Safety Razor And Shaving

Since their invention, Safety Razors have been the gold standard in shaving. Time after time they deliver the most incredible shaves, which has led many people to put down their mainstream Gillette Mach 3's and convert to the old school.

Safety Razors appeal to a wide range of people- those looking for a super close shave, those who consider shaving an art, and even those who experience terrible rashes/bumps/spots/razor burn and have tried all other options.

The fact that Safety Razors can be totally customised to fit a specific skin type or person makes them second to none. You can get different blades that will shave harsh or gently and razors that can be angled to shave super close or finely. Teamed with a shaving brush, shaving soap and HOT water, you'll quickly find perfection.

There are many different brands to consider, some more expensive than others. However the most well known, trustworthy and quality are definitely Merkur razors- a German company that quite literally creates perfection.

Shaving with a Merkur razor is definitely not a chore. It's an art, and you should feel special to be doing it. If you strive for a perfect shave, you can't go wrong with a Merkur.

Shaving with a Safety Razor

Before you go anywhere near a bathroom, you'll need to insert the blade into the razor. With most razors, especially Merkur, you unscrew the bottom, lift off the top, put the blade in and replace the parts. When you tighten it back up, the blade will bend- this is normal, so don't worry.

Now you're ready to shave. Generally it's better to shave after taking a shower, as this will soften your whiskers and open the pores on your face- making a closer shave within your reach.

First make sure you have the following things to hand:

1. Razor
2. Shaving Brush
3. Shaving Soap
4. HOT Water
5. Towel
6. Moisturiser
7. Cold water

Let the razor and brush soak in hot water for a few minutes before use to heat up, this will help open your pores further.

Lather up the soap with the brush and apply to your face- you want to get a thick lather on your whiskers to provide good lubrication. Looking like Santa is your preference.

NEVER press a safety razor down onto your skin. Let the razor do the work.

Always make sure you wet the razor before and after a stroke. Shave WITH the grain, using small strokes to get a good first shave. You can repeat the previous steps to get a close shave as many times as necessary. It is possible to shave against the grain, but this is only recommended if you don't have super sensitive skin.

After shaving, splash your face with cold water to close the pores. This will prevent irritation and spots occurring from build up of soap or oil.

Apply moisturiser to your face after closing the pores to get some life back into your skin. You'll look and feel great, and the moisturiser will mean your clean shaven face shines through.

Always clean your razor fully after use, and make sure little/no moisture is on it otherwise it could rust.

Furthermore you should change your razor blade regularly- after 5 shaves is the recommended time. If you don't change blades, it will become dull and performance will seriously be decreased. It can also become dangerous, and start cutting your skin. When it comes to safety razors, sensible is best.

Buying a Safety Razor

Safety Razors are all pretty similar, and most work with the same blades. Merkur razors work with pretty much all blades, so are well worth looking at. The most common colour is silver, but you can get lovely gold plated ones for slightly more money.

Unless you are looking for a specific model, or have extremely sensitive skin, a Merkur will do you proud.

When looking at blades, once again Merkur are great to look at. Generally speaking, blades coated in Platinum deliver a better shave, as they are sharper and are able to last longer. If a blade doesnt have platinum, don't avoid it, try it! You never know how good a blade will be unless you see for yourself.

You can buy packs of 5, 10 or even 20; it's best to buy a pack of 10 so you can see which blades provide you with the best shave. Your skin will take a while to get used to a new blade, so don't let 1 bad experience put you off.

Some specialist blades include Feather DE blades. These are Japanese made and the sharpest blades you can buy. Using the same technology as when making Samurai swords, these will shave you so close you won't need to shave again for a week. Be warned, they are very sharp.

Other great brands to check out include Shick, Wilkinson Sword and Personna. Again, each blade will have a different character, so experimentation is the key.

Buying a Shaving Brush

A shaving brush can be as important as the razor you use. A great shaving brush will produce a good, foamy lather on your shaving soap, and this will help you achieve a close shave.

When shopping for a shaving brush, you should aim to get a Badger Hair brush. These are of exceptional quality as the badger hair is strong and ridgid, which means you can really work a lather into the whiskers and skin before shaving. Although more expensive than other brushes, badger hair brushes are simply the best.

If you are a keen shaver, but cannot afford a badger hair brush, don't worry. There are many other great brushes available on the market. Although they won't give you the standard of lather a badger hair brush would, they still enable you to have a great shave.

Buying a Shaving Set

Shaving sets are great because they have everything you need to get shaving right away. Most come with a great razor, blades, a brush, soap and a nice stand to put it all on.

Although expensive, it's actually cheaper to buy all the gear this way than seperately. Besides, it's a one off investment that will last you forever. Unlike a Gillette Mach 3, you won't be changing razors every week. A safety razor really is for life.

Whatever you buy, you'll find out 1 thing. Shaving with a Safety Razor is an amazing experience and will leave you with the closest shave you've had in years. You'll feel like a million pounds, and will look it too!

The Straight Razor

Shaving is a tricky task; without the right tools and gadgets, it can even be a dangerous one. Imagine bringing a dull blade close to your face, one that would require you to exert more force to get the desired results; now that’s an accident just waiting to happen. Now, you can go for disposable razors that promise shaving convenience in a small plastic package, but where’s the fun in that? Shaving would be a more interesting experience if you use something bolder, something that lets you do the shaving efficiently, while giving you a feeling of living (quite literally) on the razor’s edge. A straight razor would be just the tool you’re looking for.

First off, let’s get acquainted with the straight razor (also called cut-throat or open razor). It is a razor that has a blade that can be folded into the handle, and using it requires considerably more skill and finesse compared to using the safety razors (as well as the electric ones) more commonly available nowadays. Those who are avid fans of using a straight razor swear by the fact that the shaving results are superior when compared to using the “more convenient” safety razor; in addition, the element of danger associated with a straight razor only adds to its attraction (there’s nothing tougher than exposing your face and neck to a glinting, sharp object).

There are different types of straight razors, which can be differentiated according to the grinding method, blade width and point type. Knowing the types of straight razors will help you in choosing which one would be best for your requirements. Think of your razor as something extremely personal; and for that, you would need one that fits you as perfectly as possible.

Straight Razor Types

According to Grinding Method. This refers to the curvature of a straight razor’s cross section, and also to the blade’s shape after the manufacturer has finished grinding it.

Hollow Grind: refers to straight razors whose sides have concave cross sections.

Straight or Flat Grind: these razors possess linear cross section sides. They may also be called “wedge” because that’s how their cross section looks like. These models were popular in the late last century. Nowadays, 99% of straight razors feature a hollow grind.

According to Blade Width: the width of straight razors can usually go from 3/8 of an inch to 7/8 of an inch. Wider blades have a longer life cycle and can be more enjoyable to use; however, they require more dexterity and experience. Razors with narrower blades are easier to sharpen and shave with; but, they will have a shorter life and the very narrow (3/8”, for example) blades will always have the tendency to sink into the skin. Widths of 5/8 and 6/8 tend to be the most popular and most recommended for a good shave.

According to Point Type. Refers to the point profile of the straight razor.

Round Point: these straight razors have a semi-circular point profile, and their ends do not possess sharp points. This type of razor is best for those who are just exploring the use of straight razors, as they do not have the exactness of razors with different point types.

Sharp, Sharp Spike or Square Point: these have a straight point profile ending at an extremely sharp point, which is angled perpendicular to the blade’s cutting edge. Highly-experienced users will benefit the most from these types of straight razors, as they are mainly used for precision shaving, especially in hard-to-reach areas. However, they will also provide you with a nick if you are not paying very close attention to what you are doing.

French Point: these razors (also commonly referred to as “oblique point”) have sharper angled curves, and a point profile that looks like a quarter circle. They similarly end in a sharp point like the sharp, spike or square point razors; however the edge is not a straight, abrupt line. A French point razor looks edgy but refined, as compared to its sharp, spike or square point brothers.

How to Safely Use a Straight Razor

After deciding on a straight razor, you have to know the basics of how to use it properly. On your first few tries, go easy on yourself and accept that you may get results that are less than satisfactory; you can come up with patches of uneven shaving, or may get a few nicks in the process. Once you discover the shaving technique you are most comfortable with, you can start relaxing and enjoying the fruits of your (shaving) labor.

You have to choose a high quality straight razor for your shaving needs. Keep in mind that you will be putting this blade against your unprotected face. It would be ideal if you can closely examine the razor before you actually purchase it. Make sure that the blade is in perfect condition (avoid those that have uneven surfaces, nicks, indentations); you also have to check if the scales holding the blade can do so securely; you wouldn’t want a razor that suddenly snaps open just when you least expect it to. The last two pieces of advice are particularly important if you buy an used or old straight razor from Ebay or a flea market.

Probably the most important rule that should be observed is keeping the blade sharp. This ensures that even the toughest hair strands can be cut without having to go through the same area again and again. The sharpness of the blade also contributes to overall safety when shaving; if you use a dull blade, the tendency is to use more force or pressure when you shave, which might lead to accidental nicks and cuts. Keeping the blade sharp will help keep your face (and your neck) free from cuts and nicks.

You can keep the blade sharp by regularly honing it, and stropping it on leather or a flexible piece of canvass. Stropping makes sure that the indentations on the blade are in correct alignment, without having to eliminate any material. You can use a hand-held paddle or a hanging leather strip for your straight razor. Leather is accepted as the best material for this purpose. If you are just starting to use straight razors, you can turn to the Internet for guidance; there are a number of videos online showing you the proper way to strop. For a more personal demonstration you can ask a straight razor aficionado the correct way of doing it.

Make sure that you have your favorite shaving cream or soap handy before using the straight razor. It would be very uncomfortable (and almost impossible) to shave with a dry face; the coarse facial hair might resist the blade’s action, and this will certainly lead to razor burns and other skin irritations. You should apply a thick lather onto your face, and ensure that it doesn’t dry up prior to the actual shaving process. Use a shaving brush to coax the hairs on your face to stand to attention, making it easier for them to be removed by the razor.

You are now ready for the most exciting part, the actual facial hair removal. If it is your first time to use a straight razor, take a deep breath, relax, and try your best to enjoy this experience. If you are too stiff and tense, you might end up making more mistakes, painful ones at that. Your first three fingers should hold the shank, which is the thin, lower part of the blade that is not used for cutting (it also serves as the joint that turns as you fold the blade into the scale). Keep your thumb underneath to hold the razor steady, while your ring and pinkie fingers should be wrapped on the tang (the small protrusion that lets you swing the blade into the scale). With your free hand, stretch the skin on your face so you can get the closest shave possible.

Before we proceed further, you need to keep this in mind: under no circumstances should you move the blade horizontally on your face. Doing this with a sharp razor would most likely lead to pain, and possibly humiliation; you probably won’t be proud in explaining how you got a two-inch (clean, straight) cut on your face.

Let’s move on. Hold the razor at an angle of about 30 degrees to your face and make sure to keep your touch light but firm at the same time. Do your best to keep your hands steady, to avoid moving the razor across your skin unnecessarily. Shave with, or across, the direction of your hair growth. You can shave against the grain if you are already comfortable doing that, although going with the hair growth’s direction will less likely result to hair follicles being ingrown. Apply another layer of lather and go over the same area again to get a closer shave. Repeat, if necessary.

Now look into the mirror and admire that bright, freshly-shaved face. That wasn’t too hard, was it?

There are still a lot of things that you need to know about straight razors; some of the information can be found on user guides all over the Internet, while more can be learned mainly through experience. Our goal here is to arm you with as much useful information as possible, so you can concentrate on using your straight razor for wet shaving without worrying too much about putting your neck on the line, so to speak.