Practical Shaving with a Double-edge Safety Razor
The product review site TheSweethome.com has a page on manual shaving written by the guy who broke the story in 1989 on Gillette’s release of the original Sensor. That was the razor that started the hyperbolic “tech” cycle in shaving. I give the man some credit.
Still, I disagree with what he has this to say about double-edge safety razors (the kind you see Cary Grant using in black and white movies):
…old-school shaving is a time-consuming process, filling up about 15 minutes on the short end from start to finish. That’s a lot longer than most people are willing to spend on just a single grooming task in the morning, but many proponents of this method of shaving come to value the ritual aspect of this approach as much as the quality of the shave.
This was once my experience with double-edge safety razors, but it is no longer. My current process takes less than one incremental minute. Here it is:
- Take a shower.
- Before drying off or stepping out of the shower, squeeze out a dab of Kiss My Face shaving cream onto your still-wet hand and rub it vigorously onto your still-wet beard.
- Turn the shower back on and shave with the grain using a double-edged safety razor and a fogless mirror. Occasionally rinse your razor in the hot water stream.
- Rinse everything off.
I think the reasons Dan Koeppel says using a safety razor takes 15 minutes is that most people who use double-edge safety razors in 2015 are likely to
- Take a long, hot shower to “open their pores”.
- Fill their sink with hot water.
- Wet a badger hair brush
- Use the badger hair brush with the water to warm and wet their beard.
- Eventually get around to using some fancy shaving cream with the badger hair brush to artistically apply it to their faces (like Cary Grant).
- Clean up.
This is not an exaggeration. Classic Shaving, which is where I bought my double-edge safety razor, has a page titled “Brush and Bristle Basics Without the Sales Pitch” that drones on and on about the importance of a badger hair brush and all the distinctions between the types of badger from which your brush can be made. This is silly. You have a hand. A brush is not an improvement on it.
Additionally, if you shower as often as you shave, you do not need a separate 14-minute ritual at the sink that wastes hot water just to get your face wet and lathered. If you shave in the shower, rinse and clean-up are the two seconds it takes to stick your face under shower head these days.
I have tried the fancy shaving creams. They are silly. Use Kiss My Face. One squirt bottle lasts a couple of years.
It’s too bad that double-edge safety razors seem to have become a finer thing in life. They are actually a very practical, inexpensive thing in life. They work well if used properly. I confess it took me time to learn to use well, but it now takes a subjective two minutes of my day.
Other must-have information:
- Don’t apply much pressure when using the safety razor. You probably have to apply *some* pressure. But don’t just mash it against your face and drag like you would a cartridge razor. You will just tear up your face that way.
- Buy decent blades. Don’t buy Gillette “Blue”-branded blades. They are awful even on the first shave. I am currently using a set of Persona blades I bought off eBay. One blade lasts me nearly a week. They are made in the USA and work great. Even premium blades are much, much cheaper than the cheapest cartridges.
- If you are like me and have a face that may develop bumps resulting from ingrown hairs, only shave with the grain. Yes, shaving against the grain will give you a closer shave, but become comfortable with the process before experimenting with shaving against the grain. Instead, if you aren’t happy with the closeness of your shave, lather up and shave again while still in the shower. Pay attention to the angle at which you are holding the razor relative to your face. The advantage of plastic cartridge razors is that you can just mash them against your face like some sort of animal and know that you have the correct cutting angle. Using a double-edge safety razor is a skill, albeit a simple one. You could even try it out on some sacrificial arm hair first to get an idea of how it ought to be used. Unlike cartridges, these razors are sensitive to the angle at which they are used. Take it slow and pay attention.
Why bother with a double-edge safety razor at all?
Most people who use these things seem to feel it helps them get in touch with their inner man. Personally, I have really thick hair that is hard to cut, but the Persona blades handle it well. It’s also nice that it is cheap and convenient now that I’ve eliminated all the more metrosexual steps of the process. The way I use it, it’s actually less fussy than any other option including electrics.