A few quick passes with a disposable and you’re out the door for work, all thoughts of aftercare and time taken forgotten. Sound familiar?
You’re not alone. Sadly, shaving as a ritual has given way to the culture of a rapid once-over with a cartridge razor. But this slapdash approach can be alarmingly evident in your results.
We tapped Adam Brady from artisan barber chain Ruffians and the Master Barber team behind Ted’s Grooming Room to show you the error of your ways.
You Don’t Prep Properly
One of the main causes of irritation when shaving is hacking away while your hairs are too stiff and bristly. A splash of cold water doesn’t relax them sufficiently, and stiff hairs provide resistance during a shave, becoming more likely to be torn out by the root.
Getting the full works at a barbershop like Ted’s comes with the hot-towel treatment for a reason, as the heat and moisture relaxes the hair follicles. At home, replicate this by shaving when you’ve just got out of the shower. Brady also recommends using a light exfoliator to remove unnecessary oil and dead skin to soften your burgeoning beard before you cut it back.
You Don’t Use The Right Tools
Your average razor is likely to have at least three, if not five blades stuffed into each cartridge. But the slim gaps between these blades can clog with stiffer hairs, resulting in a less efficient shave as new hairs pile on top of older ones.
Some men find multiple blades more comfortable, and certainly the ability to angle the cartridge with a flexible handle is convenient. But there is another option, namely old-school double-edge safety razors like the stainless steel Merkur model, and (if you’re particularly masochistic) cutthroat straight razors. With a single edge, these won’t clog and a pack of 10 blades can be picked up for as little as a pound.
For our money, the convenience, simplicity and weight of a straight razor beats the tar out of paying a tenner for three new heads. But if you’re finding straight-edge shaving too difficult to pull off without irritation (and it does take a bit of practice) there’s no shame in opting for a disposable, providing you clear the blades mid-shave.
You Shave Against The Grain
Pulling outwards from your jawline may feel like a closer shave, but it’s only force of habit that’s keeping the practice in vogue. “People are used to shaving against the grain because that’s how best to do it with electric trimmers,” Brady tells us.
With a manual, the blades work best following the direction of growth, otherwise the hair gets tugged unnaturally, causing redness and shaving lumps due to your razor dragging against hair and skin. It’s like paddling downstream – smoother, faster and considerably less hard work.
You Use Bog-Standard Shaving Foam
Instant foam from a can is the average man’s lather of choice, but check the ingredients on your favourite foam to ensure you’re not shooting yourself in the foot.
Brady recommends avoiding any product that includes parabens, sulfates, alcohols and preservatives. These are usually chemically made, and aren’t ideal for slathering onto sensitive skin. Ideally your shaving cream’s sterilisation effect comes from citric acid rather than alcohol, which disinfects without dehydrating.
Geo F Trumper’s range is a great bet, as is Ruffians’ own sandalwood gel.
You Skip Aftercare
Once you’ve finished shaving and you’re all dried off, running straight for the door is not advisable. You’ve just dragged a sharp blade across your skin, and your first reaction is to expose all that unprotected epidermis to the elements? It’s a one-way ticket to irritation, shaving rashes and other skin problems.
Ted’s Grooming Room will always finish up with a cool shaving balm to rehydrate damaged skin but common or garden moisturiser will do in a pinch, providing the product isn’t too greasy.
Simply spending a final minute on post-shaving nurture could make all the difference in ensuring your shave’s more on point than ouch.