Getting a perfect shave is both an art as well as a science. HAIR explains how you can take your shaving game to the next level…
Shaving is something that most men do on a daily basis, yet never master it despite spending a good chunk of their lives hunched over the bathroom sink. It is hard to fault them completely for it—they generally never get good advice when starting to shave at a young age, and the mistakes are passed on down the generations. From using the right razor to ditching old-school aftershaves, here’s everything you’ll ever need to know in order to get the perfect close shave.
The Prep Work
Your pre-shave ritual, or lack thereof, has a big say on how your shave turns out. If you choose to forgo prepping your skin the right way, you’ll only have yourself to blame for a bad shave, as well as any nicks and cuts suffered. Start by washing your face with a regular facewash in order to get rid of any oil and dirt build-up—use warm water so that it opens the pores in your skin. If possible, wrap a hot towel around your face for a couple of minutes; this will really open up the pores as well soften the skin for shaving.
Your shaving ritual does not stop once the razor has done its job. Remember those pores you opened up with warm water and the hot towel wrap? It’s time to close them good with some splashes of cold water. It’ll also help to tighten up the skin and make it feel even smoother to the touch. As for the aftershave, avoid any that contain alcohol. While these old-school aftershaves also double up as antiseptics, they dry out the skin considerably. Instead, choose from a range of aftershave balms and lotions that provide the same level of antiseptic protection but moisturise the skin instead of drying it out.
The Right Tools
They say a bad carpenter always blames his tools, but when it comes to shaving, more often than not it is using the wrong tools that results in a poor shave. Sometimes, important tools like the shaving brush are completely forsaken, which is a huge no-no!
Lathering the stubble correctly is crucial since it softens the beard follicles, making them easier to cut through. Your run-of-the-mill shaving foams and gels may be convenient, but are far from what is ideal for your shaving needs. A shaving cream or soap, whipped into a foam and applied liberally on your cheeks and neck using a shaving brush is the right (and only) way to do it. Not only does the shaving brush ensure that every follicle is well-covered with lather but it also acts as a little exfoliator. Just steer clear of brushes with synthetic tips; badger, boar or horse hair bristles is the way to go. If your stubble is extra tough, which it could be if you haven’t shaved for days on end, use a pre-shaving oil before lathering up to really soften those hair follicles.
With regard to the razor, we say ditch the generic multi-blade razors sold over the counter. A five or seven-blade razor will not offer you a closer shave than a one or two-blade razor, unless your goal is to also peel off a sliver of your skin. A straight razor is undoubtedly the best way to get a close shave. This is why barber shops around the world continue to use straight razors. A good straight razor is a worthwhile investment since, with proper sharpening, it can last for your entire lifetime. However, it is not the most forgiving ways to shave—unless you have mastered the art of straight razor shaving, deep nasty cuts are just a nick away.
The safety razor is our pick for the most ideal everyday shaving instrument. It provides the close shave of a straight razor, combined with the safety and convenience of the common store-bought ones. With cheap yet highly effective blades that can be swapped out in a jiffy, a safety razor does not have to be sharpened and whetted like a safety razor, and yet it delivers a far superior shave to your existing 9-blade, battery-operated, celebrity-endorsed, vibrating, plastic razor with quite expensive replacement heads.
Tips and Technique
Once you have the right tools, it’s just a matter of using them the right way. For example, having a sharp razor at your disposal means you do not have to press it hard against the skin. A gentle gliding motion is good enough even for the closest of shaves; pressing the razor down hard will not give you a closer shave but it will increase the chances of you getting nicks and cuts. Similarly, one stroke of the razor gets the job done. There is no need to go over the same area repeatedly unless you are looking forward to a bad case of razor burn.
The most important shaving technique isn’t what you should do, but what you mustn’t at all costs: never, ever, shave against the grain. Going against the grain—i.e. the direction opposite to which the hair is growing—causes the razor’s blade to snag on the hair follicles. This means the hair follicle is more likely to be tugged out of the skin than cut through cleanly by the blade. The result is unsightly red razor bumps and a high risk of ingrown hair, not to mention the long-term damage that shaving against the grain can cause to the skin.