You may remember my plea last year for your tips on transitioning to a reusable stainless steel safety razor. I had thought the experience of shaving with a safety razor would be the same as shaving with the plastic razors I'd used for years, but there was a steep learning curve for me, and it took me awhile to get the hang of it.
I don't mean to scare you off - this is probably suuuuper easy for some people, but it wasn't for me. In case you've likewise found it tricky, I'm reporting back on what have helped me the most, many shaves (and nicks) later.
Buy from a knowledgeable source.
I purchased my razor at a grocery store, and a few of my friends have gotten theirs secondhand on eBay. Recently, though, another girlfriend was telling me that she purchased hers at a local store with a large selection of safety razors, where she asked the clerk which model was the best for shaving legs (or, insert whatever you shave here). Not coincidentally, she's had a much smoother transition to her safety razor than I have. Asking the experts! Genius!
The other thing that folks can help you with in person is choosing the blade that might be right for you. Blades come in different sharpness levels, so depending on whether you're shaving your legs, underarms, thick facial hair, thin facial hair, some blades will be too aggressive and leave you prone to cuts, while some will be just right. Instead of diving into the search for blades blindly, getting expert help up front makes sense.
This sounds elementary, I know, but it's a fairly new addition to my routine. Since using those pink aerosol cans of shaving cream in high school, I gradually found I didn't need shaving cream and stopped using it - especially once I became more conscious of the harmful ingredients found in many drugstore beauty products. Enter the safety razor on unlathered skin: ouch. Soap or oil helps it glide along more smoothly. I just use a bar soap, but a reader suggested using oil and THEN soap, which I'd like to try, too. I lather up with my hands, but having a brush for the task sounds luxurious (and, if you shave your face, perhaps essential).
Shave slowly and gently.
This is the number one thing that has helped me adjust to my new razor. With plastic razors that have multiple blades and good nick protection, I used to shave in quick swipes up my leg. Now, for each pass, I set the razor down on my skin, adjust the angle, and slowly and carefully pull it upwards. I take even more care on delicate areas like my ankles, tendons, and knees. I also don't use any pressure, simply letting the weight of the razor do the work, per the recommendation of reader Rachel. Gently does the trick.
After shaving, I use lotion or body oil, which seems to calm any stinging and just generally make the experience a bit nicer. This past winter, I've been liking my DIY body lotion, but you probably already have a lotion or oil that you love.
Take time to care for it.
After each use, I remove the razor blade and wipe it and the razor with a towel, then set them down on a shelf to allow them to air dry fully. Only once they're dry do I screw them back together. This helps keep the razor clean and prevent both pieces from rusting. If you have children or pets, though, be really careful about leaving the blade around, as it's so sharp! Once the razor is dry, I store mine upright in a jar, pictured above.
Make a travel strategy.
Since you can't typically include these blades in your carry on luggage, think through what you might do when you travel so that you don't have to rush out and buy a plastic razor last minute. For example, my travel strategy is to shave before I go and then not shave on vacation, which usually is fine for me. You could also save your old, unused plastic razors for trips, since they're permissible in carry-on luggage. For another option, a friend of mine recently donated the rest of her plastic razors after realizing that for short trips, she can go without shaving, and for long trips she'll probably be checking luggage and can include her safety razor. Reader Alix notes that she and her husband use a plastic Preserve razor when traveling, which is both made of recycled materials and recyclable. There are lots of options, and I'd love to hear how you approach it, too.
So, that's how I've gotten adjusted to my safety razor! I suspect our different shapes / skin / hair / routines mean that some of tips these work for me but not for you, or that you've found something different that has helped you get the hang of zero waste shaving. If you'd like to read more on the subject, the comments on my original post were so, so helpful and contain many more ideas for smoothing the transition.
And, if you've found something stellar that works for you (or something that definitely doesn't), would you share it so we that can all learn from you?