Every man wants to be the guy who starts his day with a straight-razor shave. It adds danger to monotony: When other men are lazily running a Norelco over their stubble, you’re shearing your overgrowth with a freaking knife. But becoming the guy who uses a straight razor has less to do with inhabiting a Wyatt Earpian hardness than it does with genetics, climate, and time. So before you ditch your Mach3 for that buffalo-horn straight blade, here’s what you need to consider.
What’s Your Hair Type?
Think of the last time you had a clean shave. If you wound up with razor bumps, you might be prone to pseudofolliculitis barbae. The bumps are usually caused by ingrown hairs: Extrafollicular hairs that leave your follicle and re-enter your skin, or transfollicular hairs that curl inside the follicle, causing fluid build-up, says Dr. Ariel Ostad, a New York–based dermatologist and dermatologic surgeon. Thick, curly hairs are, more often than not, the hairs that curl back into themselves, leaving you with razor bumps. So if you don’t have straight hair, the close shave of a straight blade is more likely to leave you with a bumpy neck.
Do You Have Any Skin Problems?
If you have any skin conditions — eczema, rosacea, seborrheic dermatitis, or anything else that can be literally hacked off your face — you’ll want to stay away from the straight razor. “With those conditions, you don’t want a close shave,” says Dr. Shari Lipner, dermatologist at Weill Cornell Medicine and New York-Presbyterian. “If you need a close shave for work, get an electric razor or a two-bladed razor that doesn’t cut so close.” If your skin is just naturally dry, pick up a daily moisturizer. The more hydrated your skin, the less likely it is to get irritated.
What’s the Weather Like?
If we were in charge of your face, we’d recommend you work on a lush hibernation beard during the chilly months. But if you go fresh-faced in January, keep in mind how dry the air, and your skin, become around the holidays. Add to that the exacerbation of a sharp edge against your skin, and you’re opening yourself up to irritation. If you’re a first-timer with a straight blade, wait until spring or summer, when your skin retains more moisture, Lipner says.
Do You Have Time to Kill?
Ask any dermatologist: Straight razors aren’t generally bad for you if you don’t have pre-existing skin conditions. The real difference between your standard razor and a straight razor is how much time you’re willing to dedicate to your face in the morning. “It breaks down to the ability of the person to perform a more intricate technique and not rush things,” says Dr. Adam Geyer, a New York–based dermatologist and longstanding consultant for Kiehl’s. “Some people aren’t into adding time to the shaving regimen, but you have to, because you can injure yourself.”
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