Straight razors are sharp and shaving your head can be awkward when you are first learning.. If you are not willing to be nicked or cut, then do not attempt to shave your head with a straight razors.
There are many reasons you may want to shave your head with a straight razor. You may want to save money on cartridge razors. You may be looking to potentially reduce skin irritation. You might just do it because you want to do it. My personal reason is that I tend to shave my head infrequently and other razors just aren’t quite up to the task of shaving long lengths of hair without clogging.
The Philips Oneblade razors do due a decent job even though they’re not really designed for your head. However, even those sacrifice a somewhat closeness of shave to be able to handle the longer lengths. It’s just hard to get a really close shave with a razor that’s based on the same technology as a set of clippers.
Well, let’s get to it. I would actually recommend to not start out shaving your head with a straight razor. I recommend you at least shave your face with one a few times to get a feel for the angles. Your face provides some nice flat surfaces in the form of your cheeks to make sure you are holding the straight razor at the correct angle and to ensure the razor has a proper edge to cut through your hair.
Learning to shave your face with a straight razor also allows you to develop the muscle memory in your hands and arms for controlling the straight razor. This will take away a little bit of the learning curve as you’ll only have to focus on learning how to shave the curves of your head as opposed to learning how to shave the curves of your head AND how to shave with a straight razor at the same time.
Your face also provides you with curved areas to practice on. The jawline is a perfect analogue for learning how to adjust the angle of ths straight razor while it goes over the curve to keep it shaving the hair while at the same time avoiding cutting or nicking yourself. If you look at your head there are many curved areas of it. Knowing how to adjust the angle of the straight razor as the contour of your head or face changes is vital to shaving yourself with getting nicks or cuts.
The lower lip and chin area is another area of the face that is somewhat difficult. If you can master those areas, then the angles of your head will be relatively easy.
With that being said, even if you know how to shave your face with a straight razor, learning how to shave your head with a straight razor is a completely different animal. Knowing how to shave your face with a straight razor will lower the learning curve while learning how to shave your head with one, but it doesn’t completely eliminate the learning curve.
Here are some additional tips I’ve developed over the years of shaving my head with a straight razor and shavette.
First, get a good quality shaving brush and shaving cream or shaving soap. If you’re not using a shaving brush, then you are really missing out. Probably half the enjoyment I get from shaving with a straight razor comes from using a shaving brush to apply shaving cream. The other half is probably the focus it requires to shave with one. It almost becomes a form of meditation, but I digress.
Second, reapply shaving cream as you shave. I typically apply shaving cream to my entire head before shaving. I’ll shave the front and sides of my head first before shaving the back of my head. By the time I get to the back of my head the shaving cream is a little dry, so re-applying shaving cream before shaving that area does wonders.
Third, this applies to learning to shave any part of your body with a straight razor, but shave the areas you are comfortable with and then finish the rest of the areas with your old razor. Each time you shave you’ll become a little more comfortable with the razor. You don’t have set out to shave your entire head with your straight razor your first attempt. I certainly didn’t do that and I wouldn’t expect others to do it.
Shaving isn’t enjoyable if you are nicking/cutting yourself. There’s something to be said for pushing the boundary a little bit with each shave, you do have to get a little uncomfortable to learn how to do something new after all, but let yourself build proficiency and muscle memory in the easier areas which will help you shave the difficult areas later on.
Fourth, get a small handheld mirror to allow yourself to look at the back of the head. You’ll have to hold it in one hand and your straight razor in the other hand. If you find a setup that has a wall-mounted or free-standing mirror that allows you to look at the back of your head without holding it with one of your hands, then that would be great to have.
This is because it will let you use the hand you’re not holding the straight razor with to pull your skin taut which can make it easier to shave. Not required and I don’t think I’ve ever had anything like that, but if you’re able to pull something like that off, then I think it would be beneficial.
Fifth, fill up your sink with water. It will make it easier to shave the back of your head by not having to turn the water facet on and off constantly. You just have to dunk your razor and swish it around. Make sure the water is deep enough to where you don’t inadvertently bang your razor on the sink surface as that may damage the shaving edge of your straight razor.
Sixth, be prepared to learn how to shave with both your left and right hands. There are many awkward angles. For example, it would be extremely hard to shave behind your left ear with your right hand and vice versa. Being able to shave with a straight razor in both hands allows you to use whatever hand that makes it easiest to shave that particular area of your face.
As far as the actual shave goes, I’ll explain how I typically shave my head. I start off with the straight razor in my right hand and I’ll do my first pass starting at the forehead and continue back to the crown of the head. I tend to start with the straight razor relatively flat compared to the surface of the skin. By flat I mean, closer to being parallel with the skin rather than perpendicular. This minimizes the risk of having the razor nick or cut you.
I then move the razor towards the back of my head. If it is isn’t shaving like I would like it to, then I might increase the angle of the razor slightly until it’s at a point that I feel it’s shaving well. This angle may change as the contour of your head changes. Most cartridge razors have some type of hinging mechanism that allows their fixed razors to follow the contour of your face or head. When you’re shaving with a straight razor you have to adapt to the contours of your head or face by using your wrist and possibly fingers.
Continuing on, I’ll usually shave the right side of my head with my right hand. I continue to start from my forehead and shave the area going back to the crown of my head. I typically do short consecutive passes stopping to rinse off my razor when the face of the straight razor has accumulated a lot of shave lather and hair on it.
Once I’m done shaving the middle-right and right side of my head, I’ll switch over to the left half. I’ll repeat the process starting in the middle left part of my head on my forehead moving the razor back to the crown of my head. I keep on doing passes going down the side of my head working my way towards my ear.
Once you get close enough to your ear, it will be difficult to continue passes going from the front of your head to the back of the head. At this point, I’ll go from top to bottom starting at the unshaven area above my ears and side burns going down towards my ear.
After I finish the sides of my head, I’ll start shaving the back of my head. Once I start on the back of my head, I’ll switch the razor over to my right hand. I’ll start from the crown of my head and go down the back of it. This is where slightly changing the angle of the razor becomes important.
Think of your head as a light bulb. As you near the bottom it curves slightly inward. On that inward curve you have to slightly increase the angle of the straight razor to account for this change in contour. If you have a skin fold/crease in the back of your head like I do, then you may have to flatten the razor as it comes out of the fold still going towards the bottom of your head. I continue shaving the back of my head top to bottom until I reach my right ear.
The back of the ears, in my opinion, is the hardest spot to shave with a straight razor. For the top half of the ear, I’ll usuall start above the ear and go towards my ear. I do this in a counter-clockwise fashion starting from the 12 o’clock positing going towards the 9 o’clock position.
Imagine your ear being a clock. The center of the clock is at your ear canal. I’ll have the razor follow the path towards the center of the clock. For example, if the big hand was on 12 o’clock I would be shaving directly above my ear the razor edge would be parallel with the floor. If the big hand was on 11 o’clock I would be shaving the top left area behind my ear and the razor edge would be slightly diagonal to the floor.
Once I get to about the 9 o’clock position, instead of going towards the center of my ear I’ll start shaving away from the ear. This allows me to put the spine of the straight razor against the back of the ear lobe and the razor edge by where the hair starts growing. I’ll typically have the side of my head facing towards the mirror. Also, I’ll pull the ear lobe towards the front of my face to allow me to see how I’m holding the razor.
Shaving my right ear, I would have my left hand pushing down my right ear lobe towards the front of my face. I’ll have the straight razor in my hand. It’s EXTREMELY EASY TO NICK OR CUT YOURSELF IN THIS AREA. I’ll say that again, IT’S EXTREMELY EASY TO NICK OR CUT YOURSELF IN THE AREA BEHIND YOUR EAR.
Be extremely careful when shaving this area, but realize there’s going to be a good chance that you’re going to nick or cut yourself. If that bothers you, then I recommend you not shave that area with a straight razor. If you’re willing to continue, then I would recommend putting the razor almost flat and slowly start shaving that area by moving the straight razor out away from your ear.
Once I have the right side of the back of my head finished, then I’ll repeate the same process with the left side of the back of my head. However, I’ll switch the razor to my left hand.
I really don’t go against the grain when shaving my head anymore. The only exception to this is when I’m shaving a crease in the skin in the center part of my head. It’s extremely hard to shave this crease in my head just going with the grain. I’ll shave the crease by going against the grain/direction of hair growth.
To do this, I completely straight out the straight razor scales/handles and I’ll place my thumb on the back of the shank with the pivot point of the razor gripped in the palm of my hand. I start with the razor face almost flat against the back of my head and the razor edge is facing up towards the crown of my head. This is another advanced move that could result in cuts and nicks if you don’t have the angle of the razor correct. Again, if you’re not willing to hold yourself responsible for nicking or cutting yourself, then DO NOT attempt this. I’ll follow the contour of my head with the straight razor going from the bottom of the crease up towards the top of my head.
After this is done, I’ll take a look at my head and touch up any areas I may have missed. I recommend re-lathering those areas you missed to reduce the potential for any razor burn, rash, bumps, etc.