Arming Yourself for Battle, or How to Get a Close Shave without the Pain
Like it or not, shaving is something that we all unfortunately must deal with (unless you’re going for the wild, rugged mountain man look). Still, as the old saying goes, if you’re going to do it, you better do it right—and nowhere could this saying be more fitting than when it comes to shaving, as a half-assed job will make you look like a slob. However, a close, smooth shave won’t just help improve your look and standing amongst the fairer sex, but it can also help to prevent razor burn, skin irritation, etc.
Most men list shaving as one of their least favorite activities due to the pain and irritation that usually comes with it. However, the truth is that most men suffer from these problems because they’re simple not shaving correctly. Only a small fraction of men actually know what they’re doing when it comes to shaving their face, but lucky for you that getting a close shave isn’t difficult. Shaving will never be fun, but we’re here to show you that it doesn’t have to be a long, painful process, as long as you put a little thought and preparation into it.
Understanding Your Face
As men, we’re masters at underestimation—tending to assume things are much easier that they really are. This is as true for shaving as anything else, as we like to think that it should be a quick, simple process, when in truth shaving is the equivalent of cutting tens of thousands of stiff wires and also involves scraping away the top layer or two of skin.
The average man will spend several thousand hours shaving his face over the course of his lifetime (i.e., more than 120 total days)! When you consider it this way, it only makes sense to put in a bit of time to understand how to make the process (and the result) as smooth as possible. So if you want to look and feel your best, read on to learn the secrets to getting the closest shave ever.
How to Get the Closest Shave:
Take the Time to Prepare Your Face
The biggest factor in getting a closer, less painful shave is to prepare your face before the battle. Instead of struggling to snip off those wire-like hairs, you first need to soften them up. You also need to stimulate the skin and hair follicles in order to push the hair up to cut them as short as possible and make them stand straight so you can slice them off in one swoop.
The first step to doing this is to make sure the skin is wet and warm before shaving, as this stimulates small muscles to contract and push the hair out. This can be done by either wrapping a hot towel around your face for a few minutes, or simply taking a shower before shaving. If you’re up for it, shaving in the shower is a great option for this reason. Either way, you really should wash and exfoliate your face before shaving as well, as this helps prepare the skin and hair by removing dead skin cells and stimulating your stubble.
If you have more than a day’s worth of facial hair growth, it’s also recommended to use a good pre-shave oil to further soften the hair and help keep the skin lubricated while shaving. This step is essential in preventing razor burn and irritation, as it allows the blade to slide more smoothly over the face, ensuring you cut the hairs off instead of pulling them out.
You also need to take care when applying shaving cream, as it needs to be massaged into the skin in order to further stimulate the hair follicles. For this reason, we definitely recommend using a good quality shaving brush if you’re serious about getting the best shave possible. Check out our guide on shaving brushes to help you find the best shaving brush for you.
Considering Your Options and Choosing Your Weapons
It’s time we start taking shaving seriously, as society is starting to dictate that men pay more attention to their looks and style. When it comes to shaving, this means taking a bit more time to consider your options when it comes to razors, shaving creams and other essential products and accessories. There’s nothing wrong with a man putting a little thought and effort into their looks, and buying higher quality, more expensive shaving products isn’t vain—it simply makes sense.
In truth, there is no right or wrong way to shave, as the actual process is very much up to the individual. However, the tools and products you use will play a major role in how close of a shave you get and how your face feels afterwards.
If you really want to know how to get a close shave, you not only need to prepare your face, but you need to choose your weapons wisely. This means throwing away those cheap razors and shaving creams, and spending a bit more money on higher quality products. While expensive doesn’t necessarily mean good, cheap price almost always equates to cheap quality, with the end result being a poor quality, painful shave.
There are many different options when it comes to razors, but which one you use is really a matter of preference (although straight razors and double-edge safety razors usually result in the closest shave). Nowadays, multiple-blade cartridge razors seem to be the shaver of choice for a large majority of men, when the simple fact is that if you take time to prepare your face and hair as we’ve discussed, you’ll only need one blade to get a super close shave. In fact, many experts believe that multiple blades increase the amount of skin irritation that results from shaving. Still, it’s really up to you. So if you’re comfortable with spending the extra money on replacement cartridges and you feel they give a better end result, then by all means, stick with what you’re happiest with. No matter what type of razor your prefer we have reviewed practically all of them, so be sure to check out our lists of the best safety razors, best straight razors, and best disposable razors.
Generally speaking, it’s the quality of the razor, not the type, which will play the bigger role in giving you a close shave. For this reason, make sure not to skimp on your razor blades, as the higher quality the blade is, the sharper it will be and the closer shave it will give. There are many excellent razors and blades out there, it just takes doing a bit of research and reading reviews to find the right one for you. But don’t worry, we have already done that for you. Check out our complete list of the top safety razor blades.
On Shaving Creams, Soaps, Oils, Etc.
Just as your choice of razor matters, so does your choice of shaving cream. The whole point behind using shaving cream or soap is that it is meant to act as a lubricant, allowing the blade to glide over the face. The problem is that most of us wrongly assume that the more a product lathers, the better it works, when in fact only the thin layer directly against the skin matters.
The majority of the cheap canned shaving creams and gels most men use contain many fillers and chemical substances that form a rich lather, but they’re actually quite short on the silicone and soaps that do the real lubricating. On the other hand, the higher quality, more expensive creams and soaps may not form as foamy of a lather, but they are nonetheless much better at lubricating the face. Not only that, they are also much better at nourishing the face to keep it healthier and looking its best. For guidance on picking the product and using it properly, I would recommend you checking out these article on the best shaving creams, top shaving soaps, and how to make a lather with a shaving brush. If you have found your skin to be particularly sensitive, you may be interested in picking up a first-rate shaving cream for sensitive skin.
The same can be said about your face soap, pre-shave oils, lotions and other products. Like pretty much everything else in life, quality matters. So if you want to get the closest shave possible and avoid irritation, it’s well worth spending the extra cash to upgrade your shaving kit, as better products equals a better shave.
The Post Shave Ritual
While we’re on the subject of getting a close, painless shave, it’s also important to note the impact that your post shave ritual has on it all. Just as it’s vitally important to prepare your face before shaving, it’s just as important that you take the time to help repair the damage to your skin caused by shaving.
As we already mentioned, shaving doesn’t just take off the hairs—it also removes several layers of skin, making it essential that you use products to help heal your face after it’s all over. If you cut yourself during shaving, try using a healing shaving stone (best alum block) that contains potassium and alum, as this will help stop the bleeding and will leave your face feeling much better.
Shaving also dries out the skin, which is why it’s definitely recommended to use a good quality moisturizing lotion or aftershave to help seal in moisture and repair the damage. Refer to following articles for the top aftershaves, aftershave balms, and best face lotions for men so you don’t waste your money on the wrong products. Finally, if you’re willing to go all out, you may even want to consider using a clay face mask once a week to further nourish and heal your skin. Healthy skin not only helps to give a closer shave, but it will also keep you looking your best for years to come, instead of looking old and haggard before your time.
If you’re serious about looking your best, taking the time to learn how to get the closest shave is one of the best things you can do. After all, it’s incredibly easy and something your skin and face will surely thank you for. If you considering switching to a safety razor as I highly suggest you do if you haven’t done so already, be sure to check out this awesome infographic on the Beginner’s Guide to Wet Shaving and How to Shave With a Safety Razor.
Ben Rose is the founder and senior editor at Prim&Prep, the definitive guide to male grooming. He is a wet shaving expert, body grooming aficionado, and skincare guru. His work has been featured on many other prominent men’s publications including AskMen, Men’s Health, and GQ.