If you’ve just bought your first safety razor using our buying guide, you may be a bit unsure how to shave with it properly. Despite their name, safety razors aren’t without risk. Indeed, it’s easy to cut yourself or suffer from irritation. Therefore, you will learn how to shave with a safety razor in our easy step-by-step tutorial:
- Prepare Your Skin & Lather The Soap
- Correctly Position The Razor
- Shave Your First Pass
- Shave A Second Pass
- Post-Shaving Skincare
- Post-Shave Safety Razor Care
Scroll down to read it all or use the links above to jump ahead.
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Once you’ve got the hang of it, you’ll wonder why you ever needed a guide in the first place. However, safety razor shaving can be quite daunting when starting out. In fact, it’s encouraged to seek out guidance beforehand. Winging it rarely goes well and often discourages beginners.
You Will Need
- Shaving Brush [read more about shaving brushes]
- Shaving Soap & Bowl [read more about shaving soap]
- Safety Razor [buy the best razor blade for you]
- Fresh Razor Blades [read more about razor blades]
Before you begin, be sure to read our main wet shaving guide. This will fully brief you with everything you need to know with the correct process of wet shaving in general. You will learn about shave routes and shaving directions, as well as how to prepare your skin.
1. Prepare Your Skin & Lather The Soap
As you will have read in our main wet shaving guide linked above, you’ll need to soften your skin before shaving. This can involve either a hot shower, a 30-second soak or even a hot towel as well as a pre-shave cream. Don’t forget to bloom or wet your shaving soap beforehand and soak the brush if it’s made out of boar. Make sure that your razor is also loaded with a new blade.
Once the soap has bloomed, you will then need to create a lather before applying it to your face. You can learn about how to prepare a shaving brush and properly create a lather with our dedicated shaving soap guide.
Fill your sink about halfway up with warm water. You can use cold water but it tends to feel nicer on the skin when warm.
2. Correctly Position The Razor
Now that your face is lathered with soap and you’re ready to be shaved, it’s time to apply the blade to the skin. Submerge the razor into some hot water and place it on your jawline below the sideburn.
Using the mirror as a guide, hold the razor’s head against your skin and turn it until it’s at about a 30° angle. This is generally the sweet spot with regards to your shaving angle. Any more and the razor may be too aggressive, which will cause nicks and burning. Any less and you may not shave off enough.
You can use the handy infographic above as a visual aid in finding the right shaving angle for you.
3. Shave Your First Pass
Remember to use the shave map as a guide for shaving directions and the best order. You can find the map on its own below or head to the main shaving guide for a quick refresher. Nevertheless, start with the sideburns and work your way down to your jawline. You can then shave towards your mouth and then around it.
Either stretch your skin or hold it taut in flexible areas such as the neck for a smoother shave. The razor will have less trouble gliding along and won’t cut into the skin. You can hold your nose up or pull your lip down when shaving the moustache area. Roll your lips behind your teeth when shaving above the chin.
Always shave in short, gentle strokes and with the grain in your first pass. Long strokes are best left for the commercials.
Remember to rinse the razor regularly to remove any excess soap and cut hairs. This ensures that the blade is unclogged and will properly cut the hairs. In addition, it reduces friction and the rate at which the blade dulls.
Let the weight of the razor do the work and don’t apply any extra pressure. Cartridge razors are much more forgiving in this respect. Consequently, they’ve given us the bad habit in pressing hard to remove as much as possible in a single pass.
Remember that we’re aiming for beard reduction and not beard removal with a safety razor.
4. Shave A Second Pass
Once you’ve shaved your entire face, it’s time for a second pass as it’s unlikely that your skin is smooth yet. If it is, you may have pressed too hard and will begin to experience some irritation. Be sure to rinse thoroughly with cold water and use lots of cream to soothe the burning.
However, if you’re still going, lather up your face again with enough soap and begin your second pass. Follow the same process as the first adding more pre-shave cream if desired. Remember to keep the skin taut and stick to short, gentle strokes.
You can try shaving against the grain at this point. However, beginners are the best shaving with it or even across it when starting off. Shaving against the grain is often quite risky and can easily cause irritation.
Try to get a good feel for what your skin is able to take. If you have particularly sensitive skin, avoid going against the grain entirely and shave sideways at the very most.
Don’t feel rushed in that you absolutely have to finish on the second pass. Repeat as many times to get a clean shave and you can always do a third one if you think it’s necessary. Remember that the more you shave, the more your skin is exposed to the blade so it’s important to stay gentle.
5. Post-Shaving Skincare
Once you have finished shaving, you’ll need to take care of your skin to ensure it’s properly nourished. Begin by rinsing your face with cold water. Although warm water is more comfortable, clean cold water will close the pores.
You will then want to apply a post-shave balm or moisturiser to replenish the skin’s natural oils. Don’t forget that shaving is its own exfoliation process so you’ll need to hydrate it afterwards. If you have any styptic or an alum block, apply this after the moisturiser. That way, it will seal the moisturiser in your skin rather than create a barrier and prevent it from soaking in.
You may need to learn more about post-shave care. Read more by heading to our dedicated after-shaving guide page.
6. Post-Shave Safety Razor Care
Although safety razors require very little maintenance, it’s always good practice to look after yours especially after shaving. All you need to do is blast your razor with hot water under the tap after shaving for 10 to 15 seconds.
High water pressure will wash away any stray hairs and soap. Make sure that you get it in all the hard-to-reach areas within the mechanism. If necessary, open it up to wash away everything. You can take this further by leaving it to soak in alcohol or barbicide if you want.
Consider towel drying your razor too. Although the water will wash away any leftover suds, leaving it to linger will damage the chrome and rust the blade. Leave it to fully air dry somewhere that is relatively low in humidity.
Now that you’ve read about how to shave with a safety razor, be sure that you are equipped with all the other gear that you’ll need. Either head back to the shaving homepage or go straight to our guides on shaving brushes and soap or cream. We also suggest the following guides:
Don’t laugh but I was nervous about shaving for the first time with a safety razor! This guide helped but my top lip is a little sore. Any advice?
Don’t feel ashamed! Very few of us actually start shaving with a safety razor. Furthermore, I also used to get a very sore top lip too. It’d start as a rash and sometimes the skin would get dry and peel. I realised that it was actually because I applied waaaay too much pressure when shaving that area.
Don’t press and only let the razor shave using gravity. Also, don’t try to do it in one and reduce the amount of hair in several passes.
As someone who plans to convert from pricey $$$ cartridges, to a safety razor, I am accumulating info. This is one of the few articles I bookmarked and read from beginning to end twice. You articulate sensibly and the graphics are great. Thank you.
btw: “Either stretch your skin or hold it taught in flexible areas”–taut is the correct word here
Thanks for the kind words! I’m glad that the article was helpful.
Oh, and thanks for the heads up on the typo. Our proofreader has just been fired!
All the best,