Guide to Using a Safety Razor

Nov. 07, 2023

A safety razor uses double edge razor blades to give the closest possible shave whilst being gentle to the skin and economical to use. Thanks to modern advances in double edge razor blades, a safety razor can shave much closer with a single blade than a plastic multi-blade cartridge can with 3, 4 or even 5 blades and because only a single blade passes over the skin it causes less irritation.

Why use a safety razor?

More and more men are making the change to shaving with a safety razor for the following reasons:

A closer shave - double edge razor blades are sharper and shave closer than modern multi-blade cartridges. By shaving in multiple "passes" you can decide how close you want to shave.

Less irritation and ingrowing hairs - your skin needs to be protected and lubricated when shaving and this is best achieved by using a shaving soap or cream. With a multi-blade cartridge the first blade removes the protection and the remaining blades are then pulled against the naked skin. This leads to irritation and ingrowing hairs.

Cheap replacement blades - With replacement blades costing as little as 15p each, a safety razor can give you significant cost savings when used over a long period of time.

How to shave with a safety razor?

A safety razor is very easy to use but it can take a couple of weeks to get used to using one. The technique for shaving with a safety razor differs to that when shaving with a plastic cartridge razor. The two most important things to consider when shaving with a safety razor are maintaining zero pressure and using the correct blade angle.

With a safety razor the blade is exposed and directly touching the skin. The idea is to use the blade to slice through the beard like a sickle rather than to drag through the beard and scrape the blade across the skin. This means that you need to use the absolute lightest touch possible so that the blade is almost not touching the skin but is instead gliding across the surface. It also means that you need to hold the razor in such a way so that the blade is touching the skin at an angle of about 30° so that the blade is closer to being parallel with the skin than to being perpendicular. Due to the design of most safety razors, with the blade being at a right angle to the handle, this means that you need to hold the razor handle almost perpendicular to your skin in order to get the blade angle with the skin to be about 30°.

Before applying the razor to your face you need to take the time to learn the direction of your beard growth. By shaving in the direction of your beard growth you are shaving 'with the grain'. If you shave in the opposite direction to your beard growth you are shaving 'against the grain'. Shaving against the grain is very aggressive on the skin and can lead to irritation, razor burn and ingrowing hairs which is why it is advised to only shave with the grain or 'across the grain'.

When you are familiar with the direction of your beard growth you can begin to shave. Hold the razor at the very end of the handle using only your thumb and the tips of your fingers. Never grip a safety razor as this can lead to you using too much pressure. Glide the razor across your skin in the same direction that your beard grows. Shave with slow, short and slightly overlapping strokes to start. As you become more comfortable with the razor you can increase the length of the stroke.

It is very important to not go over the same area more than once. After the first stroke the skin will no longer have any protection from a lather and going over the same area again will lead to irritation. When you have finished rinse your face with warm water.

This completed process is known as a 'pass'. The aim of a pass is to reduce the beard gradually and to repeat the process until the beard is reduced sufficiently. After you have finished your first pass, lather up your face again and begin a second pass. The second pass can be different in that you can go a different direction if you desire. For a new shaver it is recommended to stick to a first pass with the grain and then a second pass either with or across the grain.

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