How to use a safety razor

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Safety razors are the founding fathers of shaving. Before Gilette swept men off their feet with a disposable razor that didn’t need sharpening, the safety razor was the top dog. However, in the last few years, safety razors have made a comeback. People have discovered that safety razors are cheaper, better for the environment, and they give you a closer shave. 

The ‘safety’ in safety razor refers to a curved guard or plate that sits between the blade and the skin so only the edge of the blade is exposed. They all follow a T-shaped design and are typically made of stainless steel or titanium to prevent rusting. 

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Gilette's razors

The first double-edged safety razor came to be during the late 19th century when King Camp Gilette (the name seems familiar, right?) got sick of sharpening his straight razor every time he wanted to shave. He sought to create a razor that could be used, thrown away and bought again. This allowed men to get a clean shave without sharpening their blades or having to fork out money at the barber. By 1926, Gilette razors became a standard issue for U.S. soldiers in World War I.

What's the difference between a cartridge razor and a safety razor?

Most people use either the safety razor or the cartridge razor. 

Cartridge razors are a relatively new invention. When they were released in the 70s, they were hailed as a more modern way of shaving. The only real difference between a safety razor and a cartridge razor is the blade. A safety razor uses one double-edged blade, while a cartridge razor uses multiple blades stacked on top of one another.

Are safety razors safe?

There’s a misconception that safety razors are more dangerous than cartridge razors. 

When starting to use a safety razor, you might experience a short learning curve, especially if you’ve learnt to shave using a cartridge razor. Safety razors are much sharper than cartridge razors, hence their need for a guard. They don’t come with lubricating strips or a pivoting head like the cartridge razor, and it can be hard to navigate around the contour of your face and nose without it. That being said, safety razors give you more control and will leave you with fewer ingrown hairs, bumps, rashes, and nicks. 

However, like any razor, if you use it incorrectly or fail to properly prepare, you could be left with cuts and irritation. 

Choosing the right razor

There are a few factors to take into account when thinking about what razor is best for your needs. As a beginner, you’ll want a non-aggressive razor. The wider the gap between the bottom and the top of the razor head, the more exposed the blade is. An exposed blade leads to a sharper (or more aggressive) razor. 

Some types of razor heads will have exposed blades, while others won’t:

  • Straight bar head: has a flat and straight safety bar that leaves the least of the blade exposed. These heads catch less hair so you may need to take a few passes. A solid option for most people.
  • Slant head: a straight safety bar with a blade that slices at an angle. Ideal for those with coarse hair.
  • Scalloped head: has a bevelled bar surface that exposes a small part of the blade. Perfect for sensitive skin.
  • Closed comb head: has a safety bar that directs the hair into the razor. Best for coarse hair or those with sensitive skin.
  • Open comb head: guides the hair into a fully exposed blade. Should only be used on long or dense hair.

How to use a safety razor

Once you’ve got your razor of choice, it’s time to take to the skin. 

  1. Prepare. Prioritising skin prep is important, as it’ll soften your hair follicles and reduce redness. Wash and exfoliate your skin to release any dead skin cells and unclog your pores. Apply an ample amount of shaving cream or a gentle face cleaner.  
  2. Go light. Don’t use the same amount of pressure as you would with a cartridge razor. Safety razor blades are much sharper, so they don’t require the same effort or force to slice through hair. Hold the razor at a 30 to 45-degree angle with your thumb and the tips of your fingers, and use gentle pressure to keep the head of the razor against the skin. 
  3. Shave with the grain. This is where shaving with an oil or a clear gel can help. You’ll want to shave in the direction your hair grows, otherwise you could be left with razor burn and ingrown hairs. 
  4. Use straight, short strokes. Use short gentle strokes with limited pressure to avoid any nicks or cuts. Do a single stroke over a patch of hair, then do the same with the patch below it.
  5. Rinse with cold water and apply an aftershave cream or balm. This will prevent any infection or redness.

Shaving tips

  • Relax and take your time. Don’t rush, or you could be left with cuts or redness.
  • Don’t shave irritated or broken skin. 
  • Make sure your blade is sharp. Have you ever heard the saying ‘a dull knife is worse than a sharp knife’? The same can be said about razor blades. Dull blades can tug at your skin, create nicks or cuts, and harbour rust and harmful bacteria. 
  • Dry skin and irritation are common after shaving, so be sure to apply a moisturiser.

Final word

Shaving with a safety razor might seem scary, but it's quite straightforward. They’re cheaper in the long run, better for the environment, and leave you with a closer shave. Make sure you adequately prepare and use limited pressure and gentle strokes to prevent nicks or cuts. Finish it off with some aftershave and you’re good to go!

Hannah Geremia
Written by
Hannah Geremia
Hannah has had over six years of experience in researching, writing, and editing quality content. She loves gaming, dancing, and animals, and can usually be found under a weighted blanket with a cup of coffee and a book.

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