You’ve probably found countless websites and articles, or even people you know, that have touted the benefits of switching to an old-school DE razor. And they’d be right. Shaving with a single blade is undoubtedly gentler on the skin and will result in a far more comfortable finish.
But, despite being enthusiastic for your first shave, you might come away disappointed with the result.
Unlike a modern cartridge, using a double-edge razor isn’t as simple as running it down your face. It takes a few shaves to get the hang of the technique required and you’re likely to have some less than stellar shaves to begin with. But persevere through the initial training period and you’ll quickly get the hang of it.
We’ve found that over 90% of subscribers that stick with the razor until they’ve got the hang of it say they’ll never go back to their old razor again.
To help speed up that process, we’ve put together the 4 most common mistakes when just starting out so you can identify where you might be going wrong.
1. Applying too much pressure.
If you’re used to modern cartridge razors you’ll know that they’re made up of multiple blades housed in a plastic cage. This cartridge prevents the blades from sticking out so you can have an easy quick shave without having to think about it.
The problem with this is it has to sit on a perfectly flat piece of skin to be effective, which is fine for the cheeks but everywhere else you will probably find it inefficient. Everyone has experienced that frustrating feeling of shaving over an area and finding half of the hairs weren’t cut. You’ll find yourself pressing harder to get at the missed areas and this is where the most common bad habit of wet shavers starts.
When you make the switch to a DE razor, out of habit, the tendency is to press it against your face to make sure you don’t miss anything. But DE razors have their blade a lot more exposed than a cartridge razor does, giving you more control over the angle. This means you don’t need to press it against your face at all, all that does is increase the potential to cause irritation as you place more stress on the skin you’re shaving.
Assuming you’ve properly prepped your beard, the razor should practically fall through the hairs so there is no need to put any more pressure than the weight of the razor alone.
To put this into practice, imagine holding the razor next to your face and then just let it rest against your cheek. That is all the pressure that is required. Focus on this during your first shaves and train your arm to get into the habit of letting the razor do the work.
If you’ve just started learning to use a double-edge safety razor and you’re having trouble with irritation, this is the number one aspect of your technique you need to focus on.
2. Taking long, quick shaving passes.
Another bad habit that modern cartridges have taught us is to rush through our shaves and take long sweeping passes of the razor.
How has it taught us this? By being a boring chore that people want to get done as fast as possible.
But this is the easiest way to cut yourself and leave the skin sore and irritated.
Just as with cartridge razors, DE razors can get clogged with debris such as too much hair which then makes it difficult to shave efficiently. This causes the blade to “skip” when taking long passes and can result in nicking yourself. If you find your number one problem after trying out this style of razor is cuts, then this is the habit you need to get out of.
Taking shorter passes and regularly rinsing the blade ensures that the blade maintains a consistent angle for each stretch of beard shaved, and results in a closer shave, far fewer hairs missed, and way less irritation and chance to cut yourself.
But won’t that make the shave take a lot longer? Yes and no. For one, It’s recommended to take it slow whilst you’re learning to shave with a new style of razor anyway. Just accept that you’re learning a new technique that will benefit you for a lifetime.
But once you’ve got the knack you’ll find that shaving in this way isn’t as slow as it first seems. When using a DE razor you rarely have to go over the same spot due to missed hairs making for a far more efficient shave.
So practice short, slow passes for best results.
3. Shaving against the grain.
A lot of people get irritation when first learning this style of shaving because they don’t shave in the direction that will be most comfortable. Understandably this can sometimes be because their first shave with a DE razor doesn’t come up as smooth as they were expecting.
This is normal.
When you’re first starting out, your technique will be a little rough and you probably won’t end up with a shave that’s as smooth as a baby’s bottom. This is fine, just accept that your first few shaves won’t be perfect and that it’s better to leave the bathroom with a face that feels comfortable but isn’t quite as close as you’d like than have it red and sore.
Consider shaving against the grain completely off the table whilst learning.
If you want a really smooth finish you need to attack the hairs from multiple angles, getting it closer each time. The first pass of your razor should always be in the same direction that your hair grows in because it causes the least amount of tugging. After this you can then shave across the hairs (not against). If there’s still any roughness you can then shave across from the other side. Now is the best time to then shave against the grain but, to be honest, once you’ve got the hang of it, you’ll probably be able to get such close shaves without going against the grain that you won’t feel the need to add that extra pass.
Most wet shavers find a 2-pass shave does a good job of being sufficiently smooth whilst being very comfortable.
4. Not enough prep
If you find that your most common complaint when shaving is the feeling of the razor tugging at your hairs, it’s easy to blame the blade and assume it’s not sharp enough.
“I have a beard so thick you could use it to light a match!”
Whether or not you have a thick beard, rather than blaming the blade, it’s far more likely that you haven’t sufficiently prepped your facial hairs for a comfortable shave.
Just splashing your face with water pre-shave will never be anywhere near as comfortable as after you’ve had a shower or soaked your face under a hot towel. This is because a hair that is fully saturated with water will be a lot easier to cut through than a hair that isn’t. This means less uncomfortable tugging and irritation.
We recommend you always coincide your shave with your daily shower to get the most comfortable shave possible. And bear in mind that it takes a full 3 minutes of soaking your hairs to reach their softest.
In Summary: If your first few shaves have left you discouraged, don't be! It will take a little bit of time to reset your muscle memory and learn the correct technique. But focus on the above points and it's practically guaranteed you’ll master your new morning ritual in no time.