Today marks National No-Beard Day. Across the length and breadth of the land, men are shaving their magnificently furry faces – losing their moustaches and beards in a bid to reclaim their boyish youthful looks.
But before you reach for the razor, there are some things your should know. Shaving may seem like an easy enough process, but there are myriad pitfalls and problems waiting to trip you up. And, with a razor in hand, tripping is not a risk you want to take.
So listen up, gents, because we’ve asked the best barbers and greatest groomers around how to best do away with your whiskers. And take note, for there is nothing more humiliating and less gentlemanly than the dreaded tissue paper square.
Prepare your face properly
Alex Glover, Master Barber at Murdock London, appreciates the importance of thoroughly preparing your skin and stubble for the razor’s edge.
“It’s crucial,” says Glover. “To avoid discomfort or irritation, you need to remove any excess oil or dirt from the pores that will open up when you come to steam your face later.”
Adam Brady, from London groomers Ruffians, agrees. “Throughout the day,” he explains, “your skin will shed cells and generally be exposed to the elements. This will create, on a minute level, an unsmooth surface. So ensure, before you go anywhere near your razor, to use a micro granular exfoliator. This will effectively sand down your skin, remove the rough, and leave your with a smooth enough surface to shave.”
Soften things up
Glover also suggests using a pre-shave oil at this stage, which will help soften your existing facial hair and nourish the skin below.
“Softening your skin is the next step,” Brady continues. “You want to use warm water to make your bristles soft, and open up the pores. This will leave your face less prone to spotting and scratches, but there are numerous ways you can do it.”
And, from simply splashing your face with water to stepping into a steamy shower, Brady is right. But Alex Glover has a foolproof method.
“Soak a flannel in half-boiling, half-cold water. Wring it out and apply to your face for a few moments, holding in place for longer if your facial hair has grown to particularly long lengths.
Shave decisively and sensibly
“For the shave itself,” Glover continues, “ideally you want to be using a straight razor. With one blade, a straight razor cuts closer than most modern multi-bladed razors. Fewer strokes across the skin also means less irritation and sensitivity.
“Hold your straight razor at a 30-degree angle to the skin, and this will allow the blade to smoothly sweep across the face. Cut with the grain and then also diagonally – if you go directly against the grain, you run the risk of irritation, inflaming sensitive skin and potentially causing ingrown hairs – which, in turn, can lead to longer-term skin and follicle damage.”
Don't skip the afterparty
“After shaving, you need to rehydrate your skin. Layers have just been taken off by the razor, so it’ll be incredibly sensitive. Try using a non-alcoholic moisturiser or post-shave balm – alcoholic ones will only dry your skin out again – and this will soothe and nourish the new skin surface.”
“Combine this with a cold flannel,” adds Alex Glover, “which will help close pores, and prevent attracting any dirt or excess oil.
“And, if you have managed to nick yourself, dab any skin breaks with an Alum Bar or Styptic Match to treat instantly and seal the cut.”
Apply aftershave sparingly
And what of aftershave? Adam Brady is for it – but there are rules.
“Whilst you should use aftershave, don’t apply it to your face. Try your wrists and the back of your neck – this ensures maximum coverage and maximum comfort. If you spray on your face, the alcohol will simply add insult to injury.”