Let’s face it, all men have a love/hate relationship with shaving. Nothing screams masculinity more than a face thick with stubble. However, societal and job expectations, along with personal grooming preferences dictate that the vast majority of men have to shave their face at some point during the week.
Regardless of whether you like to shave with a modern multi-blade razor, or prefer to take it old school with a dual-edge safety blade, or (gasp) like to show your true grit by stropping up a traditional straight razor; the following shaving tips can be used by all men to get the best shave possible every time you step in front of the mirror.
Dry shaves are for suckers.
You’d have to be crazy to shave your face dry. Heck, even Davy Crockett used a little water while shaving his face with his legendary Buck knife! Did you know that the hair on your face can absorb up to 25% of its volume in water?
Rather than trying to shave dry brittle hair, soften it up with a quick shower. Massage your beard with your face held under the flowing water.
If a shower is out of the question, take a face cloth or towel, soak it with warm-to-hot water, lie down in bed – or back in a chair – and let the cloth sit on your beard for at least a few minutes before applying shave soap, lotion, or gel.
Use the right shaving lubricant (hint: the good stuff doesn’t foam up!)
Somewhere along the line, men started to learn that shaving “cream” is what you’re supposed to shave their face with. In fact, shaving cream or foam is the worst thing you can put on your face to shave with. Anything that foams up when it shoots out of a can with the aid of a propellant spells bad news for your face.
Instead, you want to use a quality shave soap like the time-tested Proraso or something equally reputable. Shave gels and lotions are okay too, but to give your face the barber shop treatment, it’s best to use a shave soap and apply it to your face with a badger hair brush.
Neither of these items are terrible expensive to buy. In fact, they’re cheaper than most cans of shave foam when considering the overall mileage and shaving comfort they offer.
Mind your blades.
Modern multi-blade razors, like the Gillette Mach series of razors, can last anywhere from 1 – 3 weeks depending on the thickness of your beard and shaving frequency. These and other brands of multi-blades are pretty expensive when you consider that a dual-edge blade costs pennies and a straight razor takes nothing more than a quick stropping before every shave (after the initial purchase, that is).
It doesn’t matter what blade you shave with though, eventually the razor or blade needs to be replaced, or sharpened. Shaving with a dull razor leads to nothing but shave bumps, burns, ingrown hairs, and all round facial discomfort.
Don’t be so cheap and/or lazy with your razors that you sacrifice quality over saving a few bucks. Your face and your partner will thank you for it!
Take your time shaving.
The truly ideal, most comfortable, and least dangerous way to shave with any razor is to do a pass going in the direction your beard grows naturally, then making another pass at the beard going sideways (not up) against the direction of growth.
First off, most men get this completely wrong, thinking the natural growth pattern of their beard goes straight down their face all the way to the bottom of the neck. In fact, the hair on your sideburns, cheeks, chin and mustache likely all grow in this direction, but the neck is a different story.
It’s a good idea to really get to know the direction hair grows on the various areas of your face by letting your beard grow for a week or so. You’ll find that the hairs on your neck will grow in all sorts of directions, and this is why even most purported “good shavers” often suffer shave bumps and irritation in the neck area. Go with the grain and you’ll discover a whole new love for shaving!
Go up against the grain if you must, but do so after applying a new layer of extra wet lather and use very short strokes. Again, you must understand the actual direction of hair growth on the area you’re shaving to get a truly close and comfortable shave.
Get your post shave routine down pat.
The best thing you can do for your face after shaving is to splash cold water all over the shaved areas of your face, then rub a generous amount of witch hazel on to clean, soothe, and close your pores. This step is important, and you’ll find that any barber will perform this step after shaving a customer’s face.
Your pores are very open to infection at this point in time. The old-timers had it partially right when they went straight for an alcohol-based aftershave in years past. Alcohol’s an astringent that closes the pores instantly.
However, we now know that alcohol has a major drying effect on the skin, so an alcohol free astringent like witch hazel, preferably with some moisturizing aloe mixed in, is the preferred way to close up our pores and protect them from bacteria. Pat your face dry afterward (don’t rub!)
Finish by applying a gentle moisturizing after shave lotion or balm to your face. Stay clear of aftershaves, at least for daily use, as they do dry out your face and cause more irritation.
Ready, set – shave!
Now that you’ve read this comprehensive primer on how to get a more complete and comfortable shave, with zero to minimal irritation afterward, it’s time to go put all this knowledge to good use. Remember that practice makes perfect and proper practice means never taking short cuts.
Once you get into a routine, you’ll find that adding a few more elements such as using a brush and soap over something that shoots out of a can ready-to-use, doesn’t really add any extra time to your shaving routine.
Treat shaving like a craftsman would their trade. You only have one face to last you the rest of your life!