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Shaving 301: 3 Subtle Tweaks That Can Make A Big Difference In Your Shave

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Ever wondered if a small change in your shave technique could make a big difference in your shave?  Here are three small tweaks that can provide surprising results.

Change The Handle Of Your Razor

Image Courtesy Of West Coast Shaving

Changing the handle of your preferred razor can produce subtle changes in the way you hold the razor due to weight and balance considerations.  And those subtle changes can completely change the outcome of your shave because you may unconsciously change the angle at which you hold the razor (and therefore the blade edge).

I discovered this completely by accident.  A few years ago I was experimenting with three piece razors (seeing how consistent the screw threads were) and had a number of them disassembled on my bathroom counter.  Out of curiosity I switched up heads and handles and discovered some of the razors I liked suddenly didn’t seem to shave as well, and some of the razors I didn’t care for seemed to shave better.  Swapping the handles back with their original heads resulted in the shaves I was previously getting.

Changing the handle of the razor can be surprisingly easy under certain circumstances.

Many three piece double edge razors use the same type of screw thread to attached the razor head to the handle.  So you may be able to keep the razor head your familiar razor head and experiment with different handles–longer, shorter, heavier, lighter, etc.  Razor handles are available from many wet shaving vendors including West Coast Shaving (affiliate link), Italian Barber, and Maggard Razors, among others.

Even cartridge razors can have handle options: there is a thriving aftermarket in artisan-made handles that mate to various cartridge heads (Mach3, Fusion, and Atra heads most commonly).

Other types of razors (two piece double edge, twist-to-open double edge, Injector, etc.) may present more of a challenge but might be possible depending on how that razor’s handle is mated to the razor’s head.

Change The Pacing Of Your Shave Stroke

Another small change that can produce big results is to change the pacing of your shave:  intentionally shave slightly faster or slower than normal.  This can be especially beneficial if you have gotten a little too casual (or over-confident) with your shave, speeding up your shaving strokes.  Or perhaps you are too cautious, slowing down your shave strokes.

In my own case I had gotten over-confident and started shaving more quickly.  The quality of my shaves dropped noticeably until I “reset myself” and started to refocus on my shaves.

Try using a metronome (or a metronome app on your smart phone) or even an old mechanical clock movement to “pace” your shave.  This may refocus your attention to where you need to be.

Ride The Cap (Or The Guard)

Finally, consider slightly altering the angle at which you hold the razor to either “ride the cap” or “ride the guard.”

You may not be able to do this with a multi-blade cartridge razor with a pivoting head but you should be able to using a stationary-head razor (double edge or single edge), or some single-edge pivot razors (OneBlade [affiliate link], Focus Dynamic R48).

“Riding the cap” means to angle the razor’s handle ever-so-slightly farther away from your face but still keep the blade in contact with your skin. This causes the blade edge’s angle to become shallower.  Difficult parts of the face sometimes require a bit more patience and care. For those, ride the cap to make the razor cut a little more mildly.

“Riding the guard” involves intentionally using a steeper angle, bringing the razor’s handle closer to parallel to the skin.  Although doing this can increase the chance of razor burn or other irritations (especially on the neck), done carefully it can provide a closer shave.

Related Post: How To Get A Closer Shave With A Mild Safety Razor 3 Ways

Summing Up

In conclusion, try one of these three subtle tweaks the next time you shave and see if you notice a difference.  Also be sure to use a clean, sharp razor blade; don’t press too hard; and go with the grain first. With a little extra care, you can get a close, comfortable shave that leaves your skin looking and feeling its best.



Shave tutor and co-founder of sharpologist. I have been advocating old-school shaving for over 20 years and have been featured in major media outlets including The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and Lifehacker. Also check out my content on Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest!View Author posts

4 thoughts on “Shaving 301: 3 Subtle Tweaks That Can Make A Big Difference In Your Shave”

  1. Hi, Mark.
    I am a slow shaver, almost meticulous. I also alter the cap and guard depending what part of my face/neck I am shaving. In respect to your article, I will try speeding a little more time. I do not own any “three-piece” razors.

  2. Br. Jack Gillespie+, LC

    I saw an advertisement for the “Gillette Slide” and have been using that ever since. It’s been a real game changer for me.

  3. I strongly agree with your three suggestions.

    IME riding the cap increases the quality of the shave in most DE and SE razors.

    I also find a different handle makes a big difference. I attribute that to heavier-weighted handles make more physical mass in the razor, and that thereby increases the “power” of the stroke and cutting efficiency.

    I tend to shave with strokes that are too fast. I have recently learned to slow down, and I get better shaves.

  4. Interesting read! I would consider adjustments to the stroke and/or the angle more like “fine-tuning” than “advanced shaving techniques” and I have used both. I have found the angle in particular, i.e. riding the cap or the guard more, to be especially helpful when getting acquainted with a different DE blade brand. For example, I have found that I can get on the guard more with a Gillette Silver Blue but if I apply the same angle with a 7 O’Clock Super Platinum (black label), I get a very different result. As for “going Frankenstein” on handles and heads, now I would consider that an advanced technique. Ha! Thanks for another entertaining and informative piece.

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