Although most men get plenty of practice shaving their face, issues such as irritation, nicks, rashes and ingrown hairs are still very common. Here are some tips to help you get a smooth shave and reduce some of the annoying side effects.
1. Make sure your beard is thoroughly wet
Thoroughly moistening your facial hair with water weakens it and makes it easier to cut. The ideal situation is to have a shower before you shave. If you can’t do that, try the old barbershop technique and hold a bearably hot flannel over your face for a minute or two to steam it. Avoid applying shaving products to dry skin.
2. Use a lubricating shaving gel or cream
The purpose of a shaving gel or cream is to provide slip and glide for the razor. Better glide means less nicks and irritation for you and less damage to the razor which makes it last longer. Lots of foam is not usually good. Foam provides a washing action, but not usually much lubrication. You want something that leaves a light layer in contact with the skin. Ideally leave the shave gel/cream on for a minute or two before you start shaving. This helps to moisten and soften your beard even more. Be wary of products that contain silicone ingredients such as Dimethicone and Cyclomethicone. There are three main reasons to avoid these:
- they coat the skin like plastic wrap – this does provide good slip action for your razor (which is why they are used), however the coating remains and prevents the skin from breathing. Sweat can also be trapped under the silicone coating and cause irritation.
- they are non-biodegradable – they hang around in the environment pretty much forever
- if silicone enters the body it can disrupt immune function (it’s toxic)
3. Apply the shaving cream to prepare the skin and hair
Apply the shaving cream in a circular motion working upwards from the chin to the cheeks. You want to try and lift and raise the hair. The best way to apply shaving gel/cream is with a quality shaving brush. A brush helps to exfoliate the skin making a smoother surface for shaving and it also does a great job of lathering the shaving product and lifting the hair.
4. Use a good quality sharp blade
A dull blade drags on your skin making it irritated and blotchy and of course doesn’t cut the hair so well either. Change your blade every 3-10 shaves (more often for thicker, courser hair), or whenever it feels dull.
5. Shave Technique
Rinse your blade under hot water before you start (remember moist heat weakens the hair = easier to cut). Shave in the direction of beard growth (with the grain). Start at the sides, then do the upper lip area and lastly the chin. Shave a few strips then rinse the blade, re-spread shaving gel from another part of your face onto the area you just shaved (or spread some more lather onto it from your shaving brush) and go over that area again. Repeat this pattern until you have shaved your whole face. Shaving against the grain is more likely to cause cuts and ingrown hairs and is best avoided. Avoid over-shaving as this can cause skin irritation and rashes. NB If you are unsure about which direction your facial hair grows in, and every man’s grows slightly differently, then let your beard grow for a couple of days.
6. Finishing off
Rinse the blade thoroughly when you are finished and let it air dry as wiping it with a towel or tissue can dull it. Rinse your face with warm water to remove the shaving gel/cream. Ideally, follow this with a soap-free cleanser or wash that contains antibacterial ingredients such as tea tree oil to help prevent spots and shaving rash. Rinse this off with cool water and PAT your face dry with a towel as rubbing can cause irritation. Shaving removes the top 1-2 layers of skin so be gentle.
Pat and smooth on an after-shave balm or moisturizer. This should contain ingredients that moisturize and soothe your skin such as aloe, chamomile, marshmallow and natural plant oils. It is also good to use a balm/moisturizer that contains ingredients which have some antibacterial properties such as witch hazel, lavender and tea tree. If you use a moisturizer it is best to use one designed specifically for men or for oily skin. Men’s skin tends to be oilier than women’s and a normal women’s moisturizer may look greasy on your skin. Happy shaving. And remember, if you think shaving every day is a bit of a drag, be thankful you are not a woman and that you only have to shave your face!