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Why isn't my Safety Razor Shaving Right? Top 5 Beginner Mistakes

September 16, 2021 6 min read 0 Comments

Why isn't my Safety Razor Shaving Right? Top 5 Beginner Mistakes

So, you’ve started shaving with a safety razor. That’s awesome! Whether you picked up a single-blade razor to save money, reduce waste, or just get a better shave, it’s our absolute favourite way to remove hair from our bodies. While shaving with a safety razor is relatively easy, there are a few pitfalls that we sometimes find new shavers caught in. Don’t feel bad. Some of these challenges happened to me, and it’s natural to have some learning moments when switching from one tool to another. These are the top 5 challenges folks face when switching to a safety razor, and how to avoid each one!

Why Won’t My Safety Razor Shave?

The first time we heard this one, it confounded us to no end. How could it not shave? Safety razors are so sharp and smooth, most first-time shavers marvel at just how easy it is to remove hair with one! Fortunately, our sleuthing powers came to the rescue, and we found the culprit: if your safety razor isn’t shaving, it may be assembled wrong.

If your razor looks like this, it ain't gonna shave!

If you don’t get a good look at your razor before loading the first blade, it’s possible to accidentally flip the base plate and assemble the head as pictured above. This is more common than you may think, so don’t feel bad if it happened to you! When the head is assembled as such, the base plate blocks the blade, stopping it from cutting whatsoever and leading to an understandably frustrating shave. Just flip it over and get to work!

My Safety Razor is Irritating my Skin

When I switched to using a safety razor, I did so from a 3-bladed Gilette. My main goal was to reduce irritation and use something nicer than a piece of plastic for my morning routine. Modern razors had so indoctrinated me, I used the same kind of pressure when shaving my face with my new Merkur razor, and the result was a close but somewhat uncomfortable shave. All of that excess pressure can cause razor burn. Here’s how to fix that:

Modern razors are all about being as safe as possible, reducing the chance for any kind of nick to the point of sacrificing shave quality. The blades are recessed, requiring you to push down when you shave to get a close cut. On the other hand, safety razors trust that you’re a sensible human with a bit more dexterity than a baby. Shaving with a safety razor requires a light touch, and you can really let them do most of the work. When I shave, I pull the razor down, pushing just enough to keep the razor from jumping when it meets my stubble. If you find this tricky, just hold the razor by the end of the handle for the first few shaves, and you’ll get it in no time!

Use short, gentle stroks with your razor and you'll be getting a perfect shave in no time!

My safety razor is pulling or dragging when I shave

We’ve all had that day. You’re late for work or a date, and at the last minute, you realize you haven’t shaved. In haste, you splash some water on your skin and go to town with your razor. I’ve had this shave more than once, and it feels more like waxing than shaving. Those coarse, dry hairs provide way too much resistance to your blade. Not only is the experience unpleasant, but that rough, yanking feeling leads to all kinds of irritation after the shave. No fun! The key issue here is a lack of prep, and if your shave feels this way daily, it’s time to upgrade your routine.

There are two critical steps to take before shaving: softening your hair and protecting your skin. A shower or a soak with a damp towel will get the process started, but you’ll want to take it a step or two further. Lathering with a shaving brush and cream is the best solution. You can get into the nitty-gritty of wet-shaving here, but essentially the action of the brush lifts and softens your hairs, while the shaving cream protects your skin. Using a brush allows you to achieve a closer, more comfortable shave with fewer ingrown hairs. If you’re not quite ready to take the plunge, try using a preshave oil instead; it’ll be a marked improvement over a splash of water or squirt of canned cream.

I’m not getting a good shave with my safety razor

Perhaps my favourite aspect of my safety razor is how many choices of blades I have. We stock around 20 brands, each one sharpened differently and made with different materials. Without getting too nerdy, this means that some razors are better for you than others. Some may be too “mild” for your hair or too “aggressive” for your skin, while others will give you the best shave of your life! Part of the fun is trying them all and finding the razor that is just right. Your “goldilocks” razor, if you will. 

There are MANY different blade brands out there,
I guarantee at least one of them is right for you!

You can delve deep into the difference here, but I’ve got some basic suggestions to get you started:

Sensitive skin, fine hair: Stick to gentler blades, likeKent of Inglewood Mild, Big Ben, andAstra.

Sensitive skin, coarse hair: You need something sharp enough to get through your hair without dulling quickly. Start withKent of Inglewood Mild, Shark, andKai.

Regular skin, any hair types: Anything goes, but sharper is generally better. Start withKent of Inglewood Mild, Feather, andPersonna.

Legs & underarms: Start withKent of Inglewood Mild, Astra, andKai. If you feel ready for a sharper blade, chances are you’ll loveFeather.

Why doesn’t my Safety Razor shave close enough?

For one reason or another, most of us were never taught how to shave. Modern razors don’t require much awareness to use, so like many folks, I was left to figure it out for myself. On the other hand, safety razors put the agency back in your hands and allow you to control your shave precisely. While I’m all for this, not every aspect of the shave is common sense, and it helps to have someone guide you through (hence this blog).

Perhaps the most significant thing you’ll start to notice is the direction your hair grows in or its “grain”. Your hair doesn’t just grow one way; it goes in many different directions. Down, up, sideways, or even in swirls. Shaving with the grain is good for your skin but doesn’t give the closest results. Shaving against the grain will yield a much closer shave but can irritate some skin types. Shaving perpendicular or “across” the grain is a happy medium. The best approach is to shave with the grain first, re-apply your lather, and shave in a different direction (whichever best suits your skin). Some folks even shave in three directions. Making one pass with a safety razor won’t get you a close shave, but following a more methodical approach and determining what method best suits your skin and hair will yield spectacular results. It takes a little time to learn your growth pattern, but the satisfaction is more than worth it. 

With a little practice, you can easily master shaving your
legs, face, or anything else with a safety razor!

I hope these tips have helped you gain confidence with your razor! Safety razor shaving is fantastic, and I just want everyone to enjoy it as much as I do. If you’re still considering taking the plunge, don’t let this discourage you. We see these common issues from time to time, but they’re easily overcome with a little common sense and patience. The overwhelming majority of our customers get started without any trouble, but we always like to help folks get more confident with their razor. If you have a question or issue that wasn’t covered here, feel free to visit us or reach out! Happy shaving.

Check out our other shaving articles!

Nathan Gareau
Nathan Gareau

A famed cocktologist and axe man, Nathan opened the first Kent of Inglewood store in Calgary, and now spends his days writing most of what you are reading here and teaching straight razor shaving classes. Ask him about his world-famous Three Cherry Manhattan. In his spare time Nathan can be found sharpening his axe, making fermented foods, or practicing his amateur butchering hobby. He doesn't slur his words, he speaks in cursive.



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