A quick guide to the clean-shaven face
Whether you are making a fashion statement, prefer a smooth visage or have a partner who doesn’t enjoy stubble, these tips will help shave your exposure to irritating chemical products.
If you’ve got the time, soak a towel in warm water and wrap it around your face for a few moments. You’ll not only experience a soothing shot of relaxation, but also help to soften your facial hair in anticipation of the razor.
Shaving after your shower creates the same effect, with the added benefit of being able to wash your face at the same time: cleansing before shaving helps to exfoliate and remove dead skin cells that can otherwise get trapped in pores and lead to ingrown hairs and acne. Likewise, cleansing helps to remove bacteria from the surface of your skin that would otherwise be spread by your blade.
Look for cleansing products that will clean without overstripping or irritating your skin. Foaming agents such as sodium lauryl sulfate are known to irritate skin and, frankly, aren’t necessary in your cleansing product.
Choose from soapwort extract or a combination of oils such as coconut and sweet almond. Consider using a shaving brush and shaving soap, as the brush helps to work up a lather that leads to a closer, less irritating shave. Aloe and cold-pressed olive oil are good ingredients in a shaving soap, as they help to create a rich lather and soothe skin.
The next step is to apply a cream, foam, gel or oil to your face to help reduce friction, tug and irritation as you pass a blade over your skin. Your choice of product type is one of personal preference, but be sure you choose those that help to heal skin.
Look for creams made with nourishing organic avocado oil and wheat germ oil. Gels made with aloe vera and witch hazel are light, yet still allow the razor to glide smoothly. Oils are perfect for men who like to keep a beard or moustache and want a precise shave; they’re also great for the scalp if you shave your head. Look for castor, olive, coconut and kukui nut oils.
Be sure your blade is sharp and clean to minimise tugging and reduce your chances of nicking yourself. Always shave in the direction of hair growth—going against the grain can encourage hair to curl back into the skin. After rinsing your face, apply a warm, damp face washer for a few moments of soothing relaxation.
Stop to think about it—you’ve just dragged a sharp blade over the surface of your skin, causing tiny nicks and leaving pores open to the mercy of the germs and bacteria in your bathroom.
Snap those pores shut with an aftershave product containing astringent witch hazel, rosemary, lemon, honey or sexy sandalwood. Soothe irritation with shea butter, aloe vera, camomile, willow bark extract and marsh mallow root. Avoid products that use alcohol—they will not only sting, but also lead to dry and irritated skin.
You’re not done yet
Regular shaving can zap skin’s moisture, so be sure to rehydrate according to your skin type.
Dry and flaky skin responds to vitamins A and E, beeswax, honey and rose oil. Dehydrated skin comes to life after you use products containing avocado oil, macadamia nut oil, argan oil, sweet almond oil and coconut oil. Sensitive skin responds well to ingredients such as cocoa butter, horse chestnut extract and St. John’s wort. Oilier skins also need extra moisture: look for non-comedogenic (non-pore-clogging) jojoba oil, sesame oil and olive oil, as well as tea tree oil to help with acne prevention.
For a masculine smell, opt for products containing fresh scents of lemon and orange citrus oils; energising bergamot; or the warm, woodsy scent of pine, cedar or sandalwood. Choose fragrances from natural sources such as essential oils rather than synthetic fragrances.
Avoiding ingrown hairs
When you’re constantly shaving, ingrown hairs are a possibility. Sebum builds up around the hair, clogging the pore and trapping the hair. Often, ingrown hairs lead to irritation, inflammation and infection that can cause pain and bleeding when you shave.
If you are prone to ingrown hairs, use a gentle facial scrub weekly to exfoliate dead skin cells and debris that can plug pores and trap hairs. To prevent ingrown hairs, opt for a shave with an electric razor.
To treat ingrown hairs look for exfoliating products containing beta hydroxy acid (BHA) from willow bark, which can penetrate the sebum trapped in pores, allowing you to clear the way to great skin. BHAs, though natural and safe when used properly, may increase susceptibility to sunburn. Use protection.
Did you know?
One study reports that women develop more wrinkles around the mouth than men. While the exact cause is unknown, it may have to do with the fact that men have oilier skin and more sweat glands than women. However, another theory is that shaving stimulates collagen production by causing regular friction.
Shave and save the planet
Disposable razors and blades are clogging landfills and, arguably, don’t give as smooth a finish as a straight razor shave. While a straight blade, strop (a flexible strip of leather or canvas used to straighten and polish the blade of a straight razor) and bi-annual blade maintenance may cost you more in the short term, over time you’ll be saving money and reducing your carbon footprint.
There’s a learning curve to using a straight razor, but with the investment of a little extra time, you’ll wonder why you didn’t try it sooner. Besides, what could be manlier than shaving with a straight blade?