The Zen of Shaving – Double-Edge Razor Ritual

Double-Edge Razor Shaving

July 2013 Off-Topic Post

I apologize for intruding, especially while you’re in such a half-naked, just getting out of the shower state.  But I can see you standing there in your bathroom.  You just stepped out of the shower and are standing in front of your sink and mirror.  I know what’s next.  I know that you’re getting ready to smear some chemical goo from a can all over your face, and then scrape an expensive but cheaply made cartridge-type razor across your fragile epidermis.  After you’re done, you’re going to end up with a less than perfect shave.  Your skin is going to be damaged.  You’ve rushed through a perfect chance at a zen moment, and you’ve started your day by doing things half-assed.

Is this you?  I’m almost certain that it is.  And I assure you that there is a much better way!  I’m naturally a bearder.  I keep a beard the majority of the time.  But for the past several months, I’ve kept a clean shave.  Before I even trimmed my mountain man beard, I decided that I wasn’t going to half-ass it like I did when I was a boy.  I decided to learn to shave like a man – a double-edge razor (safety razor), brush and soap.  Let the zen begin.

Shaving with a safety razor, brush and soap is the epitome of zen.  Of course, we associate zen with tea rituals, calligraphy and rock gardens.  But this is pure and simple American Zen.

So by now you may be wondering “why a safety razor?”  Well, I’ll explain it in order of importance to me.  You may find the importance in a different order, but I assure you that all of these reasons are logical and true.


“And when he felt the wound smarting, he whispered the word Om, filled himself with Om.”                         H. Hesse

1.  Zen.  It may sound silly to some, but there is just something about safety razor shaving that soothes the mind, calms the spirit, and begins your day with a moment of perfection.  It’s somewhat akin to the perfect golf swing, releasing an arrow from your bow, meditating to music, or walking alone in the forest.

2.  Nostalgia.  I enjoy old-fashioned life.  I shave with a safety razor.  I smoke a pipe.  I hold the door for ladies.  You get the point.

3.  The closeness of the shave.  I promise you that you if you ever choose safety razor shaving, you will have a noticeably better shave.  In fact, you could shave the night before and still have a better shave in the morning than you would with a cartridge razor and gel.

4.  Cost.  There are some up-front costs (I’ll go over them in a moment) but over the course of a year you will save money.  Imagine how much you could save over a lifetime!

5.  Saving the Environment.  Yeah.  I drive a gas-guzzler.  But it seems to make me feel better when I have less to throw away.  When you compare the meager packaging and size of double-edge replacement razors to the packaging and excess material of cartridge razors, you get a warm and fuzzy feeling knowing that you are helping to save the world.

Before I go over the step-by-steps to zen-shaving (that’s what we call it here at my house), I’ll give you a few details of my supplies, how expensive they were, and the like.


Safety Razor Shaving Supplies

Safety Razor Assortment

Old School Safety Razors – The closest is a butterfly-style Gillette that I cleaned up with baking soda and toothbrush.

1.  Razor.  Of course you’re going to need a double-edge razor.  This is the tricky part.  You can purchase elegant brand new razors that cost as much as a house payment.  Or you can be a bit thrifty and look in antique shops, flea markets, or online.   I anticipate that you could find something useable and enjoyable for around $20.  I had enough foresight to ask my grandfather for his old ones.  I ended up with four of them.  I will eventually experiment with each of them but I chose a butterfly-style Gillette.  I scrubbed it with a toothbrush and baking soda paste until it looked like new.

2.  Razor Blades.  I purchased a pack of ten Merkur blades for around $12 at a local Art of Shaving store.  They are available online as well.  On a personal note, I was really let down with the Art of Shaving (Note: The Art of Shaving asked me to remove their link.  I suppose that they don’t take criticism well).  They were horribly expensive and way too “metro” for me.  ***Don’t settle for drug-store blades.  They are sure to make for a horrible shaving experience.***

Brush and Soap3.  Shaving Soap and Brush.  Similar to razors, you could spend a small fortune on top-of-the-line soaps and overly-priced silvertip badger brushes.  Or you could go low-budget and get a discount type of product. I recommend somewhere in the middle – Van Der Hagen.  I found mine at Target for around $20.  The important things to look for – you need a badger hair brush, some type of quality soap with bowl, and a stand for drying your brush.

4.  Pre-Shave Oil.  Some choose to skip this altogether.  But I recommend using an oil prior to shaving.  You can purchase some shaving oils that are expensive.  But I recommend purchasing tea tree oil.  It’s about $1 per bottle and I’ve only used half a bottle in over four months.

5.  Post-Shave Product.  Some prefer creams, moisturizers and such.  But that’s not for a burly mountain man.  Brut Splash-On.  It’s around four bucks.  It burns like hell.  But it prevents razor burn.  And hey, at least you’ll smell like a man.

6.  Styptic Pencil.  You will bleed.  It happens.  Put on your big-boy pants and deal with it.  Just a dab from your styptic pencil will stop all but a true gusher.  If it stings, you know it’s working.  $2 to $3 dollars.

That’s it.  You won’t NEED anything else.  You may decide that you want to add something to your routine, but these six items will get you started.

OK.  So you have everything that you need.  You just stepped out of what I assume to be a hot shower where you washed your face well.  And now you are looking at yourself in the mirror.  Now what?


1.  Pre-Shave Oil.  Get your hands wet with hot water.  Add about three to five drops of pre-shave oil and massage the oil into your skin.  Don’t be tempted to use more oil.  A little goes a long way and having too much will just make your razor dirty quicker.

Soap and Brush2.  Shaving Soap and Brush.  Run hot water over your brush until it is saturated and steaming hot.  Give it a couple of quick flips of the wrist to remove the excess water.  Put your brush in the soap and circle it around until you’ve developed a nice lather on the brush.  Now brush it on in circular motions anywhere on your face you intend to shave.

Safety Razor Shaving

3.  Shave.  Here’s where it gets a little more difficult.  First off, don’t hold the safety razor like you would a cartridge-type.  Hold it by the end of the handle away from the blade and then use your pointer finger near the blade to guide the razor.  It’s not about pushing the razor hard onto your skin.  It takes little pressure to shave with a safety razor.  A lot of people worry about the angle of the blade on your skin.  I’ve found that if I attempt a similar angle as I used with a cartridge razor, it took little adjustment to find the correct angle.  I’ll not bore you with the details of every stroke of my razor.  You will certainly develop your own method.  However, I will explain that I begin by shaving downward.  I shave my entire face and neck with downward strokes. Also, strive to keep your face taut.  You’ll get a much better shave and less irritation. ***Be careful at the bottom of your bottom lip.  It’s really easy to cut.***

4.  Shaving Soap and Brush.  Use the same method as before.

Safety Razor

Safety Razor Shaving - Be Careful

Be careful near your lips. They bleed easy.

5.  Shave.  This time, you’re going to pass over your entire neck and face shaving upward.  Every time I tried this with a cartridge razor, it severely irritated my face.  However, a safety razor glides smoothly over the skin cutting beard and mustache with ease.  ***Be careful with the top of your upper lip.  The entire mustache area is a bit tricky when shaving with upward strokes.***

6.  Rinse.  Use COLD water.  This closes the pores and helps to prevent razor burn – those ugly red bumps that are indicators of a sub-standard shave.  I’m sad to admit that I have one area on my neck that no matter how I adjust my routine, it always gets a little irritated.

7.  Post-Shave Product.  Pat your face dry and add your post-shave product.  Again, some prefer lotions or moisturizers.  If so, find one specifically made for men’s shaving.  Otherwise, check your testosterone level and splash on some Brut.


1.  Take a moment to enjoy the peace, tranquility,  and serenity that define zen moments.

2.  Show off to your wife, children, friends and complete strangers how smooth your face feels.

3.  Feel like a man again.

If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, feel free to let me know.  Do you use a safety razor?  Are you dissatisfied with your shaving routine?  Do you think I’m full of it?  I’d love to hear about it!

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8 thoughts on “The Zen of Shaving – Double-Edge Razor Ritual

    • Thanks for the input. It seems that they were the first to do stainless blades. Can’t say whether they are still quality products, but definitely worth checking out!

  1. Bearded for almost 40 years. Why? Curly hair. It grows inward causing follicle infections. This happens in place that have never been shaved. Think about everywhere on a mans body that hair grows and I’ve had an ingrown hair. Ears, eyebrows, scalp, feet…. Just carry the thought as far as you care or dare. I keep it buzz cut and I always looks like I have a three day growth. I like it. No choice. Lol

    • Man, that sounds painful and aggravating. I went through a long period of clippers only on my hair and face. Worked pretty well and was really convenient. Even if you can’t apply the info in the post, I hope you enjoyed reading anyways. And as far as the zen goes, there’s plenty to be found floating on a body of water with fishing rod in hand!!!

  2. Pingback: To My Beard, With Love… |

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