Unless you are channeling your inner hipster or trying to outlast your buds in an extended “No-Shave November” challenge, odds are that you help make up the 80 to 90 percent of men who prefer to be clean-shaven. If you do not, you may want to consider it since your grooming habits can have a surprisingly significant impact on both your personal and professional life.
On a personal level, virtually every survey I could find proves that most women prefer men who are clean-shaven. On a professional level, it could be a make-or-break factor when interviewing for that new job or aiming for that next promotion. In fact, an article from SeeJackShop.com claims that “90 percent of HR professionals say that being well-groomed is more important than a firm handshake when it comes time for a job interview.” If that’s not enough evidence for you, take a quick look at the photos of the current Fortune 500 CEOs. Very few have facial hair. Coincidence? I think not.
Great – so I’ve convinced you that being consistently clean-shaven is important. Now it’s time to pick up that razor and go to work. What’s that you say? I can’t hear you over the collective and resounding “UGHHHHH!” We all know that shaving can be quite the chore or annoyance, especially when the result of your shave makes it look like you fell face first onto a cheese grater. Improper technique and overused equipment can lead to unsightly nicks and razor bumps that quickly overshadow the benefits of being clean-shaven.
Here are some tips for getting the best shave. They’re broken down into three stages: Pre-Shave, Mid-Shave, and Post-Shave.
1) Prep your equipment. Be sure that your razor of choice is loaded with a fairly new, sharp blade. An old, dull blade will tug on your hairs and even nick your skin. If you experience this, you may want to think about changing or sharpening your blade.
2) Wash your face with hot water. Hot water is key because it not only helps to soften your facial hairs, but it also opens up your pores, making for a smooth and comfortable shave. Washing your face also ensures that your face is clean, preventing you from transferring any dirt or sweat into your open pores. The best way to complete this step is to simply shave after showering.
3) Apply shaving cream. It is best to do this using a shaving brush, which aids in building a thick lather and lifting the hairs away from the skin, ultimately leading to a smoother shave. If you do not have a shaving brush, you can use your hands to apply the shaving cream in a circular motion.
4) Create a game plan. It is best to come up with a strategy for how you want to shave your face and neck. I prefer to break my face and neck up into quadrants: left face, right face, left neck, and right neck. I then shave the quadrants in the same order every time. Additionally, it’s important to decide how many passes or strokes you would like to make. Just one with the grain? Or one with the grain and one across or against the grain? With the grain refers to shaving in the same direction that your facial hair grows, and against the grain refers to shaving in the opposite direction that your facial hair grows. Shaving against the grain is the key to obtaining the closest shave; however, it can lead to more irritation, especially for those prone to ingrown hairs or those with sensitive skin.
5) Maintain a steady stroke. Try to avoid flicking your wrist while shaving and instead focus on moving the arm and hand in one steady, continuous motion. The speed of the stroke should be moderate - not too fast, yet not too slow. Pressure is also important. Try not to press hard while making your passes. By pressing gently and letting the razor do the work, you avoid shaving too close to the follicle, which is a common cause of ingrown hairs and nicks.
6) Rinse your face with ice-cold water. Rinse your face with ice-cold water. This tightens the skin back up and closes your pores.
7) Moisturize. Shaving not only removes unwanted facial hair, but it also exfoliates the skin. The shaving process can remove up to two layers of skin, sucking the moisture right out of your face. It is best to soothe your skin and replenish any lost moisture by using an after shave lotion.
8) Dry your blades. The razor industry prices razor holders at a bargain, but charges a significant premium for refills of blades and cartridges. To save some cash, lengthen the life of your blades by simply patting them dry after each shave. Most corrosion stems, not from actual use, but from oxidation when water sits on the metal between shaves. A dry blade will last longer and serve you better.
By following these steps, you will be well on your way to achieving a cleaner, more comfortable shave. If you adopt a consistent shaving routine, you may even be able to turn the odds in your favor when locking down a date with the cute girl you meet this weekend or nailing your upcoming interview. Remember - a true gentleman is always well-groomed.