How To Use a Straight Razor
A straight razor is an open blade on a handle and was used before the invention of the safety razor. Using one involves focusing to reduce the risk of cuts. Hydrate your face with hot water first and apply shaving soap with a brush. Hold the blade at an angle against your skin and move in short, controlled strokes. You’ll need to pass over your face two or three times and sharpen the blade before your next shave. Once you’ve mastered the straight razor, you’ll be able to give yourself a much closer shave than you’d ever get with a safety razor.
Hydrate your face with hot water. Take a hot shower and let the water wash over your face for five minutes. You’ll open up your pores and soften whiskers, making shaving much easier. You may also wrap a hot towel around your face like barbers do for their customers. Soak a small towel in hot water and hold it firmly against your face until the towel cools.
Rub pre-shave oil over your face. A good pre-shave oil can help make shaving easier. Look for products containing natural oils such as jojoba, coconut, olive, or sunflower. These oils help soften your beard without stopping your razor.
Soak your shaving brush in hot water. Fill your shaving bowl or mug with hot water. Make sure the water is hot so it softens the bristles on your brush. Leave the brush to soak for a minute or two. Afterwards, pick up the brush and flick your wrist to get rid of excess water.
- The highest quality shaving brushes are made of badger hair. Boar bristle brushes are cheaper, and synthetic brushes are of the lowest quality.
- You may work the soap or cream into your whiskers with your fingers, but a brush makes it a lot easier.
Place shaving cream or soap on the bottom of your shaving mug. Dump out the water in your mug or bowl. Replace it with nickel-sized dollop of shaving cream or the entire soap cake. Soaps are the cheaper option and are made with a high fat, vegetable oil glycerine mixture. Creams are similar to soaps and you should look for ones with natural essential oils like jojoba or coconut oil.
- Avoid common shaving gels and foams. Although you can use these, they won’t give you as good of a shave as quality soaps and creams.
Make a lather with the brush. Place the dampened brush in the mug. Stir to work the soap or cream into a lather. The more you stir, the thicker your lather will be.
Brush the soap or cream into your whiskers. Use the brush to pick up the lather. Move in circular motions over the area you wish to shave, taking care to cover every single hair. Once you’ve applied enough lather to cover the area, use a few brush sweeps to smooth over any peaks.
Grip the shank between your thumb and three fingers. Even though the razor has a wood or plastic handle, you don’t hold it. Instead, place your thumb under the blade on the shank (the piece of metal connecting to the handle). Your index, ring, and middle fingers go on the opposite side of the shank. Finally, place your pinky on the tang, which is the small piece of metal on the outside of the handle.
- This is the basic grip, and many people adjust it over time for greater comfort or directional control.
Hold the blade at a 30° angle to your skin. The blade should not be flat against your skin or directly pointed at it. Instead, turn it slightly so the sharp part of the blade points downward at your skin. The handle should be out near your nose.
Stretch your skin with your opposite hand. Start with one side of your face. Use your free hand to pull up on your skin to make it flatter and smoother. Do this for every area you shave, since it gives you a smoother shave with less nicks.
Shave with the grain on the sides of your face. Hold the razor at the proper angle and start at the top of your cheek. Since the hair grows downwards here, work downwards towards your jaw and chin. Gently stroke the razor downwards in one smooth, controlled motion. Rinse off the blade and continue where you left off. Rinse off the blade after every stroke. Do this for both sides of your face.
- Even experienced straight razor users make mistakes from time to time. When starting out, you will cut yourself. Don’t be discouraged. Press the skin together for a few minutes to stop bleeding or apply styptic powder.
Shave your chin and upper lip. The easiest way to get your chin is to continue on from the sides of your face. The skin here is easy to cut, so use short, gentle strokes to move towards your point. Pull your lips tight to cut around them.
Shave under your jaw and down your neck. The rest of your face is done the same way as the sides. Tilt your head back, pull up on your jaw with your free hand, and stroke downwards to get the area under your jaw. Once you’ve taken care of your jaw area, move down your neck.
Lather up and make a second pass across the grain. Wash off your face and lather up as you did before. This time, you need to cut from side to side. Press more gently than you did the first time. Move from your ears to the center of your face. Rinse after each stroke.
- When you’re first starting, consider finishing by doing a second pass with downwards strokes. This way, you can get used to handling the blade without the extra risk of cuts.
Lather again and make a final pass against the grain. Rinse off again and re-lather with hot water and soap or cream. The third pass will give you the closest shave possible. Work up from the bottom of your neck. Be as gentle as possible to avoid cuts.
Rinse your face with cold water. Cold water will moisturize your skin while closing the pores. You may also apply aftershave, such as those with witch hazel or bay rum, to reduce irritation. Pat your skin instead of rubbing water or product into it.
Dry the razor. Wipe off the blade with a soft cloth. Even toilet paper will work here. It’s important to remove all moisture so the blade doesn’t rust. Store the blade away from all moisture, including shower steam.
- When storing the blade for a longer period of time, cover it with a blade oil such as camellia oil.
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