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