Straight razor for shaving the beard—sounds a little bit traditional, right? Like many men today you would like to start your day with a good shave.
To be able to do this more effectively, you have to invest in the right shaving tool. Additionally, you need to learn how to use the shaving tool more effectively. So, which is the right shaving tool today?
Some shaving tools like electric shavers may be quick and modern, but a straight razor has been the classic way to shave for decades now. The problem, though, may be how to use one correctly. If you are also having this problem, you have come to the right place.
Throughout this guide, you will learn what you need and how to correctly shave using a straight razor.
Why is a Straight Razor Superior to Other Shaving Tools?
Different men prefer different shaving tools, but there has been a rekindled interest in straight razors in the recent past. Why is this so, you may be wondering.
As compared to other shaving tools and gadgets available today, straight razors have several benefits to offer.
Here are some of the key benefits associated with straight razor blades:
Gives You a Closer Shave
When shaving your beard, you would like to get the best results, right? A straight razor will give you just that. As you may be aware, using a single blade is renowned for offering a super close shaving experience.
A straight razor is able to get as close to the skin as possible without causing razor burns, skin irritation or other problems associated with shaving.
Offers a Better Value for Money
There are other shaving tools that are more affordable than a straight razor. However, none of those lasts longer than a straight razor. Most of the best straight razors available today require a sizeable initial investment.
However, a quality blade can serve you for years to come. As such, the leading straight razor brands will offer you the best value for money in the long run.
Less Irritating to the Skin
Using a normal razor blade too close to the skin will definitely lead to skin irritation. However, this is not the case with the best straight razors in the market. In this regard, the tool is able to give you a closer shave without causing irritation to the skin.
This may be attributed to the fact that the blade only needs to go over your skin a few times to give you a clean shave.
Gives You a Bolder Manly Feeling
This may be irrelevant, but you will realize that using a straight razor will leave you feeling incredibly manly. Since it is comparatively easy to cut your throat while shaving, you will definitely find it thrilling every time you shave.
As such, these blades are commonly referred to as “cutthroat” razors. Believe it or not, no other shaving tool will give you the satisfaction or make you think that you are a ‘badass’ like a straight razor.
As it is, humans are already producing an unsustainable amount of garbage. You do to want to compound this problem with your shaving tools, right?
If you decide to use cartridge or disposable razors, you will find yourself disposing too much plastic and metal to the environment than you would with a straight razor.
Straight razors are long lasing and you will realize that you only need a few in your lifetime.
What Do You Need?
As opposed to disposable and cartridge razors, straight razors require more accessories for them to be used effectively. If you are looking forward to using a straight razor, there are several things that you need to buy.
Discussed below are the tools and accessories you will require to shave using a straight razor:
This is one of the most important parts you will need to buy. As such, it is not advisable to just go for the cheapest option.
Most of the cheaper options are of cheaper quality, hence are less durable and are more likely to cause skin irritation.
While shopping for the best straight razor blade, here are some of the key factors you should consider:
- Steel Blade Quality – Is the blade well tempered? To check this, you need to hold the blade’s point beneath the thumbnail and then let it slip off quickly. If the blade is well tempered, it will give a good clear ring.
- Ground Hollow – Most of the modern units have hollowing, which makes them sharper, lighter and easier to handle. You should get a blade that has your preferred degree of hollowing.
- Blade Point Type – The choice of the right blade point type will also depend on your preferences.
- Blade Width – Rather than going for the wider blades, you should but a 5/8 size blade. Such a blade is easier to handle along face contours and closer to the skin.
Taking your blade straight from the hone will leave it rough, hence unfit for use on the skin. Instead, you should consider stropping the blade. This will smooth the rough edges and align its teeth. Using a strop gives the razor a keen edge, making it easier to use.
One of the commonest stop types today is the hanging strop. These comprise of a leather strip and a canvas strip. Again, it is not advisable to buy the cheap strops available today. Cheaper strops tend to have coarse and poor quality leather and canvas.
Basically, a straight razor comprises of minute saw-like teeth. After using the blade for a while, it is bound to become dull. The teeth in a dull blade will be pointing in different directions.
Rather than having to buy a new blade, you can reset the teeth to their initial alignment using a hone. In this regard, you are going to need a fine grit hone for the best results.
If you are to use a straight razor on your facial skin, you need to invest in a good shaving cream or soap as well.
The best natural shaving creams and soaps available today will nourish the skin and prevent skin irritations every time you shave. Again, shaving creams and soaps are known to last longer than shaving gels.
While trying to leather up the shaving cream/ soap on your skin, a good brush will come in handy. This allows you to form a richer and thicker shaving leather on the beard. The right brush should be made of either badger hair or boar hair.
How to Shave Using a Straight Razor
Most men today would love to shave using straight razors, but it may not be as easy as movies make it look. If you have already cut yourself using a straight blade, do not panic yet.
Being able to use a straight razor requires patience, courage and most of all practice.
As such, you should not be discouraged by a few mistakes you may make at first. If you are having a hard time using one, these steps will help you understand how to shave using a straight razor.
Step One: Stropping, Preparing the Skin and Leathering
As you may be aware, prepping the skin is an important part of shaving. The main objective, in this regard, is to soften the hair and open up the pores.
To achieve this, you may use a hot shower or a hot towel on your face. Once you are done preparing the skin, you need to ‘bloom’ the soap. This is done by wetting the soap and allowing its surface to soften prior to leathering.
As you wait for the soap to bloom, you should take time to strop the razor. Stropping is meant to realign and polish the blade. You may need to test the sharpness of the blade as you strop it. With the blade ready, you can now proceed to leather your face.
You should use the bloomed soap to leather your face. The main objective here is to entirely cover the beard you would like to shave. Alternatively, you may use a shaving cream for this.
Step Two: Hold and Position the Blade Correctly
Just as is the case with a pen, there are various ways of holding a straight razor.
However, there is just one way to go about it, first, you need to open it up such that the blade and the scales form a right angle with the cutting edge. This requires you to open the straight razor about 270 degrees in order to have the cutting edge pointing outwards.
Once done, you need to hold the razor correctly. In this regard, you need to position the index and middle fingers on top of its shank and the thumb beneath. The position of the thumb should be just behind the heel and the shoulder of the razor.
You should then wrap the wedding ring finger gently around the tag back. Once done, the scales should be in between your wedding ring finger and the middle finger.
You may leave the little finger hanging freely or use it beneath the tag for enhanced control of the razor. Now that you are holding the blade correctly, how do you position it on the skin?
For enhanced balance while shaving, it is advisable to position your blade at a 30 degrees angle to the skin. However, you may adjust this according to your preferences.
Basically, the more perpendicular you hold the blade to the skin, the more aggressive the shaving experience will be. You may need to wet the blade before starting to shave. However, there are men who just prefer it dry.
Step Three: Shave the First Stroke
When using a straight razor, the shaving direction matters. Basically, you should try to achieve a clean shave with the least possible number of passes. For the first stroke, it is advisable to shave in gentle and short strokes along the grain.
While it is possible to use longer strokes with a straight razor, learners are advised to use shorter ones.
A straight razor is able to provide a clean shave with minimal pressure against the skin. If the blade is tugging hair or is a bit uncomfortable, it may be blunt. In such a case, it will need additional stropping or honing.
While shaving, you need to ensure that the shaving direction is always perpendicular to the cutting edge. For enhanced effectiveness, you should consider stretching your facial skin by pulling it with the other hand while shaving.
Step Four: Shave the First Pass
While using a straight razor to shave your beard, you should divide the face into two main parts, the right and left parts.
In order to achieve a perfect experience, here is how you need to go about it:
- First Pass on the Left Side
For the left side, it is advisable to use the left hand. This may be a bit uncomfortable at first for the right-handed men, but you will eventually get used to it.
Using the wrong hand on either side of your face will give you less control over the blade, hence poor results. In this case, you should use the right hand to pull the skin upwards to tighten it.
With the blade in your left hand, you should hold it and position it on your face as described above. You may then proceed to shave the first pass.
- First Pass on the Right Side
For a perfect shave on the right side of your face, you should use the right hand. Before staring, you should use the left hand to pull the skin upwards to tighten it. You should then hold the blade in your right hand and proceed to shave in short, gentle strokes.
As you shave, the hair and leather will be continually building up on the blade. As such, you should stop to rinse it every once in a while.
Alternatively, you can wipe the leather and hair off the blade using a clean towel. You may also need to wipe the hand you are using to shave whenever it gets too soapy as you shave.
Step Five: Shave the Second Pass
As mentioned earlier in this guide, you need to aim at achieving a clean shave with the least possible number of blade passes. However, you should avoid excreting excessive pressure on the blade while at it.
This goes a long way in preventing skin irritation and other complications that may result. Once you are done with the first shave on both the right and left cheeks, you will need a second pass for a clean shave.
The appeal of getting a clean shave in one pass will be irresistible, but it requires more pressure and may lead to irritation. Therefore, it is advisable to do it in two shaves.
For the second pass, you should load your brush with leather from the shaving soap or cream. You should then apply the leather on your face.
For beginners, it is advisable to shave the second pass along the grain, just as the first pass. For the more experienced men, you can use the cutting edge against the grain. However, the blade needs to be sharp enough for it to be used against the grain.
People with sensitive skin should also avoid shaving against the grain. Alternatively, you may shave across the grain. This will cut the hair at an angle, allowing you to achieve a closer shave.
Step Six: Post-Shave Care
Shaving does not end with the actual cutting of the hair; you still need to clean the skin and apply the right ointments. Therefore, you need to invest in the right after shave skin care products.
Once you are done shaving, you need to rinse the face thoroughly and dry it using a clean towel. Using warm water to rinse the skin may feel better, but cold water is known to close the pores, hence reduce irritation.
If you would like to use a moisturizer and an alum block, you should start with the moisturizing cream. You should then apply the alum afterwards to lock in the moisture. After shave skin care should be aimed at hydrating the skin and minimizing irritation as much as possible.
Straight razors may be a traditional way of removing beard and facial hair, but their demand has been on the rise in recent past. This may be attributed to their effectiveness and long term value for money.
When properly used, a straight razor will not cause skin irritation or razor burns, problems commonly associated with other shaving razors. At first you may inflict minor cuts and nicks on yourself, but this guide will help you perfect the art.