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Shaving tips, or, 'how I remain Gillette’s bitch'

shaving brush

About six months ago, I read this excellent MSNBC interview about shaving (via the wiki’s shaving page), and I ended up experimenting with bits of what it suggested in my own periodic attempts at grooming. My results to date:

  • Water is good. AKA “The wetter the better.” Keeping your beard moist before and during the shave is job one. Shower first, and go nuts with a moisturizing soap. Not allowing time for your whiskers to fully saturate will make for a painful and joyless shave.
  • Get a brush. Even if you start with a $4.00 cheapie like I did, you just won’t believe the difference when you start with a brush. Even if you just use it to apply $2.00 drug store shaving cream, this will significantly change your shaving experience. A brush ensures that every little hair has been pummeled into submission with soap and water, and brother, will you never want to go back. I recently moved up to a moderately-priced badger shaving brush, and I love it.
  • Consider splurging on shaving cream. I’ve tried a bunch of soaps and shaving creams, including fancy Gillette gels and Italy’s popular Proraso, and, so far, my reluctant ruling is that it only really makes a difference at the high end. I’ll admit that I plunked down $17.00 for the article-recommended tub of Taylor of Old Bond Street, but, wow, was it ever swell — plus it makes you smell like a clean grandfather. Foamy, moisturizing, and it takes very little product to make an exceptionally generous beard of foam.
  • Safety razor? Meh. I tried it — bought a pretty nice Merkur safety razor, and stuck with it for 4 or 5 shaves. For me — and loathe as I am to admit it — the Gillette family leaves it in the dust. During the original Bush administration, I was a bleeding-edge “Sensor” sucker, and have upgraded annually or so to whatever model my masters at Gillette have offered. I’m currently a happy-enough Fusion man, although I’m not entirely sure it’s much of an improvement over the mighty Mach 3; that was Gillette’s “Abbey Road,” as far as I’m concerned. Your mileage may vary.
  • Finishing off. As smelly liquids go, I love Taylor of Old Bond Street’s “Eton College” after shave (“combining sparkling citrus oils with rich woody undertones”), but it seems the best finisher for the health of my face and neckal area is just lots of cool water and copious handfuls of regular old witch hazel. I break out like a teenager if I shave more than thrice weekly, and the witch hazel seems to really help with curtailing the damage.

What about you?

Got a shaving product or trick that you swear by?

Jason J. Thomas's picture

Here, here, Merlin. There...

Here, here, Merlin. There is something to be said for being the metrosexual guy when it comes to shaving, as I spent way to much of my formative years hacking my face to bits from doing it wrong. Here is what has become my ritual, of sorts.

Shower 1.) Use a facial cleanser, not soap. Soap merely dries your skin. You want something that is going to not dry out your skin. 2.) Use an exfoliant. I have oily skin and am prone to the occasional pimple. After the cleanser, a little exfoliating will work nicely. 3.) Hot water in the shower. Make sure to get your face nice and wet. Keep your beard wet. Pre-Shave 1.) Wet your beard thoroughly again. 2.) Apply a shave oil. I have used both Anthony Logistics Pre-Shave Oil and Grooming Lounge's Beardmaster shave oil. Both do the same thing. A little oil with eucalyptus to open things up and provide a smooth layer beneath the next ingredient. 3.) Apply a shave cream. I use Grooming Lounge Beard Destroyer Shave Cream, but I am still up in the air on it. I might have to use the shave brush suggestion, but that might come later. 4.) While shaving--I use the Fusion as well, but I think it is just slightly more effective than the Mach3--use plenty of water. Also use small, smooth strokes. No need to try and take your beard out with one stroke like that tool in the ads. 5.) For the love of god, please go with the grain. If the direction of your whiskers is not quite down, follow it. Just go with the grain. There are exceptions to this for everyone--myself included, but those areas are small. If you go against, you will always inevitable hack up your face or leave open the chance for an ingrown hair, which is not fun. 6.) Use plenty of water while shaving, always rinsing. I cannot say this enough. If you follow this enough, you should be fairly nick-free. Post-Shave 1.) Rinse with hot water, thoroughly. 2.) Rinse with cold water, just to splash it on your face and "cool the burn." 3.) If you suffer from "the burn" postshave, try something for what ails you. I have been using Anthony Logistics Razor Burn Repair with decent results, but YMMV. 4.) Use an after-shave balm or moisturizer. You have just taken layers off of your face, and it is going to need some protection. Again, I have been using the Anthony Logistics After Shave Balm, and it works pretty well. Those of us who are oily, though, might want something with less moisturizer. It is still pretty good, though.

Admittedly, I don't shave every day, and not quite every other day. I think if I did the latter, I would hack my face up more, and that is what I am trying to prevent. Thus, I shave 2-3 times per week, depending on what is going on at the office. On the weekends, it depends on what is happening.




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