Shaving is a daily task for most of us. No matter the area you are shaving you most likely have experienced some discomfort during or after the shave. May it be razor burn, ingrown hairs or inconsistent shaving quality. Many of these can be avoided if you follow the tips we are about to discuss here.
Tip 1: Moisten Your Hair
If you shave mostly with disposables, cartridge razors or safety razors, then you should always moisten your hair. Moisturizing your hair to a saturation point can take up to 4 minutes. The idea is that wet hair is easier to cut down. It has been estimated that it will reduce the amount of force we need to cut down a single hair around 40%.
The most efficient way to achieve this is to take a shower. Besides getting clean and washing off the sleep residue, you will also hydrate your beard. Another way to do it is to use a wet towel. In countries where water is scarce, this is a common way how to moisten your beard. First it is rinsed under hot water and then left on your face for some time. It feels amazing.
Additional Tip: Pour a few droplets of essential oil into the towel. The smell of eucalyptus, cedarwood, or sandalwood will add a touch of aromatherapy into the process. Why not turn the whole thing into your own spa procedure.
Tip 2: Warm Up Your Beard
No, I don’t mean face massage. I literally want you to use hot water or a heated towel to wrap around your face. However you choose to moisturize your beard, be it shower or the towel, or just washing your face with water, always use hot water. The heat helps the water to get inside of the hair and relax your hair follicles.
The combination of water and warmth will make your hairs more pliable. This means that they are easier to cut. You need to use less force, do fewer passes, and you will also reduce the pulling of the hairs. All of these elements are causes why you get razor burn. To get a better understanding of why razor burn occurs and how to avoid it also read our guide on the subject.
Additional Tip: When you use the towel method I described earlier, make sure to use one that’s made out of thick cotton. The towel will retain heat better the thicker it is.
Tip 3: Use Sharp Tools
No matter what instrument you are using to shave, make sure it is sharp. Sharpness means you will get a closer shave with less effort. It also means that you will do fewer passes and reduce the tugging of hairs. This, as already explained previously, can cause skin irritation after shaving.
So how often should you change the blade or razor of your choice? Following recommendations are based on average hair while shaving daily. If you happen to have extra coarse hair, you may need to change them more often. The opposite holds true if you have a very light beard or shave rarely. Best way to tell if your razor is dull is the feeling you get from it. If it’s tugging, cutting poorly and you get razor burn – it is time to change your razor.
But general recommendations are the following: Cartridge razors shouldn’t be used more than a month. Disposables last you around 5-7 days usually. Razor blade inside a safety razor usually 5-7 days. Electric shavers hold the edge longer, but then again you will never get the same closeness as with manual razors. For electric shavers, it is recommended to change the shaving head once a year.
Additional Tip: Always clean your razor after a shave. Dried debris is one of the main reasons why blades lose their edge. But if you really want a close shave and save some $ then go with a safety razor. A single razor blade is around ¢20
Tip 4: Use True Lather
Most men and women who shave use canned foam or gel. The true lather is what you get when you use shaving soap or cream. To get the lather, you also need a shaving brush and a bowl. These are required in order to whip the soap into a lather. It sounds more complicated than it actually is. But it is true that it makes the whole shaving procedure longer.
So why should one use true lather? Well, first of all, it provides better lubrication. This means that there is less friction when shaving, and hence, the shave is more comfortable. It also hydrates your skin and smells better. And finally, it produces less waste. Shaving soaps last for more extended periods compared to the canned stuff. And you won’t end up with the empty cans.
Additional Tip: if you are thinking about traditional shaving with true lather, then I would recommend trying first shaving cream. For beginners, it is easier to lather up.
Tip 5: Use a Shaving Brush
If you wish to try traditional wet shaving, you are going to need also a shaving brush. Two of the most common types are boar and badger. Boar needs to be broken in so that it may take some time until it gets nice and soft. Badger brushes come in many varieties with different price tags, the silvertip being the most expensive type. To read more about shaving brushes, go to the guide.
A brush is needed to whip up the soap or cream into a lather. Something that many women know and most men ignore is the scrubbing part. By removing dead cells on your skin, you will also reduce the likelihood of getting ingrown hairs. Shaving brush acts like a scrub, by exfoliating your skin when you lather your face.
Additional Tip: When you buy your first shaving brush, don’t go overboard. In all honesty, synthetic shaving brushes are pretty decent as well and inexpensive.
Tip 6: Go With the Grain
To get a comfortable yet close shave, you should always start with the grain. Instead of doing multiple passes against the grain, it makes sense to follow a specific pattern every time. The most common is to start with the grain, next pass will be cross the grain followed by against the grain. This ensures that your final shaving stroke meets the least resistance hence reduces the irritation on your skin. You will end up with very close shave this way.
Men rarely think about how they shave and usually limit their shave to one pass only. Also, I have observed that women while shaving their legs very often only do one pass, and that is against the grain. No matter the area, it makes sense to have an established way in place how you shave. You will end up with closer shave and in many cases, avoid getting razor burn.
Additional Tip: It can be tricky to decide which way is against the grain and where you are going with the grain. Especially men’s chin area where the hair seems to grow in a circular pattern. To sort this out, you should do beard mapping
Tip 7: Avoid Too Much Pressure
Using too much pressure is one of the main culprits behind razor burn. This problem is more common when you shave with disposables or cartridge razors. Those are by their nature less aggressive on your skin and tend to clog quickly. To get a close shave, many will use too much pressure. It will cause drag on your skin, pulling of the hairs and micro-cuts. The result – red itchy skin.
No matter if you use safety or straight razor or other shavers mentioned above, always use a light touch. If you feel the razor isn’t cutting close enough change the razor blade. Or the cartridge or just get a new disposable. In most cases, it is because your shaving instrument is dull.
Additional Tip: When making the shaving stroke avoid pushing the razor towards the skin. Your hand that holds the razor is mainly to guide the shaving stroke and keep the cutting angle.
Tip 8: Keep Your Tools Clean
Soap, hairs and dead skin can be hard to remove once its dried. If you tend to use cartridge razors, then those are notorious for this. Once something dries between the multi blades it is better to take a new cartridge. Not only will the dried muck dull the edge, but it will also harbor bacteria that can cause infection if you happen to cut your skin during shaving. Same goes with the disposables.
It is way easier to clean safety razors where you can take the razor blade out and rinse it under the water. Straight razors are even more straightforward in this regard. But no matter the choice of your cutting tool always rinse it properly under water after every use.
Additional Tip: never use a towel, brush, or a toothpick to remove the dirt that gets stuck between the blades. Manual cleaning will damage the soft bevel of the razor blade and will dull your razor even faster
Tip 9: The Right Tool For the Right Occasion
Choose a razor that makes the most sense to you. If you fly a lot, then safety razors can be a hassle as you can not board the plane with a razor blade. If you are pressed for time in the mornings, then traditional wet shaving with a straight razor is clearly too time-consuming. Disposables and cartridge razors can feel initially like a great idea, but as the costs mount up and your shaves are mediocre, then you might be better off with something else.
Things you should consider when buying a razor: what is your lifestyle, how much time you are willing to spend on shaving, what is your budget, and are you willing to learn.
Additional Tip: Straight razor might sound cool, but it took me six months to get to the point where I didn’t cut myself. Be realistic. If you have trouble deciding which method you should choose then have a look at this infographic
Tip 10: Post Shave Routine
Never forget this last point. Whenever you shave, no matter the area, always remember to do your post shave routine. Even if you follow all of the tips I laid out, you can still get minor nicks and cuts when you shave. Your skin may be sensitive from all of this dragging and pulling of it. So to stop the cuts from bleeding, from infecting and to moisturize and cool down your skin – use an aftershave lotion or a balm, or just alum block.
Aftershaves usually have a universal property – they are astringents. They act on small blood vessels by causing them to constrict. This will stop the bleeding, reduce redness, and calm the inflammation. An example of this is the alum block. It is a natural stone that has this property. Witch hazel is another natural astringent. And then there are myriads of lotions and balms to choose from. This is where the fun part begins – discover the right combination for yourself.
Additional Tip: Avoid aftershaves that have alcohol in it. They will further dry your skin and exacerbate the skin irritation.
Shaving can be more than just annoying grooming procedure. It is fun to experiment with different shaving products and shavers. Once you discover that shaving can be comfortable, irritation free and gives you the closest shave in your life – it turns into a cherished pastime activity.