Physical Health, Tips & Techniques, Wellness / Self-Care

How to Shave with a Safety Razor

Because nothing gets closer than a single blade.

words by: Adam Hurly
Sep 30, 2021

Nowadays, many of us learn how to shave by using a cartridge razor. “Big Shaving,” or whatever you want to call the muscle in the industry, has led consumers to believe that having more blades is better. The truth, however, is that one extremely sharp and fresh blade can give you perhaps the closest shave of your life, and with as little irritation as possible—and that’s why so many frequent shavers and enthusiasts swear by the safety razor blade.


There’s a slight learning curve to using a safety razor though, since it isn’t as “plug and play” as a cartridge shave. But don’t be dissuaded from trying it out, as it becomes second nature almost instantly. Read on to learn how to shave with a safety razor, as well as the benefits of doing so.


Safety razor shaving benefits

Less is more

Having fewer razors puts less friction on your skin, which means less irritation, less accumulation of dead skin cells and whisker clippings, as well as a cleaner, direct cut over the hairs, which yields fewer ingrown hairs.


No trapped hair

Just as a cartridge can collect cells and hair clippings, it can also fall short when it comes to cutting thicker hairs. Those hairs don’t cut as neatly between the thinly spaced blades, whereas a safety blade has nowhere for hair to get lodged during the reaping. Again, cleaner cuts yield fewer ingrown hairs, which is music to the ears of coarse, thick, and/or curly beard guys.


A close, clean shave

When you handle the safety razor properly, and at its correct angle, a single stroke can cut hairs as clean and close as a cartridge—though most safety blade lovers will tell you it’s even closer than a cartridge can manage.


Cost effective

A box of blades will last you a year, even if you’re a frequent shaver. And it will only cost a dime apiece when you buy a larger quantity. You can still use these blades 6-8 times if you shave frequently, or swap in a fresh one every 2-3 weeks if you shave less often.


How to Shave with a Safety Razor

Ready the skin

You’re only changing razors, nothing else about your routine needs alterations. Warm the skin before a shave by washing with a gentle cleanser. You can even deploy a gritty scrub to help lift away dead skin and elevate the hairs. Follow with a skin-shielding pre-shave oil, which also softens the whiskers. Then apply a light layer of shaving cream or gel.


Hold the razor at the right angle

30-45 degrees is the secret here. But let the device guide you: A good safety razor has a rounded head that essentially guides you into the right angle.


Keep a light, steady hold

No sudden movies, obviously. That blade is sharp! However, you need to manage a steady hold while also applying nearly no pressure with the blade. It will simply graze over your skin with each stroke.


Keep the skin taut

You’ll need to crane your neck or use your opposite hand to pull the skin taut on your face and neck. You don’t want any resistance or softness in the razor’s path. Just firm, taut skin so that the pressure-less shave goes smoothly.


Keep strokes short

You only have a single blade here, so you don’t want to compromise the shave by accumulating lots of dead skin and hair clippings. Keep strokes at or under one inch—ideally half that length. Rinse the blade between strokes—it’s best to keep the warm tap running on low while you shave, since you’ll need frequent splashes.


Go with the grain

One of the surest ways to get an ingrown hair is to shave against the direction of your hair’s growth. Yes, it might seem easier to shave this way, since it lifts the hairs back as you go, but what it also does is cut the hair at the base at an unfavorable angle. It causes more trapped, infected hairs—especially if you have coarse, curly, or thick hair. So, save yourself a lot of agony and shave with the direction of the hair growth. It makes a nominal difference in the closeness of the cut.


End the same way as a cartridge shave

Like the cartridge shaves you’re used to, a safety shave concludes with a cold water splash. This helps “close” the pores and keep debris and bacteria out. Secondly, you should chase this splash with alcohol-free aftershave lotion or balm, to neutralize bacteria and soothe stressed out skin. (Alcohol splashes of yesteryear only dry out and irritate the skin; you can kill bacteria with a variety of antibacterial ingredients, from witch hazel to tea tree oil).


Looking for more content related to shaving? Check out these articles:
How to keep your edges and sideburns clean between haircuts.
An introduction to shaving brushes.
5 innovative shaving brands.
Some of our favorite safety razors.

Photo via Wild Sage + Co.