Shaving is one of those bitter-sweet rituals that proves to be quite essential (and on an almost daily basis) here in the modern world. Unless of course you’re a Yeti or Keanu Reeves, in which grooming (or acting lessons) aren’t really a top priority. Some of you however were fortunate enough to have this invaluable skill passed on down from your pops or some other equally masculine figure that showed you the long and short of it all – but if you weren’t as lucky, you had to figure it out on your own and what a bloody mess that must have been.
Funny how as teenage boys we all wanted a thick, masculine, mature and rugged looking full beard. Then as fully grown thick, masculine, mature and rugged adults the very thought of having to shave each morning brings about a 5-o-clock shadowed sigh of menial resentment. Thankfully though, no resentment for me as I’ve managed to recently turn 27 and still only have facial hair comparable to that of a post-pubescent Spanish schoolgirl. However, I must say that I do enjoy shaving, I love the masculinity of the ritual and that post-shave “fresh” feeling that makes you want to hop a foot in the air and cluck your heals together in a Chaplin-esque delight. Care to know the secret? Check out these tips below:
Before You Even Think of Picking Up That Razor
I find meditation helps, it opens up the hair follicles beautifully… only kidding, we’ll leave that new age waffle for another article. The pre-shave practice is almost as important as the technique of shaving itself. Ever heard the phrase “failing to plan, is planning to fail” well the same is true for the pre-shave ritual.
Step #1: Shower before you shave
Why? Because the heat from the shower opens up your pores and softens the beard. And with your pores spread open like Miss Spears’s legs whilst exiting a taxi, it means the grime and dirt is washed out whilst the follicles are raised, resulting in a much closer shave. Once you’ve washed all your filthy bits, step out and pat yourself down as wiping with a towel irritates your skin. Then switch on your new Wireless Bathroom iPod Speaker with an Anti-fog Mirror and FM Radio , whilst soaking a flannel (that’s a facecloth for you laymen) in a basin with piping hot water. Then folding the facecloth lengthways, carefully press the warm cloth against your face.
Step #2: Apply a pre-shave oil
Why? Treat yourself to a good quality pre-shave oil such as: American Crew Lubricating Shave Oil 50ml this not only cushions the skin against the harsh, harsh razor but also contains 12 essential oils (such as eucalyptus, clove and tea tree) that will soothe, nourish and protect the skin from shave nicks, ingrown hairs and the dreaded razor rash / razor burn. Also see the shave oil review Shave Oil: Why Should I Use It?
Step #3: Shave with the grain
Why? Four words as to why: Ingrown hairs and pimples. Look at the direction your facial hair grows at and using downward strokes (of the razor) follow this direction. This will ensure the hair is cut downward and won’t get hooked on the skin and spiral inward whilst trying to grow out – which causes the ingrowns and pimples.
Also make sure you have a good quality shave gel or foam, and here comes another shameless plug, Nickel Smooth Operator 125ml, with similiar ingredients to your pre-shave oil to minimise resistance and soothe the skin at the same time. Very importantly, ensure you have a fresh razor cartridge (no more than twice used) as dull and blunted razors do a shoddy job of slicing the hair follicle properly and will cause, yup you guessed it, ingrowns, pimples and razor bumps.
Another accessory to look at investing in is a shaving brush, which magically (completely white magic though, if you were wondering) stimulates the skin and lifts up the hair follicle which lends to a closer shave.
Close shave tip: Stretch your skin gently (no foreceps needed), pulling back or forward whilst shaving to ensure a taught, smooth and close shave. This is in fact the technique infants use to get their bottoms to be so incredible soft and clean shaven.
Step #4: After-shave balm
Why? After all the slicing and dicing your hair follicles and skin went through- as shaving can remove multiple layers of skin – it is bound to be a little tender. So nourish and moisturise properly with a high quality after shave balm. One I swear by is Nickel’s Fire Insurance which I review here: Nickel Fire Insurance Aftershave Balm for Men.
After shave: as in the pleasant smelling “toilet water” (directly translated into english) you splash on is also very effective in keeping you from smelling like a foot, as well as the alcohol which is partly responsible for the sting, ensures your pores close up so as not to let any more dirt, shit and grime get back in there and clog ’em up.
Manual Razors Vs Electric Razors
Time and time again (are lyrics from a popular Counting Crows song) but also how often I opt for the manual razor over the electric razor because I get a much closer shave, it never runs out of batteries, is relatively cheap to sharpen (i.e. buy new cartridges), doesn’t just shred the hair follicle but precisely slices it, and is why less pimples and ingrowns are had. Plus a manual razor is oh so manly and requires a bit of skill, no mindless up and down with a “buzz machine” here. And if you’re really looking for the closest shave this side of Old Bond Street look at getting a safety razor or a cutthroat razor, oooh yeah I said “cutthroat”. But make sure you know what you’re doing with these implements as shaving nicks aren’t your biggest concern here – a severed jugular is.