A Cut Above: Ten Tips for the Perfect Shave


Shaving is neither fun nor progressive, but a necessary evil in most of our daily routines. Although shaving is a seemingly simple endeavor, there are various tried and trusted techniques which can improve the quality of your shave and ensure you avoid dermatological catastrophes such as skin rashes or sliced cheeks. If you are unsure if you should follow the grain or oppose it or whether you should douse yourself in aftershave or hardly use any, then read on...

1. Slow Down: Your Skin takes longer to wake up than you do

Try not to reach for the blade as soon as you wake up. Just as you are liable to feel groggy and in a somewhat ragged state first thing in the morning, the same is true of your skin. Your face is liable to be puffy at this time due to fluids that congregate in your facial tissues during the night. So grab yourself a cup of tea or brush your teeth to kill about ten minutes or so before tending to your face.

2. Lubrication, Lubrication, Lubrication

Be sure to apply a high-quality pre-shave oil or gel before beginning your shave, leaving it to work on your skin for around a minute. This will ensure your face is sufficiently lubricated - meaning you will have a solid foundation for achieving a close and gentle shave. Without this foundation, your skin may suffer from razor burns or rashes, as it's simply not prepared for the invasiveness of a sharp blade. There has been some speculation that pre-shave oils are unnecessary and simply supplement the largely inadequate levels of lubrication in most commercial shaving products. Until both products can be successfully merged, you would be best advised to employ a decent pre-shave oil.

3. Leave a Clean Slate: Use a Face Scrub

Washing your face with a decent facial scrub before shaving will open up the pores of your skin and tauten your hair follicles to help achieve a close and more comfortable shave. By exfoliating your pores in this manner you will also scrape away any malignant dead cells and impurities that can lead to acne and ingrown hairs. Using a scrub will also help to smooth your complexion and encourage the growth of fresh and healthy skin cells.

4. Less is More: Shaving Foam

It's neither necessary nor desirable to slap colossal amounts of foam on your face before shaving. Masses of foam resting on your face is doing nothing to improve the quality of your shave, so only apply a moderate layer - this is all that's required. Many varieties of foam actually contain ingredients such as Sodium Laurel Sulfate, which act in conjunction with the other ingredients to create the foam-swelling effect out of the can. However, these ingredients -although aesthetically pleasing to the eye - can also act as severe skin irritants so bear this in mind when next reaching for a huge hunk of foam.

5. Shave in the Shower

A shower or bath serves as an ideal environment to shave because the pervading steam and heat will soften the bristles on your face and also help open up your facial pores, ensuring they are "warmed up" before the blade hits them. It takes approximately 4 minutes for the bristles on your face to sufficiently soften and the facials muscles to relax in readiness for your shave. Alternatively, you could employ a more retro barber shop approach and simply open those pores via a hot towel resting on the face for a couple of minutes.

6. Live by the Sword: Replace your blades

You should use a sharp, steady blade and to replace it after four or five uses. Always ensure you wash your blade thoroughly with hot water after use. The sharpness is likely to begin to wane significantly after a few uses and a blunt blade means a poor shave. If you are hanging on to blades for too long, you also increase the risk of infection as any lingering bacteria or impurities on the blade may infect your skin. Also, try to use gentle strokes rather than applying excessive pressure on the blade. You may feel like you will achieve a closer shave this way, but ease and grace is liable to be a much more successful strategy.

7. Reap what you sow: The Rule of the Grain

Ensure your blade has been warmed in hot water before beginning your shave and move your blade with the natural grain of your face rather than against it. Opposing the natural direction of the hair follicles on your face increases the risk of cuts and general irritation. You should also aim to use short, non-aggressive strokes rather than dragging it in one continuous motion along the whole perimeter of your face. You should also make sure you keep the blade as horizontal as possible. Changing the angle of the blade is likely to be more invasive to the face and it may rupture or become irritated as a result, so don't give it any nasty surprises and try to keep the angle consistent.

8. Post-Traumatic Stress: Aftershaves and Lotions

As a general rule, trust the reaction of your skin to any applied lotion. As with the act of shaving itself, any product that causes numbness, irritation, pain or visible redness, is probably not the right product for you. Lotions containing alcohol are liable to be the main culprits for skin irritation but heavily concentrated plant extracts such as menthol or citrus can be just as harmful. Alcohol-based lotions should thus not be applied directly to the face after shaving. If, however, you have just shaved and are dead set on having a splash of your favored aftershave before heading out to meet a special lady, try to apply it behind the earlobes and around the neck, thus avoiding those vulnerable pores of freshly shaved skin. The skin is in a highly sensitive state at this time, so applying such a balm directly to the face is liable to inflame it and cause irritation.

9. Wet is Best: Avoid Dry-Shaving

Certain antiquated schools of thought dictate that a dry-shave is the best way to achieve that smooth, grafted shave, however, there is little evidence to support this supposition. Even those who swear by their state-of-the-art electric shavers should consider using some kind of lubricant or foam before attacking those stubborn bristles. Utilizing foam softens the surface of your skin and creates a crucial buffer zone between your skin cells and the sharpness of the blade. Taking a blade to dry, unlubricated skin is a reckless strategy liable to lead to skin rashes and overall discomfort.

10. Fuzzy Logic: The Shaving Brush

Old-fashioned shaving brushes shouldn't be considered the preserve of stuffy, middle-aged men who tend to their stubble in a smoking jacket and cravat. Switching from the more prevalent hand held razors to the more traditional, wooden brushes - often used in antiquated barbershops - could yield significant benefits to your shaving routine. Whilst applying foam to your face, the brush also exfoliates your skin and stimulates the hair follicles on your face whilst retaining more moisture on your face than a standard shaving apparatus. It can also significantly reduce the occurrence of ingrown hairs and general skin discomfort.

So there you have it. Even the daunting task of taking cold steel to your drowsy face early in the morning needn't mean the discomfort expected. By following these core guidelines, your daily torment can swiftly be transformed into a hassle-free and even pleasant break from your morning blues. Happy shaving.



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