Shaving Your Beard with a Safety Razor: A Complete Guide

Shaving a beard, especially a big one, requires more than just a razor blade and a bathroom mirror. There’s an art to maintaining uniformity and sharp lines, especially when using a safety razor. So, “Can you shave a big beard with a safety razor?”. The answer is yes, but understanding its technique and the proper tools necessary is vital.

This guide will outline the necessary steps for preparation, the actual shaving process, and crucial post-shaving care tips. We’ll also discuss the benefits and challenges of shaving a beard with a safety razor.

Shaving Your Beard with a Safety Razor: An Overview

Here’s a table illustrating the process of shaving a beard with a double-edged safety razor:

1Prepare Your Beard: Shower or use a warm towel to open pores and soften hair
2Trim Excess Hair: Use a beard trimmer to shorten your beard to a manageable length
3Apply Pre-Shave Oil: Protect and moisturize your skin by applying a pre-shave oil
4Lather Up with Shaving Cream: Use a quality shaving cream and brush to create a thick, protective lather
5Choose the Right Safety Razor: Consider factors like aggressiveness (open or closed comb), blade sharpness, durability, and coating
6Shave with The Grain: Begin by shaving in the direction of hair growth, maintaining a 30-degree angle and using short strokes
7Subsequent Passes: For a closer shave, shave across the grain in the second pass or against the grain in a third pass (if suitable)
8Rinse and Dry Your Face: Rinse with cold water to close pores, then pat your face dry with a clean towel
9Apply a Post-Shave Product: Soothe and moisturize your skin with an aftershave balm or other nourishing product

Preparing Your Beard for Shaving

Before you even pick up your safety razor, you need to prepare your face and beard for the shaving process. Here are the initial steps:

1. Trim Your Beard

If you’ve grown a long, full beard, it’s essential to trim it down before shaving. The reason why is that long hair can clog the safety razor, making it difficult to shave efficiently and increasing the risk of irritation and cuts.

We recommend using a beard or hair trimmer to get the length down to moderate to heavy stubble. This will make it much easier for the safety razor to glide along your skin and provide a clean shave.

Plus the reduced hair length will allow you to see the contours of your face, which is crucial for maintaining a uniform shave and sharp lines.

2. Soften the Beard

Since you haven’t shaved your beard in a while, the hair might be coarse and stubborn. Softening your beard prepares it for a smoother and safer shave.

To prep your beard for shaving, soaking it in warm water for a few minutes will help to swell and soften the hair follicles, which as a result, makes it easier to cut.

You can do this by taking a warm shower or placing a moist, hot towel over your face for about three to five minutes.

3. Apply Pre-Shave Oil

Pre-shave oil is an optional step, but it can make a big difference with tougher beards. While it is a common misconception that pre-shave oil is a quick alternative to softening the beard, it actually serves to add an extra layer of lubrication and protection. This helps prevent razor burn, nicks, and irritation when the time comes to shave.

Select a pre-shave oil with natural ingredients like castor oil, olive oil, or jojoba oil. These oils help to moisturize and condition the skin, as well as the beard itself.

Since it’s your first time shaving in a while, be liberal with the application of pre-shave oil. Gently massage the oil into your beard, making sure it covers the entire area you plan to shave. Allow it to absorb into your skin and beard for a minute or two before moving on to the next step.

Shaving the Beard with a Safety Razor

Now that your beard is ready to be shaved, follow these steps:

4. Apply a Quality Shaving Cream

Investing in a quality shaving cream specifically designed for safety razor use is recommended. The aim is to get one that forms a rich lather and offers good skin protection. From tallow to glycerin-based options, find one that works best for your skin type.

These types of shaving creams will help to insulate and retain heat on your face, which assists in softening the beard even further. Apply the shaving cream using a shaving brush in circular motions to lift the hairs, ensuring they stand up, making them easier to cut.

5. Using the Right Tool for the Job

While safety razors are less susceptible to clogging compared to multi-blade cartridge razors, it’s still essential to choose the right safety razor for the job.

While more aggressive, wet shaving community members agree that open comb safety razors are better suited for tackling thick, dense beards, closed comb razors provide a milder, more forgiving shave for those with sensitive skin or less experience with safety razors. Some closed comb razors also feature a scalloped safety bar, which helps to channel lather and hair into the blade gap for improved shaving performance.

When selecting the right blade for your safety razor, consider factors like sharpness, durability, and coating. Beginners may want to start with mild blades, while more experienced shavers may opt for sharper ones. To find the ideal blade for your needs, experiment with various brands and types until you discover the perfect match for your skin and beard.

6. Shave with The Grain

Start by shaving your beard in the direction of hair growth – this is known as shaving ‘with the grain.’

Doing so minimizes the risk of razor burn, ingrown hairs, and nicks. When shaving, apply short strokes and adjust the angle of the razor to get a comfortable shave. While we spoke at length about the proper angle in a previous article, a general rule of thumb is to keep the blade at a 30-degree angle to your skin.

Avoid applying pressure, as the weight of the safety razor is sufficient for a proper shave. Instead, focus on keeping a steady hand and maintaining consistent contact with your skin, especially around curvy or uneven areas like the jawline and Adam’s apple.

7. Subsequent Passes

This perhaps is best reserved for tomorrow’s shave, but if you feel comfortable and your skin isn’t too sensitive, you can make additional passes for an even closer shave.

For the second pass, shave across the grain – this means shaving in a direction perpendicular to the direction of hair growth. Reapply shaving cream if necessary and use short, gentle strokes, maintaining the 30-degree angle with the razor.

If you desire an even closer shave, you can venture into shaving against the grain for your third pass. However, be aware that this increases the risk of irritation, ingrown hairs, and razor bumps, especially for those with sensitive skin or very coarse hair. Only opt for this pass if you are confident in your technique and feel that your skin can handle it.

Before attempting an against-the-grain pass, reapply shaving cream as needed, ensuring full coverage on the areas you plan to shave.

Post-Shave Care

Post-shave care is equally as important:

7. Rinse and Dry Your Face

Rinse your face with cold water to close the pores and constrict blood flow. Pat your face dry with a clean towel, being careful not to rub as this can cause irritation.

8. Apply a Post-Shave Product

To soothe and moisturize your skin, consider applying an aftershave balm. Look for products with natural, nourishing ingredients like aloe vera and vitamins. Avoid alcohol-based products, as they might cause more irritation.

About the author:

John Miller is a passionate wet shaving enthusiast, a pastime he has been devoted to for the past 7 years. A veteran of the trade, he has earned the reputation of being an meticulous advocate of traditional wet shaving. When John first got into the hobby, he read and researched the techniques extensively, often trying new blades and techniques, and now has an unparalleled knowledge of the best products, techniques, and tools available.

John is widely respected in the wet shaving community and is a trusted source of advice and reviews. He also contributes to several wet shaving forums, often discussing the finer points of traditional shaving.