February 17, 2012

Quick Tip: Smoothing Out Your Shave

Shaving is a daily routine that most men don't put a lot of thought into. If you are going to invest in your wardrobe, why wouldn't you invest in your skin as well?

I have sensitive skin and for years I just used a department store shave gel and cartridge razor. Inevitably, I would either not get a close shave or would irritate my skin while trying to. What changed this for me is actually a bit of a throwback courtesy of The Art of Shaving. Their 4-step process is incredibly simple and hearkens back to a lost time when men wore suits on a daily basis. For me it conjures memories of watching my grandfather shaving when I was young.

First off, you want to use warm water to relax your skin and open up your pores. I like to shave in the shower because the steam helps this process along (and it means I don't have to wipe down the sink afterwards). The process starts out with a pre-shave oil which softens the facial hair and provides a barrier both to increase viscosity and decrease the friction and pulling that leads to irritation.

Next comes the shaving cream. Now I had always been a staunch user of shave gel. I had some notion that gel was more modern and thus somehow better. Sometimes though, a product is timeless for a reason. This tub of shaving cream lasts me an average of 6-7 months (way longer than a can from the drug store). I use an amount the size of a dime, which lathers my face twice.

The trick to this longevity comes from the use of a brush to apply the shaving cream. I use a badger hair brush, but I am sure you could find other options. The brush allows for a better lather from less cream, which helps your wallet, but it also improves the quality of your shave. The brush lifts the facial hair while it is lathering up your face, making it easier to get a good shave. I apply in a roughly circular motion to get the maximum coverage and benefit.

Now that you are all lathered up, it's time to shave. You want to make sure to shave with the grain, especially if you have sensitive skin. Going against the grain is the quickest way to get ingrown hairs and irritation. I'll usually shave once, rinse, lather, and shave again to get the closest shave and make sure I didn't miss any spots. As I mentioned a dime-sized bit of shaving cream easily accomplishes this for me.

After you are done shaving, make sure to rinse with cold water. This will close your pores and help sooth any irritation you might have. Once you dry your face, apply an after-shave balm or lotion. Remember, you just scraped a layer of skin off your face. A little lotion with help keep your skin smooth, especially since you are working so hard to get a smooth shave.

If you think you will have any irritation, I strongly recommend one of two products - Art of Shaving Ingrown Hair Night Cream or Burt's Bees Herbal Blemish Stick. Both products work really well on redness and razor bumps as well as the occasional blemish.

While I am still using a drug store cartridge razor, I'll soon be upgrading to one with a weighted handle and eventually to a safety razor. The benefit of a weighted handle is that it does some of the work for you so that you don't feel the need to apply as much pressure when shaving (a major cause of irritation).

Safety Razor (L); Weighted Handle Cartridge Razor (R)
Photos from Art of Shaving

A safety razor is a major step, but one that will provide an incredibly close shave with much less waste. Having only used one a handful of times, I cannot claim expertise. What I can tell you is that it forced me to take my time (mostly out of fear) instead of rushing through a shave like I normally do, which I am sure goes a long way towards getting the perfect shave.

As you have noticed, I have been extolling the virtues of the Art of Shaving products. This is primarily because they work better than anything else I have ever tried. The other reason is that they are made with no alcohol, synthetic dyes, or fragrances. While this is certainly not a deal breaker for me, it is a huge benefit and selling point and was a major factor in my decision to try out their other products (which I love, but more on that in a future post).

When it comes to your skin, the right product can make all the difference. If there is more involved than simply applying, technique can play a big role too. That is why not only do I recommend the Art of Shaving products, I also recommend their 'guide to the perfect shave' video that can be found on their website.

Since this is such a strong endorsement, I feel a disclaimer is appropriate: I do not, nor will I ever, recommend a product (skin care, clothing, or otherwise) that I do not personally use (or would like to use).

Stay stylish,
- JJ

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