Shaving With a Safety Razor – How to Get Started
Congratulations, you decided to refine your life and start shaving with a safety razor! Not quite there? Check out What is a Safety Razor or Why use a Safety Razor.
After deciding to make the switch you have just realized that there is a ton of information and many different sites all claiming to have the best way to shave with a safety razor. The good news is that although some of the information is different, most of them are all right.
What I mean is that there are so many good products out there, that as long as you stick with the general consensus, you will be at a good starting point. I am going to give you my opinion on what I think your next best steps are regarding a few different things:
- What type of safety razor is best for beginners?
- What type of razor blades are the best?
- Shaving cream or shaving soap?
- What type of brush is best to start?
- What should you use for an aftershave?
We will tackle these questions one at a time. This will be more of an overall summary to get you started, and not a comprehensive guide.
What Type of Safety Razor is Best for Beginners?
You Google safety razors and see there are many different types: Closed comb, open comb, adjustable, slant head, butterfly, 2 piece, 3 piece… whoa. Let’s break this down.
Butterfly, 2 piece and 3 piece are basically just how you would load the razor. This has no real bearing on being good for a beginner or not, it just determines how you will load the blade. Your first razor may end up being any one of these styles.
Closed comb means there is a decent guard to protect your skin from the blade, open comb exposes more of the blade for a more aggressive shave, adjustable lets you “throttle” the aggression, and slant head uses a unique twist of the blade to slice instead of chop (more aggressive).
All of this aside, closed comb safety razors are the best for beginners. My research has shown overwhelming support for the following two razors: The Edwin Jagger DE8x and the Merkur 34C HD. Do note that while these razors are great for beginners, they are not beginners razors. What I mean by that is these are great quality razors that you will find yourself using for the rest of your life.
What Type of Razor Blades are the Best?
This question here will be probably one of the most subjective. Everyone has their favorite blades, and there is huge overlap of love and hate for many brands. A brand that one person swears by might not work for another person. Some of my favorite blades I see being cursed online, and there are some fan favorites that no matter how many times I try them I actually hate them.
The best thing you can do here is order a sampler pack and/or buy a few different brands. This will let you try a few and see what works best for you. Make sure that you go back to the first ones again after you’ve shaved a few times as your technique will have evolved and you may get a different experience.
Not as specific as you’d like? Fair enough. To start off for your first shave I would recommend something like a Derby Extra. These are not very sharp but very smooth, and a great blade to start as your chance of cutting or irritating yourself will be less. Once you are comfortable try increasing the sharpness to something like an Astra Superior Platinum. These are very popular and if you like them they are dirt cheap to continue using.
I like the razor blades that claim to be smooth, my favorite is Voskhod and I also really like Gillette 7 O’clock Black. You also must get a pack of Feather’s as you will see them talked about everywhere and have the legend of being the sharpest blade (Please note that I do not recommend trying the Feather first, wait until you have your angle and pressure figured out).
The best thing you can do is head over to Try a Blade and order a couple of each of the most popular blades. This will give you an idea of which blades you may like and then bulk orders can be made to save money.
Shaving Cream or Shaving Soap?
Shaving creams and shaving soaps are both fantastic. You will find both get their share of praise online, and both feel great.
I was told when I started that shaving creams are easier starting out, and I would agree. The soaps do provide amazing lathers, and to be honest I tend to go through phases where they are all I want to use, but I find there is a lot more attention required to control the lather.
Shaving creams are consistently easy to get a nice lather, and you will want to start off making a lather in a bowl as it is easier to control that way rather than trying to face lather right off the start. As much as I love soaps, I always miss the creams and return at some point.
Once you are comfortable with making shaving cream lathers and are able to control the water, make sure to try Mitchell’s Wool fat Shaving Soap as it is one of my favorites. Note that this is a notoriously difficult soap to use so it may not be the best one to start with.
What Type of Shaving Brush is Best to Start?
This area will give you the most range to spend money starting off. While all the other categories are somewhat comparable in price, you can spend anywhere from $10 to over $500 on a shaving brush. One of my favorite brushes is actually $10 so don’t let the high end scare you.
There are 2 main types of bristles: synthetic and animal. Animal is further broken down to horse hair, boar hair, and badger hair. Badger hair is further broken down to pure badger, best badger, super badger and silvertip badger.
Synthetic brushes have no break in period, are immediately soft, and dry quickly. Animal brushes tend to have better water retention, specifically badger. The list above for badger is in the order of quality, and silvertip badger is regarded as the best as they end up being the softest after they are broken in.
I personally like a softer brush for making a bowl lather with shaving cream. I find that it “whips up” the lather nicely and is easier to apply to my face. If I am face lathering with soap I like a stiffer brush (something with more “back bone”), and that’s where my trusty $10 boar brush does a great job.
Spend what you can afford, and I would (and did) start with badger.
What to use for Aftershave?
Everyone has different skin types so again there is no right answer. The best way to start is to do research online to find out your skin type and which products should work best for that. I will not go deeper into specific traits for specific skin types in this post.
I would recommend starting with something geared towards sensitive skin, and then slowly work your way to more unique products. Starting out you will be trying a new razor, different blades, different techniques, and it will help you hammer down your best technique and razor blade if you are not also dealing with irritation from an aftershave that doesn’t work for you.
The best way to start is to read some reviews, watch some YouTube videos, and head on down to a local shaving store to learn more. Many retailers will give a discount if you are starting out and piecing together a “kit”, and many have some great pre-made kits all ready to go. A lot of the online stores also have great blogs and articles about getting started, and I find that most people that shave with a safety razor are more than happy to talk about it, and sometimes might not shut up (ask my friends or wife).