So what makes a good shave?
Firstly, everyone's skin and beard hair is different, so recommending a particular blade or product is impossible. The process, however, to help gain a smooth, comfortable and painless shave is fairly standard.
Here are the critical elements to abide by…
1. Hot water. Lots of hot water – or better still hot water and steam. Shaving after a shower, not before, is best as the heat opens the pores allowing for a closer shave.
2. Exfoliate. Use an exfoliant as this is especially helpful to guys with coarse stubble, as it removes dead skin cells and lifts the stubble, in turn improving the outcome of the shave.
3. Shaving brushes. These date back to the 1700s and were made from ivory, porcelain, wood or tortoise shell. Badger hair is best for its ability to absorb hot water and when used with a shaving soap creates the rich, creamy lather needed to soften the beard and aid in the blade passing smoothly across the skin.
Boar bristle or synthetic brushes do a poor job by comparison, but all brushes create a far richer lather than using just your fingers.
4. The blade. Made of tempered steel with a treatment coating, the best blades are from Germany, Russia and Japan. As I mentioned, everyone's different so a blade that works for one guy may cut another to ribbons.
Start with a mild blade and remember, two blades are adequate – the industry's gimmicks of four, five or six blades are not necessary. It's important to rinse the blades in between each stroke to remove the hair and cream that clogs them up – not doing so results in more passes over the same area and leads to skin rash or ingrown hairs.
Never shave against the grain. This pulls the beard hair harshly up and away from the skin leading to burning and ingrowing hairs too. Go with the grain and if you decide to apply shaving cream for a second shave, go gently across the grain this time.
5. Cold water. When you’ve finished shaving, apply cold water. This reduces the chances of irritation and closes the pores which eliminates shave spots.
And there you have it – shaving, solved!
To learn more from the pros, try out an expert shave at Ludlow Blunt in Williamsburg.