Grooming 101 – The Shave

In times past, learning to shave was more than just a rite of passage or a chore to be done occasionally.  Certainly it was those things, but it was also a mark of distinction and an opportunity to set the stage for the passing on of wisdom garnered by one generation to the eager minds of the next.  Today, shaving is little more than a daily hassle, and while this post is not meant to be a call back to the straight razor, I have found that, by giving just a little more thought to the act, I have found it becoming a wonderful centering and grounding moment in the beginning moments of my day.

I use both an electric razor (rotary) and a blade, depending on the day of the week.   For this post, I will focus my reflections on the blade shaving I do.

It begins, for me, with warm water.  Not hot, mind you, because hot water can scald the skin and make it more sensitive than it normally is.  If the water is warm enough to leave the skin feeling slightly warmer than the air, that is probably enough.  After all, the purpose of the water is to soften the whiskers.

From there, I select my beard prep.  I have used all kinds, from foams to gels to oils, and I have found that a good old fashioned cream or shaving soap and a shaving brush are best for working up a gentle lather.  Ideally, the lather will aid the razor in gliding smoothly across your skin while also softening up the beard.  Some foams and gels develop a lather far too full and actually obscure the beard, not wiping away clean and leading you to shave over the same surface too many times.  This damages the skin quite quickly, so the lather should be the perfect balance.  The shaving brush allows me to reach this happy balance between coverage and visibiltiy.

Next, obviously, comes the razor.  There are so many to choose from today, and while each man should try various ones to find the razor best suited for his individual face and budget, I have found that the Gilette Mach 3, if you can find it, was wonderful.  It has since been replaced quite aggressively by the Fusion, also a Gilette razor.  why these two?  They certainly didn’t pay me for the endorsement!  However, i have found that with blades numbering more than 2, I can take a single stroke over a section of my face and have it be reasonably whisker free.  Additionally, they’re shape and open back design mean cleaning them is easy and they nicely in the hand.

The first stroke is down the cheeks, toward the navel, and I do the entire upper portion of the face this way.  I use almost no pressure, preferring instead to let the blades do all the work.  then, I will start at the neck and move up toward the chin.  I don’t move over the chin (the way you do in so many commercials) because I tend to cut myself there.  Instead, I shave just up to the chin, and the start at the back of the jaw and shave to the middle.  I get far fewer nicks and cuts that way.

Next, I will move back to the cheeks and face and shave, very lightly, toward the center.  The lighter the hand, the less likely I nick and cut.  Typically, I only do this on the face, as the neck is far to difficult to accomplish this with.

Having shaved the entire face, i now move to the neck.  I use a finger to hold my hair up slightly, move the razor so it just touches underneath the finger holding the hair out of the way, and shave down to just below my collar line.  Cleaning this area adds a touch of class and distinction to your look.

once the shaving is done, I will finish with either cold water splashed on my face and my neck or I will use a light skin cream, formulated for men’s skin.  Common aftershaves often have alcohol which will burn and dry out the skin, so the cream is a better option.  Lately I have been using Vaseline for Men, as it is unscented and absorbs quickly and with almost no greasiness.

When you get a chance, try these steps, and see if they don’t give you a chance to slow down and be thoughtful and grateful for little things in your life.