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Straight razors have come back into style, so a growing number of people wonder how to use a straight razor.

There are good reasons why barbers use straight razors. And you can reap those benefits at home as long as you take the time to learn how to use a straight razor properly.

That will make you look great and feel great. So, how exactly do you use a straight razor?


HOW TO USE A STRAIGHT RAZOR


Using a straight razor isn’t as hard as it may seem. Even with sensitive skin, you can get a close shave without irritation. That is, as long as you take the time to do it right.The first thing you must know about how to use a straight razor is that it takes longer than shaving with a machine or a safety razor.


You can expect at least 15 minutes when you’re new to straight razor shaving. It’s an art, and there’s more to how to use a straight razor than the shave itself. You need to prepare your face the right way and do some blade maintenance. That’s why it takes longer, but it can be worth it if you want a great shave.

WIELDING YOUR BLADE

The first element of how to use a straight razor is picking the right razor. Weights differ, as do preferences regarding blade weight, so you should take the time to find one that handles how you like.

If you pick a lighter blade, you’ll have to use more pressure when you shave. In many cases, heavier is better, but it’s no universal truth. It’s all about your dexterity and preference.


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Although it may look like the razor has a handle, this isn’t where you hold it. The proper place to hold it is the shank that connects the blade and the “handle.” Your thumb and first three fingers go here, and the pinky rests on the tang.

The tang is the part that protrudes behind the blade. In this case, it sits along one side of the “handle.”

Please note that this is only a rule of thumb – no pun intended. As you get more familiar with how to use a straight razor, you’ll adjust your grip to better suit you.


razor material

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It’s best to hold the blade approximately at a 30-degree angle relative to your skin. The sharp edge should point downward, but not the whole razor. You’ll want to keep your hand out in front of your face, close to the nose rather than your ears.


PREPARE YOUR FACE

Preparing your face is a crucial aspect of how to use a straight razor. Since you’re dealing with a single sharp blade, it’s essential that everything is smooth and ready.


First, apply warm water to your face. A practical way to do this is to get in the shower for a few minutes. The hot water will clean and hydrate your skin, open your pores, and soften the hairs.

Another option is to use a hot damp towel. If you’ve been to a professional barber, you know this trick.

Next, it’s time for pre-shave oil. It softens the hairs further and reduces friction, which means easier shaving and less irritation.


white bathtub with white towel

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Now, it’s time for the gel or foam. Many like to use a transparent shaving gel because it makes it easier to see what you’re doing. If you go with foam instead, it’s best to do it the traditional way with shaving soap and brush.

First, submerge the brush in hot water to soften its bristles. It works better if you leave it in the water for a minute or so. Then shake off the excess water and get your shaving cream or soap.


Put your cream or soap in the bottom of a cup and lather it up with your brush. The lather thickens more and more as you stir, so don’t rush it.

Next, brush the foam onto your beard. Spread it and smooth it out with small circular motions.


GET A CLOSE SHAVE

It’s time for the practical part of how to use a straight razor. Ready your blade and get close to the mirror.

It helps to stretch your skin with your free hand — the flatter and smoother your skin, the better the shave.

Begin shaving with the grain on each cheek, starting high and finishing by the jaw. Each swipe should be one smooth and steady motion. Rinse your razor after each stroke.

straight razor kit

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When you’ve finished the sides of your face, it’s time to shave the upper lip and chin. Tighten your lips and use short stroke with the razor, and this part will be easy. Then move on to the neck.

Your first time shaving, you’ll probably cut yourself a little. It’s normal, and you’ll get better quickly as you get more experience with how to use a straight razor. Applying some styptic powder is a good way to stop the bleeding.


When you’ve completed the shave, you’ll want to lather up again and start shaving across the grain. In other words, you’ll be going from the sides of your face toward the center. This requires gentler passes.


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Next, add a new layer of foam and shave your face against the grain. That means using upward strokes, which gives you a very close shave. You’ll want to be even gentler this time, as the risk of cuts and razor burn is higher.

After round three, you can rinse your face. Using cold water closes the pores and keeps the skin moist.


HOW TO USE A STRAIGHT RAZOR ON YOUR NECK


Since the neck is the hardest part to shave, we’ll give it some extra attention. There’s a special neck-shaving technique you need to use.

Begin by tilting your head back and lifting your jaw with your free hand. Now that the neck is as smooth as it can get, you can start shaving.

Try to use straight passes at first, but be flexible. The areas on each side of the Adam’s apple can be tricky to reach, but you’ll soon get the hang of how to use a straight razor well.

barber shaving a mans beard

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After the three rounds of shaving, dry off your razor, ideally with a soft cloth. Paper can work in a pinch.

It’s important that you store your blade in a dry place where shower steam and other moisture can’t get to it. You can’t shave with a rusty blade. It’s very dangerous, and there’s no way you’re getting a good result.

If you want extra insurance or need to store your blade for a long time, blade oil is perfect. Rub some onto the blade before putting it away, and it won’t rust.

STRAIGHT RAZOR PROS AND CONS


PROS

  • The first notable advantage of learning how to use a straight razor is that you can get a much better shave. Silky smooth results like these simply aren’t possible with those five-blade cartridges and other popular solutions.
  • Another possible advantage is the potential for reduced costs. Sure, a straight razor costs more than typical modern razors, but you’ll never need to replace anything if you take good care of it.
  • There’s also the feel and sense of prestige. It’s a skill that requires focus, and it’s hip these days. Plus, you get some nice time to yourself where your mind can relax.
  • Last, but not least, you’re also doing the environment a favor. Imagine how much waste a lifetime of modern razors produces, especially concerning plastic. With a straight razor, there’s no such waste.

CONS

  • The only notable downside is the learning curve and slower shaving procedure. However, that can be a worthy tradeoff when you consider the advantages.


USEFUL TOOLS AND SKILLS FOR STRAIGHT RAZOR SHAVING


Regardless of shaving methods, you’ll want good foam and pre-shave oil. An aftershave is also worth considering.

More importantly, you’ll need the tools to keep your blade sharp. Learning how to use a straight razor includes learning how to sharpen it.


SHARPENING YOUR STRAIGHT RAZOR

First, you’ll need a whetstone. Generally, you’ll want to lubricate it first and then rub the blade along it to hone the edge. However, some whetstones can’t handle the moisture, so you should read the manufacturer’s instructions closely.

Start with the rougher side and place your blade along one of the shorter sides. Then, sweep it across the stone, starting from the bottom of the blade.

You’ll need to push the top toward the stone with each stroke. If your blade’s longer than your stone, you’ll also have to move it to cover the whole edge with each stroke.

Flip the blade and go back and forth until you get the general desired shape. Then, flip the stone over and use the finer grit to finish the sharpening.

When the razor can easily dig into a fingernail without sticking, it’s good. You only need to hone it once every six or eight weeks.


DON’T FORGET THE STROP

Now for another important aspect of how to use a straight razor: stropping. You should do this before each time you use it. You can also do it after each shave and honing instead, it’s a matter of preference.

Stropping helps you keep your blade sharp and smooth. You do it by attaching the strop to a hook or piece of furniture and running the razor along it sideways.


The leather side is what you’ll want to use after honing. Between shaves, you only need to use the canvas side.

Hold the strop tight with your free hand, then hold the blade with the edge pointing away from you on the far end of the strop. Now, pull the blade toward yourself until it reaches the other end.



Remember!

Don’t lift the blade, but don’t push it down either. It should maintain light pressure against the strop.


Now repeat the same procedure with the other side of the blade. Never touch the strop with the sharp edge, or you’ll damage it. Also, remember to never point it toward yourself.

After about 15 passes on each side, it’ll be ready. You can’t strop your blade too much, so don’t worry.


CLOSING THOUGHTS ON HOW TO USE A STRAIGHT RAZOR


Shaving with a straight razor is an art form. It can be very rewarding, but there’s a learning curve, and it’s time-consuming. It’s worth trying out if you’re curious.

If you feel like modern razors are the better choice, we have just what you need. We can help you reduce shaving costs and trips to the store. See for yourself!