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The Best Habits and Products for a Safe, Smooth Shave

Blade replacement, cleaning, post-shave hygiene and storage.

smooth shave

Poor hygiene is one of the main causes of shaving irritations, infections and razor burn. And it’s not your hygiene we’re talking about (though we hope you’re washing your face, at least); instead, it’s the cleanliness with which you store, sanitize and replenish your razor blades.

Think of all the gunk that collects in those razors: Dead skin, hair clippings, oils, shave creams — and that’s just from the shave itself. If you store the blade improperly, it’s going to collect dust, dirt and all kinds of nasty germs. The blades become a hotbed for bacteria, and soon you’re dragging that dirty blade across your open-and-vulnerable pores, just begging for them to transfer to the skin and find a home next to your hair follicles. Next thing you know, you’ve got a red, irritated face.

And if you aren’t one to replace razors at proper intervals, imagine how all of this multiples when you’re using a dull, rusty, bacteria-riddled blade. It ain’t pretty.

Or, you could avoid the agony all together and just practice proper razor hygiene. Here’s how to do that.

Blade Replacement

Since we all shave at different intervals, there are two ways to approach razor blade replacement. You need to toss out your cartridge after 2 to 3 weeks of use, or after 6 to 8 shaves, whichever comes first. So, if you shave daily, toss it after a week or so. If you shave once a week, toss it after the second or third week. If you pick a good razor replenishment service, like Dollar Shave Club or Harry’s, those blades cost between $1 to $2 each. And considering how imperative it is that you use sharp, fresh blades on your skin — that’s a low investment with high return.

As for safety razor blades, just toss them out after each use. They’re especially inexpensive—even top-shelf brands like Bevel sell them for less than 50 cents each — and they require ultimate sharpness in order to be precise since there’s just a single blade instead of 3 to 5. We’ll forgive you if you shave daily and reuse it once, but don’t push your luck.

Blades by Dollar Shave Club $7+

Blades by Harry’s $16

Blades by Bevel $10

Blade Cleaning

If you plan to reuse your razor blade, then you need to clean it properly before storing it. First and foremost, run it under hot water (the hotter the better), rinsing it in every possible direction. Don’t soak it in a full sink—don’t even do that mid shave, yuck—but just make sure you get all of the excess gunk out from between the blades. Sometimes I’ll take a tweezer or even a rubbing-alcohol-dipped cotton swab to fish out stubborn pieces, then will rinse again with hot water. There should be no need to disinfect the razor further if it’s cleaned out and has been rinsed under high temps. Some people will run dish soap over the blades or soak them quickly in rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide before rinsing again, but that’s a little excessive and could tarnish the blades.

Follow this same advice mid-shave, rinsing the blade as thoroughly as possible in warm-hot water to rid of each stroke’s collection. You don’t want to do a second pass over your face with any gunk already in the razor; that’s a surefire way to clog your pores.

Post-Shave Hygiene

One of the best things you can do when buying a razor is to also get a stand for it. Deluxe brands will often sell them alongside their razors; in particular, I love the ones from The Art of Shaving. You can get dual brush-razor stands or even safety razor stands. But it’s also not hard to do yourself: just get a small glass and leave the blade upright in the cup.

Where you store the razor is the next imperative. Because it needs to dry quickly and not invite moisture (which in turn invite bacteria). That means you’ve got to store the razor in a cool, dry place. Yes, that means you shouldn’t store it in the bathroom itself, which is a warm, moist place. I understand how weird it might be to store your razor somewhere that isn’t your bathroom, but it’s for the sake of hygiene. And it’s only overnight or for a few hours until it’s dry.

Store the razor upright in its stand, or upside-down for most safety-razor stands, so long as the blade is in the air. Safety razors should even be dried this way when you’ve tossed the blade because the head needs to be clean just as thoroughly as if the blade were still there. However, standard cartridge razor can usually be packed away after you toss the blade, and only need to be cleaned and dried when the razor is in use.

Shaving Stand by The Art of Shaving $100

Safety Razor Stand by The Art of Shaving $60

Home and Travel Storage

Between shaves and when you’re on the go, you need to shield the clean, dry blades from things like dust, moisture, and germs. So get a plastic case to guard the entire razor, or simply the blade itself.

Harry’s sells blade covers for all of $1. Merkur has an entire travel set, perfect if you’re also buying your first safety razor. I like plastic cases like both of these, since they can be easily washed and disinfected, and since no material will get stuck under any blades.

Travel Blade Cover by Harry’s $1

Safety Razor Travel Set by Merkur $72

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