From Captain America’s glorious full beard in Infinity War to Doctor Strange’s elegant goatee, Hollywood’s been throwing all sorts of beard styles into its cinematic brew. You can also rock those styles when you learn to trim your beard with straight razors.
Here's a complete guide on straight razor shaving and how to use a straight razor for trimming beards:
- A Beard Grows a Man
- When Can You Trim Your Beard?
- Deciding on a Beard Style
- Straight Razor Basics
- How to Trim Your Beard with a Straight Razor
- Benefits of Using a Straight Razor for Trimming Beards
- Word to the Wise
A Beard Grows a Man
Growing a beard seems unnecessary for those who have grown used to shaving. After all, not everyone can have a thick and full beard, and instead, patchy and wispy beards are more common.
However, growing a beard is not a waste of time and effort. There’s a lot of research in the market showing that beards can help benefit your professional and personal lives.
Here are a few of them:
In 1990, a study examined the influence of facial hair on employers' perception of job applicants.1 Interestingly, it showed that those with facial hair consistently ranked more positively in social/physical attractiveness, personality, and competency perceptions.
Women are more attracted to men with facial hair. A 2013 study revealed that having some form of facial stubble is a turn-on for women (which is fantastic news for Friday nights at the dating pool) while having a fuller beard indicates someone with a good fathering ability and more investment in offspring.2
There are also some health benefits to having a beard. A beard, particularly a full one, serves as a natural filter against bacteria and UV rays.3 It will ward off throat disease and bacterial infection and give you a smoother and wrinkle-free facial skin.4
With all these benefits, growing a beard is undoubtedly worth trying.
When Can You Trim Your Beard?
Growing a beard is not just a simple matter, though. You can’t just let it grow and hope for the best. Like a plant, you gotta nurture it by feeding it nourishment and trimming it with the right tools.
Yeah, we know it’s a lot of work, but if one wants to get the benefits, one must put in the work.
If this is the first time you’re growing your beard, we recommend waiting until the third week to trim it and refrain from shaving daily, obviously.
That’s because we need to have at least some facial hair to start trimming with. Facial hair grows .5 mm per day;5 in three weeks, we’ll have enough stubble to create the most basic beard dos—the short box beard.
Deciding on a Beard Style
Before trimming, though, you need to have a game plan. You should have one the moment you decide to go get yourself a beard.
Not every beard style can fit on just about anyone’s face. You can’t rock a full beard if you’re of Asian descent, and your genes can’t grow a lush and thick beard. Neither can you work a Robert Downey Jr. beard if you don’t have a narrow chin like him.
Knowing what style you want beforehand will save you a lot of grief during execution.
The Short Boxed Beard
This is what we like to call the workplace beard. The short boxed beard is a neat classic beard style that complements a variety of haircuts, with a neat finish that goes well into conservative office settings. Boxed beards are closely cropped and sculpted and use the face’s natural hairlines for contours.
Bespoke Unit recommends this style because while it requires frequent trimming,8 it’s easy enough to do with minimal skill. Perfect for the newbies.
The Natural Full Beard
This style is when you want to go full out with your beard. A natural full beard lets the hair on your upper lip, cheeks, sideburns, chin, and mouth grow thick and lush. Having all that hair will give you a lot of stuff to work on, so a full natural beard can be a stepping stone for other extravagant full beard styles.
Bespoke Unit defines this style as any month-old beard.9 A real full beard though would consist of at least three months of growth. A natural full beard style is also the most compliant with workplace regulations, so hold off on the extravagant styles if you don’t want to get the side-eye.
Now that you’ve decided on what beard style to aim for, the next thing to do is to pick up your blade of choice. The most common advice you will hear out there is to go and get a nice pair of scissors and an electric trimmer to do the job.
Straight Razor Basics
It’s a reasonable recommendation that beard trimmers, clippers, and scissors are more convenient and easy to use for beginners than, let’s say a straight razor. But, hear this, people: it’s not going to get the job done.
That’s because these tools aren’t precise enough to give the correct trim in certain parts of your face. When trimming lines on your beard, you need to define the line by shaving it closely. And believe us, dude, a beard trimmer won’t give you the same close shave.
What you need, therefore, is the best alternative to disposable razors, a straight razor. Many people think that it’s only suitable for shaving, but it is also surprisingly good for trimming.
The most important part of wet shaving with a straight razor is learning how a straight razor works. If you do not familiarize yourself with its parts, using your razor for precision tasks, like trimming, can be intimidating and challenging.
The 13 parts of a straight razor are:
- Pivot pin - connecting peg between the scales and the razor blade
- Scales - official term for a straight razor handle
- Tang - other end of the blade for balancing or stabilizing the finger
- Shank - binding metal section between the blade and the pivot pin
- Jimps - ridges or “fluting” under the shank assisting better grip on the underside of the shank
- Shoulder - end of a straight razor blade or the section between the shank and spine
- Spine - top side of the blade
- Point - straight razor blade’s profile or flat end
- Face - blade’s side surface that can be customized with logos, initials, and other decorations
- Toe - endpoint of the blade’s cutting edge
- Edge - straight razor blade’s cutting edge or sharp cut-throat surface
- Heel - area under the shoulder, connecting the heel and shank, aiming to protect the thumb
- Stabilizer - embossed area between the shoulder and heel
You can read more about their specific functions and roles in this extensive guide.
Your grip is another key factor that will define your shave. After all, not knowing the proper way of holding a straight razor can lead to uneven strokes, post-shave skin irritations, ingrown hairs, and bloody accidents like nicks and cuts.10
The best way to hold a straight razor is to use the basic grip. Here’s how:
- Use your dominant hand or the hand you feel most comfortable shaving with when using a straight razor to avoid slipping.
- Place the shank or the straight razor’s handle between your index and middle finger.
- Pinch the scale with your index finger and thumb.
- Curl your ring finger over the tang to keep the pivot pin from moving.
- Rest the tip of your pinky on the underside of the tang for more support.
Once you get the basics down, you can advance your shaving technique by following this guide on holding straight razors.
Blade Points and Grinds
The shape of the blade’s tip and cutting edge defines the precision of a straight razor. Having an edge that can neatly contour the beard is the key to perfect styling and trimming facial hair.
Here are the different blade points and grinds:
The best type of blade point for defining a beard style is where the tips are protruding, like the Spike, French, Spanish, and Barber’s Point. The jutted edge is ideal for taming the hair around narrow areas, like the nose, sideburns, chin, and philtrum.
Meanwhile, if you are trimming coarse and thicker beard growth, using thicker blade grinds11 like a wedge to a half-hollow is best way to go. The width of the blade’s edge profile eases its way through cutting the facial hair without wearing the blade too much.
Knowing the basics of a straight razor will allow you to maneuver different angles as you sculpt your beard. It also allows you to do more passes than necessary to achieve your desired result and precisely define the trim lines for a sharp-looking beard.
How to Trim Your Beard with a Straight Razor
Styling your beard using a straight razor is almost similar to shaving your beard using a straight razor. It entails the same grip and holds while using a different technique that requires extra precision.
To get the best results, straight razor users already know that you need to prepare your skin and facial hair—the very essence of wet shaving.
On that note, here’s a step by step guide on how to trim a beard with straight razors:
Prep your beard by softening the facial hair and opening the skin pores.
Take a warm shower before styling your beard or put a moist hot towel on your face for a minute or so. Doing this reduces the chances of getting a skin irritation or a razor burn when you start trimming.
If you’ve got some pre-shave oil on hand, you can make your facial hair and skin more lubricated. We have an excellent, easy recipe if you’d like to try making one yourself.
Also, it would be best to start stropping your straight razor while waiting for the oil and steam to work their magic. A freshly-stropped blade is guaranteed to look sharp for a closer shave.
Create the hot lather by whipping a shaving cream or shaving soap on a scuttle using a shaving brush.
You can use a shaving cream or a puck of shaving soap to make your shaving lather. Here at Naked Armor, and for wet shaving traditionalists, the best way to create a lather is by using an all-natural, organic, and cold-pressed soap, like our Noah’s Organic Shaving Soap, which has lots of glycerin and fat for skin nutrition and hydration.
To create a lather, prepare warm water and put it in the bottom chamber of your scuttle. Then, put the puck of soap on the upper chamber with a few drops of water on its surface. Use your shaving brush to break the soap and whip it up into a lather using circular motions.
Using a shave soap is more cost-efficient to use. A puck of shaving soap is hard and concentrated enough to last longer than shaving cream.
Start mapping the beard to visualize the shape or style you want to achieve.
Before trimming, you need to see the beard shape you’re aiming for. With all that lather on your face, you won’t see it clearly, so we recommend outlining it with your fingers.
Whether you choose the short boxed or the full beard style, you need to map it out in the lather like a chalkboard to have a guide to follow when beginning to trim.12
Use your fingernail to draw the lines of the required beard area on your cheeks and neck. To find the appropriate neckline to shave, draw the line from the edge of your jaw down to just about your Adam’s apple.
Slowly remove hair on the cheeks, and contour the cheek and jaw lines, to get a short boxed beard style.
To shape or trim your beard for a boxed beard style, begin removing hair gradually on each side to avoid taking off too much beard. Reduce the height of the cheek lines but leave your sideburns wide and intact.
Once you’ve decided on the desired height, use the razor to define the sloping contours from the sideburns to the cheek lines. Shave off any hair growth around your Adam’s apple.
Now focus your attention below your jaw. Carefully shave an oval contour 1 to 1.5 inches below your jawline. After defining it, shave off any remaining hair around the neck.
Finish with trimming the mustache and soul patch to give a clean and sharp look.13
Bevel the edge of your straight razor at the beard and create a rounded clean finish to get a natural full beard style.
Unlike the short boxed, the full natural beard only requires minimal styling. Just work on the sideburns by slightly trimming them to provide a fade between the hair and beard.
You don’t need to worry about your mustache since it will blend into the rest of the beard.
You need to make sure to let the cheeks, jaw, and chin grow to about 2 inches below the chin. Brush it down and then trim it to form a rounded and clean finish.
Apply an aftershave to disinfect open microabrasions and close the pores.
Once you’ve finished trimming, wash the lather residue off your skin with cold water to close the pores. Then, pat it dry with a clean towel.
Always apply an aftershave once you’ve dried your face. It has moisturizing properties for the skin that will also kill off any remaining skin bacteria, which will reduce any incidence of acne break-outs.
You can either use an aftershave splash, balm, or lotion. Check out our guide on the differences between these aftershave products to know which is the most suitable for your skin’s needs. However, it would be best to use products with natural astringents and organic essential oils, like our Naked Armor’s aftershave collections, for better results.
Bring back nourishment to your beard using beard oil and balms for styling.
Once your skin is soaked in the aftershave products, it is time to treat your beard. After all the water exposure from the lather, your facial hair may be dehydrated. Hence, bring back its shine and nurture its natural oils by applying a thin layer of beard oil and using a beard balm to style it afterward. Proceed to cleaning your straight razor afterwards.
Benefits of Using a Straight Razor for Trimming Beards
Straight razors are the creme de la creme of hair grooming tools for men. No matter how technological advances create a more upgraded design for razors, a traditional single-edge razor is still the best and most classic choice.
Aside from its historical and vintage appeal, using a straight razor offers many benefits for every shaver, which you can read about here.
In beard trimming, using a straight razor is beneficial because:
- Its straight edge can quickly and effortlessly define your beard line.
- The blade is made from the best steel, such as stainless steel, carbon steel (like Dovo), and Damascus steel.
- Straight razors’ resilience, durability, and hardness are incomparable to others from disposable shaving tools like a shavette, cartridge razors, plastic razors, and safety razors, all of which use mostly double-edged blades (DE blades) or disposable blades that you need to replace often.
- The blade’s length can cater to larger areas, with the points giving aid for precision.
- It lets you experience a barber’s shave at home.
However, functionality and efficiency aside, using a straight razor, in general, is a better choice. Since it is made of premium and long-lasting materials, you can guarantee that it will last for generations, replacing billions of plastic razors worldwide.
The Best Straight Razor for Trimming Beard
To guarantee the real worth of the benefits of trimming a beard with a straight razor, it is vital to be careful in choosing your single-edge blade. An excellent straight razor features a 61 to 62 HRC blade made from premium steel and is perfectly balanced with a natural wooden handle, like our Thor Straight Razor.
Word to the Wise
Don’t expect an instant perfect result if you’re doing this on your first try. Like all things, practice makes perfect. You certainly might not get an Avenger-worthy beard on your first round of beard grooming, but we assure you, you’ll get the hang of it the more you spend time trimming them lucky beards.
Or you can always have your first trim at your friendly neighborhood barbershop. They’ll do it the right way, quickly following the contours when you trim them. Later on, you can invest in a complete yet affordable beard grooming kit and straight razor from Naked Armor. Happy Beard Grooming!
Other Essential Beard Grooming Stuff to Read
- Reed, J. A., & Blunk, E. M. (1990). The influence of facial hair on impression formation. Social Behavior and Personality: An international journal, 18(1), 169-176.
- Nicholson, J., Do Women Prefer Men With Beards? Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-attraction-doctor/201607/do-women-prefer-men-beards. July 31, 2016
- Chavez, H., It’s Not Just Cooler, But Also Healthier: 10 Reasons Why Men Should Grow Beards. Lifehack.org. https://www.lifehack.org/299301/its-not-just-cooler-but-also-healthier-10-reasons-why-men-should-grow-beards
- Carlin,D., 8 Benefits To Having A Beard, HuffPost Life. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/why-grow-a-beard-here-are-8-reasons_n_55e726e1e4b0b7a9633b2b82. May 13, 2016
- Beard Growth Rate. PolarTREC. https://www.polartrec.com/forum/icecube-in-ice-antarctic-telescope/beard-growth-rate.
- Facial Hair Styles: The Short Boxed Beard. Gillette. https://gillette.com/en-us/shaving-tips/facial-hair-styles/short-boxed-beard
- Singh, M., 27 Best Beard Styles For Men. Mensxp. https://www.mensxp.com/grooming/beards-and-shaving/77528-classic-beard-styles-for-every-face-shape.html#The_Natural_Beard
- Short Boxed Beard Styles: How To Grow, Style & Trim For Your Face Shape. Bespoke Unit. https://bespokeunit.com/grooming/beards/boxed/
- How To Grow & Trim A Perfect Full Beard: Styles & Face Shapes. Bespoke Unit. https://bespokeunit.com/grooming/beards/full/
- How To Reduce Skin Irritation After Shaving. Philips. https://www.philips.com.au/c-e/mens-grooming-tips/shaving/how-to-reduce-skin-irritation-after-shaving
- What is the best straight for a coarse/thick beard? Badger & Blade. https://www.badgerandblade.com/forum/threads/what-is-the-best-straight-for-a-coarse-thick-beard.380830/
- Lecklitner, I., A Cheeky Guide for Trimming Your Beard’s Cheek Line. Dollar Shave Club. https://www.dollarshaveclub.com/content/story/cheeky-guide-trimming-beards-cheek-line
- Soul Patch. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soul_patch