The Gentleman's Guide

The gentleman's guide  |  Women  |  Style  |  Grooming  |  Decor  |  Culture


Despite shaving being something that men all over the planet have to do every day, most don't know how to do it well. For most, it's an unpleasant and sometimes painful chore, not an enjoyable few minutes of pampering. If this is the way you feel too then you've been doing it wrong. The key steps to remember are:

  • Always wet shave.
  • Use a manual razor.
  • Exfoliate and lubricate your skin.
  • Shave with the grain.
  • Splash with cool water, dab dry, and moisturise with a balm.

First, you should always wet-shave! If you disregard the rest of the information on this page then at least remember this - hair that's been soaked in warm water for a couple of minutes will have absorbed the water and swollen. Swollen hair is much easier to cut, plus the water will act as a very basic lubricant, allowing the razor or shaver to move across your skin more easily. For this reason, shaving is best done during or immediately after a shower. Failing that, soaking a face towel in hot water and applying it to your face for a couple of minutes should have the same effect. You should also wait at least twenty minutes after waking up to shave. The muscles in your face will take a little while to tighten up and properly expose the hairs, so shower and shave after breakfast.

You can make life even easier for yourself though, and speaking as someone who is extremely prone to ingrown hairs and razor rash I can assure you these tips will help. Firstly, get yourself a good razor. Not an electric shaver - these cut the hair by flailing at it repeatedly, leaving the end frayed and more likely to ingrow. A proper razor makes a single, neat cut through the hair giving you a closer shave that's less likely to cause irritation afterwards. If you absolutely must use an electric shaver then go for one like the Phillishave Cool Skin waterproof shaver with the compartment for sachets of Nivea moisturiser. But if you want a really good shave then you need a proper razor.

Currently the three best razors on the market are the Gillette Mach 3, the Wilkinson Sword Quattro (which I've tested and found are both roughly equal to each other, though the Gillette clogs far less in my experience), and the Gillette M3 Power. I didn't believe the hype for the M3 Power but having tried it I can report that it gives an even closer shave than the Mach 3, but also requires much less force. In my opinion this is the best razor out there today.

Now you know what to shave with and when to shave, but it's useful to prepare your skin as well. Your skin will benefit from being moisturised and there are plenty of products aimed directly at men to help you do this. King of Shaves K24/24 or K24/8, or Nivea for Men moisturisers work well and are available in high-street chemists such as Boots. These will give you firmer, better toned skin (as well as giving you some day-to-day UV protection and helping to prevent wrinkles). Once a week you should also exfoliate and for this I use King of Shaves ASC2 Face Scrub. This helps remove dead skin, dirt and oil and, if you do it in the shower just before you shave, helps lift your facial hairs so that your razor doesn't miss them.

Lastly, while the water provides basic lubrication, it's good to use something else as well. I find that shaving oils such as King of Shaves Kinexium Oil make it much easier to shave. All you do is squirt a couple of drops onto your palms and rub it into your beard immediately before you shave. This gives a smoother shave than either foam or gel, with the added benefit that you can see the skin you're shaving so you're less likely to nick yourself. It's even possible to apply shaving gel over oil for maximum lubrication but I found this prevented me from gripping the skin to be able to pull it taught. You can also use shaving oil if you're determined to use an electric shaver.

So, your face is now ready to be shaved. Shave with the grain of hair, i.e. in the direction the hair points. Shaving against the grain will give you an even closer shave but will also cause massive irritation. If you really can't get a few problem hairs then shave across the grain, but do this sparingly. Make sure you use gentle, smooth, short strokes and try not to rush. Rinse your blade frequently to prevent it becoming clogged.

Once you've finished splash your face with cool water to encourage your pores to close, then dab your face dry with a clean towel. Grimy towels are home to bacteria and you don't want to introduce these to your newly pristine face. Dabbing is important because rubbing your face can force hairs back into pores and cause them to ingrow. Finally apply some alcohol-free aftershave balm (again, King of Shaves, Nivea for Men and several others make it) which should soothe and rehydrate your skin. Now is also a good time to moisturise your face as it will trap in some water your skin has absorbed during the shower.

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I got a shaving mirror and mounted it in my shower so that I could get a really good view of my face while it was wet. You'll find that water droplets will bead upon the mirror and obscure your reflection, but a little practical physics can prevent this. Simply get a tiny amount of shampoo/face wash, work into a lather, then spread thinly across the mirror. This disrupts the surface-tension of the water and prevents it beading.