There’s no doubt about it… getting a clean shave is a process. Whether you’re using an electric shaver, safety razor, disposable razor, or a classic straight razor, there are steps involved. Some of these tools make it fast and easy with questionable results; others provide the smoothest shave imaginable but take some time and effort.
If we’re talking about the cleanest shave possible, though, that means talking about straight razors. Many men are understandably intimidated by learning how to use a straight razor. It is, quite literally, simply a razor blade with a handle. Dragging a sharp piece of unforgiving steel across your face and neck seems like the domain of adrenaline junkies, right?
In truth, with some guidance, patience, and practice, a straight razor can give you the best shave of your life. Not only that, but many men find the entire process to be a deeply involved zen moment… a rare bit of time when you can become completely absorbed in the task at hand, free of distractions. And some men love connecting to a hand-crafted tradition where good personal grooming was the sign of a gentleman of the highest order.
Enough of looking at shaving as a time-consuming necessary evil. Let’s view shaving as an opportunity to own your greatness and make it the highlight of your day. Here are our seven tips for getting a clean shave with a straight razor and love doing it.
- Timing Is Everything
How quickly your beard grows and how much time you can allot to your shaving are two qualities to not be ignored. If you sprout a 5 o’clock shadow like you were born with it, making time for a thorough morning shave could be a necessity. If you always find yourself rushing out the door in the morning, an evening shave can transform your morning shave into a mere touch-up. Plus, your skin can recover overnight.
- Hot Stuff
There’s a reason you see hot towels on the faces of men in barber shops in old-timey movies. Whether a hot towel or a hot shower, heat and moisture help soften your beard and open your pores. If you do have time for a shower, take a moment to use regular old conditioner on your beard before showering. Rinse it out when you’re done and you’ll be ready for that shave.
- Mug Shot
Applying shaving cream is more than a matter of comically spraying it on your face. Instead, you should have a mug as part of your shaving kit. A nickel-sized dollop in your mug should be enough. If using shaving soap, put the cake at the bottom of the mug. Shaving soap is regarded as a more expert process, taking a bit more effort to bring up to a lather. Shaving cream is a bit quicker and a little better for moisturizing.
- Brushing Up
You should also have a lather or shaving brush as part of your gear. Before applying the shaving cream or soap, soak your brush in hot water and shake off the excess. Using your brush, mix your cream or soap with a stirring or churning motion. You’re looking for a thick lather. The more you mix it, the thicker it gets. Use your brush to apply the lather to your face in swirling motions, get under every whisker, and smooth it out.
- Shave Time
You should already have a basic idea of how to shave without taking off all your skin. With that in mind, you want slow, even strokes with the grain of your beard while holding the blade at a 30-degree angle. Going against the grain just encourages razor bumps and ingrown hairs. The razor should be doing the work… if you’re pressing to get faster results, your razor may be too dull and you’re at risk of cuts.
- Following Orders
In general, you want to shave in the following order:
- The right side of your face
- The right side under your jaw
- The left side of your face
- The left side under the jaw
- Upper lip
- Under the chin
In general, you want to create a smooth surface for your razor to glide across. You can do this by using your free hand to pull the skin tight or by moving your head as needed.
- Above and Beyond
More experienced straight razor users can afford to be a little more adventurous. Once you’re certain you have the hang of it, you can shave across or against the grain. You’ll still want to shave with the grain first for the reasons cited above. But shaving with, then across, and finally against the grain will give you that baby-bottom smoothness.
A nice cool rinse and some aftershave will feel great on your face and help reduce skin irritation. Shave away!