Using a straight razor to shave your face or neck is not the same as using any other type of razor. If you're used to safety razors, you at least have some knowledge of the strategy needed to get a good (and safe) shave with your straight razor. If all you've ever experienced are cartridge razors and disposables, you have a bit of a learning curve ahead of you.
You also won't ever use a straight razor on dry skin. It's important to know how to shave with a straight razor, and also know what other items you'll need on hand before you start shaving.
Things You Need Before Shaving with a Straight Razor
Think of this as your ideal shopping list when it comes to preparing to use your straight razor for the first time. You need a razor, of course, but to use that razor (and keep it sharp), you also need a hone and a strop. Honing keeps the microscopic “teeth” of your razor in line, and the strop is for sharpening your razor.
If you buy a shave ready straight razor, you won't need to hone it or sharpen it immediately, but after a few uses, these items will be necessities. They are part of the overall care package that is necessary if you're serious about shaving with a straight razor.
You need a shaving brush, which you will use to apply your shaving cream or soap. If you're opting for soap, you'll also want to consider getting a dish for it that will make working it up with your shaving brush an easier task.
If you'd like, you can also invest in some after-shave products to help keep your skin smooth and fresh. Something that splashes on or even an after-shave lotion can do even more for helping you avoid razor burn and irritation. You should also have a styptic pencil on hand to stop any bleeding you have if you manage to nick yourself while shaving.
How To Shave with a Straight Razor
Here is the moment of truth. You have everything you need; now it's time to start shaving. Once you have your straight razor shave-ready, you need to do some prepping, even before you put shaving cream or soap on your face.
When you plan to shave with a straighter razor you want to make sure you have some time to do it right. If you're in a hurry, you are going to cut yourself. Set aside twenty minutes to dedicate to a nice steady shave. You're not using a disposable or cartridge razor that can clean your face in five minutes.
The first and one of the most important things you need to do is getting your face warm. You can do this in a hot shower or just by steaming your face over the bathroom sink. That hot steam and hot water both help open up the follicles in your beard making the hair easier to shave off.
Once your face is warm and moist it's time to put on your shaving cream. Do not apply this by hand. Always use a shaving brush to apply your shaving soap or shaving cream. By using the brush, you are lifting your hairs up from your face instead of matting them down. All of this works toward allowing you a smoother and cleaner shave.
Always make sure to shave in the same direction your beard grows, so “with the grain.” You want to do it in slower strokes, take your time. Just like with a safety razor, you want to hold the blade at an angle of 30 degrees.
Don't push hard. You don't need much pressure, and too much will leave you with some blood. You're shaving the hair off your face, not the skin.
Start on one side, drawing your skin taught with your other hand, and shave downward in slow strokes. Do your cheek area and then your jaw area. Switch to the other side next. Upper lip, chin, and then under your chin are the final steps in a proper shave with a straight razor.
You will need to do more than one pass to get all of the hairs off your face, just like with any other razor. Once you become an old pro at shaving with a straight razor, you can start doing your alternate passes against the grain so that you ensure the smoothest shave possible. However, until then it's a dangerous feat that you should leave to the professionals.
Now that you know how to shave with a straight razor you can have the closest shave possible, while saving money on the cost of cartridges and razor blades, and looking cool while you shave.