Safety razors have seen a return to popular usage for a few reasons: They produce less waste than their plastic counterparts, and the blades can be recycled. They're generally cheaper to run than multi-blade razors, and, at least in my experience, offer a shave that is closer and more comfortable. However, there are a few key differences with safety razors that can put off new users if they aren't aware.
How do I get started with safety razors?
There are a few key differences that come up with using a safety razor vs. more modern equivalents, and most of them have to do with your technique. To really get the most out of your razor, it can be helpful to keep these tips in mind:
Mind your prep
There are several steps that can help improve your shave, and they can often be done at once in the shower before your shave.
- Exfoliate: Wash your face with an exfoliating face wash, or use a scrub on your face before shaving. This helps to remove dead skin which can clog pores.
- Use some heat: Hot water can help to open your pores and prepare your skin for shaving
- Lubrication is key: Whether you use a simple soap, or more advanced shaving cream, it's important to help the razor glide along your face. Poor lubrication can cause pulling, small cuts or ingrown hairs, an uneven shave and razor burn.
Grip & Balance Matter
Your grip on the razor should be sure, but be mindful of the angle of the blade, as well as the pressure that you're applying.
- Angle it: Unlike multi-blade razors, safety razors will not pivot as you shave. You need to keep the blade aligned properly. Try to keep the blade at a 30-45 degree angle from your face. As you practice, you will be able to feel the angle that the blade is working best at. Having the correct angle means that the blade will give you a close shave, without scraping or damaging the skin.
- No Pressure: The weight of most razors provides enough pressure to shave with most of the time. Be sure not to apply to much pressure, which can irritate skin and will not mean a closer shave.
- Keep it clean: Use short, smooth strokes instead of dragging the razor across your entire face. It's also important to keep the blade clean and free from both stubble and extra shaving cream - rinse it often with hot water.
Other techniques to keep in mind
- Plan your attack: Get familiar with a technique called "Grain Mapping". Before you shave, especially if your stubble is a bit longer, observe the direction that the hair is growing across the different areas of your face.
Each person's Grain Map will look slightly different, but luckily it's easy to create your own to bear in mind while you shave.
Recycling Used Blades
Most stainless blades can be recycled at the proper facilities - do some quick searching to see where your local depots are, and what rules they specify to keep workers safe. This can sometimes include the use of "blade banks".
Other locations that may be able to recycle your blades are those that already take sharps, like hospitals or clinics. Call ahead to ensure you don't have any issues.
Maintaining your razor
A good razor will be made of materials that will last a lifetime with a bit of maintenance. The main enemies of your razor will be grime and rust, and both are easy and quick to deal with.
Keep your razor clean, and when you replace blades, give the entire head a clean to remove any soap residue or other grime. When you finish shaving, completely dry your razor, and don't store it in a place where it will be subject to high humidity, like the shower.
A good solution to keep your razor head rust free, and prevent corrosion on your blades at the same time, is to store your razor in a cup of mineral or baby oil when you aren't using it. Both oils are hydrophobic, meaning that they will drive all moisture away, including the stuff in the air. When it's time to shave, simply rinse the oil away with warm water and you're good to go!