and apply it to the face. When you apply your lather, use vigorous circular motions in order to fluff the lather further. This also raises the hairs and softens them, to help get a closer and more comfortable shave, with fewer in-growns.
For those who aren't into making a fuss of things, a brushless shaving cream is a great choice. These gives you protection, moisture and glide but take mere second to use and are much better for your skin than the canned nonsense that we're used to.
Stretch your skin with your non-dominant hand while applying a confident but light pressure with the blade. Working in short strokes and smaller areas allows for greater precision. As you approach curved areas, try stretching the skin to flatten it out, or use your wrist to change the blade angle as you shave.
Start by shaving with the grain (growth direction) of your hair. While this won’t shave you closely, it shortens the stubble without irritating the skin. For those with extremely sensitive skin, this may be as far as you want to go, but most shavers will make multiple passes with the blade.
In order to get a closer shave, one must shave in a different direction. Always apply more lather in-between passes, and choose a direction that is suitable to the skin. Shaving against the grain will give an extremely close shave but can be irritating to many. Some shavers will do their second pass perpendicular to the grain to get a fairly close but more comfortable shave, while others will shave in all three directions to get as close as possible.
When learning a new type of razor, take your time and keep a familiar razor nearby for cleaning up when needed. A new tool takes time to master, and its important to go easy on yourself as you learn. As you practice, pay close attention to the directions that your hair grows in. Nobody’s hair grows all in one direction, so strokes at different angles will be necessary to achieve a perfect shave. The better you can learn those directions and map your face, the better your shave will be.
Once you’ve completed the shave with your blade, taking care of your tools and your face is key. Once you’re done, you want to make sure that both your skin and your equipment get the care that they deserve.
First, deal with any blood. Wet analum block or styptic pencil and apply it to the cuts to stop any bleeding. It also helps with razor burn. Next, wipe your face down with a cold towel. This cleans your skin, but also soothes any irritation you may have caused.
Always apply aftershave. Alcohol goes on first, to sanitize and close the pores. Follow with an aftershave balm, to soothe irritation and moisturize your freshly shaved skin. While not everyone needs both, the combination is great for your skin. Listen to what your face tells you, and build your routine off of how it feels.
Finally, rinse your brush and razor well, and hang them on a stand, so they can dry properly. In the case of the brush, hanging upside down is vital in order to extend its lifespan well past a couple of years.
A block of potassium alum can be your best friend when you are learning, especially with a new razor. When dipped in water and rubbed into a cut, this naturally occurring mineral salt will constrict the blood vessels. This stops small cuts from bleeding and slows larger cuts.
Alum also comes in handy while stretching your skin; rub slightly damp fingers on the block, and it will give you incredible grip on your skin.
Razor blades are sharp, it goes without saying. While the carefree bachelor may throw them away willy-nilly most of us live with other humans or animals that will not appreciate this. To be safer (and more green), get a razor blade bank to dispose of your blades. A typical blade bank takes years to fill, and can be disposed of at your typical metal recycling facility or local pharmacy.
When using a safety razor, half of the battle is selecting the right blade. While some folks can start with one pack and nail it the first time, most of us should try several to see which one works. In the end, it all comes down to how the razor is sharpened combined with your specific skin type and hair type. Each razor that we sell comes with 5 Kent of Inglewood Mild blades which shave smoothly through thick hair, but aren’t harsh on the skin. For sensitive skin I suggest also grabbing some Astras and Sharks, while those with tougher hair may want Feathers and Merkurs.
At the end of the day, getting the perfect shave is a matter of practicing and experimenting. Listen to your face. Is it sore after you shave? Did you miss hairs that are growing in an unexpected direction? The more you pay attention and focus when you’re practicing, the faster it’ll become second nature, and you’ll barely have to think about getting a great shave.