Knowing how to get a close shave is the goal for many men. Although there are many razors on the market these days, using a cut-throat razor or straight razor is still popular for just this purpose. But is it any better than a standard cartridge razor? And how do you use a straight razor, anyway? Read on for our ultimate guide to the straight razor shave.
Straight Edge Razor vs Safety Razor
Cartridge razors are basically a modern version of the double edge safety razor. The main difference being, of course, that the blades are removable and replaceable with ease. Both types of razors are designed for wet shaving (shaving with foam or gel) and hold small blades, which are dragged over the skin. The safety razor has a wire safety guard to stop the blade digging into the skin, although nicks and cuts are still common, even for non-beginners.
The straight razor has been around for hundreds of years longer and is a single blade that never needs replacing. The blade needs to be kept sharp and clean, and a leather tool called a razor strop is often used to do just this. Straight razors are typically only used in gentlemen’s barbershops, and the ritual of going for a “proper shave” is often seen as a luxury and a bit of important “guy time.”
So, which is best?
Straight Razor Pros:
- Single blade lasts a lifetime
- No clogging
- Smoother shave (if done properly)
- Long term saving
- Better for the environment
- Promotes mindfulness as the user has to take time and focus on what they’re doing
- Retro, old-school feel
Straight Razor Cons:
- May not be able to take it on an airline- check with the individual airline
- Very difficult to learn the skill
- Expensive if you don’t know how to do it yourself
- Higher risk of cuts or even serious injury if care isn’t taken
- Shaving takes longer
Cartridge and Safety Razor Pros:
- Shaving is easier to learn, especially with cartridge razors
- Less risk of injury or accident
- Shaving is much faster and more convenient
- Cartridge razors are safe for air travel (safety razor blades may not be)
- Easy to purchase and widely available
Cartridge or Safety Razor Cons:
- Blades or cartridges need replacing regularly, which is a lifelong commitment to cost
- Cartridge razors are the worst for the environment due to so much plastic used
- Susceptible to clogging
- No “cool” factor
The simple fact is that most men will choose what is going to be most convenient for them when it comes to daily shaving. Busy lifestyles insist that this is the way it must be. But if you have the time and the inclination to explore using a straight razor, it could be cheaper in the long run and certainly better for the environment.
How to Shave with a Straight Razor
Straight razors are usually left to the realm of the professional barber. Not for nothing, but it is also called a barber razor. Shaving with a straight razor is a real skill, but for those who wish to purchase their own straight razor blades and give it a go at home, we’ve got some handy pointers on the best straight razor shave.
Read on for the basics of how to use a straight razor.
Straight Razor Shaving: Preparation
- Take a warm shower or hold a hot, wet towel on the face. This opens up the pores and softens the beard hairs.
- Don’t wash your face. Your natural skin oils will actually help protect the skin during the shave.
- Try using a pre-shave oil for extra moisture.
- Apply a high quality, high-alkaline shaving cream using a proper brush. This helps lift the beard hair and creates a luxurious feeling lather. There’s also an exfoliating effect that helps remove dead skin cells.
- Strop your razor. This is the skill of using your leather razor strop to ensure your straight razor is honed and ready to shave. You can talk to a professional barber about the best way to do this, or there are tutorial videos on YouTube.
Straight Razor Shaving: The Shave
- As you apply the blade to your skin, pull the skin tight with the other hand.
- Shave with the grain, not against it.
- Don’t apply too much pressure as this can cause irritation.
- Experiment to find the pressure that’s right for you and your razor.
Straight Blade Razor Shaving: Finishing
- Rinse well, first with warm water to chase off any excess foam or hair, and then with cold water to tone and close the pores.
- Wash your face with a skin-neutral PH level product to avoid excess oil development.
- Avoid alcohol-based products
Is using a straight blade the best way to shave head hair? It can provide a very close shave, but only if the blade is very sharp and the person using it is experienced with a straight razor. It’s challenging to shave your own head with a straight razor, as the angles are so different from the face and the back of the head is difficult to see, even with mirrors. The recommendation is definitely to leave this to a professional.
Buying the Best Shaving Blade
What do you need to consider when purchasing a straight razor?
- Where is it from? Razors from France, Germany, Britain, or the United States tend to be of excellent quality steel.
- Do you want a plastic or wooden handle?
- Round or square point? The round point may be better for beginners.
A popular choice for the initiated is the DOVO carbon steel straight razor. High-quality Swedish steel combines with a slightly rounded point and minimalistic design to create a stylish and practical shaving tool.
The most modern straight razor around is probably the Morrama Black Angle Razor, an award-winning design in black aluminum that comes with its own anti-slip stand.
For a more luxurious choice, the German-made Timor straight razor with its handcrafted simplicity is definitely a highly desired shaving tool. Razors can be purchased online, from big retailers like Amazon or specialists like Classic Shaving.
Takeaway: Straight razors have a long history and are back in fashion in a big way. Straight razor shaving is challenging to learn but could save money and be better for the environment in the long run. Shaving with a straight razor could get you a closer shave once you learn the skill properly.