How to Shave with a Double Edge Safety Razor
In West Coast Shaving’s video “How to Shave with a DE Safety Razor”, we continue a series of Shaving 101 videos to help you get the most from your classic wet shave.
This video provides tips on shaving with a safety razor and includes the following:
- Inspecting your face and understanding your facial hair growth patterns
- Getting ready to shave
One of the beautiful parts of wet shaving is that it slows you down enough to enjoy a meditative process instead of rushing through another menial, daily chore. Taking time to understand your face and how your hair grows is part of the process that makes wet shaving with a safety razor so much better for you and your skin.
Inspecting Your Face for the Shave:
First, take stock of your skin. Is it sensitive or not so sensitive? What about your hair? Is it delicate or wiry. Which direction does it grow? As you decide if you are going with the grain, across the grain, or against the grain, you must know how the hair changes direction even on different parts of your face.
Cheeks, chin, neck might all have a bit different hair growth pattern. It is important to know this in order reduce your beard in the most efficient, safest manner possible. Most men do not have delicate hair combined with tough skin, so going at your face with a double edge safety razor, like a weed wacker, will not serve you well. Following a process will methodically get you to a BBS (baby-butt smooth) result.
Understanding Hair Growth and Using a Safety Razor
So what is with, across, and against the grain when we talk about hair? If your hair grows down, then taking the safety razor down your face is going with the grain. Using the razor to go up, would be against the grain. And taking your safety razor perpendicular to the growth pattern is across the grain. Even with the sharpest blade and slickest lather, against the grain is the riskiest pass because you are most likely to irritate the skin and possibly cut yourself. It might not always be possible to go with the grain as you find places where your hair grows in multiple directions or twirls. Then it is just wise to know so you can be cautious.
Pro-tip: When you have a bit of growth on your face, use a cotton ball and smooth it around your face until you figure out where it gets stuck. Where the cotton ball gets stuck is where your hair is against the grain.
Preparing to Shave with Your Safety Razor:
Start off with a pre-shave (especially if you are doing it in front of a camera in the middle of an office building, wink, wink). A pre-shave softens the skin and hair to give a little extra slickness in preparation for the blade. Smooth it on your face before you build your lather.
After loading the brush, take the brush to your face and neck to continue to build the lather or use a bowl/mug to create your frothy foam. Add water to create the lather.
(Aviv is shaving with a two piece, Merkur 37C Heavy Duty Safety Razor, Slant Bar. It is great if you like to let your facial hair grow a little longer and shave less frequently. It is extremely efficient. He loaded it with a Personna razor blade. The shaving soap is Chiseled Face, Sherlock with notes of dirt, tobacco, and leather. Jared is lathering with a Simpson Chubby 2 Super Badger Shaving Brush CH2 and WCS #8 Silk Road Shaving Soap - vegan soap.)
Pro-tip: The goal of a good lather is, of course, lubrication, but it is also great to raise the hair for a more efficient shave.
Shaving with Your Double Edge Safety Razor:
Let the weight of the double edge safety razor do the work. Don’t push against the skin. Think about shaving off the lather you just built rather than shaving the hair (you will shave the hair but think about removing the lather) and you will be closer to having the right pressure.
Using a short stroke begin to run the razor over your skin. Remember you are just shaving off the lather. Shave with the grain to begin. Use about a 30 degree angle but as you shave you will find what works for you. To review: when you shave with the grain, you are moving the safety razor in the direction that your hair grows. If you want to go against the grain, you would apply the razor in the opposite direction of the hair growth. This is a bit more risky as you can “catch” or snag hairs and create more irritation if you aren’t careful. Across the grain is when you run the safety razor perpendicular to the growth pattern of your hair. If you stick to just “with the grain” shaving, you will still get a great, gentle shave, but adding against or across can bring your shave to the BBS (baby-butt smooth) stage. Some people never use the “against the grain” pass.
A closed comb safety razor is a great way to start into wet shaving. Don’t apply any more pressure than the weight of the razor. A nice audible feedback (a scratchy sound) is nice to add another layer of sensory response to know what is happening with your shave.
Never move your double edge safety razor horizontally. It is like taking a knife to your skin, so make sure that you are intentional in the direction of your razor. Ease your way into it. There is a learning curve. The goal with wet shaving isn’t the “two-minute” shave but rather a process that can enhance your life.
Pro-tip: Let the weight of the safety razor do the work! Never palm the razor (grip the whole length) just choke up and hold it with two fingers near the head but let the handle swing free.
How did you learn to shave? What were the toughest parts of your learning curve? What is the most enjoyable part of a classic wet shave for you? Let us know in the comments below.