Cut-throat razors, which are less menacingly known as straight razors, can seem like an intimidating tool of choice for shaving. Rather than the usual handle and contained blade structure more widely used when shaving your face or body, a straight razor resembles a flick knife with one singular sharp blade that is used to glide across the skin and achieve an incredibly close shave.
Straight razors have been used over the centuries as a way for men to tame their beards. They have seen a resurgence in recent decades with more men opting for the traditional approach and steering away from the plastic and disposable options we see on the supermarket shelves.
Not only are cut-throat razors far better for the environment, but they are also kind to your skin too. The use of a singular blade means your skin is subject to less friction and it allows you to angle the blade into hard to reach places without difficulty.
Which straight razor should you buy?
If you are brand new to shaving with a cut-throat razor and are worried about cutting yourself while shaving, it's best to start gently. Take several passes to give yourself more control rather than trying to cut everything off in your first pass - this should hopefully prevent you from piercing your skin!
How to use a cut-throat razor…
Cut-throat razors are usually wielded by professional barbers or experienced wet shavers and are less commonly seen in the everyday male’s grooming kit. There’s a good reason for this - they’re hard to use. You will need to have plenty of time, patience and dedication to learn the technique and perfect your shaving angles if you want to move away from the typical safety or disposable razor and step back in time to this more traditional method.
You must be prepared to commit significantly more time to your morning shave when using a cut-throat razor instead of a safety or electric option. Why? You will need to learn and adapt to a whole new shaving technique, which, if you haven’t used a straight razor before, can take a few trials (and errors) to get right.
You need to ensure your razor is fully honed and stropped before first use - almost all straight razors will come ready honed but would benefit from a strop when it is first received.
Before you put the blade on your cut-throat razor anywhere near your skin, you should carry out your usual pre-shave rituals. Soak your skin with a hot flannel or jump in a hot shower before shaving to open your pores and soften the hair as much as possible.
Then, lather up your shaving cream using a shaving brush and apply to your skin - make sure your skin is evenly coated and provides plenty of cushion for the blade to glide across.
This next step is likely one that will take practise and involves a considerable amount of concentration. You simply cannot rush a straight razor shaving routine as you can end up leaving cuts or razor burn on your face due to accidentally shaving over the same area multiple times or going in at the wrong angle.
Aim to hold your cut-throat razor at a 30-degree angle to allow the blade to smoothly cut through your hairs. This will prevent the blade from tearing the hairs which can happen if the angle is too flat, or cutting your skin through holding it too upright. Practise makes perfect and it’s normal for there to be some trial and error in your first few shaves. Once you’ve nailed your angles, the technique will start to build naturally and you will quickly realise how effective shaving with a cut-throat razor can be.
Before you start stroking the blade across the skin, you will need to pull the skin so it is taut. This way, you can move the blade smoothly over the surface of your skin without it dragging, pulling or cutting.
As you shave various areas of the face, you will need to adjust your hold accordingly and pull the skin to make the surface tight and ready for the blade. Naturally, some areas of the face are a lot more challenging to shave than others. When approaching areas like the lips, nose, and chin, the same technique applies. Keep a firm grip on the skin when shaving to prevent friction burn or a cut that can take days to heal.
Another important aspect of shaving with a cut-throat razor is to use minimal strokes. Of course, this will take time to get right, but the fewer strokes you take to achieve a close shave, the less stress on your skin and the better the end result.
Always start from your sideburns and work downwards using short strokes, rinsing your blade in-between movements to avoid a build-up of hair or shaving cream on the blade. By shaving downwards in one direction to start with, you can ensure you’re applying even pressure across your face and more easily see which areas have been covered.
Once you have shaved in downwards motions across your cheeks, lip area, chin and neck, you can decide whether you need to go back for a second pass - this time across or against the grain of your hair. For those who want to end up with the closest shave possible, re-lathering your skin and shaving it once or twice more is one way to achieve this.
If you’re happy with the look and feel of your cut-throat shave, you can continue with your post-shave care as normal. It’s best to hold a cold flannel on your skin or splash your face with cold water to close your pores and apply plenty of moisturiser, post-shave cream and/or some aftershave to give your skin the treatment it deserves. Try to avoid rubbing on your skin when applying post-shave products as this can lead to irritation. Instead, gently pat products onto the surface of your skin so they can be absorbed gradually.
Start using a cut-throat razor from The English Shaving Company
Hopefully, you feel better about wielding a cut-throat razor and trying a more traditional method of shaving. Straight razors may look threatening, but they can actually be more gentle on the skin than other products once you have nailed your shaving technique. They are certainly unbeatable in the coolness stakes!.
Take a look at The English Shaving Company’s wide range of straight razors and order yours today to get practising. Our team is on hand to answer any queries you might have about the best razor for your needs and routine.