For men, it’s something you do pretty much daily – a grooming step so routine that you hardly give a second thought to how you are getting it done, except to complete the job as quickly as you possibly can.
But devoting some attention, time and focus to how you shave can spare you the irritation or hair-growth issues that a rushed and careless job can inflict on your face. More importantly, it’ll give you the smoothest and closest shave you’ve ever had, without having to visit the barber or splurging on a full-service professional shave.
How then can a guy perfect his DIY shave? Here are tips the experts from some of the best men’s grooming shops here have to share.
Attacking that stubble with your skin dry might help you shave that few precious seconds off your routine, but it’s a sure way to get razor burn or nicks on your face. Dry-shaving should only be done with an electric razor – and a well-groomed gent should only leave that to days when he absolutely needs to get out of the door in a flash.
“Preparation is key. Rinse the face with warm water prior to a shave as this will help open the pores and soften the hair,” says Lewis Lim, founder of Sultans of Shave. For the best results, shave right after your morning shower, recommends Cathal Eoin Lenihan, brand manager of Truefitt & Hill.
Exfoliation isn’t just for the ladies – men can also benefit from a good scrub now and then. Start your shave with a product like Truefitt & Hill’s No. 10 Cleansing Scrub, a gentle exfoliator with willow bark and borage oil that will also deep-cleanse and tone the skin.
“A scrub will remove any dead skin build-up, which can cause ingrown hairs,” says Lenihan. Think of it also as “clearing the way” for optimal blade contact, so that you can get a closer shave.
Next, Lenihan suggests applying a pre-shave oil, which reduces friction over the skin when shaving and the possibility of razor burn. While this may be omissible for some, Lim recommends it particularly for those who have thick and coarse facial hair.
FOAM, CREAM OR GEL?
“I would never recommend using a shaving foam as it usually contains artificial astringents that actually promote shaving cuts,” says Lenihan. A cream creates a richer, smoother and more moisturising barrier for shaving – all qualities that prevent your skin from drying out.
Gels are meant for those with a moustache or beard. They produce a low level of foam, allowing you to see clearly for a precise shave for shape maintenance. If you’re using pre-shave oil, put your shaving cream or gel on top of it.
ALL ABOUT TECHNIQUE
This is common knowledge to any man who has ever taken a razor to his face: Never shave against the grain. Doing so will cause ingrown hairs.
“First, shave following the grain of the hair, and if it still doesn’t feel as close as you like, go across the grain. Also, a pre-shave oil will always help with the closeness of the shave,” says Lenihan.
Pulling your skin taut before you go over it with the razor will help you to get a closer shave. But there’s no need to press down on the skin too hard with the razor. Doing so cuts the hair beneath the skin’s surface, which could result in it curling when it grows back, creating razor bumps.
Does a traditional safety razor do a better job than a disposable Gillette? Experts prefer the former for a high-quality shave but here’s what Lenihan says: “This is subjective. I personally prefer a safety razor as it gives a smooth and close shave. But not all men are comfortable using it. Use what feels good in your hand. Sometimes, the weight of a razor can make a big difference when shaving.”
Whichever you like, make sure to change the blade in your safety razor or replace your disposable cartridge razor regularly so that you’ll always be working with a sharp and clean blade.
AFTER YOUR SHAVE
Shaving can dry out the skin and that’s why moisturising is key to keeping your skin in tip-top shape post-shave. Use either an after-shave balm or moisturiser – both are adequate and especially helpful if you have sensitive skin, or are prone to getting red patches on your face post-shave.