Learning how to shave

I’ve used an electric shaver for my entire shaving life. My dad used an electric shaver, so it was only natural that I would too. I believe he had a Braun foil shaver when I started growing facial hair, so, just to be “different”, I got a Remington rotary shaver. It worked fine on my cheeks, but always left my neck raw. That should partly excuse the trouble I got into in high school for not shaving.

Eventually I switched to a Panasonic dual foil shaver with a pop-out trimmer (I think because my younger brother got one when he started shaving, and he wasn’t experiencing any neck irritation), and most of my problems went away—as long as I only shaved every other day. Shaving two days in a row is a recipe for raw skin, ingrown hairs, and little blemishes on my neck. No thanks. But it does mean that if I have an important event coming up (say a big meeting at work, or a wedding), I have to plan my shaves to make sure I don’t shave on the day before the event. Luckily not shaving is not so taboo anymore (no matter what Proctor & Gamble says), so nowadays I tend to shave twice a week, usually on Monday and Thursday mornings.

For the most part, I’m a big advocate of electric shavers, but there have been a few occasions where it’s been a limitation. On my second trip to France, I brought my rechargeable electric shaver, but I accidentally left the power adapter at home. Unfortunately the shaver only holds enough charge for about two and a half shaves, essentially enough for one week of use (we were there for two)—and I had to be shaved for Stephanie’s sister’s wedding! So I was forced to buy a cheap electric razor at the nearby corner store. It didn’t give me a perfect shave, but it was passable. I felt like such a tool, given the relative availability of cheap disposable razors, yet constrained by my inability to use them. Given this experience, I made sure to bring the power adapter with me on our trip last year, but it wasn’t until we got there that I realized it only accepted 120 volt power—France of course supplies 240 volt power. Once again I was stymied by my own technological dependency. So we had to make a special trip to hunt down a voltage converter.

A few months after that trip the notion of a “safety razor” entered my consciousness—as distinct from both a straight razor (that I’d experienced on the back of my neck at a barbershop in Carrboro, NC), and the multi-blade disposables (that I’d tried once in college—only to be left with a very raw cheek). I discovered at about the same time that Kyle was a recently converted safety razor aficionado, so I picked his brain for details. That was about a year ago. Eventually a safety razor made it onto my Christmas list and showed up in my stocking. Thanks Santa!

Which brings us to the present. On Sunday morning I took out my Merkur razor, Trumper shaving cream, and badger-hair brush for the first time and proceeded to give myself a safety razor shave. What a mind-blowing experience. First of all, it had been three days since I’d shaved last. Given how thick my facial hair grows, it was a little hard to get started. I was both afraid I’d cut myself, and completely unfamiliar with the feel of a razor against my face. It kind of pulls at the hair (which hurts!), something I avoid at all costs with an electric razor. I had only committed to doing one or both cheeks, but eventually I found my stride, and slowly and carefully worked all the way around my face, neck, and upper lip. It took a little over an hour.

For most of the time, I was like “Look at me: no blood!” (I’d heard some gory stories from Kyle), that is until I went over a tricky area on one side of my neck (which occasionally gets raw even with my electric shaver), and I ended up nicking a small patch of skin. Blood didn’t stream, but four to six tiny red dots bloomed and hung there. It was unnerving, but I didn’t feel a thing. The feeling came later. In fact all day Sunday and into Monday, my face was super-sensitive, please-don’t-touch-me, tingly. My neck definitely felt sensitive and a little itchy—though it didn’t look bad. By Monday night several blemishes had developed, and my neck was a mess of in-grown hairs, reminding me of the worst of my Remington rotary adolescence.

I’m probably going to alternate my shaving with my electric shaver during the week, and the safety razor on the weekends, just to give my skin a chance to adjust (and to allow myself the time to shave without the pressure of getting to work). I’m definitely curious about experimenting with some shaving oil, aftershave (how manly!), and of course different blades. I just popped in the Merkur blade that came with the razor, but I also have two boxes of Personnas (which may or may not be the real thing) to try out next.

I admit I’m still skeptical, but I’m willing to try it again once my face has healed. I have to say I really like the idea of being able to shave without electricity, whether that’s in France, out camping/backpacking, or just at home.

Justin applying shaving cream
Apply shaving cream
Justin shaving cheek with safety razor
Slow start
Justin shaving jaw with safety razor
Tender around the jaw
Justin shaving neck with safety razor
The neck!
Justin after shaving with safety razor
All done and smiles

Thanks to Stephanie for the photos



Glad you had relatively little gore for your first shave! What kind of aftershave balm did you use? I’m a big fan of regular witch hazel to start, and then Burt’s Bees aftershave balm afterwards. Aftershave was never necessary with an electric for me but crucial with safety razors.

Hydrogen peroxide ;) Aftershave is the one element I didn’t add to my “kit”.

Sounds like we need to go shopping :)

That is really cool. You did a good job. As you mentioned, Kyle’s face looked like an accident scene the first time he did it.

My cheeks and upper-lip were fine. My chin on either side of the goatee was sore (the whiskers are really dense there) and developed 2-3 blemishes, and my neck is still complaining. It developed half a dozen in-grown hairs and just felt sore and irritated, even through Tuesday night. I shaved with my electric shaver this morning to let it recover. Definitely need to investigate aftershave options.


I tried years ago to shave with a blade and I could never toughen up my skin to handle it so I’ve used an electric shaver since then. I’ve realized then that I could never be a soldier or live in a cabin in the woods with no electricity, that is, unless I wanted to be a bearded soldier or hermit. Good luck with your experiment and I hope that in time you’ll achieve what you’re seeking.


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