The thought of doing it causes butterflies in the stomachs of even seasoned shaving aficionados. There’s just something about holding the naked blade across the scalp that draws fear. So, can you shave your head with a straight razor?
Yes, you can. People do it, but it isn’t easy. It definitely produces a much closer shave than what you’d expect with a multi-blade cartridge razor. Plus, it’s cheaper in the long run and far more eco-friendly. But proper technique is crucial in minimizing cuts and irritation. This makes the process quite time-consuming, but a lot of men are drawn toward the art form.
It’s important not to jump into doing it without being fully prepared. You’ll want the right equipment, the right setup, and the right know-how.
Before you go further, it’s important to be reasonably confident shaving your face with a straight razor. Once you’ve got the basic technique down here, it may be time to give it a go on your scalp.
What I want to do is teach you a straightforward, step-by-step routine to follow. Safety should be your priority and I’ll be frequently referring to that point in this article.
I’ll then go through some pros and cons of using a straight razor for this purpose compared with other shaving devices.
Let’s get to it.
How To Shave Your Head With A Straight Razor
Follow these steps and the tips included and you the process should be made a lot easier. Ultimately, the more times you do it, the better and more efficient you’ll be at it.
1. Trim A Very Short Buzz Cut First
You may already be pretty bald and used to shaving regularly with a cartridge razor or safety razor. In which case, this step wouldn’t apply to you.
But if your hair is longer and you’re looking for a smooth finish, then you’ll definitely want to trim a short buzz cut first.
It seemed odd to include it in the list of required equipment below, but you’ll need an electric clipper to do this properly. It’ll make everything a lot easier when it comes time to shaving.
I recommend trimming all of your scalp hair down to a Number 0.5 or a Number 1 grade as opposed to simply trimming down with no guard. That’s because you’ll actually be able to see where you have and haven’t shaved later on.
2. Prepare Your Tools And Surroundings
Here’s a list of everything you’ll need. It’s a pretty minimalist setup, but it’s definitely enough to get the job done.
What You’ll Need:
- A well stropped and honed straight razor
- An additional mirror
- Pre-shave butter or oil
- Shaving cream or soap
- A shaving brush and bowl (ideally)
The importance of a well-stropped razor cannot be emphasized enough. The scalp has a far larger surface area than the face. Shaving it, therefore, dulls the blade quicker.
With repeated use, these dull blades will be a major cause of unsatisfactory shaves, irritation, and cuts.
Mirrors are your best friend when it comes to head shaving. You’ll have a bathroom mirror directly in front of you. But another mirror will also come in hugely useful when shaving the back of your head.
You could either use a handheld mirror or ideally, hang a fogless mirror on the door or wall behind you.
Pre-shave oil is great for applying before the lather. It’s hydrating, lubricating, and leads to a smoother finish. Pre-shave butter contains very similar ingredients but has a more solid consistency.
The choice between shaving cream and soap is a personal one and should be based on your level of experience. Shaving cream is easier to whip up into a lather because it contains more water. This is more “beginner-friendly” and also less time-consuming.
Shaving soap may take longer to form into a lather but when done correctly it does produce more cushion and is more lubricating. Plus, it’s considered the more traditional and “pure” product to use.
If you don’t have a shaving brush and bowl (scuttle), I’d strongly recommend getting them. If push came to shove, you could try and form the lather directly on your scalp using your palms. But this is far less than ideal and will lead to a suboptimal shave and experience.
3. Take A Shower
You’ll want the scalp skin nice and relaxed prior to the shave. Taking a warm shower is a good way to achieve this.
It’ll also relax the hair follicles and make them easier to cut with the blade.
4. Apply The Pre-Shave Oil
Apply the pre-shave oil or pre-shave butter onto the scalp as an even film. It’s relaxing to rub in and does lubricate the scalp well prior to the shave.
If you haven’t got any, it isn’t as essential as shaving soap or cream. However, it’s strongly recommended if you’re aiming for as frictionless an experience and the smoothest outcome possible.
5. Whip Up And Apply The Lather
Once again, if you really can’t get hold of a shaving brush and bowl you could apply the shaving cream or soap directly onto the scalp using your palm. The results would most likely be underwhelming.
Let’s assume you’ve got a brush and bowl.
Whip up enough lather in the bowl to apply onto your entire scalp. Remember, you’ve got a large surface area to cover, so don’t be shy.
Paint your scalp with the lather using the brush. Apply a nice, even film making sure not to leave any of the areas you’ll shave uncovered.
This generally feels awesome, so enjoy the sensation.
6. Start Shaving
Grab your (hopefully) well-stropped straight razor and brace yourself for the shave.
You’ll want to hold it using a basic, comfortable grip.
Rest the middle three fingers along the back of the blade, the fifth finger on the tang, and the thumb on the middle of the side of the blade.
Shave with the grain first (in the direction of hair growth). In general, this will mean shaving forward on the top and downward on the sides and back.
Hold the razor blade at approximately 30 degrees. Apply very little pressure, allowing the razor to do the majority of the work. You’re simply guiding it across your scalp.
Use short passes and be sure to keep the scalp skin taut using your non-dominant hand. Do not shave over any skin that hasn’t got lather over it. You need lubrication to make this as safe a shave as possible.
Using short passes should mean that you wouldn’t have to change the angle very much during each pass at all.
Be particularly careful behind the ears, as the skin here is particularly sensitive. Feel free to pull the ear gently back and forth to allow you to shave these tricky areas comfortably.
Use your handheld mirror or the additional mirror you’ve hung behind you to shave the back of your head. This will be the hardest part, mainly due to the difficulty in visualizing it. Don’t rush.
Once you’ve shaved the scalp once with the grain, you may find that you’re happy with results. In which case, you can stop here.
However, if you want to go closer you can try going across the grain. After that, if you want to go even closer you can go over it once more but against the grain.
Going against the grain will give you the closest shave. However, it can be irritating to the skin and increases the risk of razor bumps.
The process may seem tiring and time-consuming, particularly the first time you do it. But during your first few tries, really get to know the contours of your scalp.
Feel for the dips, the grooves, and the pits you need to navigate. These are most prominent on the back of your head and adds to the difficulty of shaving this area.
Over time, you’ll get to know these contours so well that shaving over them will become second nature.
7. Rinse Off And Moisturize
Rinse off any excess lather using lukewarm water. Gently towel-dry being careful not to cause soreness.
A scalp that’s just been shaved using a straight razor is likely to be quite irritated. You’ll want to be as gentle as possible with it, particularly during the next 24 hours.
Avoid using strong soaps for 24 hours. Moisturize early, as freshly-shaven, irritated skin needs moisture more than anything else.
Remember this going forward and your skin will be thanking you for it in the days immediately following a straight razor shave such as this. That goes for both your head and your face.
The Benefits Of Shaving Your Head With A Straight Razor
If I made it seem easy, it wasn’t my intention. This is arguably the most challenging way to shave one’s head. It’s time-consuming, and if done incorrectly can be pretty unpleasant.
Because of this, it may not be for everyone. In order to potentially sway you towards trying it out, here are some of its main benefits.
1. It’s cheaper and greener than a cartridge razor
Although the upfront cost of a straight razor may suggest otherwise, in the long run, it’s cheaper to invest in a straight razor.
The multi-blade cartridge razor is notorious for its dubious pricing model. Although the handle may last a while, the blades will need frequent replacement. As you probably know already, they aren’t cheap.
A high-quality straight razor is built to last generations. The blade needs manual honing and stropping – that’s a hobby and time investment, as opposed to a financial burden.
This generation is more eco-friendly than any before it. Unfortunately, when it comes to environmental consciousness multi-blade cartridge razors lose yet again.
The straight razor you buy will remain in your grooming kit for decades. In contrast, the plastic handles of cartridge razors you dispose of over time will remain in landfill sites for decades.
2. You’ll take pride in using and maintaining it
I alluded to this earlier, but it’s worth describing in more detail.
Shaving the head with a straight razor is an art. You won’t get the hang of it straight away. It’ll take commitment, practice, and dedication.
But it’s something you’ll take pride in and perfect over time. Shaving your head will become more of an experience and less of a chore.
You’ll look forward to stropping your straight razor. In fact, there are few activities in existence that are as intensely masculine as this one.
Using a straight razor is a pretty zen-like experience. There are probably few times in your daily life where you’ll need to focus so intensely on one task. In a world where you’re bombarded with dozens of thoughts at once, it’ll feel almost therapeutic to hone in on one.
Although this is more specific to shaving the face, using a straight razor is an art you’ll feel proud to teach your children.
3. The shave is impossibly close
Men that have gotten used to shaving their head with a cartridge razor often eventually start to think they can’t go any closer.
They just refuse to believe it’s possible.
But a single shave with a straight razor, even a somewhat ineffective one, will immediately put those thoughts to rest.
The smoothness is incomparable. You’ll get a significantly smoother shave on your head by using a good quality, well stropped straight razor.
I wanted to finish with this one because it’s the most important for a lot of men. At the end of the day, a ridiculously smooth scalp is the carrot that keeps you coming back for more.
It takes time, skill, effort, and practice. But once you’ve got it down, it’s almost addictive.
Hopefully, you’ve learned everything you need to know about this skill. Of course, there’s no substitute for trying it out yourself.
What I wanted to do was give you a guide peppered with tips on how to do this as comfortably and safely as possible. As you’ve hopefully appreciated by now, it isn’t a walk in the park.
Once you get the hang of it, however, you’ll quickly realize how deeply humbling, meditative, and rewarding the art of shaving truly is.