Many posts and articles offer tips about shaving. But what are the “why’s” behind the tips? Here are 5 “philosophies” of shaving of mine that will improve your results.
The Philosophy of Water (And Cleanliness)
Before you even begin thinking about preparing the area to be shaved, thoroughly wash your hands first! Dirty–or worse, contaminated–hands are just going to make it that much more difficult to clean the area to be shaved.
And I’m not talking about a quick rinse-and-wipe. I mean really wash your hands, with soap and water, thoroughly (health professionals often suggest humming the “Happy Birthday” tune to yourself, twice, before a rinsing).
Then wash the area you’re going to shave with a face wash and warm water to remove oils from the hair and skin, and to allow whiskers to soften (even if you’re not shaving your face). Why? Because “body bars” can strip away too much of the skin’s natural oils that make shaving easier.
Alternatively, shave after a shower when hair is fully saturated with water.
The Philosophy of Blades
Use a good quality, sharp razor blade. A dull razor blade is one of the contributing factors to razor burn and shaving rash. And more blades in a cartridge do not necessarily mean you will get a better shave: there are more important aspects to “the business end” of a razor, including blade angle, edge specifications, and pivot design. The number of razor blades (and head lubrication schemes) are far less important than you may think.
So use a blade with as few blades as necessary to get the job done. One blade will actually work as well or better than a multi-blade cartridge, as long as you use the right shave products and techniques.
The Philosophy of Grain Reduction
Consider that the beard will grow back. The best you can do is to reduce the beard, so reduce carefully, in stages or passes, for the best-looking, longest-lasting results. Shave in stages or passes. That way it is as comfortable and "safe" as possible.
Your first pass should be with the grain of the beard (the direction the hair grows in. Use your hand to stroke an area from different directions--one direction will feel smoother than the others. That's the grain). Don't try to get every little spot or shave the same spot over and over again--your first pass should almost feel leisurely.
If you want a closer shave after that first pass, briefly rinse (just to keep the skin wet), re-lather, and shave "across" the grain (the direction 90 degrees away from the grain). Still not close enough? Rinse, re-lather, and shave against the grain--careful though, some people can't pull that off. If you can’t shave against the grain try shaving across the grain from the opposite direction from the previous pass.
Shave efficiently, without repeating strokes one after the other, over skin that has been flattened (but not necessarily stretched too taut).
The Philosophy of Pressure
A good razor does all the work. It’s normal not to feel the hairs being cut when you’re using a premium quality razor. Don’t press down on the razor! Modern cartridge razors with pivots can help compensate for too much pressure, but only to a point. Tilt your head to one side and rest the razor’s head on your cheek. Feel that? That’s all the pressure you need to use.
The Philosophy of Time
"Buy" the time to shave properly and your shave will improve no matter what products you use (well, almost all). That includes the time you take before you shave, while you shave, and after you shave.
Luckily, the time you "spend" can be made enjoyable so it's more of a pleasant diversion rather than a painful chore. Doctors tell me that it can take up to three minutes to properly hydrate your skin for a shave.
Let the shave lather sit on your skin for 30 seconds or so before shaving.
Don't swipe at your face with half-asleep strokes -- pay attention to what you're doing! Sure, you might be able to "save" a little time by using a cartridge razor with a pivot but there is no substitute for good shave technique.
Finally, don't forget to spend some time on keeping your skin in good condition after the shave. Carefully wash any lather residue off your face then apply an after shave product that is good for your skin.
Guest post is written by Mark, AKA Mantic59. He is an advocate for "old school" shaving and has been teaching shave techniques since 2006. Take a peek at his Youtube channel and his shaving website, Sharpologist.