When it comes to trying to get a close shave some men will spend upwards of a few hundred bucks to just make their skin incredibly soft on their face.
However with this simple guide we are going to go over all the steps necessary so the next time that you hit the blade against your skin, you will be achieving the results that you are aiming for.
But first before we go over any of the products or methods that achieve that incredibly smooth skin, its first and foremost important to understand the basics of how a razor blade interacts when gliding along the surface of your skin.
Even if you have been shaving for several years, its incredibly important to understand the basics – if you are like many men who may have learned to shave from their father or perhaps from a popular ‘how-to’ video you may have picked up some bad habits along the way…
Yes, You Should Always Shower Before Shaving
Now just about every knows that you should shower before shaving.
However, there are actually a few very good reasons why this is necessary on how to get a close shave.
First and foremost, when you soak your whiskers in hot water for an extended period of time, they begin to swell. As they swell, when the razor blade makes the pass, the follicles are larger and softer which makes for a much more easier cut for the razor blade.
In addition to having your whiskers being larger and softer, they will be less likely to be pulled on when being cut. Therefore whether you are using one of the best cartridge razors on the market or just simply a double edge safety razor of your choice, the softer the follicle the less irritation that is likely to occur when it is cut.
Secondly, when you take a extended shower, your skin will absorb all the moisture from the water. This absorption helps to ensure that your skin is well nourished and moisturized.
Therefore when you drag a razor across your face, on a very microscopic level there will be less susceptibility to scraping or even worse, tearing of your skin.
Hence the important of keeping your skin well hydrated prior to shaving – and multiple products, whether its a pre shave oil or a shaving cream will help ensure this moisture stays with your skin throughout the duration of the shave.
Now if you are unable to make it into the shower prior to shaving, an alternate approach would be to use a hot wet towel. Just be sure to make it incredibly damp and steaming hot for best results. We recommend keeping it on your face for several minutes prior to shaving.
Shaving Properly Is Key – Here’s What You Need To Know:
Now before you even press the razor against your face, its important to understand the basics.
Here’s the deal:
When you may have learned how to shave from your father or even a YouTuber, the biggest issue with copying another persons technique is that it doesn’t necessarily always apply to you.
Each one of your whiskers (or rather patch of whiskers) tends to grow in its own unique direction. For instance on my center neck, they grow in at a curly direction, whereas my left side of neck tends to grow in a up/leftward direction.
Therefore when making the passes with your razor, you always want to go with the grain. Therefore in the case of my left side of neck, I want to go in a up/leftward motion – not just strictly up where many men would assume.
This is for a few reasons.
First and foremost, shaving in the direction of the grain will ensure comfort post shave (i.e. reduction of skin irritation and razor bumps). Also when shaving with the grain, you will reduce the probability of having any sort of ingrown hairs within the next couple of days.
Now here’s where it gets rather tricky.
If you are using a double edge safety razor, one pass may not necessarily cut it when compared to say a cartridge razor that has five blades affixed to it.
For the many men who own a double edge safety razor they will make three distinct passes as they shave. They do the following:
- With the grain (purpose is to cut the whiskers down)
- Across the grain (further cutting of whiskers at a deeper level)
- Against the grain (to achieve a ‘baby butt smooth’ close shave)
Now you can of course go against the grain with a cartridge razor, however, the likelihood of having skin irritation is much greater – its best to test and see the results yourself. Just never go against the grain with a cartridge razor on the very first pass.
Of course making the three distinct passes above is how you will get a closer shave with a double edge safety razor.
Pre Shave Oil Can Make A Major Difference For Many Men
As we mentioned above, moisture is key when it comes to shaving for both your follicles and your skin.
A product that we found to be incredibly useful in keeping your skin well protected during the shaving process is the use of a pre shave oil.
Now the jury is still out for some men on whether a pre shave oil makes any sort of difference when it comes to comfort, however in our experience there is a marginal difference when it is used.
In fact we recently reviewed the top pre shave oils currently available in this well researched post.
So what does a pre shave oil do to increase the comfort?
Well first and foremost, as you may have guessed in the name, its an oil based solution.
Therefore when its applied to your skin, it acts as an extra layer of lubrication that actually rests between both your skin and the shaving cream (more on this in a minute).
The pre shave oil will make your skin incredibly slick which will help the razor glide effortlessly on your skin when you make each pass.
As far as the compound itself, pre shave oil is actually pretty easy to make if you are a DIY hands-on kinda guy. In fact we outlined some recipes in this complete how-to guide.
When you look on the side of any pre shave oil you will see typically only a handful of ingredients. The ingredient that makes up the majority of any pre shave oil is going to be a carrier oil. Manufacturers tend to use carrier oils such as castor seed or jojoba oils as they are both incredibly slick as oils as well as being extremely mild (which helps to reduce irritation).
Along side carrier oils you will often see essential oils as well. Essential oils do provide some medicinal benefits such as being an natural antiseptic (like tea tree oil). Therefore it will help prevent any infections on your skin when using a quality pre shave oil.
But without a doubt one of the most critical components on how to get a close shave is of course going to be the shaving cream:
Your Shaving Cream Shouldn’t Come In Gel Form
So here’s the deal:
When many men turn 18 in the United States, they likely receive a load of marketing materials from the big name manufactures that make cartridge razors clamoring to take the plunge and not only buy their razor, but also to pick up the complimentary shaving cream that will draw out all the great benefits of the razor.
However one of the main details is that they often omitted is the chemicals that come loaded in these ‘shaving creams’.
Many of the gel based shaving creams are compromised of several different chemicals that are very likely to lead to dryer skin on your face.
In addition, they also just simply don’t naturally help to relieve post shave skin irritation or razor bumps.
Unfortunately for most young men, they don’t know better and stick to using this gel for several years, or even their entire life time.
These men never take the plunge to get their shaving cream from an online retailer.
Lets just say this, when it comes to shaving cream, if you are still using one that comes out of a can or in gel form, its about time you switched it up as its likely one of the reasons that you aren’t getting the closest shave that you are aiming for.
In short we found that the Taylor of Old Bond Street to be among the best shaving creams that you can pick up with just a few clicks of the mouse.
The reason why these boutique shaving creams are just so darned good compared to the high volume manufactured canned counterparts has to do with the ingredient profiles.
You see many higher end shaving creams come loaded with all natural ingredients. Instead of effectively drying your skin to a crisp post shave, these shaving creams act as natural moisturizers and will help nourish your skin.
Here’s why its important:
Whether you are using a double edge safety razor or a cartridge razor you are of course dragging an extremely sharp blade across the surface of your skin. With a multi-bladed cartridge razor you are doing this five times over with every pass. Whereas if you are using a double edge safety razor you are just making a few passes (likely no more than 3).
The very act of shaving is essentially removing not only your hairs but also a layer of your skin – think of it as an heavy exfoliation.
With this exposed skin, the use of a quality shaving cream with natural moisturizers will give you a different experience when it comes to nourishment.
Here’s the kicker:
Not only does a shaving cream give you absolute bliss when it comes to moisturizing your skin, but the shaving cream itself is also much more slick and not ‘sticky’ like a shaving gel.
When whipped properly, a shaving cream of higher quality will be much more effective at retaining both the heat and moisture.
The shaving cream, when used in combination with a pre shave oil, will provide an incredibly slick surface for the blade to glide and make a clean cut on your whiskers.
If you are using a straight edge razor or a shavette, we recommend checking out a shaving soap. Shaving soaps allow much more fine tuning when it comes to whipping up a lather, however can turn off novices that are coming from a canned shaving cream background given the learning curve.
A Shaving Brush Isn’t Just A Fancy Bathroom Countertop Decoration
You see them in movies, luxury magazines, and on popular forums like Badger & Blade, however do you really know the benefits of using a badger hair brush?
Don’t worry, its actually pretty easy to see how these brushes can help ensure how you can get a closer shave.
While we outline all the benefits of a badger hair brush in this post, but here’s some of the highlights:
Shaving brushes come in a variety of fibers. While mostly it comes down to the man’s preference, by and far the most popular fiber is sourced from badgers.
Badger hair is collected from several parts of the body and will be considered different grades depending on what part of the body the hair was removed from.
Of all the grades of badger hair, pure is considered to the lowest quality of the badger hair whereas silver tip is considered to be the highest quality.
Price points of badger hair brushes can go all over the place. In our review of the best badger hair brushes, we found that a sub-20 badger brush can be extremely effective at getting the job done. However if you have the budget, the silver tip brush by Parker just simply couldn’t be matched.
While there is a lot of discussion of the knot, loft, and even the backbone of the fibers, we will spare the details on that, especially if its your first time ever hearing about a shaving brush.
There are other fiber options available besides badger hair brushes, however they just simply aren’t nearly as prevalent. Some of the options that you might be able to pick up would be synthetic, boar, or horse hair bristles. Prices for the alternate fibers mentioned can vary wildly as well.
But when it comes to the purpose of the shaving brush, it is two parts (other than looking regal when resting on your bathroom counter).
First and foremost, it will help to whip up a lather for a quality shaving cream.
If you end up purchasing a shaving cream like we mentioned above, you will need to get a shaving brush in order to formulate a lather. We won’t go over the specifics on whipping up a lather…
But here are a couple of quick steps:
- Soak your shaving brush in hot water for a few minutes
- Simply get about an almond sized amount of shaving cream into the tip of a soaked shaving brush
- Get a scuttle (shaving bowl) or ceramic mug and turn your shaving brush in a circular motion for about 90 seconds
- Once finished mixing the lather, it should suitable for shaving
- Place the lather on your face and continue to go in a circular motion to ensure a better cushion
- Repeat if necessary
In step 5 above is the second main reason why shaving brushes exist.
When you lather up the shaving cream on your face, it will help to make the hairs stand on edge.
Contrary, when you use your hands, your whiskers will be moving in different directions and likely be matted down against the surface of your skin. A shaving brush will help to lift the whiskers which ensures that the razors edge will glide effortlessly through in order to get a much closer and smoother shave with the blade.
What Type of Blade Are You Using On Your Face?
While we spoke about technique above in great detail. One of the most important facets to achieving a close and smooth shave is the actual blade that is going to be doing all the work.
Every facet that we covered so far has been properties to help support the work that the blade will be doing.
While the cost of ownership for a double edge safety razor may be significantly cheaper over the course of a lifetime when compared to a cartridge razor, the do have some drawbacks.
First and foremost, men buy a cartridge razor simply because they are convenient, accessible, or they are just simply used to them (since its what they started out on when they were a teenager).
Cartridge razors have the unique advantage, whether its a 4, 5, or 6 (yes there is a six bladed cartridge razor available), of having their blades preset to the optimal angle for cutting your whiskers.
The optimal angle for cutting your hair is at about 30°.
As far as blade counts, the cartridge razors blades work in tandem with each other. On a high level overview, the first blade lifts the hair, while the secondary blade comes in behind and cuts it at a lower amount. By the time the hair follicle passes the last blade, it should be cut at just below the surface of the skin for the ultimate close shave.
Typically when shaving with a cartridge razor you only need to make a single pass in order to get desired results.
Cartridge razors are quick if you are in a pinch, and have a relatively low learning curve – plus you don’t really every nick yourself too often.
Conversely when it comes to a double edge safety razor, all the control rests in your hands – for better or worse.
Unlike the cartridge razor with the preset cutting angle for each blade, you have to maintain that angle the entire time when using a double edge safety razor.
While it may seem a bit daunting at first, this learning curve can quickly be overcome with regular practice.
Essentially when using a double edge safety razor, its important to practice first on cheeks and then trickier areas like your jawline, chin, or underneath the nose.
In addition to the blade angle, to get an incredibly close shave you will need to go over your face about three times in total. As we covered in the technique section above, you will want to go with the grain, across the grain, and lastly against the grain.
An added convenience to a double edge safety razor is that the blade fittings are largely universal. Therefore you can try different blades that come in variety packs to see which one can deliver the best shave possible for you.
Thinking about taking on the challenge and trying out a double edge safety razor? Then check our in-depth guide to selecting the best safety razor for you.
If you are looking for an incredibly close electric shaver, then we would recommend getting a foil based razor as the blade in those razors tend to get a bit closer compared to their rotary counterparts.
Also electric shavers can shave ‘wet’ meaning that they can fully utilize a pre shave oil and shaving cream.
Is That All There Is To Achieve A Close Shave Time After Time?
Just remember to stick to the basics and don’t be too aggressive with the razor. A quality pre shave oil paired with a boutique shaving cream and shaving brush can make a world of difference on both comfort and the performance of your shave.
Now you definitely can look at incorporating an aftershave as well. However, just be sure that you pick up an aftershave balm over a splash or lotion. Balms don’t include alcohol which not only sting, but also dry out your skin.
Balms will help to ensure an adequate moisture throughout the morning and part of the afternoon hours.