The online home for Greg Leedberg, since 1995.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

How-To: Get A Great Shave

In February of 2006, I bought a new electric razor. Ever since then, I have been obsessed with getting a perfect shave.

The new electric -- a Norelco -- was pretty good. Definitely better than other electrics I've had in my life. But, every day when I look at my face in the mirror, I knew there must be a way to get a better shave. I had redness (especially on my neck), a dry feeling, and a five o'clock shadow by noon. Sure, I've seen all these ailments on other men as well. But, I've also seen men with near-perfect shaves, like what you see on TV and in the movies (but there I'm sure it's mostly makeup).

So, since February of 2006 (over a year!) I have been trying every combination of razor, pre-shave lotion, post-shave lotion, and overall method I could find, in an effort to figure out how to get a great shave. I think I've finally settled on my conclusion. I won't bore you with every failed combination I tried, but I'll outline what I have decided as my ideal shaving method.

My basic conclusion was that shaving with a blade (such as a Gillette Fusion or Schick Quattro) is leagues better than shaving with an electric. Irritation and redness were reduced, and the shave is much closer. So, this whole process is for shaving with a blade razor.

Also note: All men's hair is different, and all men's skin is different. So, what works for me may not work for you. But, it's a starting point.

Step 1: Don't shave every day -- if at all possible. Sometimes you just have to shave every day, but frequently you don't. Especially if you get a really close shave on the days you do shave. Skipping a day or two gives your skin a chance to recover from shaving, and reduces overall irritation. It also gives the razor something a little more substantial to work with on the days that you do shave, which helps it do its job. If you really need to shave every day, try just using an electric razor on the "off" days, to touch up. The electric razor is almost like not shaving, so it gives your skin a break without being too scruffy.

Step 2: Shave right after a hot shower in the morning. Hot water softens the hairs and makes them easier to cut. It also opens pores on your skin and helps to reduce irritation.

Step 3: If you have the time, exfoliate before shaving. Use a product such as Nivea For Men Energizing Facial Scrub. This will help clean away dead skin cells and other debris, and gives the razor a smooth surface to work with. It can also help lift hairs away from the skin, and can even help if you end up with an ingrown hair or two. I don't do this every single time I shave because it takes time, but I try to do it at least once a week, if not twice.

Step 4: Get your face wet with hot water. This makes sure that your hairs are still soft and your pores are still open. If you are literally shaving right after jumping out of the shower, you may be able to just not dry your face and accomplish the same thing.

Step 5: Lather up your face with Noxzema Medicated Shave for Sensitive Skin. I've tried a ton of different shaving creams, and this was the best by far. And it costs less than most as well! It doesn't have flashy TV commercials like Edge, but it works far better. Just shake the can, dispense some onto your hand, and spread it out over your face and neck. Massage it a little so it can get in between your hairs.

Step 6: Let the shaving cream sit for a minute or so. It helps if you can find something else to do during this "intermission", like clean your ears.

Step 7: Shave once with the grain, with a Gillete Fusion Power. I tried several razors and found that this one worked the best, especially with the power turned on. "With the grain" generally means in a downward direction. Start with your sideburns, then your cheeks, then your neck, then the area around your mouth and chin. Take smooth strokes -- long strokes on big open areas like your cheeks, short strokes for small areas like your chin. Rinse off the blade after every stroke or two with warm water.

Step 8: Check for spots that are still scruffy, and re-lather. Shaving with the grain reduces irritation, but it can also not give a terribly good shave in all spots. So, feel around and see what still needs to be smoothed out, and re-lather those spots.

Step 9: Re-shave, against the grain. Just the spots that need it. The neck and chin are especially likely to need a second pass like this. With some skin and hair types, shaving against the grain can cause irritation and ingrown hairs, so be careful. If you're especially prone to this, you may not be able to do this second pass at all and may need to settle for the results after step 7.

Everyone's hair growth is different, so it may take several tries before you get steps 7, 8 and 9 just right for your face. With time you'll learn how your hair grows and how different spots need to be shaved.

Step 10: Gently wash off your face with cold water. Don't scrub it. This step is both to get the remaining shaving cream off of your face, and to close your pores.

Step 11: Pat your face dry. Again, don't scrub, or you'll irritate your newly shaven skin.

Step 12: If you didn't nick yourself while shaving, put on moisturizing after shave. I recommend Nivea For Men Soothing After Shave Balm. This will help calm down any redness in your skin, and moisturize at the same time. Shaving robs your skin of its natural oils, so this is an essential step to maintaining the health of your skin.

However, if you did nick yourself while shaving, put on an alcohol-based after shave, such as Aqua Velva. Using alcohol-based aftershave too frequently can dry out your skin, but it's great at stopping a nick from bleeding quickly. And, the sting of this type of aftershave is a nice change every once in a while.

And voila, you're done! Like I said, this works very well for me. Your mileage may vary, but hopefully there were some useful tips and suggestions in there.

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