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Straight razor shaving

Before you start

This article assumes all pre-shave steps have been taken and the razor is stropped and shave-ready. Also, that you know how to hold the razor, and the importance of the blade angle. Finally, that you know how to create good lather.

The actual "shaving" part of using a straight razor is actually not very difficult, and pretty straight forward. Here, I am going to take you through a very basic straight razor shave, with, and across the grain. When first mastering your straight razor, I recommend not shaving against the grain, as the razor will provide a LOT more feedback than you may be used to, and if not confident in the strokes on your face against the grain, or in your abilities the razor may "hop" around on your face a bit and cut/irritate you. Shaving against the grain is nothing difficult if you have a sharp enough razor, but for the first few shaves, I would suggest keeping it simple.

Make sure that your razor is "shave ready". A brand new razor out of the box is *not* shave ready. A person, like a Honemeister, would need to sharpen your razor before the first usage.

NOTE: After every few strokes you take, cutting hair off of your face, wash the lather off of the blade as it can become cumbersome. How often you have to rinse will depend on how often you change directions shaving (to change directions, you flip the blade, so shaving and accumulating lather on the blade will accumulate the lather on the outer half of the blade which will actually become the inner half of the blade when you flip the razor and switch sides, and ideally you don't want stubble filled lather all over your face) the size of the razor, the richness/body of the lather etc. Some fellas are comfortable shaving with a TON of lather on their blade; others wash it off every few seconds. There is no right or wrong. Do what you are comfortable with.

The Shave

First Pass (WTG)

Starting near your sideburn, use one hand to pull the skin on your face upwards so the skin is taut, and with your other hand slide the razor in small strokes from the edge of your sideburn, all the way down your cheek. Take note of the angle used in the pictures below. This is done for both sides of your face (right hand holding the razor on the right side of your face, left hand holding the razor on the left side of your face).

You can start at the sideburn area, then move to the area in front of it, or you can start just in front of your sideburn area as shown below.

With one hand, pull then skin of your neck taut and with the other shave your neck downwards or diagonally. Note, in the first picture below, it looks like I have already started to shave a little bit under the cheek. This is actually not the case. Since I had been pulling my skin taut, that portion of my skin was actually up near my cheek bone. This is a tricky area for some, as they do not pull the skin taut enough and have troubles getting a good shave around the jawline.

For your upper lip/moustache area, open your mouth, and use the muscles in your upper lip to further pull your upper lip downwards, thus getting the skin as taut as possible. Then simply shave this area downwards. Since it is such a small area, this can be accomplished quickly/easily in 2-3 strokes.

For many, the chin is the most difficult part of the face to shave, as for many, this is where the toughest hair on your face grows, and with a straight razor, you have to roll the shank of the razor in your hand gradually as you go around the chin, to your neck in order to keep the proper angle. To get the skin taut in this area, curl your lower lip over your teeth into your mouth and push your chin/jaw out, while simultaneously pulling the skin of your neck taut with your free hand. Before shaving, practice these weird facial contortions, feel the area before the contortion, then try to replicate what was described. If you are doing it correctly you should be able to feel your beard growth MUCH better. The better you can feel your beard growth based on the weird facial contortions you make, and stretching your skin, the better the razor will as well, which will result in a smoother/closer shave.

Do the above steps, making sure to use the same principles on both sides of the face. The only real difference will be the hand holding the razor.

Now that your face is shaven, wash your face with warm water and re-apply lather to your face with your shaving brush in the manner previously described.

Shaving across the grain (XTG)

NOTE: This is for the right side of your face, to shave the left side of your face, simply follow the instructions, keeping in mind you will be using the opposite hand to hold the razor with, and pull the skin taut.

While moving your lips/nose (almost in a kissing face) as far as you can to the left simultaneously pull the skin on your neck taut with your free (left) hand to get the skin on your cheek area as taught as possible in the direction you aim to have in. Use small strokes to shave across the grain on your cheek, but shave only ½ of the cheek.

Once you've shaved ½ of your check in this manner, use your free (left) hand to pull the area you had just shaved taut, so you are able to shave the remaining portion of your cheek, and part of your neck across the grain with your skin being pulled taut in the most aggressive/effective manner.

Notice how my left hand is really pulling the skin on my face taut.

Now, pull the skin taut further across the cheek, about ½ way across your cheek and shave the jawline area, as well as the corner of your neck (the corner of the neck, or the "jowels" are a problem spot for many, and as a result - pulling the skin up from the top of the cheek, and shaving this area is more effective than pulling the skin taut from the bottom/neck and shaving the area).

Pull the skin on your neck taut with your free hand, and shave in a slight diagonal manner the remaining portion left under that side of the neck.

the only area left on this side of your face that should have lather on it, is ½ of your chin. To shave this area across the grain, change which hand you are holding the razor (to the left hand) and with your right hand, pull the skin in that area taut. Then, simply shave across the grain and across your chin.

Repeat the same process as detailed above for the left side of your face, keeping in mind you will be using the opposite hand as above both to hold the razor with, and pull the skin taut with.

Special tip: Often, it can be hard for beginners to tell if their razor is cutting, and cutting well. Sometimes, it can be tricky to tell if the razor is cutting evenly as well (the razor could have been improperly honed and dull in one area) to check and see how well, if at all the razor is cutting, feeling ones face in the middle of a shave is difficult and messy, and what's more, it can be difficult to notice one area not being cut as effectively as another merely by touch. A neat, quick and easy way to find out how well your razor is cutting, and in different parts of the blade is to very lightly wipe some of the lather off of the blade in whatever spot you think might not be cutting well, or in any spot (if you don't think you have the right angle, and it's not cutting well) after you have taken a few strokes on your face and accumulated lather. What you'll see on your finger is how much (if any) hair is being cut off of your face. This can also be helpful when honing, or when you run into problematic blades.

Rinsing off the Blade

Wash off all of the lather from the blade with running water, then VERY carefully wipe ALL of the water off of the blade with a towel/cloth as shown below. Do not touch the cutting edge with the cloth directly - instead to make sure the edge is dry, do a very light stropping motion (on both sides of the razor) on the towel in a dry area of the towel.

Light stropping motion on the towel...

Now rinse your face off with cold water and apply an aftershave if require or desired. That's it! You've done it! Your first straight razor shave!

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