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How to Shave With a Safety Razor, According to a Dermatologist

Safety razors can be intimidating. Here are the benefits and how to use a safety razor for a smooth shave, according to a dermatologist.

Written by
Tehrene Firman

Disposable plastic razors and refill blades have been the standard for years. And they generate a huge amount of waste, with billions winding up in landfills every year. A metal safety razor, on the other hand, is a much more sustainable option for any shaving routine. It's also a change your skin will thank you for.

While safety razors can be a little intimidating after using a standard plastic option your entire life, they're better for the planet, your wallet, and your skin. According to Annie Gonzalez, MD, FAAD, a dermatologist at Riverchase Dermatology in Miami, shaving with a safety razor can be a much more effective and gentle option.

Here's everything you should know before buying a safety razor, from the benefits to how to use one correctly.

The Benefits of Using a Safety Razor

A safety razor (which you can order right here from popular brands like Leaf) is a more sustainable option: It's completely plastic-free and can last for years. The super-durable metal razors also use steel blades. Once it's time to replace a blade (which is typically after 5 to 10 shaves, similarly to standard razors), you can recycle it with your other metal recycling or through the brand's recycling program.

Aside from the environmental benefits, using a safety razor also tends to be beneficial for your skin. According to Dr. Gonzalez, it's much less irritating than traditional plastic options on store shelves.

"Because safety razors use a single double-edge blade, they tend not to pull and tug at the skin the way multi-blade razors do. Instead, the safety razor's weight allows it to glide across the skin smoothly," says Dr. Gonzalez. "Whether you're shaving your sensitive bikini area, your knees, or your legs, a safety razor is likely to surpass a razor if you're shaving correctly in terms of effectively removing hair. They can do so without unsightly ingrown hairs and razor bumps."

Aside from giving you smooth skin free of uncomfortable razor bumps and ingrown hair, shaving with a safety razor is also a great way to beat bacteria. "When you use a single blade and replace it consistently instead of an old cartridge for weeks on end, you're shaving in a more sanitary way," she says.

Now, the fun part: how to use a safety razor. This three-step process will leave you with smooth, bump-free skin wherever you're shaving.

How to Use a Safety Razor

1. Prep Your Skin

Every shave should start by prepping your skin. "The first step is to exfoliate and scrub to remove dead skin. This is key because one of the main reasons people get ingrown hairs and razor bumps is when the razor hits against dead skin cells into the pore and blocks the hair," Dr. Gonzalez says. "If you soak in hot water prior to exfoliating, this will also help open the pore prior to shaving."

2. Moisturize Before Shaving

Moisturizing only happens after shaving... right? Wrong. According to Dr. Gonzalez, the key to a great shave is moisturizing your skin beforehand, too. "Never shave dry, even if you're in a rush. Apply shaving cream, a gel, or even a hair conditioner," she says. "Make sure to use something that's clear so you can see what you're doing if you have moles or cuts on the area."

3. Master the Shaving Method

Shaving with a safety razor is a little different than the plastic razors you may be used to. When you follow Dr. Gonzalez's instructions below, you'll be a pro in no time.

1. Positioning

Position the razor at a 45-degree angle to your skin and shave using gentle, short strokes. You don't need to apply the same force as you would with a cartridge razor. This affords you control while shaving, but the weight of the handle glides the razor.

2. Direction

Shave in the same direction the hair grows. This is known as "shaving with the grain." This may take a little more time to achieve a close shave, but it cuts down on irritation.

3. Small Areas

Shave small areas at a time. Don't attempt to start at your ankles and go all the way up to your thigh in one fell swoop. You risk cutting yourself that way. Also, try not to shave when you're in a rush. In order to get a close, safe shave, you need to prep your skin properly and take your time.