Shaving with a Double Edged Safety Razor for the First Time
There is a big trend to moving towards the more authentic method of shaving with a double edged razor rather than the modern cartridge razors that are heavily mass marketed.
But, what do you need to know about making the switch? Is there a special technique? How likely are you to slice half your face off? Read on to learn how you can effortlessly make the switch to double edged shaving.
Why Switch to Double Edged Shaving?
Why would you move to double edged shaving? This is an article in and of itself. In short, double edged shaving is superior to cartridge shaving in many ways:-
- It's much cheaper than cartridge shaving in the long run
- It causes less irritation
- It's more environmentally friendly with blades that can be recycled
- It's way more fun - whipping up a lather, slapping it on and shaving with multiple passes is much more of an experience
- Easier to shave the smaller areas (for instance hairs that right next to the bottom of your nostrils)
- The improvement in the quality of shave is noticeable - not just by yourself but by others.
What Is Double Edged Shaving?
Cartridge vs Double Edged Shaving
Double edged shaving is different to cartridge shaving in that that you only use one blade at a time and it's a "progressive" shave.
Cartridge razors, such as the Gillette Mach 3, have a multiple blade mechanism in order to speed up shaving. The theory is that the higher number of blades cuts more hair so that you only ever need to do one pass. Of course, this supposedly saves time and gives you a closer shave - at least that's how it has been marketed...
With double edged wet shaving you only use one blade at any given time and therefore most people do multiple passes for a complete shave. Typically the first pass would be with the grain (downwards), the second pass across the grain and the final pass (for those who really want a close shave) is against the grain.
Most people find that double edge shaving causes far less irritation and gives a shave that's just as close, if not closer, than the cartridge razors.
Double edged razors are simply that - double edged. They look something like this:-
You can buy these blades usually in packs of 10, 20, 50 or 100 and they are dirt cheap by comparison to cartridge refills. I wrote a detailed post about the cost difference - long story short, over 10 years using a double edged razor will save you somewhere in the region of $2,400.
Double edged blades typically cost between $0.10 and $0.30 each in comparison to $2 -$3 for cartridge refills. Over time, this difference really adds up!
You put these blades into a razor that looks something like this:-
Each double edged razor has a mechanism by which you can open the "jaws" and insert your blade. Once you have your double edged shaver, there's no need for you to ever replace it - you can simply switch out the blades as and when you see fit.
Whereas with cartridge shaving most people use a chemical laden canned shaving foam or gel, with double edged shaving most people work up their own "lather" with a brush.
There are a number of different types of shaving brushes but the two most common are the badger hair brush and the boar hair brush. There are a few differences between them but really it comes down to personal preference.
Brushes come in all shapes and sizes, but their primary role is to whip up a nice thick lather to prepare the beard for shaving:-
Shaving Cream or Soap
Finally you're going to need either shaving cream or shaving soap in order to produce the lather. Again, neither one is better than the other and it really comes down to personal preference.
Shaving creams and soaps come with in a wide arrange of fragrances - one of our personal favourites is the sandalwood range.
How to Have a Great Double Edged Shave
Anxious? Don't worry about it - while you may nick yourself on the first few goes, you'll quickly pick it up and you'll likely never want to go back to full cartridge shaving.
Here's a great video demonstration from geofatboy on YouTube about how to do a great double edged shave:-
Here's a complete written overview of the process:-
- Insert the blade into the razor - with most double edged razors you can simply twist the handle to open up the head and allow you to insert your razor blade. It goes without saying to be careful when handling the sharp edges.
Insert the blade into the razor and do a quick spot check to make sure that the blade looks even on both sides. Once in and even, you're ready to rock and roll.
- Put your brush in hot water - leave the shaving brush in hot water for a few minutes to raise the temperature. This helps you to product a nice lather.
- Get some shaving cream on your brush - take your brush from the water, insert into the shaving cream bowl and whirl around to get a decent amount of shaving cream onto your brush.
You can move the brush in a clockwise motion to get plenty of shaving cream - there's no need to press down hard.
- Apply the shaving cream to your face - you can now apply the shaving cream lather to your face. Start with your cheeks and move your brush in a circular motion to build up a lather on your whiskers.
You'll need to continually move the brush in a circular motion to build up the lather on the face - this can often take a minute or so before you get a nice thick lather.
If you feel that the lather is too dry then you can add a few droplets of water to get things going again.
Make sure that your lather is thick enough that you can't see any skin underneath the lather.
- Start the shave - For the first pass you should go with the grain (downwards).
Make sure that you lock your wrist in place while shaving - you shouldn't change the angle of the blade during your shave as this can increase the chances of a nick.
Also, be sure to not press down - simply use the weight of the double edged razor. You don't need to push down like you would with a cartridge razor.
You want to have the angle of the razor at about 30 degrees to your face.
- One inch strokes - Use one side of the razor and take one inch strokes downwards shaving over your beard. When one side fills up, you can flip the razor around and use the other edge - hence the name double edged blade.
- After first pass - Once you've finished your first pass, set the razor down and apply some warm water to the face to clear it off.
Now use your shaving brush to apply another lather over your beard. This time, it will be easier for the lather to apply because of the first pass.
- Do the second pass - for the second pass you should go across the grain rather than with the grain. So, on the cheeks you would start at the ear and work your way towards the nose on both sides.
On the next you can go against the grain (upwards) if you're comfortable
- Third pass - After the second pass, rinse again and reapply the lather for the third and final time.
On this final pass, you'll be shaving against the grain. You can start at the nose and work your way towards the ear.
A Great Shaving Kit for a Complete Beginner
If you're completely new to double edged shaving, then you'll want to get a decent but inexpensive kit to make sure that it's right for you.
One of the cheapest decent shaving kits is the Lord DE razor with the Van Der Hagen shave set. The total cost of the kit is around $20.00 and includes a solid razor, a single blade, boar brush, bowl and shaving soap.
Some Final Tips for Double Edged Shaving...
One thing that's important to understand is that double edged shaving takes a little bit of practice to get right. You'll need to have a few shaves before you "get into the groove" and get the technique right.
Once you do knuckle down the technique, however, you'll be in shaving heaven. Gone will be the days of expensive cartridge razors pulling your hair out and causing nasty razor burn..
Once you convert to double edged razor shaving, you'll never go back. And then it's your job to pass on the knowledge!
This is really helpful, thank you. I’m going to be switching over from disposables because of skin irritation and bumps.
How often should I swap out my blade for a new one?
Glad you found the article helpful!
It’s difficult to say because it can depend on a few factors, most notably how coarse your beard is and which blade you’re using.
For me, my facial hair is pretty light, so I can shave for a week (sometimes even two) without changing the blades that I’m currently using. Others with coarser hair may need to change the blade a few times per week.
I would say, on average, you’re looking at once every five days or so.