Today’s razors have all kinds of features that supposedly give you a better shave: multiple blades, rotating heads,and even vibrating handles. The truth is, you don’t need any gizmos or doodads to get a clean and close shave; after all, men have been using straight razors to shave since men began shaving thousands of years ago. If a straight razor was good enough for men like Julius Cesar, George Washington, and Neapolitan Bonaparte, then it’s good enough for you.
If you didn’t learn to shave with a straight razor, the prospect of using such a naked blade can be intimidating and even a bit scary-after all, a straight razor has more in common with a dagger than a modern razor. After a few times shaving (not to mention a few cuts) you’ll find that straight razors give you the closest shave of your life. When you begin learning to use your straight razor, keep the following things in mind:
Keep your razor sharp
Sharpening a straight razor is known as “honing” it. You should hone your razor with a whetstone or ceramic stone every six to eight weeks, depending on the quality of your blade. If you keep your razor sharpened, you only need to pass the blade over the stone eight to ten times. If you are using a whetstone, make sure to use a lubricant such as water or shaving lather before you begin sharpening.
Use a razor strop
A razor strop is a piece of leather or other material with a ring on one end. The purpose of a strop is to ensure that the steel is pointing in the same direction; this gets you a closer shave and helps reduce the likelihood of cutting yourself. To strop the razor, attach the end with the ring to a solid object and hold it taut. Then, lightly rub the blade horizontally across the strop with the blade facing you. Then, flip the blade over and lightly push it away from you. For best results, do this 40 to 60 times immediately before shaving.
Preheat your beard
Warm, wet hair is easier to cut than dry hair, so before shaving, take a warm shower. Then, wrap a hot towel around your face and hold it there until it cools. If you have the time, do this twice before you begin to shave.
Prepare your lather with hot water
When preparing your soap mix, fill the cup with hot water to ensure that your face stays warm as you shave. Make sure to soak your brush in the warm, soapy water before applying; this will help your face stay warm as you shave.
Prepare the lather correctly
You only need to use a small amount of shaving cream-about a nickel-sized drop be enough for most men. Excess shaving cream makes the mixture too thick, which can affect the quality of your shave. When preparing your mix, stir and churn the mixture until the lather thickens to your liking.
Apply the lather
Properly covering your face with lather is essential to getting a close shave and preventing cuts. Apply the lather with a swirling motion and make sure that you cover every part of your face. After the lather is applied, even it out. Wait about five minutes before you begin shaving to make sure that the lather moistens any remaining dry hair.
Hold the razor the correct way
There are many ways to hold a straight razor, but novices are encouraged to use the “classic” grip in which you unfold your razor to a 90 degree angle and hold it in place with your thumb, index, and middle finger. The hilt of the razor should go between your middle and ring finger-like holding a pencil. While shaving, hold the blade at a 30 degree angle to maximize its effectiveness. Make sure not to use too much pressure or you risk cutting your face.
Shave in the correct direction
To avoid ingrown hairs or razor burn, shave with the grain (the direction that hair grows in). Your hair grows towards your chin, so start at the top of your face and move slowly down using short, slow strokes. Make sure to stretch your skin to get every hair. If you have time and want a really close shave, shave your face left to right. Then, and only then, can you shave against the grain. Make sure to reapply shaving cream after each direction change in order to minimize resistance to the razor.
Clean up your face
When you are finished, wash your face with cold water to close your pores and prevent razor burn. Dab your face a few times to dry it and apply aftershave to reduce irritation. Finally, apply a bit of talcum powder to cool your skin.
Take care of your razor
After you apply talcum powder, it’s time to clean your razor. Rinse the razor under cold water for about 30 seconds, twisting it to remove any stray hairs or shaving cream. Then, dab the razor with a towel to dry it; do this carefully so that you don’t cut your hand. Finally, hang the razor over a towel rack or faucet for about 10 minutes to ensure that it dries completely. To avoid accidents, always fold your razor when it is done drying.
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