With all the simplicity of modern shaving available it may be easier to go new school and follow Tiger, Roger and the rest of the slickers that illuminate modern day grooming adverts, however go back and kick it old school like Granddad and you’ll find a cheaper, personal and generally more satisfying way to honour your skin. Now don’t be scared of the “cut throat” bit as I’m here to tell you how to not cut yours.
Straight edge shaving will in time be realised to be a very patient skill, so therefore we’ll go off the old saying from my days in the Army…Keep it simple stupid. I use a good quality razor with changeable blades, keeping it easy to clean, stay sharp and personalise it to yourself. I use a Dovo razor, but anything around the £30 mark usually represents decent value. Start off with inserting a thinner blade and then change up as you get used to using blades that suit your skin and thickness of your stubble or beard. Invest in a nice quality badger bristled shaving brush, like the one that Grandpa used to use and we’re halfway there…
Grab a Dovo razor here.
Get a couple of basic white flannels and a decent quality towel to help with pre and post shave. Now, this is important so listen up, when it comes to choice of creams, oils and moisturisers remember; you’re shaving your face not your backside, so quality and reputation of your chosen products are key. I have always used Proraso for most stages of the shave so I’d suggest you do to, however with good research there are good quality alternatives. Buy shaving cream or gel, shaving oil and after shave cream, all readily available from most decent shaving brands. Get yourself either a styptic pen or book of styptic matches to help with any nicks & cuts (don’t worry, they’re only tiny) and a decent quality disposable razor, yes a normal bic style one, just to start with any hard to reach areas or patches, which I’ll get to later.
You can find styptic gel here.
Now if you’ve listened properly were playing simple to start, so the above are all the basics you’ll need. Well that and somewhere to shave of course, so obviously your bathroom is a good place to work and use a mirror so you can keep a good eye on what you’re doing at all times.
This is as important as the shave, so take plenty of time to start and you’ll get along swimmingly, rush it and you’ll come away red faced. Now I’ve always preferred shaving post shower at night, thus giving you time to give your face a nice pre shave wash and soften up any facial hair. Have all your kit lying ready for when you jump out to ensure efficiency, then pop on a nice bit of music (no seriously) and relax while you’re shaving.
Fill your basin with hot water, dampen your face with a wet but rinsed flannel and rub in a dab of shaving oil, working it right into the beard. Next, wet your shaving brush so it hold some water but doesn’t drip, giving it a little shake normally achieves this well. Dab your brush into your pot of cream then give it a couple of swirls and you should have enough cream for your first pass.
Now “wipe” the brush horizontally across your beard until the whole area is covered, then, in a circular motion, lather up the cream into a frothy consistency, working into the beard so the hairs on the brush are spread open, being sure to cover the whole area. If you’re doing this for the first few times, doing this into halves (including shaving) isn’t a bad idea while you build up some confidence. Tidy up any bits of cream in annoying areas like ears and nose and after washing your brush you’re ready to rock.
The First Pass
To hold your razor, take the handle of the razor between the third and fourth fingers, with the small finger-tip resting on the tang of the razor. Place the tip of the thumb on the shank close to the blade and rest the tips of the fingers at the back of the shank. Keep your other hand free and dry if possible to help stretch the skin slightly under the razor.
To start, hold the razor at a 45 degree angle to the face and use short, gliding strokes of between one and three inches (depending on the part of the face you’re shaving) in a downward motion following the grain, try to avoid going against the grain at all times where possible; this will ensure you’re not left with razor burn and rashes post shave. Now work your way towards the chin using the same strokes lifting your face slightly around your blade to help initially.
As you carry on around your face, use the wrist and elbow to help with the movement of the razor, lift your neck back and manipulate your face and lips as you will have shaving normally. Pinching the nostrils and giving them a slight lift can also help with tricky areas around the nose. Take your time, don’t rush and repeat the movements from the opposite side of your face once one half is completed.
To get a super close finish, wash your face down with hot water and repeat the whole of the first pass again. Remember the Bic razor? Use this to get and spots you couldn’t get to initially, but remember this is to help as a beginner so don’t rely on this the more you shave, you will notice it becoming easier after time.
Give your face a good wash with clean, hot water making sure that any residue from the shave is gone and grab a towel, wrapping a dry part of the towel round your face and pat your face dry. If you have any nicks from the shave, use your styptic pen/match and apply over the area affected. This will sting but don’t bitch as it was self inflicted! (Don’t worry, you’ll get better Champ)
Now to finish off rub some of your post shave cream into the hands and work it in to the shaved area, then when finished let it dry naturally. After your face is dry to touch you’re welcome to use your favourite cologne or after shave to make you smell like a Prince…
In conclusion well done. I personally love to shave this way and after a good amount of practice and dedication you’ll come to realise why it’s an art that should be loved and respected. Over time, be sure to look at different razors and associated products to personalise shaving to yourself as you go along and hopefully, you’ll be able to pass on the knowledge as I have to you.
Liam Campbell is a Barber at award-winning Grade One Barbers in Walsall, England and blogs about barbering at email@example.com. His work and thoughts about near enough everything can be found on Twitter & Instagram under the username: @campbundo
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