How (and Why) To Use a Safety Razor

These old-school tools are the secret to a comfortable shave, and are surprisingly easy to use.

Cartridge razors are impressive, but they can be tough on sensitive skin and aren’t all that wallet-friendly. Straight razors look damn cool, but are difficult (not to mention terrifying) to use, and require a fair bit of upkeep. The perfect middle ground? Safety razors. Here’s how, and why, to use one.

The Advantages

  • The single razor blade reduces your beard more gradually than a five blade cartridge would. You’ll still get a smooth face, but without irritation or ingrown hairs from cutting too closely.

  • It’ll glide smoothly across your skin, without that tugging on your whiskers that can happen with a cartridge razor.

  • The replacement blades are dirt cheap, so you save cash.

  • Let’s face it: a safety razor is just plain cool.

How to Load a Blade

There are a three different types, but they’re all easy to load.

  • Three piece: If you got The Barber, this is the type of razor you’ll be using. Unscrew the handle and take the safety bar and top piece apart. Load a blade into the top piece, layer on the safety bar, and screw the handle back on.

  • Two piece: Loosen the knob at the bottom of the handle to detach the top of the razor. Load a blade, reinsert the top, and tighten the knob on the handle.

  • One piece: Twist the handle to open the flaps at the top of the razor. Load a blade and then twist the handle the opposite way to close up the flaps.

Prepping Your Skin

Before you shave, you want to steam your face to loosen the whiskers and open up your pores. The best way to do that is by shaving while you’re taking a hot shower. If you shave outside of the shower, you can soak a towel in hot water and hold it against your face for a minute for the same effect.

Lathering Up

If you’ve got one, use a shave brush. It’ll generate a richer, thicker lather with whatever shave cream you prefer, while exfoliating the skin.

The Important Part: Shaving

Ok, here’s the important part. Finding the right angle and pressure for your skin may take a bit of trial and error, since everyone’s different. But it’s dead simple once you’ve gotten the hang of things, so don’t stress.

  • Aim for a 30-35 degree angle between the razor and your skin.

  • Use a light touch, letting the weight of the safety razor do the work. You don’t need to apply much, if any, pressure.

  • Use lots of small strokes, rather than dragging the razor across a large section.

  • Always shave with the grain on your first pass.

  • If your skin isn’t too sensitive and you want an extra close shave, you can reapply lather and go for round 2. Shave across or against the grain this time.

Post-Shave Care

Soothe your skin by wiping down your face with a warm towel. Then get it cold and hold it against your skin to snap the pores closed.

For an old-school finishing touch, you can use an alum block. Run it under warm water, then rub it onto your face to soothe, tone, and clear your pores. It’ll also stop any nicks from bleeding – but it’s gonna sting a little bit.

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