how to shave with a straight razor

straight razor on table

The straight razor is known for its timelessness and nostalgic feel. While most men prefer to shave in the comfort of their home bathrooms, those on the higher side of luxury are seen in professional barbershops getting their shave completed by the experts – using a single straight edge blade. 

While receiving one of these shaves is relaxing and leaves you feeling smooth and clean, actually using a straight razor on your own in your home is another story. When I first tried it, let’s just say I kept the tissue box close and the first aid kit closer.

Not to fear, though, gentlemen – I’ve come a long way and want nothing more than to share my knowledge and experience. 

Why You Should Use a Straight Razor

It’s easy to be intimidated by the idea of using a long, sharp, open blade on your face and neck, so many of you may be wondering why you should bother switching from your tried and true razor at all. 

Luckily for you, I’ve pulled together a few remarkable benefits of using a straight razor for you to consider.

Better Shaves

What’s the point in shaving at all if you’re not doing it to look your absolute best? I don’t know about you, but if I heard of a product that could get me a closer shave than what I’m working with, I’d want to make the switch.

Safety razors give you a closer shave than standard three or five-blade razors, but straight razors shave more closely than the safety blades. If you’re looking for a super-smooth, clean look without the hassle, it’s worth it to learn more about straight razors. 

Better Value

Every other razor on the market requires that you buy replacement cartridges or blades at some point – and usually pretty frequently. The straight razor is the only type of blade that you can use for the rest of your life with no replacements. 

Upfront, you’ll have to make a small investment in the tool and all the accessories that go with it, but after that, you need to make sure you sharpen your blade now and then. You don’t have to replace it – just keep buying that shaving cream. 

On top of that, not only are you saving money on buying new blades, but you’re also helping out the environment. If that’s something that’s important to you, then consider how much packaging, plastic, and waste goes into using a standard razor. 

Making the switch to a straight edge eliminates the need to feed into every package of new blades and every wasteful instance of tossing out old blades.

Patience and Appreciation

As corny as you might think it sounds, shaving with a straight blade is genuinely an art form. It takes so much focus, patience, and practice that using one allows you to develop a deep appreciation for the action. Many of us users find it reminiscent of watching our grandfathers or even out great-grandfathers shave. 

You can’t rush through a straight razor shave. You have to carve out the time for it and take it slow. So many things in this life are rushed through that we really don’t have an intense appreciation for much at all. 

Using a straight razor can help you get back to that point. You may even find yourself feeling pretty darn cool using one of these babies.

Understanding Your Tools

When it comes to shaving with a straight razor, you need to know that it involves more tools than any other razor. If you want to do it right, you need to invest in these tools and learn how to use them. 

Your razor is your first and most important tool, of course. It will also be the most expensive part of your new shaving kit. You’re looking at spending a little more than $100 on your straight edge blade. However, when you compare this to the years and years worth of blades you’d be buying with a standard blade, the cost really is well worth the investment. 

Don’t skimp on quality. Remember that this tool is going to be used both on your face and on your neck, and you don’t want to end up with a cheap blade that cuts you up. 

In addition to your blade, you’ll need to get yourself a hone. The hone is what you use to sharpen your blade. This tool is essential. A straight razor’s blade is made up of multiple tiny points that look like saw teeth. As you use your blade, these points become dull and point out of line. Honing your razor will correct this issue and make it sharp as new. 

After you hone your razor, you need to strop the blade. The strop takes your newly honed razor and transforms it from rough to smooth and ready for use. 

Once you have these tools, you should also get your hands on a brush and some quality shaving cream. Soap and your hands work fine too, but at this point, you might at well go all-in. 

How to Use a Straight Razor

Now comes the fun part. The first step you need to take in using your straight razor is to set aside enough time. Understand that you will need at least 15 minutes to shave with this blade, but if you’re a newbie, allow for a bit more. 

If you don’t have the time to dedicate to learning how to use your blade correctly, you should probably stick to the five-blade razor. 

Prepare Your Face

This step is the same for any razor. You never dive into shaving your face; you have to prep the surface. This is especially true when it’s your first time using a different type of blade, as it’s bound to be imperfect. 

Splash some warm water on your face to open up your pores and relax your skin. It’s always a great idea to shave right after a hot shower, so your skin is ready. Apply some pre-shave oil for deep conditioning, and then throw on your favorite shaving cream or gel.

Holding Your Blade

Getting the correct hold on your straight razor will do a world of wonder for your face. Experts suggest that you keep your blade at a 30-degree angle from your face. Doing so gives you a nice balance so that you neither pull and tear at stubble nor cut yourself. 

To get the best shave, you should pull your skin tight using your free hand. This lets you work with a smooth and even surface. Apply gentle pressure with the blade, allowing the weight from the handle to do most of the work. 

Strokes

It’s commonly known that you should shave with the grain of your facial hair rather than against it. Shaving against the natural direction of your facial hair can cause irritation and ingrown hairs. So, when you take your first stroke, start at the top of your face (the sideburn) and shave a short distance downward. 

Each stroke should be short rather than long and drawn out. You never want to drag your razor but instead should go with smooth, short cuts. Remember to keep pulling your skin taut as well. 

Chin, Lips, and Neck

Unlike with other razors, shaving with a straight razor means specialized attention to the areas involving your chin, upper and low lips, and neck.

When shaving your chin and upper lip, you should never start directly on the spot you’re aiming for. Instead, start a little bit away and work your way in steadily and gently. 

As for your lower lip and neck, keep your skin taut and work your way from the corner of your mouth across and down your chin. Then, follow the grain of the hair on your neck and be extra cautious to avoid cuts. 

Final Thoughts

Like with all razors, you can complete shaving with your straight edge by checking for missed spots, washing off your face with cold water, and applying some aftershave or moisturizer. 

I know how difficult it looks to use a straight razor, so watch this video if you want a little more reassurance. 

Using a straight razor takes a lot of practice, but it’s a skill that not many people can say that they have. If you’re looking for a close shave, and aren’t afraid of some old-fashioned hard work, look no further than the straight razor.

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