In this day and age, the perfect shave seems to be a lost art, something that went out with fedoras and black and white films. But the greatest men we all admire knew how to achieve it, and the most successful men today keep their edge with a clean, close and irritation-free shave.
You can have this too, simply by following a few easily remembered guidelines. In this article, we’ll walk through the steps to attaining the absolute closest, most professional shave. You’ll be able to achieve a close, classic treatment with little fuss in no time.
1. The Wet Shave
It’s precisely what it sounds like. It involves getting wet, in the shower or at the sink in front of your bathroom mirror. Here, we’ll take a look at the ins and outs of the traditional wet shave, just to cover all the bases. Generally speaking, prior to lathering up, it’s a great idea to prime your face. This essentially wakes up the hair stubble and makes it easier to shave without irritation or missing stubborn hairs.
To prime your face, you’ll want to have a washcloth or hand towel handy. It’s also a great idea to lay out your shaving gear in preparation for the shave, so there’s less for you to think about once you’ve completed this very important first step. Wet the washcloth with very warm water.
The object is not to scald your face, but to soften the bristles and open your pores. Saturating your face with warm water essentially provides a layer of water molecules over your skin’s surface, which allows your razor to skim more smoothly along, and decreases the pulling or catching that can come from an unprepared shave.
Additionally, it relaxes your facial muscles, and because the warm water feels good, allows you to prepare a smoother, less tense face for the blade.
A pretreatment with warm water and gentle, circular motions of the washcloth will also bring those bristles to attention, readying them for the blade. Some shaving guides will advise you to shave after your morning shower. This is great, since it accomplishes the same thing as using the warm washcloth, and you can skip a step. It’s really all about preference, so you should do what works best for you.
2. The Right Tools for the Flawless Shave
If you think a disposable safety razor and a can of bargain shaving cream are all you need for the perfect shave, you will want to investigate the tools we mention here in detail. Something many people overlook in the hustle and hurry of preparing for their workday is the necessity of luxury.
We don’t mean a 24-carat gold razor or shave cream made from Chinese yak’s butter. The art of inclusive luxury simply means using the best tools for the job and taking time to ensure that you’re doing the job right. It means creating pleasure from necessity.
The double-edged safety razor is your first priority. This isn’t even in the same universe as the disposable variety so commonly called by the same name. Rather, it’s been a stand-by of real men for many decades. If you know what you’re about, you’ll investigate where to purchase one for yourself.
The best places to find these bastions of masculine grooming will be Amazon or any select male grooming shops online. Though they will cost more than a bag of Bics, they will also provide a closer shave with less irritation. And they also last, because they were made not to be disposable.
The shaving brush is also a crucial companion to a great blade, which will help to give you a close, pleasurable shave.
Made of boar or badger hair, these stiff-bristled brushes absorb the hot water, enhance the lather of your shaving aid—cream, soap, or gel—and give you a mini-face massage. They lift each bristle and also exfoliate your skin as you apply your shaving soap, rendering a close shave and soft skin almost effortless.
Investing in some of the best shaving creams to go with your other gear is a no-brainer here. Unlike the canned creams and gels that are full of chemicals and additives you wouldn’t really want on your face if you actually thought about it, a traditional shaving soap will offer you a host of botanical benefits.
They are often infused with essential oils and herbal components that nourish and condition your skin naturally. That means you can avoid using ingredients that belong on the hood of your car, not your face, and get a better shaving experience along with the bargain. And speaking of bargains, if you’re looking for a kit that isn’t too expensive, the Van Der Hagen Men’s Luxury Shave Set is a good place to start off.
3. Steps For How To Get The Perfect Shave
First, be patient with yourself. Take the time to ensure an optimum shave with slower, more thorough strokes. This allows you to apply the necessary pressure—not too much and not too little—to each portion of your face, and will help you to cut your morning stubble cleanly the first time. Before you shave, be sure to take one or the other steps mentioned above to hydrate your skin and soften the hair. This will make the process of shaving much easier and lessen irritation from excessive pulling on individual hairs.
Next, you’ll want to lather up. Place a small amount of shaving cream—generally no larger than a nickel—in your shaving mug. Using a brush that has been generously allowed to soak in hot water, swirl the cream in the mug, until you have a generous amount of rich lather. Apply your suds with circular sweeping motions. Once you’ve done this, smooth your lathered face so that the soap is even and there’s not an overabundance of soap.
Finally, you’re ready to shave. When using a safety razor, there are several key things to remember, which we’ll break down here for maximum clarity.
1. Don’t press too hard. Because you’re using a safety razor instead of a cartridge or disposable razor, you must remember that it has a weight of its own. Unlike the razors that succeeded the double-edged safety razor, this tool carries a clout. It cuts the stubble or hair with less effort on your part as a result. Using excess pressure can result in irritation or cuts, which no one wants to deal with, so be mindful.
2. The optimal angle for the blade to meet your skin is 30-45 degrees. To obtain this, place the top of the razor head against your cheek with the handle parallel to the floor.
Slowly lower the handle until the blade can cut your stubble or hair. This is a technique that does take practice to perfect; if you’re uncomfortable test-driving your new safety razor on your face, we recommend you practice on your arm.
3. Shave with the grain of your hair. Though the popular wisdom of disposable razors has taught you to shave against the grain of the hair, and while it will still provide a smooth feel with a safety razor, you run the risk of severe irritation, cuts, and ingrown hairs if you continue this practice. So, once you’ve lathered up, go with the grain—even if an extra pass with the razor is necessary, you’ll obtain an enviably smooth finish.
4. While you may have been shaving for a decade or more when you purchase your first safety razor, a key concept to remember is that more than one pass is acceptable. Using the gentle pressure we discussed earlier, if you have to take another swipe at a previously shaved swath, it won’t hurt.
Aiming for beard reduction rather than beard removal in a pass with the safety razor is key, because the majority of irritation is caused by attempting to remove every hair the first time. A little patience will serve you well here, and will pay off in the long run.
4. What Comes After Shaving
Once you’ve finished your wet shave, rinse your face with cool water. This closes the pores and helps to reduce pore infections and enflamed follicles that may take hold in your newly shaved and vulnerable epidermis. Then, pat your face and neck gently dry with a clean towel. It’s crucial not to rub, because this can lead to irritation. Once you’ve rinsed your face with clean water, apply a non-alcoholic aftershave or moisturizing lotion. This will also deter infection and irritation, while enhancing your skin’s natural smoothness.
Then, rinse your brush thoroughly, shake it dry, and store it in your medicine cabinet standing on its butt end. This will allow the bristles to air dry thoroughly without allowing bacteria to accumulate, which may occur if you store it on its side. It will also lengthen the life of your brush, ensuring that you won’t have to purchase another for more than a decade.
5. A Few Words of Further Advice
Storage: Store your blade in a small amount of pre-shave oil. Mineral oils help to dissolve residues that often build up when your tap water contains mineral concentration (hard water). This will lengthen the life of your razor and help preserve its edge.
Stubble Look: For the stubble look, be sure to trim for consistency. As well, shave any stray hairs that grow above your cheekbones or below your Adam’s apple for optimum neatness, while maintaining the casual appearance you desire.
Beards: Beard hair should be cared for just like the hair on your head. Shampoo and condition it in the shower, combing it as well to exfoliate the skin beneath the beard and straighten the hair for easier trimming. Use a trimmer with a long guard at least once a week to maintain the health of beard hair and the desired length—but be mindful to go with the grain of the hair to prevent irritation of the follicles. Try beard oil applied daily to keep the hair soft and manageable, as well as avoiding unsightly split ends.
Mustache: When sporting a mustache, be sure to maintain a narrow margin just above your lip line and just below your nose. This will provide a look that won’t overwhelm your face. Trim stray hairs once a week, and maintain your desired mustache length and shape. You can also use beard oil to keep it soft and apply a styling wax to help maintain its shape during the day.
Bald: If you like the look of a bald cranium, try shaving in the shower to maximize the moisture and help open the pores. Prior to this, be sure to trim longer stubble with clippers. Attempting to shave hair longer than half an inch can be a painful ordeal. Begin at the front and move towards the back, always going with the grain. And be sure to finish up with a balm or a wax to help you maintain healthy, moisturized skin.