Straight razors are a popular tool in the shaving world. Some people think they're better for your skin, while others say they're too difficult to use. But there's one thing we can all agree on: a few simple tips on how to shave with a straight razor can make them much easier and safer to use! We've put together this guide to help you get started with shaving with a straight razor, or to improve your current skillset.
What is a Straight Razor?
A simple and sleek alternative to modern razors, the classic straight razor is one of the most iconic tools in the world of men’s grooming. This kind of razor consists of a single blade, usually crafted from carbon steel, which can then be folded into the handle for safety. You may have come across them before in your local barber’s shop, or perhaps even seen one in films like Sweeney Todd.
This well-known grooming tool was used for nearly all shaving applications until products such as safety razors and electric shavers came out during the 20th century. Despite their malevolent role in many popular movies, straight razors are still favoured by many men and professional barbers, who find that these instruments offer a cleaner and more precise shave without the irritation.
How to Shave With a Straight Razor for Beginners
Mastering the art of shaving with a straight razor can be challenging, which is why many choose to opt for other shaving tools. However, if you can perfect your shaving technique, straight razors are a great option for those who are tired of razor bumps, while also offering the most precise and clean shave ever.
- Before beginning the shaving process, always pre-soak your face by using either a hot towel or simply by splashing yourself with warm water from the sink. Make sure you do this for at least a minute.
- Next, prep your skin for shaving using either your favourite shaving oil or cream. We recommend using an oil either alone or as a base for your cream to provide better lubrication and achieve a smoother shave.
- Grip the handle of your straight razor between your thumb and your three fingers, with your pinky finger on the tang, which is the piece of metal at the end of the blade. Then, hold the blade at a 30° angle to your skin so that the sharp side is pointing downwards.
- Begin on one side of your face, using your free hand to stretch the skin across for a smoother shave. Then, begin shaving with the natural grain of your hair by working in downward motions towards the jaw and chin.
- Once you have shaved the majority of your face, move down to your lower jaw and neck, using the same technique while tilting your head upwards to access the area.
- Finally, finish with your upper lip area, using short and gentle downwards strokes to prevent damage to this delicate area of skin.
- For the smoothest shave, you can do a second pass over the skin where you go against the grain instead. Many people with sensitive skin tend to avoid this technique due to the friction it causes, but straight razors are much less likely to cause irritation compared to a safety razor.
- Always finish your shaving routine by applying a moisturiser, aftershave balm or shaving oil packed with soothing ingredients such as aloe vera that will deliver deep hydration. Avoid any alcohol-based aftershave formulas, as these can dry out the skin even more and clog your pores.
Stropping, lathering & skin preparation
The first step is to clean your face of hot towels or a shower. You should also ‘bloom’ the soap to hydrate it before washing. This is the process that realigns and polishes the blade unlike honing where the cutting edge occurs. Be sure to check the sharpness of the knife before you finish. We present an in-depth reference for lathering as well as shaving soap reference. Explore pinning techniques with our 'Sharpen' guide. For more information about wet shaving, visit our wet shaving page. Back to the pages they created to show the guide of damp rubbing.
Benefits of Shaving with a Straight Razor
Although using a straight razor can be a little bit more challenging than shaving with a safety razor, it can in fact be highly beneficial in terms of the quality of the shave and the health of your skin. Some find that disposable razors do not offer a close enough shave, making straight razors the perfect option for the cleanest look possible. Plus, they’re less likely to cause razor burn and ingrown hairs.
Another great benefit of straight razors is that while they require maintenance, they will ultimately last longer than safety razors, making them more environmentally friendly. They’re an excellent luxury gift for men for birthdays, Christmas or Father’s Day, and are sure to be a favourite among those who like to look clean-shaven and fresh.
How to Sharpen a Straight Razor
If you’re considering investing in a straight razor, it’s worth keeping in mind that this tool will require sharpening to keep it in pristine condition. However, this can be achieved by using a strop, which is essentially a leather strap such as those that you may have seen in your local barber’s shop.
Stropping (i.e. pulling the blade down the strop) removes any imperfections on the blade and should be done before every shave. However, the blade will eventually become blunt with regular use, meaning it will need to be sharpened with a honing stone to remove portions of the metal.
Honing a blade can be more challenging than stropping, which can be done easily at home. Therefore, it may be worth getting your straight razor sharpened professionally when the blade reaches this stage. Then, it’ll be all ready for months worth of reuse!
The correct straight razor position
A 30° angle has been regarded as the ideal contact point between a smooth and aggressive shave. But the lower the angle, the gentler the shave however.
Open the knife at 270 degrees on all sides to form a L with the cutting edge ahead. Put your fingertips at the top of the arm, with your thumb just below your shoulders and heel.
The control is simple. Depending on the grip you use, you may either touch the bottom or push under the bandring to operate it. It's possible that some people press all three of their fingers against the tang.
De Facto Shaving Oil: The Perfect Partner for Your Straight Razor
If you’re after the perfect product to help you achieve a smooth shave with a straight razor, De Facto is here to help! Shaving oils are becoming ever more popular due to their ability too deeply moisturise the skin while helping users to achieve the smoothest shave ever, making them ideal for sensitive or dry skin.
Our meticulously-crafted shaving oil contains a unique blend of 100% natural essential oils, vitamin E and soothing aloe vera to leave your skin feeling moisturised and fresher than ever. We pride ourselves on using only sustainable ingredients to produce a premium oil that cares for the skin while allowing for an unparalleled shaving experience. Browse our range of shaving oils today and prepare to feel skin-credible with De Facto!