How to get a really close shave

by Nathaniel Williams ; Updated September 28, 2017

The classic safety razor still gives a great shave.

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Generations have grown up with plastic disposable razors. Despite the marketing hype, even the six-bladed wonders will not give you nearly as close a shave as a quality steel safety razor or open blade razor. The initial investment is a bit higher, but replacement razors cost almost nothing and a good safety razor will last a lifetime. Give this style of shaving a shot and you will find yourself converted.

Wash your face. Whether you shower before shaving or just wash your face with a wash cloth, this will remove oils from your facial hairs and minimize bacteria that can lead to infected cuts and scrapes.

Soften your beard with a hot towel or wash cloth. Run the cloth under hot water until the entire thing is soaked and quite hot. Then press the cloth to your face for at least 30 seconds. It will feel good, and more importantly, relax your facial hairs.

Create a lather. If you are using a shaving cream, this might be as simple as applying the cream to your face. If you are using traditional shaving soap, vigorously whip up a lather with your brush in your shaving bowl or mug. A good lather is thick but has tiny bubbles. Big sudsy bubbles means there is too much water in your lather.

Shave with the grain. Every beard is different, so this can be a downward vertical stroke in some places and a sideways stroke in others. It might even be a down-to-up stroke on your neck. Make this first pass with the grain to minimize resistance and in-grown hairs. This is the first of three passes, so do not press. You are reducing hair, not totally removing it.

Lather again and shave across the grain. This should be a pass at 90 degrees to the natural growth of your hair. This should not be confused with shaving directly against the grain. This pass will reduce your beard to a level just noticeable to the touch.

Lather one more time and shave against the grain. In most beards, this will be predominantly a down-to-up stroke. Now you are shaving completely flush with the face. Consider manually flattening or stretching parts of your face to get the most level plane possible for the razor stroke. This pass will leave your face smooth as a baby's bottom.

Rinse your face with cold water. Apply aftershave or a simple, unscented astringent like witch hazel. This will prevent any irritation from developing into unsightly razor burn.


  • Practice makes perfect. Do not expect a perfect shave on the first try with a safety razor. Consider omitting the final pass until you gain more experience with this razor.

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About the Author

Nathaniel Williams has been writing for the web since 2001. He has written for the History News Network, Being There Magazine, and Vote iQ. Williams has a Bachelor of Arts in history from the University of Washington and is a working filmmaker.