Even the manliest of facial hedges could use a trim (or simply a comb) on occasion. While there is a very real juxtaposed stand-off between the bearded and the shaven, there is also good reason that both styles can live in harmony together, especially as it relates to their applicable grooming hardware and software. For today’s most dedicated and prolific modern beardsman, even the simple beard trim is something many men could improve upon—in both products and process.
There are both advantages and disadvantages of nearly every type of razor. There is certainly no one-size-fits-all solution. However, understanding the nuances and features of each can help you better determine the right approach for your particular grooming routine. And yes, we believe beardos should groom themselves too–even if it’s a simple once a month beard trim.
Beards and Cartridges Do Not Play Well Together
Ask anyone who has successfully shaved a beard with a cartridge razor, or even those who have shaved long facial hair with one and they will tell you that performing the task without an initial trim is not a pleasant experience.
“But,” you might say, “I have no desire to shave my beard. I intend to keep it forever.” We completely understand: bearded is beautiful. However, even the simple trim (i.e. under the neck, around the Adam’s apple, above the check bones) of some of the long hairs at the edge of the forest can be painfully yanked and pulled when you attempt to trim longer beard hair.
In fact, if you do any digging on the process of shaving a beard, most would-be beard shavers will indicate the first step of shaving a beard is, “trim the beard using hair clippers (or something similar).”
The very nature of a cartridge razor does not lend itself to a comfortable shave, particularly with longer fur. In fact, some of the first shaving advertisements for the multi-blade cartridge razor touted the “pull and cut” features of the dual, close-set blades. It works fine for the daily shaver, but flies in the face of reason for those trimming on a less frequent basis.
Secondarily, cartridge razors are not known for their ability to create strong, defined lines. Multiple blades means you are at the mercy as to which blade might cut which hair, leaving facial hair lines uneven and undefined.
Yes, some cartridge razors have tried to eliminate this issue by creating a single blade on the top of the razor, dubbing it the “sideburn trimmer.” Unfortunately, the sideburn trimmer blade works functionally for the small area near your ear, but fails miserably when you are attempting to create a strong, defined line in your beard either across your cheek or above your tie on the neckline. Only a safety razor or a straight razor can effectively do that.
How to Trim a Beard Using a Safety Razor
For those unfamiliar with shaving with the likes of a straight razor or a safety razor, there can be some intimidation. It is advised that anyone intending to use a single blade shaver first begin with a safety razor and, if they want to graduate to another level of manliness later, they can then move to the straight razor variety. It is in that spirit, that it would be wise to provide a brief outline of how to effectively use a safety razor, especially as it relates to trimming a beard or other longer facial hair.
- Prepare. Perhaps the most important component of what many have dubbed “traditional wet shaving” is the need for proper shave preparation. You prepare by making your facial hair as soft as possible. Many wet shavers will shave just after showering, rinse their face with the hottest water possible or simply put a very hot, wet towel on the face to moisten the beard and whiskers.
- Lather Up. Once your face (skin and hair follicles) has been properly hydrated, it is advised to lather up liberally the area to be shaved. Some would indicate that doing so with a nice shave soap/cream and a shaving brush would be ideal, but canned shaving cream can also do the trick. If you want to further protect your skin, be sure to use a good amount of pre-shave oil between steps 1 and 2. In fact, a standard vial of beard oil will do the trick as well (double benefit of sporting a beard and trimming/shaving your beard).
- Insert the blade. Once lathered, insert the double edged blade into your safety razor of choice, taking care not to cut yourself. The blades are not only sharp, they remain exposed and unprotected from a cartridge, which is one of the reasons you cannot travel with them.
- Strokes & Speed. When you first start shaving with a safety razor, there are three critical components to the actual process of shaving. First, the angle of the shave. Try to keep the angle of the shave at 30 to 45 degrees, depending on your comfort (more angle=is less direct contact with the razor). Second, take short, slow strokes with very little pressure, letting the weight of the razor do the work. You will need to adjust your angle and speed depending on the area of the face you are shaving.
- Passes & Direction. The direction you shave, especially when starting out with a safety razor is critical. For your first pass, be sure to shave with the grain. For a baby-butt smooth feel, you will want to make multiple passes. Typically shavers will first shave with, then across, then against the grain. However, when it comes to beardsman with sensitive skin, it is best advised to simply to a couple of cool strokes with the grain, creating a tight line from skin to beard and then calling it a day. If you intend to make multiple passes, be sure to repeat the lather step before subsequent passes.
- Rinse. Rinse with cool water to close the pores and then splash on some of your favorite aftershave or aftershave balm.
Again, no pre-beard trimming needed here. Go straight at the problem, hacking at your hedge with the abandon of a single blade!
When it comes to trimming your beard with a safety razor, there are other ancillary benefits including the cost savings (safety razors are more economical), environmental savings (the blades are fully recyclable unlike cartridge razors) and skin savings (safety razors are known for their ability to provide a quality shave without causing razor bumps or razor burn).
Remember: cartridges razors represent an attempt at a one-size-fits-all solution, mostly geared toward men who are shaving regularly—simply not a fit for today’s bearded gentleman. Do yourself a favor and get a better quality beard shave or trim: get a safety razor.