06Aug The Beginner's Guide to Shaving with a Safety Razor
Over the years we've produced a few blogs and IG videos about how to shave with a Safety Razor, also known as a Double Edge Razor. As it's a question that never seems to go out of style, (much like the razor itself), we thought we'd put a complete guide together so that any questions that newbies have can be answered! Our most comprehensive guide to date, more practised hands, may also find the guide a helpful way to up their shaving game.
What is a Safety Razor?
Also referred to as double edge razors (or DE razors as they’re mostly referred to) 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 were previously dependent on barbers to shave them prior to their invention, so this 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.
Why are people ditching cartridge and disposable razors for DE razors?
So many reasons!
They’re plastic free and sustainable . . ..
Available as plastic-free lifetime 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 £34, 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, and much better for sensitive 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 £2.50), 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 . . .
A common quality of sustainable products is that they are much nicer to look at. 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.
With so many great reasons to swap, a better question would be why everyone isn’t swapping or why plastic disposables became popularised in the first place.
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, whilst ideal for those who are after a close shave, is also a great tool for the bearded community. The single blade allows for clean lines – great for some easy home beard shaping.
Also, the process of using a DE razor as you’ll find out throughout this guide lends itself to being a soothing ritual, and we know that some guys like to press the reset button on their facial hair a couple of times a year, and go clean shaven- the DE razor allows you to really make a ritual of this with great benefits to your skin through this process.
How is the technique different from using a cartridge razor?
As mentioned above 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 etc. In practice, however this can still lead to nicks or razor burn so some consideration is still required, also people tend to apply a bit of pressure with a cartridge razor.
A DE razor by contrast, has no flexibility in the head 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 easy – just point the blade away from the skin, and gently rock the blade until it starts to take the hair and presto- you have your ideal angle!
Another difference is, because the blade is that little bit sharper, a bit of pre-shave prep for your skin and hair, as well as a bit of post-shave care goes a long way. We will go through this in the following, sections. Also, shaving with a DE razor is a bit like ironing, you need a smooth surface, so where there may be excess skin or ‘life-loving-wrinkles’, you need to pull the skin so it is taut.
Because of the extra little considerations and the prep along with the post shave care, 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).
What do I need to get started?
A DE razor along with a blade (essential). MÜHLE Traditional and Hexagon razors are a popular choice for those shaving for the first time, they start at £34 and include one blade for you to get started. Our Intro ranges’ Rytmo & Vivo are also a popular choice for beginners. You can purchase an additional pack of 10 safety razor blades from us for £2.50 – which will keep you going for a while. 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.
A shaving cream or soap (essential). A key part of having a successful shave is the prep, so you need to use a cream, a soap or gel to lubricate the skin and help lift the hair before you shave. Creams are especially good for beginners, as you can get a thick lather very quickly, MÜHLE Shave Care shaving creams cost £9.50 and last for ages, they are available in Sandalwood (great for normal to dry skin), Aloe Vera (especially good for sensitive skin) and Sea Buckthorn (good for all skin types), we also carry a Shaving Cream in our Organic Range.
A shaving brush (good to have). As mentioned above a key to a successful shave is investing a little time and effort into preparing the skin and hair, in this respect a shaving brush is your best friend. Shaving brushes, help you to create a rich and creamy lather using naturally based products that don’t have any nasties in them. The brush allows you to massage creams onto the skin that are moisturising and even help to exfoliate the skin as well as lift the hairs, ideally preparing them for shaving. If you are just starting out and you’re not sure about investing too much into a brush, our Starter Sets, which include a vegan Rytmo shaving brush and Aloe Vera shaving cream are a great deal at £38. And our nom brushes start at just £6.50 and are available with both natural hair and vegan synthetic options- great to dip your toe in! 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.
If you want to start out without a brush massage some cream onto the face, using your hand and a bit of water before you start shaving.
Aftershave Balm or Lotion (good to have). Aftershave Balm and 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 companion to anyone starting out with a DE Razor, and are available in stick and block form.
All set up. Time to take you through the shave itself:
1) 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.
2) 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, and presto: you have your angle. 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. (The number of times a blade can be used varies from person to person, we usually recommend about 5 uses).
Most barbers recommend shaving with the grain, as opposed to against it, 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 do recommend taking your time, especially to begin with, using short strokes of the razor, alternating sides of the double edge and quickly rinsing the razorhead under the tap or shower throughout. It’s also important that the skin is taut, so where there may be a bit of excess skin or life-loving wrinkles, use your fingers to stretch the skin. It helps to think of the shaving like ironing- you need a flat surface!
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.
3) 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 and/or use the block to run on the skin or close pores. After this apply an aftershave balm or lotion (if you don’t have an alum pen or block go straight to this step. The balm or lotion will also have an astringent and nurturing effect, refreshing, and soothing the skin at the same time.
Don't forget to care for and clean your shaving tools after your shave. You can 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.
OTHER TIPS AND TOOLS:
Open Comb vs Closed Comb?
DE Razors come with open and closed comb heads. Both give a great shave, with the open comb more direct for the ‘ultimate close shave’ recommended for experienced shavers and those with particularly thick hair growth. We recommend starting with the closed comb head, even if you have thick hair, to get used the razor. You may find that the closed comb is perfect for you. If however you’d like to try a more direct shave you can purchase the open comb head separately through MÜHLE and attach onto your razor handle to replace your closed comb head (note the only DE razor, where it isn’t possible to swap the head is the Twist version in our Traditional range).
You don’t necessarily 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 are a shaving bowl (for creams) or dish (for soaps), a blade bank (to discard old blades and recycle should you wish to), and some handy travel accessories, like our travel brushes.
One to one advice?
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 MÜHLE London Barber Elliot, for a shaving tutorial.
Find out more . . .
There is plenty of advice available on our blog and video tutorials on our YouTube channel, have a peruse and check out our recommendations. Also, you can subscribe to our newsletter for the latest products, promotions and updates and follow us on Instagram and Facebook.
Here are some blog recommendations to make you a DE shaving champion: