Home > Lessons > The ART of Shaving

The ART of Shaving

I was in California and my Dad was in Utah about the time I had to learn to shave. I was in JROTC at my school at the time, and was starting to get to the point where my “peach fuzz” was becoming whiskers. Being in uniform, (though not in service), I was required to maintain a military appearance.
My mom and I spoke briefly about this shaving thing, but never in any detail. Essentially, and I don’t remember if this was my request or her idea, she bought me a can of shaving cream, a pack of disposable razors, and let me “have at it”.

Like any teenager, my strongest and most visible ideas of shaving involved big piles of lather and simply wiping it away with a razor. So I did that.  Along with the piles of wasted lather in the sink was a decent sized pool of blood.  As time went on, I learned to be more delicate, and not cut myself (so much), but no one ever taught me to shave properly.

Part of that is the Army’s fault. I went straight into the Army after High School, and again had no one to teach me where I was going wrong. Couple that with the fact that you have to shave before your morning exercise (or “PT”), and shower after, and it becomes understandable that it took me over a decade to get a really good, professional shave down.

I had never known that the way I was shaving was wrong, and I never knew that there was a better way. I’ll teach you how, if you’re interested. The key is moisture. I’m not talking about those stupid lubricant strips on your razor. Those are a damned marketing gimmick. You don’t need them. What you need is moisture, a little knowledge and some patience.

I am sure that you have seen the old hot towel shaves in the movies, or if you are fortunate enough, experienced one yourself. There’s a good reason for doing this hot towel trick. Heat and moisture make the skin on the face a little more elastic by relaxing the muscles underneath. Additionally, moisture keeps the whiskers lubricated and heat makes them pliable, reducing razor burn.

If you can get a hot towel shave, DO IT. If you cannot, or you are shaving at home, which is most common, then shave only AFTER you shower. If pressed for time, shave in the shower, but remember, this article is about a proper shave, and that takes time.

Once out of the shower, don’t bother drying off your face. Immediately move to the sink and begin filling it with hot water. This may seem excessive, and a waste, but if you think about it, it’s only one sink-full of hot water, whereas most of you leave the water running WHILE you shave, wasting several sinks full. Leaving the sink full of water is IMPORTANT. It is just as important as having the water hot, or applying cream.

Now shut the damn water off.

Take a decent-sized amount of your favorite shaving cream, about equivalent to a golf-ball, and work it into your whiskers and skin firmly. Not only are you massaging the skin before you shave, you are working the lather in between your whiskers and forcing the hairs to stand up. This forgotten technique is why they try and sell you razors with more and more blades. These blades supposedly “pull up the hair” with one blade and cut it with another.

Bullshit.

They’re unnecessary. You can get a great shave from one, two or three (or more) bladed razors.  Stop wasting your money.

You want to hold your razor properly. Most cuts and nicks come not from cheap razors (all grocery-store razors are cheap, they’re 1-4 strips of metal and a handful of plastic), but from pressing too hard or shaving too fast. Hold your razor at the sides between your first (or middle) finger and your thumb, allowing it to pivot or hinge at that point.

Don’t clasp your hand around the handle like a sword or knife, or that’s how you’ll cut yourself. Allow the handle of the razor to rest gently against your palm, letting it move and adjust to the contours of your face.

Take your razor of choice and swish it through the hot water, warming it gently and run it with the grain of your hair, across the cheeks. For most of us, this means DOWN. You want to take your free hand and pull the skin taut in the direction of the razor. This will stretch the skin slightly and get a closer shave.

Now, take that same free hand, and dip your fingertips in the hot water of the sink. Rub that hot water in small circles over the area you just shaved, the way you would wax a car or your motorcycle. You’re going to feel hair. Prickly, bristly hair. Run your razor against the grain, getting that hair out, generally in the opposite direction of your first shaving stroke.

Now, take your razor and rinse the head in the sink full of hot water. This is WHY you didn’t just let that water run down the drain. The side-to-side swishing of the razor cleans it faster and more effectively than simply running it under water. And, you’re helping the environment, just a little.

Repeat this process for the rest of your face and neck. Remember, when you are done going in any one direction, rub water from the full sink (which is now wonderfully mixed with shaving cream) back into the area you just shaved. This reduces razor burn and allows you to find rough patches.

This is a moderately time-intensive process at first. With practice, you can get your shaving time down to under 3 or 4 minutes, but at first you should be prepared to spend 10-15 minutes at a pop.

When you are finished, and satisfied with your shave, rinse your face again with fresh, new hot water and blot dry with a towel. Apply a decent moisturizer or after-shave balm. I buy my after-shave as a lotion from Gillette. You may or may not feel the need to apply alcohol to disinfect any minor cuts, but remember that it dries the skin and stings. A good after shave is not ESSENTIAL, but highly recommended.

Why go to all this trouble? Well, simply put, a man who takes care of himself with such thoroughness is likely to apply that same level of consideration in other areas. When you learn to slow down, and pay attention to littler things like this, you’ll find yourself paying the same level of attention to everything else you care about.  It’s part of an overarching lifestyle philosophy. Take care of yourself, take care of others, and treat yourself and everyone else right.

Besides, your woman will love he opportunity to run her hands across your face and see how well you did.

Remember several key points:

  • Apply lotion or a good after-shave balm when you are done.
  • Moisturize your face before, during and after the shower with hot water.
  • A little shaving cream goes a LONG way, and there’s always more in the can. Don’t waste it.
  • Rub hot water back into your face frequently and regularly
  • Go with the grain first, and against the grain second
  • Be gentle
  • And for god’s sake, clean the damn sink.

Notes:

  • I choose to use Schick Quattro razors, because they’re unpopular, and I can buy them for dirt-cheap. Though I will be making the move to a straight razor soon.
  • People judge you by how well you groom yourself. Look like $@% and they’ll treat you as such.
  • While shaving cream in a can is more than fine, cakes of soap in a mug are preferable. When choosing a brush, pay a lot. Any damn mug will do, and many soaps are acceptable. But a good brush is indispensable. Cheap brushes will have the glue dissolved by hot water, and leave bristles on your face. Bristles from badgers are preferable to bristles from boars or horses.
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Categories: Lessons Tags: , , ,
  1. TiM
    March 22, 2011 at 2:37 am

    I really liked this article. I never learned how to “properly” shave, as my dad always used electric. So, my lazy ass just followed suit. Now, if I accidentally slice my jugular, can I sue for damages? ;P

  2. Immovable Atheist
    March 22, 2011 at 1:15 pm

    No, Tim, you cannot sue me for damages. You can accuse me of negligence, but I am broke. Best to sue the makers of your razor for making it sharp ala’ the McDonald’s coffee lawsuit.

    • TiM
      March 28, 2011 at 12:42 pm

      My wife had a grandma who actually was part of a class action lawsuit against Pepsi, because supposedly she opened up a 2-liter and the cap flew off and hit her in the eye. I always tease my wife about that when she opens a soda…

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