These days, we take many activities for granted. We complete tasks absent-mindedly, relegating what could be a really enjoyable thing to the realm of “chore” – a dirty word for many, to be sure.
One of those activities is shaving. All too often, shaving time gets lumped into the same category as sweeping the floor or doing laundry. I already wrote about how shining your shoes can be a relaxing and meditative experience, and shaving is no different… if you do it right.
Now there’s more than one right way to shave, but none of them include slapping on dollar-store shave foam and scraping it off with a 10-cent disposable razor. If that describes your shaving process, then yeah, it’s no wonder you hate shaving! Let’s look at a better way, shall we? With just a little extra prep, you’ll come out from under that razor with the cleanest, smoothest shave you’ve ever had.
Step One: Cleaning your Face and Neck
Before you shave, it’s important to prep your skin. You can do this a couple different ways. First off, wash your face. This gets rid of dirt and debris on your face that can clog your razor, and extends the life of the razor as a result. It’s also the first step towards a smoother shave.
I personally like to use a face scrub for the wash, because it has the added benefit of getting between your hairs and deep into the skin. You can get as fancy or as simple as you want with the brand you use – I find a great budget option to be the Nivea face scrub.
After you’ve washed your face, you’re ready to apply shaving oil and cream.
Step Two: Prepping for the Shave
Next to a dull razor, one of the main reasons why you get razor burn and nicks is because you’re using a garbage-quality shave foam. Sorry Gillette, your entry-level stuff just doesn’t cut it. If you want a smoother shave, you need to invest in products that will help get you there.
I say invest because, while better quality products may cost a little more upfront, they will also last you much longer because you’ll use less of it. I go through maybe one bottle of shave cream per year.
In my view, there are two key products you need for a close shave: shaving oil, and shaving cream. For the shaving oil, I use a grapeseed oil from The Real Shaving Co. I couldn’t find a great link for it online unfortunately, but I buy it from Shoppers Drug Mart. It’s around $7 a bottle. Shaving oil should be the first thing you put on your face as you get ready to shave. It goes under your shave cream, and it does for lubrication what a base layer does for keeping you warm under your jacket. You don’t need a lot of it, just a very thin layer applied evenly over your face and neck.
Once that’s done, it’s time to apply your shave soap or cream. For a touch of added class, there’s nothing more enjoyable than using a badger hair shave brush to whip your shave soap up into a smooth lather. Just put a little bit of the shave soap into the palm of your hand, run the shave brush under warm water, and swirl the bristles in your hand to work the soap into a lather. From there, apply it in a circular motion all over your face and neck.
If you don’t want to use a shave brush and shave soap, there’s Kheil’s shave cream. I use the stuff personally when I’m not using my shave brush, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. As with soap, a little goes a very long way, especially when you apply it over shaving oil.
Step Three: Shave
Whether you use disposable razors, a safety razor, or the old-fashioned straight razor (the ultimate in close shaves), make sure you’re working with a sharp blade. A sharp blade will give you the closest shave with the least chance of nicks and cuts.
No matter which blade you use, start by shaving with the grain of your hair. Get most of the hair off your face this way before going back for a second pass against the grain. Going against the grain is the only way to guarantee that baby-smooth shave you’re after.
For the more adventurous out there, there’s a technique known as beard buffing. It’s only for disposable razor heads mind you, but it’s extremely effective. When you’re ready to go against the grain, move the razor over your face in short, repeated strokes, each time just barely touching the skin. You can pass over the same spot 4-5 times this way without irritating your skin, and it does a great job of getting all of the hair off your face.
Step Four: Post-Shave Relief
Forget anything with alcohol in it. Leave the Aqua Velva to your grandpa – the stuff does nothing to relieve irritation after shaving because it dries out your skin. No, you want something that will moisturize and protect your skin after you just ran sharp metal all over it.
There are a ton of great brands out there for this, but I actually like the Gillette Fusion aftershave cream, personally. A little goes a long way, and I find it really helps cut down on redness and itchiness after shaving.
Once your aftershave lotion is on, you’re done! A couple extra steps, a way closer shave. This to me is a no-brainer.
Important: Enjoy the Process!
Here’s the thing: you have two ways of looking at this four-step process for shaving. You can view it as an inconvenient burden, or you can view as a time-honoured ritual, a time for relaxation and self-reflection that harkens back to when putting care into the process actually meant something.
View it as if you were the steward and protector of a dying art, because the reality is that you are. Putting this level of care and mindfulness into shave time put you in a dwindling minority, but I promise you’ll find the process as rewards as the end result.
A Note for the Ladies
This post was written with guys in mind, but that doesn’t mean the concepts can’t apply to women too. Let shave time be you time; give yourself those extra few minutes to be mindful about the process, rather than rushing through it. It’s well worth it.
Wrapping it Up
I’ll finish this post by putting a challenge out to you. I challenge you to find other “chores” in your life that you put yourself on autopilot to do, and see if you can add a little mindfulness to them as well. Maybe it’s folding your clothes, or mopping the floor; maybe it’s gardening or washing your car. No matter the task, experiment with slowing it down a little, and being conscious of the effort you’re putting into not just completing the task, but doing it well.
What tasks have you tried it with? What has worked well? Where did you struggle? Tell me about it in the comments!