Using a straight razor requires a certain level of skill and finesse to make sure you’re safely achieving a close shave. During use, it’s possible the straight razor pulls and tugs at the hairs while you’re shaving which can be irritating and painful. Why is it that a straight razor pulls and tugs during shaving?
A proper straight razor shave should be smooth and painless, but there are several problems that could lead to the razor pulling or tugging on beard hair. The shave may be impaired by a dull razor, or you may need to upgrade to a higher-quality shave soap. If improving the blade and skin doesn’t improve the shave, you may simply need more practice.
For some tips and tricks on how to prevent or fix your straight razor from pulling and tugging while shaving, please read on.
Why does your straight razor pull and tug?
Something to bear in mind is that using a straight razor is not meant to be a replacement for a quick routine to get yourself out the door. If you’re always rushing to leave your house or apartment with a coffee in hand before heading to work, a straight razor might not be for you. Because if you spend any time discussing the art with other aficionados on the internet, a common theme keeps popping up: shaving with a straight razor is an experience.
Pulling and tugging while shaving with a straight razor at its core can be the result of simply rushing, either because you don’t have the time to use the proper technique or to hone and strop the blade before use. Shaving with a straight razor cannot be rushed.
With working from home becoming more acceptable, perhaps you have more time than having to rush to fight traffic in the mornings before you hit the office. In that case, you may have more time to devote to the ritual of shaving with a straight razor, so it should be enjoyable, methodical, and calm.
Below are some steps you can take to prevent pulling and tugging and make shaving with a straight razor that experience you’re looking for. Your face will thank you.
How to stop your straight razor from pulling and tugging
If you are hoping to indulge in the experience of shaving with a straight razor but haven’t yet mastered it, you may want to go through the steps of your routine and ensure you’re doing everything right.
Here are some simple steps you can take to prevent pulling and tugging while using your straight razor:
- Hone and strop your blade
- Keep your blade at a good angle
- Use shorter strokes
- Shower or wash your face in hot water
- Use a pre-shave oil
- Ensure a good later with your shaving cream or soap
- Stretch your skin taut
Hone and strop your blade
Your straight razor should be stropped before each use to keep it sharp and ensure the best shave. It should also be honed roughly every six months to maintain the razor’s edge.
Stropping helps realign the blade to keep it sharp and remove debris after honing. To strop your blade, you should have a piece of leather strop that comes with your straight razor, or you can get one through a supplier. You want a similar technique only this time the blade edge faces you and you want to push away with the spine at the lead. After pushing the length of the strop, roll the blade on the spine and pull it back towards you, spine facing you. Your strop has to be completely taut and hydrated, otherwise, you’ll do more harm than good.
To hone your straight razor you should have a whetstone available appropriate to the material of the blade itself. Lay your razor flat on the end of the stone nearest to you with the spine facing you and the blade away from you. Push the blade along the entire length of the stone, lift and flip the razor then pull it towards you, blade facing you this time. Make sure your stone is very wet, that your edge is entirely on the stone, and that your spine sets the angle. Depending on the grit, you want to do anywhere between 50-100 passes, but follow manufacturers’ instructions.
Honing and stropping will keep your blade sharp and aligned to get not only a very close shave but a comfortable one as well.
Keep your blade at a good angle
Most manufacturers will tell you that the optimal angle to shave with a straight razor is 30 degrees. But many of us aren’t engineers and it’s a bit tough to conceptualize that measurement.
Enthusiasts would tell you to think about making the space between the spine of the razor and your skin to be roughly two spine widths. That angle will give you the most comfortable close shave and keep your hair from pulling.
This angle also prevents abrasions and cuts since the blade is so sharp and is generally considered best practice.
Use shorter strokes
When shaving with a straight razor, shorter strokes ensure you’ll have better control over your shaving experience.
Additionally, you’ll be able to shave around the natural contours of your face and course-correct much more easily than if you were using longer strokes.
Shower or wash your face in hot water
Shaving with a straight razor is done best following a hot shower, or at least a face wash with hot water.
Hot water helps not only hydrate the skin but also soften your facial hair making it easier to shave. In many shops that offer shaving as a service, they’ll place a hot towel around your face for the same effect.
However you manage it, the point of a wet shave is to loosen up the face and hair to make shaving with a straight edge safe and easier, and also ensures you’ll have a close shave. Shaving dry or near to it only results in abrasions and potentially injuries.
Use a pre-shave oil
Not to be confused as a substitute to a hot shower or hot face wash, pre-shave oil is meant to additionally soften hair follicles to make it easier for the straight razor to shave smoothly.
Many folks will say that a pre-shave oil is not necessarily needed, but it does help if you’re having trouble with pulling or tugging. If you have sensitive skin, a pre-shave oil would be a great step in your shaving routine.
Ensure a good lather with your shaving cream or soap
A good lather is important to help raise the hairs off the skin so the base of the follicle is exposed during shaving. If the lather is too thin, not only do you lose the soap too quickly, but it also means you’ll have to do more frequent passes with the blade.
A good soap or cream also makes it easy for the blade to do the work for you. Shaving should be easy and not require a lot of effort.
Stretch your skin taut
It’s a simple suggestion, but merits consideration.
When shaving, you want to gently pull your skin so it’s taut and creates a flat plane, wherever you can.
This ensures you don’t get stuck in any of the natural valleys or contours in your face, but will also help expose the follicles making it easier to get that close shave you desire.