Can You Go Against The Grain With A Straight Razor? (Guides and Tips for a Safe Shave)

When imagining shaving with a straight razor, we might instantly think about the images of men in the past decades or centuries carefully shaving their faces. 

As more convenient razors like safety razors and disposable razors have been created, most people like to use them for shaving the opposite direction of their grain when they want a close shave.

But, can you go against the grain with a straight razor? Are there any risks of doing so?

We will talk about the grain and the risk of shaving against it with the straight razor in the next sections. Also, you can get more information about straight razors’ pros and cons and learn how to use them without hurting yourself. 

How To Know Where the Grain Direction And The Grain’s Opposite Direction Is?

Before discussing further things, we need to determine where the grain direction is and where it is against the direction. Knowing about the grain’s direction if you are new to shaving or have never shaved before can save you from getting hurt and razor burn. 

The easiest way to know the direction of your grain is to rub your fingers on the area you want to shave. While moving your fingers, if you feel like the fingers can move smoothly with the hair and the hair keeps staying down, then it’s the direction of the grain. 

To find the “against the grain” direction, move your fingers in the opposite direction. You will see the hair start to stand up, and your fingers cannot move smoothly anymore. 

In our own experience, it is more exact if you use one or two fingers while finding the grain. The reason is that the hair can grow in different directions, even when it is on the same body part. 

Can You Go Against The Grain With A Straight Razor?

The simple answer is: Yes, you can shave against the grain with a straight razor.

In terms of safety, shaving will not give you serious health problems or injuries, so it is still considered safe. 

However, keep in mind that it will come with so many risks, and the process will not be easy if you have never done it before. There will be different risks, and two of the most common problems are serious razor burn and the chances of getting ingrown hair. 

Based on your own experiences and advice from experts from big websites like the BBC, Business Insider, or even Gilliete, we all recommend that we shave with the grain. 

Should you shave your beard with a straight razor? The answer is not about Yes or No, but it’s more like your preference. A straight razor will give you a smoother shaved surface, but you will be more likely to cut your skin. 

For many people, it is nearly impossible to master their shaving skills with a straight razor, especially against the grain, after a few shaves. Some can do a little better after ten shaves, and some can do an okay or great job after fifty or more shaves. 

If you are a beginner or not skillful at shaving, then we do not suggest you do this first. Instead, you should practice with other razors first. 

In case you know what you are doing while shaving and still want to get a closer shave with a straight razor and are ready to face the risk, going against the grain can reward you with a smooth face and some more benefits. 

And now, let’s talk about the advantages and disadvantages of this shaving method so you can decide whether the benefits are worth it. 

Shaving against the grain comes with benefits and risks
Shaving against the grain comes with benefits and risks

The Benefits And Risks Of Shaving Against The Grain With A Straight Razor

The Benefits

Have The Closest Shave

We must talk about this benefit first. Shaving with a straight razor helps you touch and cut the hair as near the skin as possible, so the result is the best.

Besides, going against the grain also helps you to cut even more hair. For this reason, many men choose to face the risk of cutting a little bit of their skin for that smooth, shaved skin. 

Shave against the grain can give you less irritation
Shave against the grain can give you less irritation

Help You To Become A Real “Badass” At Shaving

If you can shave with a straight razor, go the opposite direction of the grain, and can still have a smooth face with no cuts, then you are the real badass. 

The combination of using a straight razor in the right way and going against the grain is considered super hard to do. So when you can handle these two shaving options simultaneously, there will be nearly no other shaving technique that is difficult for you. 

Your Shave Will Last Longer

Going against the grain can help you to cut your hair much shorter. When your hair is really short, you can enjoy your smooth skin for a longer time as the hair will need more time to grow. 

Thicken Your Regrown Hair

Assume you like to have a thicker beard, then shaving against the grain will help. This fact can be a pro or a con depending on your preference. 

The Risks

Increase The Chance Of Having Ingrown Hair

While going against the grain, you can have a close shave and your hair will be cut really short. When the hair is too short, your skin can cover its follicle and might force the hair to grow back inside.

With ingrown hair, you cannot shave it like normal hair but might need to use tweezers instead. 

May Get Cuts Easier

It is obvious that shaving with a straight razor looks so much more dangerous than other types of razors. You always need to keep the razor blade to the right degree, or you can cut even bleed yourself easily. 

Can Be A Bad Choice For Sensitive Skin

If your skin is sensitive, we do not think you should shave the opposite direction of your grain because you will have more serious razor burn and irritation. Only those with normal or tough skin should try to go against the grain. 

More Likely To Getting Infection

After shaving too closely with straight razors, our pores might be badly affected, and we can also get infected. Sometimes, we see a little bit of mucus appear inside some pores after uncarefully or close shaves. 

Besides, you are more likely to get an infection from straight razors because they can cut your skin more easily. If you have cuts and do not keep your skin clean most of the time, you can have irritation or even worse infection. 

Have More Serious Razor Burn

Compared to other razor types, a straight razor can give you the worst razor burn, especially when you are not familiar with using it. And when you decide to go against the grain, the burn will become even worse. 

Your Skin Needs More Time to Heal

When you go against the grain, especially with a straight razor, your skin will need more time to heal as there might be more cuts. You might even need a few more days for your skin to feel normal again. 

How To Safely Shave With A Straight Razor? 

If you have already decided to shave against the grain with a straight razor, then following this guide will reduce the risks we listed right above.

However, we must say that even when you do exactly what we say, you might still get razor burn after shaving if you are not familiar with this shaving technique. 

Step 1: Prepare for the shave

To prepare for a good shave, you can wash your face with warm water to moist it. The higher temperature from warm water can help expand your pores wider and make the shaving process easier. 

If you have shave oil, you can use it before shaving. This product will help you shave smoother and be more gentle with your skin while using a straight razor. 

Next, you can apply some shaving cream and massage for a couple of minutes. When your skin is soft, apply lather to the hair and we can move to the next step. 

Lather up shaving soap thoroughly before applying to face skin
Lather up shaving soap thoroughly before applying to face skin

Step 2: Shave against the grain

First, you need to hold the razor properly. Put your middle finger and forefinger on the top of the razor head’s shank. Your thumb should keep the razor head in the opposite direction. 

We do not want the tang to interfere with our shave, so use the two other fingers to hold it. 

Now, find the “against the grain” direction of the first small area you want to shave and carefully apply the razor on it. Carefully shave your hair, and when it hurts, you can adjust the angle of the blade a little bit. 

Step 3: Moisture your shaved area after shaving

After shaving, wash your face and apply some lotion to calm up your skin. Plus, do not forget to wash the razor and keep it dry. 

Tips For Avoiding Getting Nicks And Cuts

As you can easily get nicks and cut from shaving with a straight razor, we have some tips for you. 

Use Sharp Razor

A dull razor blade does not make things better, but worse. When your razor blade is dull, you will need to use more force to remove the hair and shave for a longer time, which is not great for your skin. 

So, you should pick a sharp blade to use. Even though it sounds riskier, using it mindfully and carefully will take less time and effort than using a duller one. 

Strop a razor before every shave
Strop a razor before every shave

Shave Slowly & Carefully

It is not wise to shave in a hurry, especially with a dangerous tool like a straight razor. Always take your time to shave or avoid shaving before important events so you will not need to speed things up. 

Hold Your Straight Razor Properly

How you hold your razor is important in preventing nicks and cuts. If you do not hold it right or with a wrong angle, you might cut your skin while moving the razor. 


With many benefits that come with shaving against the grain, you should also consider the risk before deciding to avoid, or at least prepare for, possible risks and skin problems.

Using a straight razor is also troublesome, so we suggest you closely follow the shaving guide we provided. 

Lee Cantor

Provide the best shaving product reviews and shaving advices to the wetshaving community and friends.

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