If you have ever hung out in any straight razor forums for any amount of time, chances are you came across a post where someone asked something to the effect of “Which hand do I use to shave?” Typically, the standard answer you will get is that you use your right hand to shave the right side of your face and the left hand to shave the left side of your face.
While there is nothing wrong with that advice, I believe that the answer to the question is a little deeper. Whenever you hear someone give that answer you hardly ever hear any reasoning behind it. I feel that a lot of people have heard that answer or received that answer when they asked what hand they should use. They then pass the answer along without ever stopping to really think about it.
I think whenever someone asks what hand they should use while shaving the answer given should be: “Be able to use both hands equally.” I believe this is what everyone means, when they say use your right hand for your right side of your face and left hand for the left side of your face. However, a person who is just getting started shaving with a straight razor might not know that and end up following that advice strictly.
If you have been using a straight razor for at least a couple of weeks you have to come to realize that there are certain areas of your face that you can’t shave very well if you follow the strict rule of “right hand, right side. left hand, left side”. The issue gets compounded even more when you begin shaving across the grain and against the grain. When you start using those strokes the issue becomes very apparent. Your wrists just can’t bend in certain ways to get the required angle. However, the same patch of beard would be ten times easier to shave if you just used the other hand.
To answer the question of which hand should you use, you should be using them both. If you use your right hand to shave your right cheek, you should be able to use your left hand to shave your left cheek. If you use your left hand to go against the grain on the right side of your chin, you should be able to use your right hand to go against the grain on the left side of your chin.
Don’t get stuck in the thought process of “I have to shave this way because someone told me to do it this way on the forum.” All the comments on the forums are suggestions. There are no hard and fast rules to shaving. It’s really an art. An art in which you develop your own technique and style to match the unique contours and hair growth patterns on your face. There is no right and wrong. There is only what works for you and doesn’t work for you, which may or may not be the same thing that works or doesn’t work for someone else.
Today, when you pick up your straight razor to shave I challenge you to try something different. Experiment with the strokes you use and what hand you use to shave with. Experimentation is what keeps shaving interesting for me. Finding an easier way to shave a troublesome patch of my beard just makes my day.