Six Tips To Not To Cut Your Face Up, Or: A N00b's Advice On Straight Razor Shaving

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 14.472% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

It’s been three weeks since I last drew blood with Floyd the straight razor, and as such I feel compelled to speak upon what I have learned.  The straight razor is good tool for shaving, but it’s also got some finicky bits I figured I’d go over.
Tip #1: Get a really good shaving cream. 
Oh, you can use thin soap, or even *gasp* just hot water, but a good rich later is like training wheels; it lets the blade slide over your skin easier, and any time it’s sliding over your skin it’s not cutting into it.
I myself use Jack Black Supreme cream, which I highly recommend, but the shaving cream that came with my kit was crap and the Burt’s Bees stuff I got at Walgreen’s slightly less crap.  Find something thick and gooey, and don’t skimp on the application.  My cutting went way down when I got a good lubricant.
Tip #2: If the grip feels uncomfortable, it’s not gonna work. 
The razor is a simple tool: one handle, one blade, one pivot.  And when you start out, you’ll see all sorts of potential grips to hold this deadly thing, each designed for someone to hit a different area of their face.  And you’ll emulate some of these, and they’ll feel wildly wrong to you.  Not just “uncomfortable,” for every time you bring a blade against your skin you’ll feel a bit odd, but wrong, as in your fingers feel like they’re about to slip.
Every one of those wildly wrong grips wound up carving me up like a turkey.
Eventually, I settled for a grip that appears in no manual I’ve seen, but it feels comfortable for me.  The point is that the grips are the suggested starting points; you’ll evolve your own, soon enough, and the sooner the better.  Don’t try to emulate others, find your own method.
Tip #3: Only shave with the grain the first few weeks.  Then shave against. 
When you start out, shaving down your cheeks is easy; you’re not levering the blade under the hairs, thus potentially sawing down and cutting yourself.  And then you go upwards, shaving at a more awkward angle, one where any looseness of the skin will kill you, and whoops – cuts.
My advice is to only shave with the grain, until you get a sense of how to cut easy hair.  Then, once you’ve mastered that, move on to against the grain, which will involve more cutting, but you’ll at least have less cutting because you know the basics.
Tip #4: Know Thy Face.
Eventually, you’re going to realize that your face has its own hollows and bumps, treacherous areas and easy passes.  That’s why you pay attention while you’re shaving – to try to figure out what areas you really need to pay attention to. For example, weirdly enough, I have never once cut myself on the underside of my throat above my Adam’s apple – you’d think I would, but the skin is taut and forgiving.
My pudgy cheeks, however? The doughy skin there attracts cuts like mosquitoes.
Your end goal will be to make two or three passes over your face, and to do that you’ll need to recognize that not all facial areas are equal.  Some will hurt you if you’re not paying attention.  So make a mental map of your visage, and start seeing where the issues are.  It’s a weird thing, but oddly pleasant once you start; it’s getting in touch with your own body, finding strange surprises in something you thought you knew all too well.
Tip #5: If you’re unsure, either stop or keep going. 
All of my cuts come from hesitation.  The goal is to sweep smoothly across the skin.  And if you hit a point where you’re not sure whether you should keep going, you need to do one of two things:
a) Stop.
b)  Keep going like you were.
However, most novices seem to go with c), slow way down, which is your worst option.  When you slow down, your hand starts to tremble a bit, you often unconsciously pull away a little, and then the skin slackens and the edge bites into flesh.  It took me a while to realize that shaving is, in fact, about confidence – when you’re not sure, either pull the blade away completely, relather, and go at it again, or confidently move forward as if you know what you’re doing.
Strangely, as in life, that usually works out.
Tip #6: Lather up a balloon.  Shave it.  When you can scrape all of the lather off the balloon without popping it, you can shave a face.
…okay, I’ve never done that.  But that’s how they taught my barber in barbers’ college.  Isn’t that cool?  I mean, Gini would have killed me, spattering lather all over the walls and filling the house with sporadic explosions, but I think it’s fucking awesome and at least one of you should do it.  And YouTube it.  YouTube it copiously.


  1. WA_side
    Apr 3, 2013

    … and then post a link to those youtube videos here.


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