Should You Go Against the Grain With Your Double Edge Safety Razor?

Some people argue that shaving against the grain with a double edge safety razor provides the ultimate close shave.

However, for others, it is a surefire way to get razor burn, ingrown hairs, and nicks and cuts.

Truth be told, whether or not you shave against the grain largely depends on your individual preferences, skin type, and facial hair growth pattern.

For example, in this Reddit thread, one user says that he shaves against the grain every time while others say that they can never shave against the grain without getting razor burn.

Double edge safety razors are designed to glide over the skin, which can result in a closer shave. However, there are potential risks to consider when shaving against the grain.

The Takeaway:

  • Shaving against the grain with a double edge safety razor can provide a close shave, but it also comes with potential risks like razor burn, ingrown hairs, and nicks and cuts.
  • To minimize these risks, use proper technique, including a consistent 30-degree angle, minimal pressure, and holding the skin taut while shaving. Also, use a quality shaving brush, soap/cream, and a moisturizing aftershave balm.
  • When starting, practice with the grain shaving before attempting against the grain shaving. Take short, gentle strokes to avoid irritation.
  • Manage risks by using a fresh, sharp blade, exfoliating before shaving, and maintaining proper razor hygiene to prevent infections.

What Really Happens to the Hair When Shaving Against the Grain?

When you shave against the grain with a safety razor, the razor blade cuts the hair even closer to the skin’s surface instead of just a few millimeters above.

This gives the appearance of a smooth, clean-shaven face.

However, this aggressive cut to the hair may lead to irritation or folliculitis for some men. Additionally, if you are going against the grain on a second pass, the extra pass puts stress on the skin’s moisture barrier, which can lead to both dry and tight skin afterward.

To counteract this, it is important to use a quality shaving brush and shaving soap or cream to help lift and soften the hair.

Additionally, using a moisturizing-rich aftershave balm helps to leave your skin feeling soft and smooth.

Is Shaving Against the Grain Safe With a Double Edge Razor?

While a double edge safety razor can make against the grain shaving less likely to irritate, it is still crucial to use proper technique to avoid problems.

Keeping your blade sharp, using minimal pressure, and maintaining a consistent 30-degree angle can help achieve a close shave without risks. You’ll also want to make sure that you hold the skin taut while shaving against the grain.

When starting, it is best to test a small patch of skin and go with the grain first to get a sense of the technique and time it takes to get with the grain shaving down pat. Once you’re comfortable with that, you can try against the grain for a closer shave.

Additionally, we recommend taking short, gentle strokes to avoid any irritation.

Remembering the Direction of Your Hair Growth (Mapping the Grain)

Before shaving, dermatologist recommend that you map the direction of hair growth, to help know which direction to shave for the most optimal results.

To do this, you’ll want to rub your hand over the area you plan to shave. If the hair feels like it is moving in a certain direction, then that is the grain.

Additionally, it can be helpful to write down the direction of the grain on a piece of paper or mark it on a mirror to help you remember.

We have a full-guide on mapping the shaving grain should you want to learn more.

How Serious are the Risks When Shaving Against the Grain?

The risks of shaving against the grain are real, but they are manageable with proper technique and precautions:

  1. Razor burn: Razor burn is caused by skin irritation and inflammation of the skin, often resulting from applying too much pressure or using an old, dull blade. To prevent razor burn, use a fresh, sharp blade and let the weight of the razor do the work. Avoid pressing the razor against your skin.
  2. Ingrown hairs: Ingrown hairs occur when the hair grows back into the skin. This can cause red, inflamed bumps known as razor bumps. To prevent ingrown hairs, always exfoliate your face with a warm washcloth or facial scrub before shaving. Shaving with the grain on the first pass and then against the grain can also help prevent ingrown hairs.
  3. Nicks and cuts: Shaving against the grain can result in nicks and cuts if you’re not careful. Always try to maintain a 30-degree angle and apply light pressure when shaving. If you sense resistance, stop and adjust the angle of the razor.
  4. Infection: Infections can occur if bacteria enter open wounds. To prevent infection, clean your razor and store it in a dry, clean environment. Use an alcohol-free toner or aftershave balm to soothe and disinfect your skin after shaving.

Demonstrating How to Shave Against the Grain

Here’s a brief video that expertly demonstrates how to shave against the grain with a double edge safety razor:

Does the Type of Safety Razor Matter When Shaving Against the Grain?

When it comes to shaving against the grain, the type of safety razor you use can make a difference in terms of comfort, ease of use, and potential risks. There are various types of safety razors available, including open comb and closed comb, as well as adjustable and non-adjustable models.

Razor Aggressiveness

The aggressiveness of a safety razor is determined by the blade gap and blade exposure. A razor with a larger blade gap and more blade exposure is considered to be more aggressive. While aggressive razors can provide a closer shave, they may also increase the chances of irritation, nicks, and cuts, especially when shaving against the grain.

For those new to against the grain shaving or those with more sensitive skin, a less aggressive razor with a smaller blade gap and less blade exposure is recommended. This will allow you to get a close shave with less risk of irritation.

Open Comb and Closed Comb Safety Razors

Open comb and closed comb safety razors are other options to consider when choosing the right razor for shaving against the grain. Open comb razors have teeth-like structures that expose more of the blade to the skin, providing a more aggressive shave. Closed comb razors, on the other hand, have a solid safety bar that offers less blade exposure and a milder shave.

For shaving against the grain, a closed comb razor is generally recommended, as it is less likely to cause irritation and is more forgiving to use. However, experienced wet shavers who prefer a more aggressive shave may opt for an open comb razor.

Adam Williams

As the lead editor of Tools of Men, Adam loves men's grooming products. Particularly of interest is managing facial hair and perfecting the art of the modern man's skincare routine. His work has been featured or quoted in several publications, including New York Magazine, Vice, Sharpologist, MIC, Elite Daily, and more. When Adam isn't working, he enjoys spending time with his two little kids who keep him both on his toes and young at heart.

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