A safety razor looks intimidating. On the one hand, it looks antiquated, like something your grandfather would use. We’ve got all this razor science selling us 3- and 5-blade options now. It’s crazy that they used to only use a single blade, isn’t it? Not to mention, those blades are sharp!
So why the hell would you want to put down your cartridge razor and switch to a safety razor? We can think of at least five reasons:
The benefits of safety razor shave:
- A closer shave: That sharp blade is flush against your skin. So, be careful, but if you master the craft, you’ll never look back.
- Less drag, less irritation: While other razors advertise 3-5 razors in a single cartridge, the safety razor stands strong at a single strong blade. This means there is less dragging across the face, less chance that your top layer of skin will come off with the hairs, and less bulk building up between blades, while being dragged across your opened pores. All that to say, a safety razor promises a safer, healthier shave when done correctly.
- Better for coarse hair: If you have thick hair that just doesn’t budge under the lightness of a standard cartridge shave (or if the hairs are too thick and lead to dragging, clogging, and irritation), then a safety razor is the obvious fix. Plus, since you’ll replace the blade after each use, it’ll never give you a dull shave.
- Cheap replacement blades: They’re maybe 10-25 cents each, when you buy in bulk. You’ll never hesitate to toss them after a single use, which means you only use the sharpest, cleanest blades every time.
- You’re in charge: The shave requires more attention and precision, but it puts you in more control over the process. You have to think about each stroke, and the amount of pressure (ideally none) that you’re applying, plus the angle. Yes, it’s a process, but your skin shouldn’t be something you manage and manicure on autopilot. Take your time, make it a ceremony, and you’ll look forward to the safety-razor regimen every couple days.
If you’re willing to test it out, or if you’ve got the safety razor on hand and need to use it properly, then here’s exactly how to accomplish the task. Enjoy the process, and remember: Take it slow.
1. Invest in your razor
A weighted razor handle will give you the right amount of balance and force for the shave—for a process that you need apply no additional pressure. This isn’t something you should undervalue, so please put your dollars into the razor handle. You can enroll in an entire safety-razor shave system, like Bevel, for routine blade replacements and creams, or just get their safety razor and buy other products ad hoc.
Baxter of California and OneBlade have beautiful weighted options, too.
2. Practice proper blade hygiene
Replacement safety blades are so inexpensive, that there’s no reason you should reuse them. Simply unscrew the head, toss the used blade in the trash bin (perhaps wrapped in some toilet paper, to prevent any accidents), and only install the new blade when you’re ready to shave.
3. Prepare the skin as usual
Readying for a safety razor shave is no different than prepping for a cartridge shave. You need to soften the skin and whiskers with warm water, then apply a pre-shave oil to nourish and condition both for the shave. Many shave creams, gels, and soaps are equally nourishing, and can be applied for the same pre-shave effect. Do your best to lift the hairs when you apply the shave agent, which might be easier with a shave brush. (Bonus points if its faux fur and not real badger.)
4. Pull the skin taut
Here’s where we get into the actual shave. First things first: Keep the skin tight as you shave. You don’t want to drag the razor, lose your grip, or accidentally apply pressure. You can do this by maintaining a smooth, steady surface. So, turn your face, angle your neck, and pull the skin taut.
5. Maintain a 30-45 degree angle, applying no pressure
The weighted handle should be giving you all the force you need to shave clean and steady, so apply no additional pressure once that blade is on your face. You want to hold it roughly 30-45 degrees away from the skin, too.
6. Shave with the grain
Another thing to remember as you shave, is to track the direction your hair grows. You need to shave with this grain, not against it. You might need to study your growth patterns in advance of shaving, or shave with a translucent gel or oil. Your hair doesn’t all grow in the same direction, either, so pay close attention. Doing this will prevent ingrown hairs.
7. Use short, straight strokes
Last but not least, you want to shave in small, steady spurts, rinsing between. Minimize dragging. Do a single pass over a small patch, then lift and resume with the patch below it. You can rinse between, and switch sides of the blade, but do your best not to re-shave any single patch of skin, as the single attempt should do the trick if you follow all the above rules. Minimizing shave passes is the easiest way to avoid irritation, too.
8. Rinse with cold water and apply post-shave balm
It’s business as usual on the other end of the shave, too: After shaving, close the pores with a splash of cold water, then apply a refreshing, cleansing, and protective layer atop the skin, in the form of a post-shave balm. It’ll cool and soothe the skin, and prevent any additional irritation and infection.