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Six Tips To Not To Cut Your Face Up, Or: A N00b’s Advice On Straight Razor Shaving - The Watchtower of Destruction: The Ferrett's Journal
April 3rd, 2013
10:07 am

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Six Tips To Not To Cut Your Face Up, Or: A N00b’s Advice On Straight Razor Shaving

It’s been three weeks since I last drew blood with Floyd the straight razor, and as such I feel compelled to speak upon what I have learned.  The straight razor is good tool for shaving, but it’s also got some finicky bits I figured I’d go over.

Tip #1: Get a really good shaving cream. 
Oh, you can use thin soap, or even *gasp* just hot water, but a good rich later is like training wheels; it lets the blade slide over your skin easier, and any time it’s sliding over your skin it’s not cutting into it.

I myself use Jack Black Supreme cream, which I highly recommend, but the shaving cream that came with my kit was crap and the Burt’s Bees stuff I got at Walgreen’s slightly less crap.  Find something thick and gooey, and don’t skimp on the application.  My cutting went way down when I got a good lubricant.

Tip #2: If the grip feels uncomfortable, it’s not gonna work. 
The razor is a simple tool: one handle, one blade, one pivot.  And when you start out, you’ll see all sorts of potential grips to hold this deadly thing, each designed for someone to hit a different area of their face.  And you’ll emulate some of these, and they’ll feel wildly wrong to you.  Not just “uncomfortable,” for every time you bring a blade against your skin you’ll feel a bit odd, but wrong, as in your fingers feel like they’re about to slip.

Every one of those wildly wrong grips wound up carving me up like a turkey.

Eventually, I settled for a grip that appears in no manual I’ve seen, but it feels comfortable for me.  The point is that the grips are the suggested starting points; you’ll evolve your own, soon enough, and the sooner the better.  Don’t try to emulate others, find your own method.

Tip #3: Only shave with the grain the first few weeks.  Then shave against. 
When you start out, shaving down your cheeks is easy; you’re not levering the blade under the hairs, thus potentially sawing down and cutting yourself.  And then you go upwards, shaving at a more awkward angle, one where any looseness of the skin will kill you, and whoops – cuts.

My advice is to only shave with the grain, until you get a sense of how to cut easy hair.  Then, once you’ve mastered that, move on to against the grain, which will involve more cutting, but you’ll at least have less cutting because you know the basics.

Tip #4: Know Thy Face.
Eventually, you’re going to realize that your face has its own hollows and bumps, treacherous areas and easy passes.  That’s why you pay attention while you’re shaving – to try to figure out what areas you really need to pay attention to. For example, weirdly enough, I have never once cut myself on the underside of my throat above my Adam’s apple – you’d think I would, but the skin is taut and forgiving.

My pudgy cheeks, however? The doughy skin there attracts cuts like mosquitoes.

Your end goal will be to make two or three passes over your face, and to do that you’ll need to recognize that not all facial areas are equal.  Some will hurt you if you’re not paying attention.  So make a mental map of your visage, and start seeing where the issues are.  It’s a weird thing, but oddly pleasant once you start; it’s getting in touch with your own body, finding strange surprises in something you thought you knew all too well.

Tip #5: If you’re unsure, either stop or keep going. 
All of my cuts come from hesitation.  The goal is to sweep smoothly across the skin.  And if you hit a point where you’re not sure whether you should keep going, you need to do one of two things:

a) Stop.
b)  Keep going like you were.

However, most novices seem to go with c), slow way down, which is your worst option.  When you slow down, your hand starts to tremble a bit, you often unconsciously pull away a little, and then the skin slackens and the edge bites into flesh.  It took me a while to realize that shaving is, in fact, about confidence – when you’re not sure, either pull the blade away completely, relather, and go at it again, or confidently move forward as if you know what you’re doing.

Strangely, as in life, that usually works out.

Tip #6: Lather up a balloon.  Shave it.  When you can scrape all of the lather off the balloon without popping it, you can shave a face.
…okay, I’ve never done that.  But that’s how they taught my barber in barbers’ college.  Isn’t that cool?  I mean, Gini would have killed me, spattering lather all over the walls and filling the house with sporadic explosions, but I think it’s fucking awesome and at least one of you should do it.  And YouTube it.  YouTube it copiously.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/291520.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.

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(18 shouts of denial | Tell me I'm full of it)

Comments
 
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From:mishamish
Date:April 3rd, 2013 02:53 pm (UTC)
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I would add to number 5: "Coffee First, THEN shaving." I was going against the grain, starting at my beard line and going up the face. The day after re-honing. Didn't notice it was biting skin until it was about 1/8th of an inch in. Still have the mark, three or four weeks later. Probably getting a scar from that one.
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From:aiela
Date:April 3rd, 2013 04:39 pm (UTC)
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OH MY GOD I want to shave a balloon. RIGHT NOW. *looks around the office*
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From:grenacia
Date:April 4th, 2013 01:29 am (UTC)
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I think one could shave a balloon in the shower and mostly avoid lathery mess from popping it, though you might have to wash lather off the ceiling.
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From:theferrett
Date:April 4th, 2013 12:40 pm (UTC)
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Yes, but then you have the much more difficult issue of holding onto a wet straight razor while naked.
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From:dorked_out89
Date:April 4th, 2013 06:50 pm (UTC)
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Who says the water would have to be running, or that you'd have to be naked? I'd want to wear a bathing suit for the (mainly psychological) protection it provides. The shower stall just allows for easy containment and clean up.
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From:heldc
Date:April 5th, 2013 09:31 pm (UTC)
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I was going to say this. Get in shower, close door/curtain, shave your balloon(s), when done, just rinse everything down.
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From:fallconsmate
Date:April 3rd, 2013 05:13 pm (UTC)
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i'm giggling wildly about the "youtube it COPIOUSLY" comment...

but i wonder if there isnt a sound reasoning there. i mean, you're shaving your face, the topagraphy changes, you know how to adjust. but to shave someone ELSE'S face, you have to have a more sensitive touch, because you're only getting one set of clues, those through your fingertips.

a person shaving their own face has the sensation transmitted through the razor, and the sensation in their face. it seems to me that shaving a face is more tetchy!
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From:theferrett
Date:April 4th, 2013 12:41 pm (UTC)
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Yup. It definitely is. That's why, were I a barber, I'd definitely use the balloon trick.
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From:denyer
Date:April 3rd, 2013 06:20 pm (UTC)
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"just hot water" is, perhaps ironically, best left to cartridge razors.

Bar soap's fine, shampoo works well, but I must admit I'm liking olive oil before hard brush soap -- it's quick and allows everything else to be sloppy first thing in the morning and not do damage.

Have decided that Feather blades are overrated. Close shave but they're not a great deal sharper than Astras, if at all, and for me seem determined to snag against the grain.

Not sure I'd agree people need to avoid against the grain with an open razor to start with, but holding the skin tight is important. It's the best way to do some areas with a safety razor too, even if it means putting a mirror down and doing it by touch. The aim's to skim rather than plow, after all.
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From:finding_helena
Date:April 3rd, 2013 08:41 pm (UTC)
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I think I get why so many men used to get shaved by barbers.
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From:theferrett
Date:April 4th, 2013 12:42 pm (UTC)
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From:phillipalden
Date:April 3rd, 2013 08:55 pm (UTC)
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Some of those are good tips even if one is not using a straight razor. I remember your previous post on shaving. That was helpful also.
Best Wishes to you and Gini, as always.
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From:parachles
Date:April 4th, 2013 12:05 am (UTC)

Re: Tip #6

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Something very like this was my first exposure to shaving anything. I was in the 4th grade and my school's annual carnival had it's first (and last) "shave the balloon" booth.

Because of our youth we were only allowed safety razors for this contest. But I did successfully shave my balloon without popping it. Sadly, as this event predated YouTube (and even the internet) there is no video footage of my performance.

It is, however, great fun witnessing the shaving foam explosions! I think the mess and noise were what made that shaving contest the last one held during the school carnival (at least to my knowledge, that is.)
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From:theferrett
Date:April 4th, 2013 12:43 pm (UTC)

Re: Tip #6

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That seems like a great, great way to pend a school carnival.
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From:parachles
Date:April 4th, 2013 02:26 pm (UTC)

Re: Tip #6

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Oh, I agree!
But the adult me can't help but think about the poor faculty grumbling things like: "X years of college for this!" and the like as they wipe down the walls.
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From:gows
Date:April 4th, 2013 03:43 am (UTC)
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I've wanted to learn how to shave with a straight razor for years--I would love to do it for my boyfriend. I used to shave my ex-husband in the shower every now and then.

My boyfriend finally got me one (as a requested Valentine's Day present) a few years ago, as well as the shaving cream and balloons I'd asked for. Just haven't taken the time to practice. Hadn't considered the mess, either, so glad that was brought up first. o.O
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From:theferrett
Date:April 4th, 2013 12:43 pm (UTC)
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Good luck!

Video it! :)
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From:kagomeshuko
Date:April 8th, 2013 01:46 am (UTC)
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I had heard of the shaving a balloon thing. I'm pretty sure it's in a movie or TV show because I think I've seen it on television at some point. I'm not 100% sure, though.

I know they do shaving balloons with cartridge razors as youth ministry games (if the parents are okay with youth using razors).

I'm surprised there aren't videos of people using a straight razor to shave a balloon on YouTube other than two that don't mess up at all.
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