For some, watching our dads load a thick lather of foam on their faces for shaving is one of the fondest memories we cherish. As a kid, it looks fun as you observe and help your dad create his shaving foam, wherein you could not wait for when the time to come for you to make your own. But as an adult, we know that your expectations did not quite come close to your reality.
Wet shaving with a straight razor is not an easy feat. That is probably why people often revert to using disposable cartridge razors or other more convenient alternatives, entirely staying away from the straights. Although straight razor shaving can be intimidating, it can be a fun and relaxing hobby once you get the hang of it.
Let us help you learn how to wet shave properly with a straight razor. All you have to do is follow these guidelines:
- What is Wet Shaving?
- What is a Straight Razor?
- Wet Shaving with a Straight Razor
- The Best Products for Wet Shaving
- Why Should You Try Wet Shaving with a Straight Razor?
What is Wet Shaving?
There are different ways to shave, but the most popular is shaving on wet skin or wet shaving. The process requires you to wash your face, prep your beard and skin, and then apply a lather of shaving foam, either from shaving soaps, gels, creams, or from a canned aerosol container, and start shaving.
What is a Straight Razor?
You can wet shave with any razor you like, from disposable plastic ones, heavy-duty safety razors, or a trusty shavette一whatever you like. But if you genuinely want a close shave, nothing beats wet shaving with a straight razor. It is a much smoother and comfortable shaving experience. It reduces the risk of ingrown hair and is cost-effective.
Straight razors may sound indifferent to you since the most readily available razors on the market are usually disposable razors, cartridge razors, and safety razors. But, straight razors are one of the most traditional grooming tools, dating back to Ancient Egyptian civilization.
If you have no idea what a straight razor may look like, it technically is a razor with a straight cutting edge and a blade that can fold back into its handle. Straight razors are often made from high-quality steel with at least 61-65 HRC or steel hardness, making them ideal lifelong grooming tools.
Unlike the typical razors, straight razors may be harder to maintain. Of course, they do not come with replaceable blades. So, if you want to have a sharp edge all the time before shaving, you will need to learn how to strop and hone a straight razor. Aside from that, nothing else would make a straight razor not ideal for wet shaving.
Wet Shaving With A Straight Razor
Most first-time wet shavers go through shaving without anyone guiding them. That is why it is easy to make mistakes that result in getting a poor shave. There's no need to put your skin in a damaging trial-and-error process. Simply follow these steps on how to wet shave, and you will be wet shaving with a straight razor like a pro in no time.
What You'll Need:
- Straight razor
- Leather strop
- Shaving soap
- Shaving scuttle or mug
- Shaving brush
- Aftershave balm
STEP 1: Wet Your Beard Properly
The best way to wet your beard is to take a hot shower or drape a warm, moist towel over your face for five minutes. The heat and moisture will open the hair follicles and soften the hair cuticle so that you can easily shave the hair off of its roots.
After soaking your hair in warm water, the next step would be to apply a pre-shave oil. These are usually a mix of essential and carrier oils, specifically picked for their benefits regarding shaving. Using pre-shave oil will further the nourishment your skin gets, resulting in a more comfortable shaving process.
Having a well-moisturized beard will lessen your painful shaving experience since it will be less likely to tug the hair. It also reduces your chances of getting razor burn, which happens when your skin becomes irritated after shaving.
STEP 2: Strop Your Straight Razor
As you wait for your pre-shave oil to seep into your hair follicles and skin, the best next thing to do is to strop your straight razor to ensure that it is sharp enough for shaving.
Stropping is a crucial step you need to incorporate when you are wet shaving with a straight razor. It realigns the microabrasions on your blade from your last shave. This process guarantees that your razor will be as if it is as good as new every use.
Here is a quick guide from our How To Strop A Straight Razor article:
- Prepare to Strop
- Find a good leather strop—you can get a trusty strop, like Naked Armor's Blue Eel Razor Strop, made of elegant leather, thick blue canvas, and quality connectivity brass to ensure that you do not damage your blades.
- Remember to draw the blade away from the cutting edge so the razor does not dig into the leather.
- Always hold the razor at the same bevel angle consistently throughout the stropping process. Raising the angle or lowering it will affect the razor's edge in the wrong way, therefore destroying its edge.
- Stropping Process
- Hang the strop from a bathroom drawer by one of the hooks on the strip. Hold the handle at the strop's bottom in your left hand, and pull the strop tight. Hold the razor by its handle, and place it flat on the strop end farthest away.
- Draw the blade toward you, with the edge pointing away from you, and then rotate the razor to draw it away from you, with the edge pointing toward you. Keep the strokes slow and even.
- Count the number of strokes you make—start with 15 to 20. Suppose it is still not sharp, do not hesitate to continue to strop. You can see the effect of stropping by noticing the black marks of metal that have come off the blade onto the leather.
- Things to Remember:
- Ensure that you use a leather strop that is at least a foot long to avoid cutting yourself and damaging your blade. If the strop is too long, it is hard to control, and if it is too short, you have to keep repositioning the razor, which can lead to uneven sharpening.
- When using Naked Armor's leather strop, remember that you strop on the leather surface at the very top of the strop, not on the rough leather bottom. The blue part is for lightly cleaning the edge before you start to strop.
You can never perfect stropping on your first try. But remember that you will be doing this as often as you shave. So, if you are shaving every other day, you will be stropping every other day too. And the more you practice or use your strop, the better you will get at it. Hence, do not rush the process while you are still figuring it out.
STEP 3: Put on the Lather Lavishly
In creating a lather, it is better to use an organic shaving soap over gels, foams, or creams, as those products tend to have synthetic ingredients that may irritate your skin.
So the more lather you put on, the better it will be for your straight razor shaving experience. Always re-lather a spot before you make a pass over it again. Not only is shaving lather rich in glycerin, but it also contains natural essential oils that help nourish your skin. Re-lathering also lessens skin irritation by constantly exposing the skin to the nourishing effects of the essential oils in the lather.
Also, please avoid using a bath soap as it does not have enough glycerin to make the thick and velvety lather needed for shaving.
To lather up shaving soap using a shaving scuttle, here is what you have to do:
- Fill the inner chamber of your scuttle with hot water, preferably lukewarm water, with a temperature of 84℉ to 115℉.
- Seal the inner chamber with the cork to keep the heat in.
- Put your shaving soap puck in the bowl and add a few drops of water to loosen it up.
- Use your shaving brush to whisk in the shaving soap until you create a frothy and thick lather.
You can check out our How To Lather Shaving Soap for a more extensive step-by-step guide and know what ingredients to avoid when choosing the best shaving soap.
STEP 4: Map the Face into Six Areas
Now we come to the fun part. After applying lather liberally to the bottom half of your face, map out the surface into six areas, using your finger to trace the areas. You should have six areas: the right and left cheeks, the upper and lower chin, and the right and left lower jaw.
It should look like this:
Mapping an outline of your beard allows you to shave it off step by step. Wet shaving is never a race. One needs to take time to shave because, after all, a straight razor is very sharp, and it can easily cause a very bloody accident in careless hands.
STEP 5: Hold the Razor Properly
A straight razor has a highly intimidating cut-throat edge. Hence, you need to learn how to hold a razor properly. Whether you are a newbie or a professional wet shaver, one needs to learn how to use a straight razor well if you wish to avoid a bloody mess.
Shaving experts recommend that you hold the straight razor at 30 degrees. Anything higher, and the risks for cutting oneself will increase. Anything lower, and one might not be able to shave closely at all. We have a more in-depth tutorial teaching a beginner how to use a straight razor to perfect your straight razor holding technique.
Holding a straight razor requires practice; nobody gets it perfectly the first time around. So it is pretty normal to get some accidental cuts and nicks during your first try at wet shaving using a straight razor. Do not be frustrated and quit. Romans didn't build Rome in a day. The longer you continue using it, the better you will become at wielding it.
STEP 6: Shave it Area by Area
Pick a side to start with. If you are a rightie, you should be comfortable with starting on the right cheek. Begin with your left hand drawing the skin upward to create a smooth surface. Gently hold the straight razor in a firm grip and shave downward across half of the right cheek. Move your fingers down, then pull the skin upward and continue the shaving.
Once you finish your right cheek, tilt your head left and back to expose the skin under the right jaw. Keep the skin tight by pulling with your fingers and continue shaving based on your beard's grain (or the natural direction of the hair).
After that, do it again on the left side. Use your left hand to pull the skin and your right hand to shave. Then tilt your head to the right and back, and shave your lower left jaw.
The next thing to do is to work on your upper lip. Stretch your upper lip downward and slowly shave downward.
Continue to your lower chin by lifting the lower lip upward before shaving. Then you tilt your head back to elevate the skin. Draw the skin upward to make it tight and shave again.
Always remember to shave along the grain. This means shaving following the direction of hair growth.
A single pass is usually enough for newbies, but if you want to do it again to get a closer shave, do it the second time across the grain. Shaving across the grain simply means shaving from the side of your cheek towards your mouth and nose.
Remember to always rinse the blade after every pass. Not only is it hygienic, but it will also keep the lather residue off from the blade, which can lessen its razor sharpness.
STEP 7: Apply an Aftershave
After shaving, put on an aftershave. The aftershave helps seal the micro-abrasions in the skin caused by shaving. Since most aftershaves also contain natural oils with astringent properties, they can keep acne-causing bacteria off of your newly shaven face.
Again, similar to pre-shaving oils, it would be best to use an organic aftershave product. Here at Naked Armor, we have an Aftershave All-Purpose Balm With Hemp, made from 100% natural ingredients including more than ten essential and vitamin oils, perfect for cleansing, disinfecting, and moisturizing your skin after shaving.
The Best Products for Wet Shaving
The key to achieving the best results from wet shaving does not only rely on your technique. All will be worthless if your tools and shaving products do not work well for your hair and skin type.
Can you imagine shaving with a dull razor and applying shaving oils and aftershave products that are not suitable for your skin? It would result in a nightmare. Not only will you be more prone to cuts and nicks, but your skin will be irritated and damaged. Hence, you need to get great, high-quality straight razors and wet shaving products.
We have curated a shaving kit for everyone who wishes to try wet shaving with a straight razor, so you do not have trouble finding the best products for wet shaving. Here is what you can find inside our straight razor kits:
We designed our straight razors to be sharp and stay sharp with proper razor maintenance. Naked Armor Straight Razors use Japanese steel and stainless steel with a hardness 61-65 HRC—the perfect mixture of strength and precision! The blade’s facade and HRC rating will guarantee that it will not quickly erode, rust, and get damaged quickly.
The Blue Eel Strop is a beautiful, elegant leather with thick blue canvas and quality connectivity brass to straighten and polish the blade's edge and work off any burr left behind by sharpening stones—an essential to use every time before you shave. Hence, you should learn how to strop a straight razor.
You need to apply a compound on your strop as a final abrasive used in the sharpening process. The abrasive particles in this paste are microscopic and will polish an existing edge to a mirror finish. Yet, do not use it on a good quality strop. Only use a sharpening paste as needed.
Our Noah's Organic Shaving Soap is a handmade cold-pressed soap made with natural and organic ingredients. This soap will give you the best shaving experience and hydrate your skin.
There is also our signature badger-friendly Sandalwood Swan Shaving Brush, which features a durable wood and stainless steel accented handle, fixed with an adjustable base for maximum strength and disassembly ease. It also comes with brush hair made from Futura's technology, a type of synthetic fiber that can withstand extreme heat and outlast most animal hair.
Aside from that, you can look around our website to find whatever else you need for your wet shaving routine.
Why Should You Try Wet Shaving with a Straight Razor?
With so many available kinds of razors, why should you use a straight razor for wet shaving? Why not use its smaller counterpart, like a shavette, or a safer alternative like the safety and cartridge razors?
Well, it is simply because straight razors are the best tool to use to get a clean and close shave, bar none. A straight razor, when handled correctly, covers more area per stroke and reduces razor bumps. It also helps exfoliate the skin since the shaving motion also scrapes away dead skin cells. And most importantly, it is more ecological and budget-friendly.
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