Beginner's Guide to Safety Razor Shaving
We've written a number of blogs about how to shave with a Safety Razor. As it's a question that never seems to go out of style, (much like the razor itself), we've put a complete guide together so that all your questions can be answered!
Our most comprehensive guide to date, a great resource for newbies as well as more practised hands looking to up their shaving game.
What is a Safety Razor?
Also referred to as double edge razors (or DE razors), safety razors were popularised in the 20th Century by King Camp Gillette. A safety razor is a shaving implement with a protective device positioned between the edge of the blade and the skin to reduce the level of skill needed for injury-free shaving. Safety razors revolutionised shaving, as most men prior to their invention were dependent on barbers to shave them. This therefore allowed men who perhaps didn’t have such deep pockets to enjoy a clean-shaven face as frequently as they liked. The double edge has its name because you can use both edges to shave in turn, the small blades of the double edge razor could be changed at home, making daily shaving even more accessible. The DE razor became the predominant type of safety razor during and after WW1 until the 1970s when cartridge and disposable razors were introduced.
They’re plastic free and sustainable . . .
Available as plastic-free long life products, the only ‘waste’ produced from a MÜHLE DE Razor is the blade, which is made from metal (a recyclable material), can be used many times, and as a small item can be safely stored away in a blade bank until you are ready to recycle it.
They cost you less money . . ..
Like most sustainable products, it is also kinder to your pockets, as it’s designed to endure the test of time and not be thrown away. With a premium quality MÜHLE DE razor starting at just £36, the initial investment to get started isn’t high at all and you make your money back from not purchasing disposables quickly.
They’re kinder to the skin . . .
Cartridge razors consist of multiple blades embedded in plastic, with a flexible head. Whilst the multiple blades allow for a close shave and have a somewhat reduced sharpness as compared to the DE razor blade, they tend to pull the hair rather than cut through the hair as a DE razor does. Additionally, the cost of a disposable cartridge razor often means that people don’t replace the razor or the razor head as often as they should, and the blades get leftover soap, cream, or hairs inside them. This residue is dragged across the skin and can lead to razor burn, similarly, the multiple blades can be an irritant to the skin as opposed to the single blade. The DE razor blade can be easily and cheaply replaced at home (a pack of 10 MÜHLE razor blades is £4.50), and the head can also be fully opened after use, allowing you clean and remove any soap, cream or hair residue.
They look great in your bathroom . . .
Anything designed to stand the test of time involves considered craftsmanship and MÜHLE products, including our DE razors, have this in spades- with many different designs and finishes to choose from.
They’re also great for guys with beards!
More and more guys are sporting a little to a lot of facial hair these days, and here at MÜHLE, we’re all for facial hair freedom! Contrary to what you might think, a DE razor is a useful tool for the bearded community as well as those who are after close, smooth shave. The single blade allows for clean lines – great for some easy home beard shaping.
How is the technique different from using a cartridge razor?
Cartridge razors consist of multiple blades embedded in plastic, with a flexible head. The multiple blades allow for a close shave with a reduced sharpness to the blades of the DE razor and the flexible head moves with the contours of your skin. This in theory, means you can shave quickly and easily without considering the angle of the blades. In practice, however this can still lead to nicks or razor burn so some consideration is required.
A DE razor by contrast, has no flexibility so the angle of the blade needs to be considered (we recommend a 30degree angle) and also requires no pressure whatsoever, you simply let the weight of the razor do the work.
The best way to achieve an ideal angle is to simply point the blade away from the skin, and gently rock the blade until it starts to take the hair. The COMPANION Safety Razor, pictured above, is ideal for beginners because it helps set up the angle for you not allowing the blade to be closer than 30degrees.
Technique Top Tip! Shaving with a DE razor is a bit like ironing, you need a smooth surface, pull the skin so it is taut to achieve your ideal shave.
Will it take more time?
Some people worry that this swap will be more time consuming. While it’s true, that DE shaving can be a ritual that you enjoy investing time in, and we certainly recommend allowing time for the first few shaves, once you get used to the process it’s possible to shave quickly (though you may enjoy it so much you choose not to rush through).
A DE razor along with a blade (essential)
You can purchase an additional pack of 10 safety razor blades from us for £4.50. Blades are a universal size so other brands will also fit our razors, however it’s a good idea to find out about the sharpness of the blades. MÜHLE blades are a medium sharpness- well suited for both beginners and experienced DE shavers.
You may want to also explore our Shaving Bundles, which offer excellent value when initially investing in safety razors, shaving brushes and shave care.
A shaving cream or soap (essential)
A key part of having a successful shave is the prep, so you need to use a cream, soap or gel to lubricate the skin and help lift the hair before you shave. Shaving creams are especially good for beginners, as you can get a thick lather very quickly.
A shaving brush (good to have)
Shaving brushes help you create a rich and creamy lather using naturally based products that don’t have any nasties in them. The brush allows you to massage cream or soaps onto the skin that are moisturising and even help to exfoliate the skin as well as lift the hairs, ideally preparing them for shaving. A brush stand will come in handy, particularly if you opt for a brush with natural hair as oppose to a synthetic brush, allowing the brush to dry more quickly and neatly.
Aftershave Balm or Lotion (good to have)
Aftershave Balm and Aftershave Lotion work to soothe the skin after shaving. Lotions contain a higher concentration of alcohol that works as an antiseptic and is great for tightening pores, sealing cuts and the alluring fragrance will stay with you throughout the day. Balms are a better match if you find your skin tends to dry out from shaving or have particularly sensitive skin. Whilst also containing a little alcohol, they are less astringently focused with a higher concentration of oil, working to hydrate and replenish the skin, they also have a much milder scent.
Alum pen or Alum Block (good to have)
Alum is a naturally occurring substance that has an antiseptic effect, closing the skin's pores and mending small nicks after shaving. Originally a part of every barber's equipment, they're a great addition to any shaving routine.
- The Prep: Moisten the skin with warm to hot water. Make a loose lather from shaving soap or cream, preferably with a shaving brush, apply in gentle strokes and enjoy the massage effect, then allow to take effect for one or two minutes.
- The Shave: Hold the razor at a 30 degree angle. If you're feeling a bit unsure, angle the blade away from the hair and skin, then gently rock until you start to take hair. Apply no to little pressure, allowing the weight of the razor to do the work, and ensure you are using a blade that hasn’t been dulled by overuse.
Blade Use Top Tip! The number of times a blade can be used varies from person to person, we usually recommend about 5 uses before swapping for a new one.
Most barbers recommend shaving with the grain particularly for the first pass as this is gentle on the skin and particularly helpful if you suffer from razor burn. Ultimately the point at which you begin and whether you shave against the grain can vary individually and is also a matter of experience.
We recommend taking your time, especially to begin with, using short strokes of the razor, alternating sides of the double edge and quickly rinsing the razor head under the tap or shower throughout. It’s also important that the skin is taut, use your fingers to stretch the skin.
You may choose to do a second pass, to do away with any stubborn hairs that are still hanging on, however, some people don’t find this is necessary.
- Post Shave Care: Rinse the skin with fresh water. If you have an alum pen or stone apply this for approximately 20 seconds to any small nicks or apply the block to the skin to close pores. After this use an aftershave balm or lotion.
- Caring for Shaving Tools: Don't forget to care for and clean your shaving tools after your shave. Quickly rinse any soap residue off your brush and razor handles, and wipe dry with a cloth. Brushes should be rinsed under the tap at a maximum temperature of 45⁰C (115⁰F), taking care to ensure that soap residue is fully removed from the centre of the brush head (this is particularly important if you brush head is made of natural hairs), give your brush quick shake and hang to dry. If you like to shave in the shower, bring your shaving tools to dry area afterwards so they are not constantly damp.
Open Comb vs Closed Comb?
MÜHLE Traditional Razors are available with closed comb or open comb razor heads. The open comb offers ‘the ultimate close shave’ and hence is recommended for experienced DE shavers and those with particularly thick hair growth.
We recommend starting with a closed comb head, even if you have thick hair, to get used to the DE shaving method. If you find in future you’d like to try a more direct shave you can purchase the open comb head separately on the MÜHLE UK website. You will be able to retain the same razor handle and attach your new razor head onto your razor handle, replacing the close comb head.
(*Note the only DE razor, where it isn’t possible to swap the head is the Twist version in our TRADITIONAL range because the bottom plate of the razor head is fixed).
You don’t need to go beyond your essentials, but once you have your razor, brush, stand and pre/post shave creams, you may enjoy adding to your collection to make the most of your shaving ritual. Popular additions include: Towel Set, Shaving Bowl, Mug or Dish, Blade Bank (to discard old blades and recycle should you wish to), and some handy TRAVEL Accessories, like our TRAVEL Shaving Brushes.
Our store staff are always happy to help on Newburgh Street, why not pop in for a chat? Or even better you can book a one-to-one appointment with the MÜHLE London Head Barber for a shaving tutorial.