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You're Shaving The Wrong Way: A Man's Guide to the Safety Razor

Honestly answer this question: Do you look forward to shaving?

If you said no, you’re not alone.

Each morning, millions of guys stumble into the bathroom for a morning shave. Only a small percentage actually enjoy it. Most guys pick up a three-blade cartridge razor and sigh. (Even worse, some guys use inefficient, uncomfortable electric razors.) They’re not looking forward to a shave that tugs and leaves them with hideous razor burn.

But what if there was a way to love your shaving? What if you could begin a shaving ritual that left you feeling refreshed and confident? Lucky for you, there is.


The Path to Luxurious Shaving

I started my shaving career like tons of other guys: with an electric razor. I used a rotary razor and took it right to my face. I considered shaving to be a small task, like putting on socks. And I’ve always had light facial hair, so I never put much thought into the process.

Later on, I switched to a five-blade cartridge razor. I upgraded from no shaving cream to shaving cream, and the results were much better. I was getting better shaves, but that’s not saying much. Shaving with a cartridge razor still gave me lousy, patchy shaves that didn’t feel good.

Then I learned about safety razors. You might have seen your dad or grandpa use one. They’re considered old school by today’s standards, and not many guys use them.

I picked up a safety razor and other essential equipment, and it’s changed the way I look at shaving. Now, shaving is a ritual I look forward to that makes me feel great. No matter what type of facial hair you have, shaving with a safety razor will give you the best shave of your life.

If you want to finally enjoy shaving, good news: it’s incredibly easy and inexpensive. Here’s how to shave like a true gent.


Get the Right Gear

Obviously, you’ll need a safety razor. You can buy one new or used for anywhere from $20 to over $100. I opted for the Merkur 34C, a razor widely renowned for its versatility. At around $40, it’s an inexpensive way to get a great shave.

You’ll also need double-edged razor blades. If you have tough facial hair, you might like Feather blades, which tend to be sharper. On the other hand, if you have light facial hair, try Derby blades. For a good middle of the road blade, try Personna blades.

After that, grab a shaving brush. Shaving brushes are made from one of four materials: boar hair, badger hair, horsehair, or synthetic fibers. Boar hair brushes are by far the least expensive. Experiment with different brushes to find out what works best for your face.

Last but not least, get some shaving cream or soap. I like Edwin Jagger’s aloe vera shaving soap. It has a rich, masculine scent and provides a fantastic lather. If you prefer shaving cream, Pacific Caffeinated Shaving Cream will give you an extra boost.

Now that you have everything, it’s time to learn the basics of shaving with a safety razor.

Before You Shave…

There are two things you need to know before shaving with a safety razor for the first time:

  • Use little to no pressure. You can hack up your face if you use too much pressure. You’re taking a razor blade directly to your skin, so be careful! Let the weight of the razor shave for you instead of pulling it down. This is often difficult for guys who are used to shaving with electric or cartridge razors.
  • Aim for beard reduction, not removal. Most guys make one pass over their face and expect their beard to be gone. This is not a good idea with safety razors. Instead, you’ll make several passes until your facial hair is at your desired length and smoothness.
  • After memorizing these two cardinal rules, you can move on to your first safety razor shave!

6 Simple Steps to an Exquisite Shave

  • Lather up. The lather is one of the most important elements of the shave. Begin by washing your face with hot water. (Shaving right after a shower is an ideal time.) Then build a creamy lather using either a bowl lather or face lather technique.
  • Begin the shave on your face. Remember, use little to no pressure with a safety razor. Begin your shave by slowly and lightly shaving downward. This is called shaving with the grain, since the direction of the shave is the same as the direction of your beard growth. I start on my right cheek and move left, shaving my moustache along the way.
  • Move to your neck. After you’ve shaved your cheeks and ‘stache, start on your neck. When shaving your neck, apply even less pressure! The neck can be a sensitive area for many guys, and the skin is much thinner here. I go right to left on my neck, like I do on my face.
  • Clean up and observe. Wash the lather off and see how the shave looks. Chances are it won’t be super smooth, but that’s okay. You’ll repeat the shave until it’s exactly how you want it.
  • Make additional passes if needed. If your facial hair isn’t how you like it, then lather up again and make another pass. You have three options here:
  • Shaving with the grain. As I described above, you can shave downward, in the same direction as your hair growth. This is good for guys with light beards.
  • Shaving cross-grain. For this method, you shave sideways. This can remove tougher hair.
  • Shaving against the grain. When you shave upward, you’re shaving against the grain. This will remove even the toughest of hairs, but it can easily irritate your skin. Be extremely careful if you do this.

Many guys shave with three passes. The first is with the grain, the second cross-grain, and the third against the grain. However, experiment and see what’s best for you.

  • Clean up and feel refreshed! You can apply a face lotion or aftershave if you like. You should at least wash your face with both warm and cold water. 

The Lifelong Journey of Shaving

Shaving is an art. It takes a while to master, and you’ll probably find little techniques that make the shave better for you. Research it, hone your technique, and keep shaving. After the first shave, you’ll develop a love for it. Instead of groaning every morning, you’ll participate in an age-old ritual that leaves you feeling fantastic.

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