Man School: How to Shave With a Straight Razor

How to Shave With a Straight Razor

Of all the shaving implements ever used, none were as finely crafted as the straight razor. Around the turn of the century, when life picked up a faster pace, men abandoned their straight razors and devised faster ways to shave. Though new shaving implements saved time, something was lost — particularly the oddly serene morning ritual of balancing life and death on the edge of a razor blade.

If you’re looking to embrace a meditative practice that provides a superior shave, consider learning how to shave with a straight razor. To help you get started, we’ve put together this helpful guide with help from Princess Pocaigue, a barber at Fellow Barber in San Francisco.

Benefits of a Straight Razor Shave

Among other reasons, using a straight razor can seriously cut down on waste. No longer will you need to buy packages of cartridge razors and cast them into the garbage after a few uses. Switching to a straight shave can also save you money; though high-quality shaving equipment costs upwards of $250, your razor, brush, and strop will last for decades.

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Selecting Your Equipment

Razor

Feather Artist Club SS Folding Back Shaving Razor

Feather Artist Club SS Folding Back Shaving Razor

“In the barbershop I’m currently using the Feather Artist Club SS Folding Back Shaving Razor that only uses replaceable Feather Artist Club Professional Blades,” she says. Princess adds that if you are having trouble maneuvering the handle for home use, go for one of the Feather Straight Handle Razors. (Feather razors can be a bit heavier on the handle, but have a better grip.) Feather blades are super sharp, can shave through all hair textures and last longer without having to replace the blade during shaving. 

MD Dragon Razor

MD Dragon Razor

For first-time straight razor users, she recommends MD Dragon Razor – a light folding back handle that uses smaller replaceable blades such as Derby Single Edge, Feather Platinum Single Edge & Astra Platinum Double Edge blades that you break in half. All are used by professionals, but easy enough for home use too. MD Barber Razors are a more affordable for shaving multiple times a week at home.

Related: The Manual’s Guide to Shaping a Beard

The Brush

“I prefer if you are low maintenance to not use a brush at home unless you are willing to keep it clean after each use,” she says. (If you must use one, we’ve written about a few that we like.)  In addition, keep hands sanitized at all times so you don’t spread any bacteria into your pores.

Shaving Cream

Fellow Barber shave regimen-set

Fellow Barber currently has their own shave regimen set which includes a Shave Cream, Cleansing & Hydrating Tonic & Aftershave Lotion. Princess uses it because it’s super light, doesn’t require much for application and can be reactivated with water to keep skin moisturized during the entire shave. We’ve got a whole slew of shaving creams for you to try if this doesn’t satisfy.

Preparation & Process

Pre-Shave
If you have time to prep your face with a hot towel, you should. “Soak a towel in warm water with some tea tree oil and microwave for 90 seconds,” she says. Or, take a hot shower to open up your pores and start the shave right after.
Face Prep
Teak Naturals 100 Percent Organic Teak Naturals Jojoba Oil

Teak Naturals 100 Percent Organic Teak Naturals Jojoba Oil

“I would recommended spritzing your face with our Fellow Barber Tonic then adding jojoba oil to your facial hair/skin. You might splash your face with some warm water, then apply a small amount of the Shave Cream on your face using circular motions.”
Holding the Razor

Though a straight razor comes with a handle, you should disregard it almost entirely and instead hold the blade. With a standard grip, you’ll want to fold the razor back in on itself and put your thumb just beneath the blade. Your index and middle fingers should be on the back part of the blade, and your little finger should be between the handle and the blade’s tail-like appendage. Your ring finger can be on either side of the handle, whichever is most comfortable for you. As you get used to shaving, you’ll discover how to hold your razor at different angles.

Shaving
Keep the area fully covered with a thick lather of cream. Before beginning, always add water to each area to allow the blade to glide smoothly down your skin. Remember to pull your skin tight and follow your hair growth direction to avoid ingrown hairs. Make every stroke count to avoid cutting and over irritating skin. Once finished with the first pass (and for more detailed work), add a small amount of jojoba oil and some water over your skin for a second pass to shave off any areas you missed.

Aftercare

She recommends using Fellow Barber’s tonic or another moisturizing lotion. “Most importantly, you want to remove impurities and hydrate the skin,” she says.

Related: The Manual’s Ten Best After Shave Balms

If You Cut Yourself

Most men cut themselves while shaving–even when using a disposable razor and even after 50 years of the same morning ritual. If you happen to cut yourself while shaving, which you will, simply apply styptic to the cut. Clubman makes a fine styptic pencil that will stop the bleeding right away.

For further guidance on how to shave with a straight razor, we recommend getting a straight shave from an experienced barber like Pocaigue. Every man should get a straight shave from a barber and discuss the affairs of the day. The conversations might have changed from the Prussian War to the new season of Game of Thrones, but the straight shave itself has stayed the same since the days of old.

Princess Pocaigue works at Fellow Barber’s Mid-Market location in San Francisco. Visit their website to book an appointment with her.

Article updated 3/11/17 by Geoff Nudelman.