When it comes to grooming, nothing is more important (and fundamental) than a flawless close shave.
Shaving. We’ve been doing it forever. But is there room for improvement?
Great, smooth skin starts with a close shave that hasn’t left any transaction residue on your face. I mean uneven closeness, missed spots and blade nicks or from concentrating too much on one area of skin. Of course, having a regular, professional barber shave is easiest, but it’s important to know how to accomplish that perfect shave at home.
Facial Scrub/Beard Lift
The best shaves start with lifting your beard: Use a men’s facial scrub in a steamy shower, keeping the shower stream off your face/scrub. Not all scrubs are created equal—denser is better. Forget those cheap scrubs that are mostly liquid with few scrubbing particles. We have a beard to lift, gentlemen! (Clinique for Men, Kiehl’s, ZIRH and Lab Series are solid picks). Sorry guys, that fancy shave cream brush isn’t strong enough to lift your beard. We’ll use that later for applying tub shave cream.
Pre-moisten the beard with shave oil, then a rich shave cream or shave gel. After getting out of the shower, a hot steamy washcloth is optional, but definitely helps to soften a coarser beard. Be sure to splash water on your face even after a hot towel (always very warm to hot water throughout this exercise). Mario Badescu’s blue Pre-Shave Conditioner is legendary. Get into the habit of keeping your face semi-wet. Pre-shave oils are best when dabbed on sparingly, but thoroughly and spread using more hot water from your fingertips. Now quickly apply a rich shave cream or shave gel. A dab will do ya. Avoid the old-fashioned foam that does little but dry your beard. You need moisture to glide and lubricate against cuts.
Shave down first. Start with the mustache area then below the lower lip and chin. Follow through from the jaw line to the neckline. Continually remoisten each shave area with hot water—swirl it in with your fingertips or brush. Only then is it acceptable to shave against the grain (not necessarily up, but sideways); use short, even strokes to fine-tune your closeness. (Use your tongue underneath the skin to push out your lower lip and cheeks a bit.) Don’t forget those “leftovers” under the nostrils, lower lip and neckline.
Sideburns: Take a second and focus here. Stand up straight. Comb your sideburns where you wear them. From the bottom, draw an imaginary line from one side to the other. Razor pointed down, take a little off each side till they are even on both sides. Not too short.
Rinse all shaving products off completely. Cold water firms the skin. Follow with an alcohol free (important) toner or tonic on a cotton ball that will remove residue and close pores. Follow with a good serum, balm or moisturizer.
A thorough scrub against the grain can greatly prevent (sometimes entirely) the razor bump/ingrown hair factor. Especially the next day, when the beard is short and can easily grow inwards or be lifted up. The scrub step has a hidden advantage: You increase the circulation, exfoliate dead skin and if properly done, gives your facial muscles a pump. (Gently use your three middle fingers here to follow your facial contours and the balls of your cheeks, using up and out motions towards your temples. Don’t forget below your chin. Repeated massage and pressure, by the way, also diminishes fat cells, if there’s even a hint of a beginning of a double chin.
Now remember, throughout the entire process of shaving, use hot water to gently re-lather and re-moisten the product that has not been shaved yet. Never let the skin dry out during shaving. This cannot be over emphasized. When it comes to shaving, hot water—and lots of it—is your best friend for life.
If you forget your shave cream at home while traveling, facial or body moisturizer or even hair conditioner will work fine in a pinch.
Rinse both sides of the blade frequently with hot water. A hot blade melts facial hair. Plenty of experts say don’t “shave up.” I agree on occasion—if you tend to have curly beard hair. There are products containing acetylsalicylic acid (aspirin) such as Tend Skin and Bump Patrol that help heal and eliminate razor bumps and ingrown hairs. See what works for you. The newest disposable razors that boast three and four blades are amazing. If they say “laser”, “mach” or “turbo” and have a pivoting blade (again, very important), they will work great if used properly. Harrys.com provides high quality five-blade razor kits for home delivery, leaving out the expensive middleman. At all costs, never speed shave. If you don’t have the time to shave correctly, go ahead and rock your five-o’clock shadow. It’ll be better than a hatchet shave job on your mug. As Dad used to say: “Shape it or shave it!”
Fancy shaving tools do look great in the bathroom and there’s nothing wrong with that, but the razor kits with the thick, round weighted handles are actually meant for the contour of the hand and actually provide a smoother, more accurate feeling shave.
Remember: Lift, moisturize, heal, repeat. Any questions?