By Derrick Johnson
A good shave should leave your skin perfectly smooth, moisturized, and leave you refreshed and ready to start the day- or evening. Having a professional shave is enjoyable, but you don’t need to make an appointment to look good on a regular basis. A few basic tools and simple technique is all it takes.
1. Get The Right Tools
Good tools make a good shave easier. Invest in a high-quality safety razor or straight razor. Disposable razors are made of lightweight plastic, which is actually harder to control than the substantial but not hefty safety razor. Safety razors are less likely to leave you with razor burn and ingrown hairs than other shaving tools.
A shaving soap or non-aerosol cream will be less drying than the foams, and often come in travel-friendly tubes or jars for your checked luggage, or you can squeeze a bit of shaving cream into a travel bottle. You can’t do that with a can of foam. If you have a shaving soap, the mug and brush make your shave a ritual of manhood rather than a few hurried minutes trying to look acceptable.
This will actually save you money in the long run, as you will get products that last and you won’t need to compensate for cheap razors or irritating shaving foam.
2. Take your time
You’ll have fewer nicks and missed spots if you take your time. Set aside at least fifteen minutes for a proper morning shave. Your time will decrease as you become used to the tools, but don’t rush. Set aside twenty minutes if you are not shaving after you shower.
Fewer strokes do not mean a better shaving score. Shaving is not golf. Don’t press hard or try to use multiple blades to cut down on shaving time. Better to take your time for good results than to take that time fixing nicks or cuts.
This will make the hairs easier to cut and reduce skin irritation. When wet, hair absorbs water, going from something like dry pasta to pasta “al dente”. Wet hair cuts cleanly and with less force, just as cooked pasta is easier to bite into. Shave right after showering, wash your beard in warm water and soap, or use a hot, moist towel to wet the hair before shaving.
The razor will glide over your skin with lather from soap or a shaving cream. Hair conditioner or skin lotion will do in a pinch, but something with oil or suds should come between you and your razor. The best shaving soaps and creams use clay to provide extra slip.
5. Shave With The Grain
Shaving against the grain may seem faster, but yields more irritation and ingrown hairs. Shave at an angle that nearly parallels your jawbone, about 30 to 45 degrees.
6. Close With A Cool Touch
Rinse with warm water to get the remaining lather off, then with cool water. Pores don’t really open and close, but the cool water will reduce any irritation and it feels great. Aftershaves can reduce the likelihood of infection from small nicks, and alcohol-free aftershaves are available to those who don’t like the burn from the alcohol. If you use an alcohol-based aftershave in the winter, follow up with a light oil or moisturizer. Dry skin leads to greater irritation while shaving.
You don’t need to get the fanciest shaving supplies available, but a good razor will last a long time and some tools, like a mug for whipping up foam, can be substituted with cheaper tools with no ill effect.
Aftershave is pleasant and can be useful, but isn’t required for a good shave. Going without aftershave might well be better for your skin than a cheap, drying aftershave that can increase irritation. Knowing your skin and hair will also increase your chances for shaving success.
Curly beards, while they can look like they are made of iron-strong hair, can be surprisingly fragile and prone to becoming ingrown. Razors with multiple blades can make it harder for you to really get a feel for your skin and beard.
Shaving isn’t just getting rid of hair you don’t want on your face. It’s the art of caring for the skin on the lower half of your face so you can look your best. It’s like removing the carpet to reveal the wood beneath. High-quality, well-maintained wood will make you wonder why you ever carpeted such beauty. Wood unprotected from water and termites will make you start searching for throw rugs to hide the signs of neglect. If the skin beneath your beard isn’t well cared for, it will show.