Man School 101: 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.

Selecting Your Equipment

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

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.

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

“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.

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. 

Grooming

These Gyms Have the Best Grooming Products and Amenities

A good gym will have enough great grooming goods to relieve you of a kettlebell’s worth of product from your gym bag.
Food & Drink

5 Best Hangover Cure Products for a Better Tomorrow

Sometimes, you need a little extra help after a long night.
Culture

Stay Fit This Winter with the Best Off-Season Training Gear for Men

We’ve pulled together some essentials for training outside long after the good weather’s gone.
Grooming

Attractive at Any Age: Skincare for Men in Their 20s, 30s, 40s, and Beyond

Age gracefully from beautiful boy to handsome silver fox with the best skincare for men at any age.
Grooming

The Best Beard Balms are the Secret to a Tamed and Tangle-Free Beard

Beard oils can help keep the skin under your beard nice and healthy, but adding style, maturity, and shape to the fruitful forest on your face starts with an effective and replenishing balm.
Grooming

The Gillette Labs Heated Razor Will Give You a Hot-Towel Shave without the Hot Towel

Let Gillette's latest invention give you the smoothest shave of your life.
Grooming

Winter Grooming Dos and Don’ts: Be Ready for Cold Weather

A few tweaks to your daily regimen will keep dry, cracked, winter skin at bay during the season.
Grooming

Keep Your Lips Kissably Soft this Winter with the Best Lip Balms for Men

To prevent a bloody lip that isn't the result of a bar fight but from dry skin, here are a few great options for the best lip balms to moisturize that mouth.
Grooming

The Best Pre-Shave Oils to Prevent Pesky Skin Irritation and Razor Burn

Pre-shave oil is one of the most important parts of a man's shaving regimen and, oftentimes, it's the one step left out.
Grooming

Aesop x Rimowa Köln Travel Kit Is the Dream Dopp Kit

This isn't your average, everyday, run-of-the-mill travel grooming kit.
Grooming

Hair Loss Treatments for Guys Who Want to Keep Their Thinning Hair

Losing your hair sucks. Between genetic predisposition for male pattern baldness and other outside factors, what's a dude to do?
Grooming

What Is Movember: Why You Should Grow Your Mustache for a Good Cause

The goal of Movember isn’t to conserve razors. It’s to make a difference by raising awareness and funds for prostate cancer, testicular cancer, mental health, and suicide prevention.
Grooming

Dry Scalp? Try the Best Dandruff Shampoo for Men and Eliminate White Flakes

Getting rid of dandruff isn't easy, but the first step is finding the best dandruff shampoo that suits you and your scalp.
Grooming

8 Best Beard Grooming Kits for the Modern Beardsman

You can fix all of your beard problems with just one purchase.