Here at Prim & Prep, we’re firm believers that a traditional wet shave is really the only way to go if you want to achieve the closest, most painless shave possible. We’ve previously written in detail about all of the benefits of shaving with a straight or safety razor, as we strongly suggest that any man who takes his grooming seriously invests his time, money and energy in learning how to get the most out of these methods.
However, we’re also realists, and so we understand that not every man is willing to take our advice. For many men, the ease and convenience of shaving with a disposable or cartridge razor will always win out over the added quality you get when using a safety razor. Despite how expensive cartridge razors are becoming, there is still no doubt that they can do a decent job, giving you a fairly close, even shave in no time at all.
Of course, I would always recommend upgrading to a quality safety razor, as the blades are much cheaper and a heck of a lot sharper, giving you an even closer shave in just a few extra minutes. That being said, even a lifelong wet shaver such as myself can see some benefits in using a cartridge razor. While I don’t use them that often, whenever I do I am still struck by just how quick and easy it can be, provided you choose a quality product.
I still think having three, four or five blades on a razor is overkill, and there is plenty of evidence that more blades equals more skin irritation. That being said, there is a time and place for everything, including disposable and cartridge razors. As a travel razor, or for those times when you’re in a hurry or simply can’t be bothered with a full wet shave, these razors can definitely still get the job done. However, the key is learning how to shave with a disposable/cartridge razor properly, as there are a few things you can do to both increase the quality of the shave and lessen the amount of irritation you experience afterwards and it all starts with taking a few extra minutes to prepare your face.
Tips on How to Shave with a Disposable Razor or Cartridge: Preparing Your FaceOne of the biggest mistakes many men make when shaving with a disposable or cartridge razor is that they neglect to properly prepare their skin and facial hair before shaving. Even if you plan on using a cheap razor, there’s no reason that you shouldn’t still attempt to get as close to a traditional wet shave as you can. In fact, it’s probably even more important exactly because you’re using a disposable razor, as the steel the blades are made from is of a lower quality and so cannot be sharpened nearly as well as the higher quality steel found in double edge razor blades or straight razors.
For this reason, I’d recommend starting off with a hot shower or wrapping a warm, wet towel around your face for a few minutes before shaving. The combination of the water and the heat works to soften up the facial hair, make the hairs stand straighter and open up the pores, all of which leads to a better shave and helps to prevent irritation. Since many men already shower in the morning, this doesn’t even have to add any extra time onto your daily routine.
For an even better shave, you may want to consider washing your face with a mild exfoliating soap while in this shower. This will remove the top layers of dead skin, dirt and oil, which may help those of you that frequently experience shaving bumps. It also helps minimize post shave irritation. When you shave without exfoliating, the razor blade will also scrape away those dead skin cells and such, but in a much less gentle way, so do yourself a favor and wash it away first.
One final thing you can do to prepare your face is to invest in a quality pre-shave oil, which will help to better lubricate your face, allowing the razor to glide more smoothly over your face and minimizing the damage caused by all those cheap, not so sharp blades. For help in choosing a good pre-shave oil, check out our post on the best pre-shave oils, or for those of you DIY junkies out there, you can always make your own.
How to Shave with a Disposable Razor or Cartridge: Choose Your Cream WiselyTaylor of Old Bond StreetIn addition to preparing your face properly, another easy way to improve the quality of your shave—no matter what type of razor you’re using—is to skip the canned aerosol shaving creams or gels and instead reach for a high quality glycerin based shaving cream or gel. The aerosol creams contain alcohol and many other chemicals that dry out your skin and can cause more irritation. They also typically use silicone as a lubricant, which is not nearly as effective as the glycerin and other ingredients found in higher quality products.
Since you’re already shaving with a disposable razor, we can probably assume that you’re not willing to go all out and take the extra time to prepare a traditional shaving soap. However, you can get virtually the same effect with a traditional shaving cream, which can either be applied with your fingers or a shaving brush. I’d recommend using a brush, as it takes basically the same amount of time, but does a much more thorough job of fully coating the hairs. Shaving brushes also help to lift the hairs off the face, which will help to prevent razor burn. When the hairs lie flat on the face, it typically causes the razor to drag, so a shaving brush is a quick solution to help prevent this problem.
When it comes to the actual shaving, most of the things you can do should be fairly common sense. Still, it seems many men often neglect to follow even the most basic principles either because they’re in a hurry or they believe that their five blade cartridge razor can tackle anything in its path. So just in case you’ve forgotten (or were never properly taught), here are a few things you should always remember to do.
Tips for Shaving with a Disposable/Cartridge Razor
- Trim It Up. While you may think those five blade razors to be invincible, even the sharpest razor can only take on so much hair at one time. So, if you’re one of those men who go all weekend without shaving, consider investing in a beard trimmer so you can cut everything down to a more manageable length before grabbing your razor. A good rule of thumb is that you shouldn’t ever try to shave off more than two days of beard growth without trimming, although this obviously depends on how fast your facial hair grows.
- Go With the Grain. It may sound obvious, but you should always start off shaving with the grain. We’re not saying you can’t go against the grain (and in fact, you’ll probably have to in order to get a close, smooth shave), but just make sure to go over the entire face shaving with the grain first.
- Rinse Off the Razor Repeatedly. Disposable and cartridge razors are infamous for getting clogged up with hair and shaving cream incredibly easily. For this reason, make sure that you are thoroughly rinsing the blade off after each stroke, as shaving with a clogged razor is one of the quickest way to a bad case of razor burn.
- Rinse & Reapply Your Shaving Cream. As we said, you’ll probably need to go over at least some spots a second or even third time, possibly going against the grain. However, before you do this, it’s a good idea to rinse off the remaining cream and hair from your face, and then reapply your shaving cream or gel first. The point of shaving cream is to help lubricate your face, meaning that once you’ve already shaved the cream off your face, there is nothing left to help the blade slide smoothly. Although this step takes a few extra seconds (and requires the use of more shaving cream), it is well worth it if you want to save yourself some future irritation.
- The Cold Finish. Once you’re finished and satisfied with the quality of your shave, rinse your face off thoroughly in cold water. The colder the better, as it helps to close your pores and calm down your skin after the shave. You may also want to consider using a good quality aftershave lotion or aftershave balm to help repair the damage caused by shaving and minimize irritation.
At the end of the day, it’s actually not that difficult to learn how to shave with a cartridge razor or other disposable and get better results than you’re used to. If you follow the simple steps we’ve listed, you should soon be on your way to a whole new shaving experience. This isn’t to say that there still aren’t better ways to shave, but at least by taking a few simple precautions and spending a bit more time preparing your face, you can at least eliminate some of the common problems and complaints.