Shaving with a double edged safety razor is making a resurgence as more and more men and women are realizing this old-school way of shaving is far superior to modern razors. What they’re realizing is that “wet shaving” provides a better shave, saves you money, and is better for the environment.
They’re also realizing that the plastic cartridge razor scene is fraught with unscrupulous, big name companies, taking full advantage of you with their massive marketing budgets and even more massive profit margins.
If you’re just getting started with wet shaving or you’re looking to step up your wet shaving game, you’ve come to the right place. Below are the top 25 shaving tips for taking your shave to the next level using a double edged safety razor.
1. Prep is a must
When you’re wet shaving with a safety razor, preparing your skin for a shave is an indispensable habit that will save you a whole lot of time and hassle down the line. Splash some warm water on the shaving area to hydrate the skin and hairs and use a pre-shave cleanser to clear away any grit, excess dead skin, and bacteria.
If you find yourself in a hurry and tempted to skip the prep step, STOP! Consider instead whether you should just go without shaving for today. Preparing your skin for shaving should not be considered optional. Either do your prep or don’t shave today.
2. Rinse with a hot towel
Once you’ve hydrated and cleaned the shaving area, men should use a hot towel to rinse away the pre-shave cleanser. The steaming effect of the towel will help to loosen up underlying debris on the skin and soften the hair, making it more malleable and easier to cut. However, it does not, as the popular myth suggests, open your pores as pores cannot actually open or close.
For women, who will typically shave in the hot steam of a shower, you can usually skip this, but I recommend giving a hot towel a try. Some women find that the direct heat of the towel makes for a more comfortable shave.
3. Use a pre-shave oil
Using a good pre-shave oil can take your shaving experience to a whole new level of comfort, especially if you have sensitive skin. Some on Reddit have even gone as far as to describe shaving without a pre-shave oil as being like “dragging a blade across glass, as opposed to nice supple rubber with the oil”.
If you want to give a pre-shave oil a try on a budget, grab some olive oil out of your kitchen cupboard and rub it sparingly onto the shaving area. There are a number of quality pre-shave oils on the market, but feel free to experiment with your own mix of olive oil, castor oil, tea tree oil, and any number of essential oils you can find in most grocery stores.
4. Heat up the blade in hot water
Heating up the blade before you shave is simple to do and it makes for a more comfortable shave. Shaving with a dry razor will tug and pull more at the skin and hairs, causing razor burn. Wetting the blade is a simple way to add a little bit of lubrication. And, I don’t know about you, but I’d rather not press cold steel to my warm, prepped skin. *shivers*
However, heating up the blade does little more than add lubrication and makes for a more comfortable shave. So, soaking the entire razor in hot water before your shave is not really necessary and it can corrode the blade faster.
5. Use a shaving brush
Using a shaving brush will help to create a thick, cushioning lather in your shaving soap that simply cannot be achieved by hand. The denser the lather of your soap the more effective it will be at lubricating and cushioning the razor against the skin. A shaving brush will also gently exfoliate the skin, removing dry cells which will make your skin softer and healthier.
Also, using your hands to apply shaving cream is generally not a great idea. Using your hands tends to press the hair down against the skin, leaving it in a sub-optimal position to be cut. On the other hand, using a shaving brush will actually raise the hair up making it much easier to cut.
6. Don’t use too much water when lathering up
One simple way to ensure that you get a good lather every time with your shaving soap is to add water sparingly. Here’s the thing, you can always add more water to your lather but, you cannot take it away. So, start with as little water as necessary to get the lather started and add more as needed.
An easy way to tell if you’re adding too much water at a time is to hold the shaving brush with bristles down and see if water is dripping off the brush. If so, you’re likely adding too much water at once.
7. Don’t use too much pressure with your shaving brush
One of the most common mistakes wet shavers make when using a shaving brush is that they smash it down too hard when lathering and/or applying soap. Applying too much pressure crushes the inner core of the shaving brush. This pressure will cause the bristles to twist, especially in the center of the knot risking breaking them off.
If you press your shaving brush down flat as you’re lathering up or applying your soap, you’re not only using the shafts of the bristles rather than the tips, but you’re also adding needless wear and tear to the brush. So, apply light pressure and use the tips of the bristles.
8. Do not use canned shaving cream
Cheap canned shaving cream from the discount store might seem like the way to go, but it’s the worst decision you could make if you really want to up your shaving game. True, it’s cheap, seems convenient, and some people seem to do just fine with it, but there trade-offs.
The propellant in the can tends to dry out your skin, so the makers of this goop add artificial moisturizers to make up for it. To make matters worse, a whole list of other ingredients are added that have nothing to do with shaving, like stabilizers and artificial preservatives. Remember, your skin is the single largest organ in your body, so do yourself a favor, toss out the canned shaving cream, and lather up with a quality shave soap.
9. Use a fresh blade
Not only will shaving with a dull blade cause razor burn, razor rash, and ingrown hairs, it will also increase the likelihood of nicks and cuts. Similar to the idea that there’s nothing more dangerous in your kitchen than a dull knife, there’s nothing more dangerous in your bathroom than a dull razor.
Make sure to switch out the blade on your safety razor about once a week. If you have coarse hair or sensitive skin, switch it out more often. Using a fresh blade will save you from hassle and irritation as well as providing a more comfortable shave.
10. Don’t apply pressure
While it’s true that apply some pressure as you shave will reduce how many passes you’ll need to make, do not do it! Unlike shaving with a cartridge razor, when shaving with a safety razor you should only use the weight of the razor itself and apply no additional pressure.
Applying pressure with a safety razor will increase the likelihood of nicks and cuts and it will most likely result in razor burn and even razor rash. So, if you want the best shave, let the razor do its job and lay off the pressure.
11. Use short strokes
Using shorter strokes as you shave will ensure that you’re not pulling at the skin and clogging up the blade with hair. When the blade gets clogged while using long shaving strokes it will tend to skip over the surface of the skin making it more likely that you’ll cut yourself and cause irritation.
Applying no additional pressure, use short strokes and focus on shaving a small area at a time. Make sure to rinse the razor often to clear the blade of hair and skin.
12. Make multiple passes
Rather than trying to completely eliminate your beard in a single pass, make multiple passes reducing the hair growth with each pass. A lot of people find that it works to go with the grain on the first pass, across the grain on the second, and against the grain on the final pass. Just be sure to re-lather with shaving soap between each pass.
Going against the grain on that final pass is definitely optional as it carries more risk of developing ingrown hairs. So, be sure to experiment with your strokes and do what works best for you.
13. Don’t repeat strokes
While it’s a good common practice to make multiple passes over an area while shaving, keep in mind this does not mean you should repeat strokes. Going over the exact same spot, again and again, is a common bad habit that’s a sure-fire recipe for razor burn.
Make a conscious effort to make your shaving strokes efficient, only slightly overlapping each stroke with the previous one. Remember, if you miss a spot, you can always re-lather and go over it again on the next pass.
14. Avoid shaving over unlubricated skin
A common mistake even among experienced wet shavers is to shave over skin with no lubrication. We all end up missing a few hairs here and there especially in hard-to-get areas like the corners of the mouth or just under the jawline. The natural reaction is to go back and give another swipe to clear up what we missed. This is a recipe for nicks and cuts.
Make it a habit and rule for yourself, if there’s no lather there, do not shave it! Always take a second and re-apply some shaving soap before going back over an area. Of course, some of us can get away with a light swipe with just some water so do what’s practical for you, but keep the risks in mind.
15. Always go with the grain first
On your first pass, always make sure you’re shaving with the grain. The first pass is when the hair is at it’s longest which means the blade will get clogged quicker and it’s more likely to catch and skip. If you go across the grain or especially against the grain on your first pass, you’re much more likely to cut or nick yourself. This is why it’s important to shave in the direction of the hair growth initially.
Once the majority of the hair has been reduced, you can switch to across and against the grain on subsequent passes.
16. Hair reduction, not elimination is the goal
It’s important to note that it is possible to get too close of a shave. When you’re shaving with a double edged safety razor the goal should be hair reduction, not complete elimination. If you try to completely eliminate the hair, you’re far more likely to cause irritation, razor bumps, and itchiness.
You may be able to go, at most, an extra day by getting an extra close shave, but the benefit will quickly be overridden when you’re dealing with an ugly razor rash and a multitude of ingrown hairs.
17. Don’t go against the grain in these two areas
For guys, your neck and upper lip/mustache area are two places where you’ll typically only want to shave with and across the grain. Once you’ve gained some experience with wet shaving, some guys are able to go against the grain on their neck. Until you’ve keyed in on the way your beard grows in this area, though, go with and across the grain.
Shaving the upper lip/mustache area against the grain should be completely avoided by most men. Going against the grain here is almost certain to cause cuts and ingrown hairs. Instead, go with and across the grain in this area as well.
18. Use the proper shaving angle
Unlike cartridge razors which maintain the angle of the blade for you, shaving with a safety razor requires that you maintain the angle as you shave. Typically this is about a 30-degree angle.
The best way to get the “sweet spot” angle is to start by putting the top of the safety razor against your skin at a 90-degree angle. Then, slowly angle the handle of the razor downward until the blade engages with your hair. The exact angle of the “sweet spot” varies depending on the razor you’re using and where you’re shaving so be sure to experiment and go with what works best for you.
19. Try slightly stretching the skin as you shave
For some people, it can help to slightly stretch the skin with your free hand as you’re shaving. This can work to flatten and tight the skin while standing the hair up before it’s cut. It can also help to smooth out imperfections preventing them being caught by the razor.
Many people find that there are certain areas of their face or legs that benefit from stretching the skin to get the closest shave possible. However, for some people stretching the skin can cause ingrown hairs so, as always, experiment and do what works for you.
20. Slow down!
Yes, I know I know, you’re busy. You just don’t have time to shave today, but you have to. I just have one to say on the matter. Make time!
In today’s constantly connected, information overloaded world it’s easy to get bombarded by all of the interests vying for your time and attention. But, if you want to be at your best, you need to make the time to take care of yourself. This means when it’s time to shave, slow down, be gentle, rinse & re-apply shaving soap often, and get it done right.
21. Try shaving with cold water
This may sound like some kind of sick, masochistic torture experiment to some, but apparently, shaving with cold water has a number of benefits.
- It saves time because you don’t need to wait for the water to heat up.
- Some say it gives them a better shave by stiffening up the hair, making it easier to cut.
- It allows you to shave even when hot water isn’t available.
- Cold water leaves your skin looking and feeling healthier
- Many of the benefits of cold showers would like apply, to a lesser degree, to shaving with cold water. i.e. increasing alertness, improving immunity, and increasing circulation.
The list of benefits attributed to cold water shaving goes on, but just these few warrant at least giving it a try for a week or so. Here’s a great article on The Art of Manliness that goes into cold water shaving in more detail.
22. Don’t believe the myth about pores
The fact is, pores do not open and close, period. If you read an article that suggests finishing off your shave with cold water to “close your pores”, realize this is not possible. Pores do not have muscles to open and/or close. Steam can help to release sebum that builds up within pores and once that sebum gets cleared out, they may appear smaller, but they’re not closing/opening.
Now, there are other benefits of rinsing with cold water. Cold water causes blood vessels in the area to contract, lessening swelling and bleeding from nicks and cuts. But, keep in mind that when people talk about doing things to open/close their pores, they’ve simply fallen into the common myth. Pores are pretty stationary, they do not open or close.
23. Use a styptic pencil
Even if you’re doing everything right the fact is, you’re going to cut yourself eventually while shaving. It happens to the best of us. For this reason, it’s best to keep a styptic pencil handy to seal and heal nicks and small cuts.
A styptic pencil is a medicated stick which is generally made of powdered crystal from an alum block and a wax binder which is pressed into a lipstick shaped “pencil”. When you cut yourself, apply the styptic pencil directly to the bleeding cut or nick. The astringent properties of the pencil will cause blood vessels to contract and quickly stop the bleeding. Keep in mind, when applied to a cut, styptic pencils do burn slightly. But, most nicks will typically stop bleeding in a few seconds and heal within a few minutes.
24. Use a moisturizing aftershave
Shaving will typically remove the outermost layer of skin which can cause dryness and irritation. Aftershave provides protection, lubrication, and additional moisture helping the skin more quickly regain its natural state. Aftershave also provides a cooling, refreshing feeling, and the scent can help make you feel clean and attractive.
Aftershave is one of the most important tools in your shaving kit. While you want to make sure your aftershave contains a moisturizing ingredient, you don’t want it to feel too greasy. Some aftershaves will further irritate your skin but work great for others. Because of this, you want to make sure to experiment with a number of different aftershave products until you find the one that works best for you.
25. Do what works for you
Beyond a shadow of a doubt, this is the most important tip you’ll ever hear when it comes to shaving. One of the greatest benefits of wet shaving is the variety of customization options available to you. There are hundreds of different razors, blades, pre-shave cleansers, pre-shave oils, soaps, shaving brushes, and aftershaves available to you. There are also innumerable tips and techniques you can use and try out.
Take full advantage of this by experimenting with shaving products and techniques and, no matter what anyone else says, do what works best for you.
How about you?
I hope you enjoyed this monster list of safety razor shaving tips. If you could add just one tip, technique, or product to this list, what would it be? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. Happy shaving!