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HOW TO SHAVE YOUR LEGS WITH A STRAIGHT RAZOR
Beaches are amazing places. There's something enchanting about that margin between land and sea that captivates me. When I vacation, it's usually to some place with a beach. I lived on a beach in California and I lived on a barrier island off the East coast. Some beaches were rocky, others had smooth sand, and a few were entirely comprised of shells. Every beach in the world that I've had the pleasure to visit, however, had trash. Even on the beaches that were combed regularly by tractors, rubbage would wash ashore. A number of years ago, I began to notice that I saw two items littering beaches more often than I saw others; tampon applicators and disposable razors. Disgusted at the garbage, I soon eliminated both from my life. I went to cotton applicator-less tampons and razors with replaceable blades. Nearly two years ago, I upped my shaving game and started using a straight razor to shave my legs (I also upped my period game and switched to a cup).
The only straight razor I've ever used is from Equinox International and it retails for around ten bucks. It's still got a blade to replace, but it's a skinny little sliver of metal. I've ditched the plastic housing completely and now I shave plastic free. I'm not quite confident enough to go for the more traditional straight razor that requires sharpening. Those can be tricky. But I will say that I get a close shave and I shave about half as often as I did with my old razor. It can be intimidating at first, but honestly the first day I tried it out, I didn't nick myself once. I can't say I've had a perfect track record since then, but I know a lot more now than I did two years ago.
So, now that you know where I'm coming from and what I'm working with, let me impart some of the tips and tricks I've picked up through trial and error.
1. Moisture is your friend. This is the most important guideline in this whole article. The longer you stay in the shower or bath before you shave, the better. Softer skin and softer hair will be easier to work with.
2. Get comfortable. Straight razor shaving, unless you've got mad skills, isn't quite like the stand-up routine you might be used to. You'll need to hold your blade at an angle that isn't easy to accomplish while standing. Since we aren't working with a safety razor, it also takes better eyesight and concentration. So, I suggest finding a comfy spot to sit and prop your leg up. I like to use the edge of the tub, but parking your caboose on the commode might suit as well.
2. Use shaving soap. Don't go for your standard bar of shower soap. For me, the puck-shaped shaving soap worked to a lather with a brush is part of the old-school appeal that drew me to shaving this way in the first place. But, more important than aesthetic appeal is - again - moisture. If you use a soap that dries quickly or doesn't provide enough lubrication, your razor will stick as you draw it across your skin and you'll get cut. Likewise, don't lather up your entire leg before employing the razor. I like to lather up a stripe of my leg and shave that stripe of lather off before I lather the next section. This way, the soap doesn't dry on my leg and get sticky. A sticky razor is a scary razor.
3. Fresh blades. If you're using a straight razor that, like mine, has blades to replace, you might consider going with a fresh blade each time you shave. Shaving with a dull or nicked blade is no fun at all. It will depend a bit on how coarse your hair is and how much of your leg you're shaving each time (the whole shebang or just the knee down). It may take a bit of trial and error to figure out what works for you, but it's better to have more blades on hand to start out.
4. Avoid wrinkles. You'll want to shave as flat a surface as you can manage. For most of the leg, that's no problem. Where you're bound to run into trouble is at the ankle and the knee, where the skin is more flexible. Take your time in these areas. While your dominant hand is working the razor, use your other hand to hold the skin in place as tightly as is comfortable. Bending the knee and straightening the ankle can help a lot.
5. The long and short of it. When it's time to put steel to skin, it's best to shave against the grain. For most of us, that's starting at the ankle and drawing up. A 30-degree angle between your leg and razor is just about right to cut the hair without cutting into anything else. I've gone back and forth between using long strokes up the leg and using short strokes to clear an area before graduating toward the knee. I think I've settled on short strokes, but if you're not having luck with one method, change it up and see what you like better. You might cover the majority of the area with long strokes and use short strokes for the tricky spots.
6. Moisturize again! Once you've removed all of the hair you want, rinse and towel off. I like to apply aftershave (I've got some nice, herbal, locally-crafted stuff) as an astringent before using copious amounts of moisturizer. Right now, I'm using a lavender oil I got from a salon. It smells divine, but it was an impulse buy I probably won't spring for again. Once the bottle is empty, I'll likely switch to a commercial product for dry skin. Unless the bottle is explicit about being cruelty-free, it's safe to assume some small creature was tortured for it. So, I keep a keen eye out for reasonably-priced moisturizers that display a cruelty-free logo (an app called "Bunny Free" is useful, although its catalog of products is fairly limited).
7. Clean up. Now that your legs are nice and smooth, don't forget to care for your razor. I always take out the blade when I've finished and make sure my razor is completely dry. You won't want any part of your straight razor to get rusty. Any leftover moisture on your soap or brush will encourage fungal and bacterial growth. So, dry them out as much as you can too. Now that your bathroom is all tidy, you'll be ready to go the next time your legs aren't as smooth as you like.
If you've enjoyed success with a straight razor, let me know! Tried it and decided it wasn't for you? I want to hear about that too. Still have questions? I think you know what to do.
*Image: Image by jacqueline macou from Pixabay
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