Men’s Shaving Frequently Asked Questions and Challenges
Shaving Tips, Tricks And Advice From Our Grooming And Shaving Experts
After shaving the faces of powerful men for over a decade at our DC and Virginia Barber Shops, we’ve learned a thing or two. The biggest discovery is that it doesn’t matter who comes in –– politicians, CEOs, professional athletes or everyday guys –– and it doesn’t matter if they shave every single day. Men from every walk of life have questions about getting the closest and smoothest shave possible.
Naturally, after more than a decade of shaving the faces of men from all walks of life, we have a few answers to your most pressing questions. Whether you’re just learning to shave or you’re a seasoned veteran looking for some pro tips, the Grooming Lounge Grooming Experts have you covered.
If you have a question that hasn’t been answered on this page, submit your email@example.com Being the best resource for men’s grooming gives us pride, and it only happens because of our Grooming Lounge community!
The Men's Shaving Frequently Asked Questions List:
#1: What do I need for a basic shave kit? #2: What are the precise steps for a perfect at home shave? #3: What’s the best way to shave under my nose? #4: What is a good age to start shaving? #5: Will shaving cause my hair to grow in thicker or darker? #6: When is the best time to shave? #7: Is it okay to shave against the grain? #8: Why do I keep getting ingrown hairs and razor burn after I shave? #9: How do I prevent razor bumps, razor burn, and ingrown hairs?
#1 WHAT DO I NEED FOR A BASIC SHAVE KIT?
If you’re new to shaving, there are two different kit types to consider. For those who want to maintain facial hair, there are other essential tools to have in your grooming arsenal. So, if you want to upgrade your shaving game, this is worth a read. Before you begin buying products, you need to identify which category you belong in:
Disposable Cartridge Razors: This category is for those who prefer to shave with disposable cartridge razors. These are the razors you can buy from your local drugstore or grocer.
Double-Edged Safety Razors: This category is for those who prefer to shave with an old-fashioned safety razor. This is typically a single blade that is sharpened to have a double edge. These razors can be used several times before you need a double-edge razor replacement. But, they require a specific technique in order to use successfully without cutting yourself!
Facial Hair Maintenance: if you love your beard, goatee or hollywood-shadow, you’re going to have very different needs than a guy who shaves his face completely smooth on a daily basis. Remember, just because you like facial hair doesn’t mean you don’t need the tools to properly maintain your facial mane for aesthetic and health reasons.
Once you’ve identified which category of kit you need in order to get the results you want, use the lists below as a guide.
Necessary For Each Shaving Kit (Excluding Beard/Facial Hair Kits):
No matter what kind of shaving you’re doing, you’ll always need to have the following for a close and healthy shave.
Face Wash: before you put a razor to your mug, make sure you clean it first. Having clean skin helps eliminate shaving irritation and breakouts.
Shaving Cream, Gel, Soap, or Oil: This is one of the most important parts of your shave, which means you shouldn’t cut corners. Experiment with different creams, soaps or oils to find the solution that works best for your shaving ritual. We couldn’t find one that was 100% to our liking, so we created an award-winning shaving oil, and shaving cream.
Aftershave Treatment: Just because your face is smooth doesn’t mean the process is over! Make sure to moisturize, protect and treat your face to prevent wind-chapping, ingrown hairs and post-shaving irritation and breakouts. Men’s Health magazine has raved about how awesome our Shavior treatment is for keeping mugs in tip-top shape.
Razor Handle: You can either use the one that came with your first disposable razor purchase or you can upgrade to something a little more professional.
Razor Blade Cartridges - make sure you keep a supply of these on hand. You need to change your razor cartridge every 3-6 shaves to insure you get the closest shave possible and prevent skin irritations and breakouts from dull and grimy blades. You can grab these at your local drugstore.
Razor Sharpener: Although optional, it’s wise to make an initial investment in a razor sharpener. This will save you hundreds of dollars on replacement cartridges.
Double-Edged Safety Razor Kit:
Razor Handle: Double-edged or safety razors are more-or-less universal. Which means you can have your pick of different handles that suit your tastes and your style of shaving. A couple of our favorites include this one for beginners, this one for professionals, and this one for the dapper man.
Double-Edged Razor: Choosing a double-edged safety razor is all about what feels good to you. If you haven’t already settled on a specific razor brand, consider grabbing a sample kit and trying a number of different razor glides. And remember, you need to keep your blade clean and sharp for the best possible shave.
Beard / Mustache Detail Razor: This is an entirely optional tool, but it is really handy. These detail blades are much smaller in width, so it’s easier for you to control making edges. If you want to detail your beard or mustache with greater ease, consider grabbing a beard / mustache detail double-edged safety razor.
Razor Sharpener: You could just strop your razor with an old pair of jeans or a piece of thick leather. Or you could grab an easy-to-use razor sharpener. Take a look at this convenient razor sharpener if you’re a modern man with limited time.
Razor Stand: This is seen as optional amongst many men, but we think this should be mandatory. If you want your razor to last longer and be more hygienic, consider grabbing a razor standthat will eliminate resting your razor on a wet counter top or inside your soap-scum filed shower.
Shaving Brush: It’s essential that you have good lubrication across the face before you put a safety razor to the test. To get an even coating of lather, utilize a handy shaving brush. A shaving brush will give you a more precise application of lather, also making post-shave clean up much faster. Here’s a great brush for beginners and pro's alike and here's a silvertip brush for those truly dedicated to old school shaving.
Shaving Bowl: You’ll need a separate bowl of some sort for your shaving lather. While it’s tempting to use a kitchen bowl, why not man up and get a bowl that looks and performs better? A good shaving bowl will keep your shave more hygienic, and your bathroom more organized and stylish.
Styptic Pencil: When you first begin using a double-edged safety razor, you’ll probably have a skin knick or two. A styptic pencilis a great way to stop the bleeding, and it’s super easy to travel with.
Facial Hair Maintenance:
Beard and Mustache Comb: Brushing your facial hair does more than simply make you look good. It helps the hair grow out healthier and prevents hair from curling in and creating skin irritations and even ingrown hairs. Add this simple tool to your beard maintenance arsenal.
Beard Brush - if you have a more substantial face mane, keep it looking tidy with a high quality beard brush. Brushing your beard with the right brush will make it shiny, help it grow healthier, and prevent tangles and tears.
Beard / Mustache Trimming Scissors: Sometimes you just need to take a little bit off the top and tame some weird flyaways. Don’t make it harder than it has to be. Grab a pair of beard and mustache trimming scissors.
Face Wash / Scrub: It’s easy to forget about taking care of your facial skin when it’s covered in hair. But don’t make this amateur mistake! Keep your skin in healthy shape to look better, feel better, and keep your skin from getting irritated beneath that magnificent beard. Remember: don’t scrub or exfoliate your skin more than twice a week.
Beard Wash / Shampoo: Beard hair isn’t the same as the hair growing on the top of your head. Make sure you wash that facial mane with the right stuff, for a healthier looking mugshot.
Beard Conditioner / Hair Softener: You aren’t doomed to a wiry, untamable beard mess. Use a beard conditioner to make that facial mane more touchable, shiny, and easier to care for.
Electric Beard Trimmer: If you don’t want to completely sheer your facial locks, but you want to look put together, you need an electric beard trimmer. It’s much easier to get the desired beard thickness all around your face, and it saves you time.
Mustache Wax: If your upper lip is looking a little unkempt and uncontrollable, it’s time to put a mustache product in your arsenal. Put this little stick on your list and start looking like the dapper man you are.
At the end of the day, the perfect shaving kit is up to your needs. Use these lists as guidelines to help you find the best solutions that work for your needs and your lifestyle.
#2 WHAT ARE THE PRECISE STEPS FOR A PERFECT AT HOME SHAVE?
You don’t have to go to a barber shop to get a super-close shave. And if you follow our tips, you can avoid looking like Edward Scissorhands after he tried to cut his own hair. Knicks become less likely the more you practice these steps.
We had the Grooming Experts at our elite barber shops share the exact steps and tools for your perfect at-home shave. 5 simple steps, 5 simple tools. It really is that easy!
Here’s the overview:
5 Essential Products:
Targeted Facial Cleanser or Exfoliator
Razor of Choice
Post Shave Balm and treatment
5 Essential Steps:
Prepare: cleanse or exfoliate the face so your razor doesn’t spread grime, oil, or dirt on your face. This is best done immediately after a shower.
Create the Foundation: immediately after you wash, apply a shave oil. (To learn what shave oil does, click the full link below.)
Reinforce the Foundation: apply a detergent free shave cream. Hint- this isn’t about foam.
Shave: using short strokes, shave in the direction of hair growth and rinse the blade frequently. (More on that in the link below.)
Moisturize: splash your face with cold water to close your pores, and apply a moisturizer of some sort. This keeps your skin healthy and prevents shaving irritation.
One of the most sensitive spots on the face, shaving under your nose can seem a little scary. We’d be willing to bet most men have shaving wounds from trying to conquer this uncharted territory.But, having those stray hairs under the nose looks ridiculous. You don’t have to sentence yourself to a fuzzy upper lip -- follow these tips instead.
Shave under your nose last. This gives your shave oil and cream maximum time to soften your stubble and raise your hair from the skin.
Remember to use short, light strokes that go in the direction your facial hair grows. If you go against the grain, you run the risk of twisting the hair in the pore and causing ingrown hairs to grow in after you’re done.
Make a conscious effort to curl your top lip in towards your teeth. This will flatten the area and prevent strange angles that increase your chance for nicking yourself.
Using the fingers of your free hand, gently push your nose to the side. This allows you to shave the side of your upper lip with greater ease.
Again, using the fingers of your free hand, gently push your nose up so that you can shave the middle part of your upper lip with greater ease.
Carefully try different angles, pulling the skin taut as you go, to get the closest possible shave. Always go slow, using short strokes. Doing so will reduce your risk for shaving injury.
If you’ve got additional tips or tricks, be sure to share them with the Grooming Lounge team. This is a tricky area to shave, and we always want to offer the best possible advice.
#4 WHAT IS A GOOD AGE TO START SHAVING?
Our founder, Mike Gilman, began practice shaving at a tender age. However, that’s not the right answer for everybody. Let’s talk about the best time to start your shaving ritual. Shaving certainly marks the coming of age for a young man. As much as we’d like to give a set age to begin shaving, that’s hard to nail down. Every man develops in his own time. Some young men will begin developing peach fuzz as early as 8 years old. Others won’t see a hair until they’re 15, and sometimes even older.
There’s more at play here than hormones. Every man has different genetics, which contribute significantly to the rate by which his body hair grows. And, at the end of the day, this is also about personal preference. Some young men aspire to grow a lush mustache. Others like a Hollywood-styled rugged shadow. Still others will prefer the feeling of smooth, hair-free skin.
So, what would signal that it’s time to start a shaving ritual?
Do you have visible “peach fuzz” with a noticeably darker color on your face?
Is the hair slightly-stiff and maybe even itchy?
Does keeping the hair on your face make you feel self conscious?
Are you required to keep a smooth, hair-free face for any reason?
If you answered yes to these questions, it may be time to start shaving. Don’t do it on your own! Check out our Guide to Getting the Best Shave Ever. Have a trusted mentor or family member show you the ropes. Make sure you have the right tools.
Oh, and if you’re scared that once you shave your hair will grow in darker or thicker -- this is a myth.
The only reason it appears darker, is because the longer hair is exposed to light and the elements, the lighter it becomes. So if you’ve never shaved before, the hair that grows on your face is going to initially lighter, because it’s been exposed to light and the elements for quite some time.
As for the thickness conundrum, there are two things at play here.
First, your hair initially grows in and breaks the skin very naturally, and it doesn’t have a sharp end. Your first-time or long-time hair growth also has exposure to the light and elements, which softens and relaxes the hair over time. When you shave, you are creating a mini “spear” because you’ve cut the hair to a blunt point. As it grows in again, it grows in fresh (no exposure to light or the elements), which makes it FEEL stiffer and thicker. That’s only because you were unaware of your hair growth previously.
Secondly, there is an element of genetics you have to consider. As your hormones change over time, your hair will also change. This could result in thicker hair, but it has nothing to do with shaving. It’s just how your body is built. (If you want to read more about this innocuous myth, check out the question below.)
#5 WILL SHAVING CAUSE MY HAIR TO GROW THICKER OR DARKER?
One of the most consistent myths amongst everyone who shaves anything on their body. Let’s put this to bed, once and for all (and we have science to back it up, bros). Shaving itself, in no way, causes your hair to grow in thicker or darker. This myth is perpetuated by a few misconceptions, based on passive observation of our own bodies.
When your hair first grows in at a young age, it grows in naturally without being disrupted. You are unaware of it breaking your skin, and before you reach puberty, hair on the face is generally very low in melanin (the pigment in your skin and hair).
As you age and begin to go through hormonal changes from puberty, melanin increases and testosterone causes hair on certain parts of the body to become more stiff and thick. This is around the time that you notice the “peach fuzz” on your upper lip (the exact age will vary, based on genetics).
At this point, you’ve never shaved. So your facial hair thickness and darkness is changing completely independent of shaving itself.
Now, it’s important to remember that during this entire duration of time, your hair has been exposed to light and the elements. This will naturally cause the hair to lighten in pigment, weaken, and relax. Imagine if a blade of grass was exposed to light, rain, wind, various forms of dirt and grime, etc. Over time it would stop being strong and sticking up straight and stiff, to being far more flexible, relaxed, and probably lighter in color. That’s exactly what has happened to your hair over the period of time you haven’t yet shaved.
Of course, you shave at some point. When you do this, a few things happen.
First of all, you sheared of the hair in a blunt fashion. Up to this point, your hair has never been given a blunt point. If you shave using an effective method, you’ve shaved extremely close to the skin and done your best to close up your pores. When that hair regrows, that blunt end is going to break through the skin. This will perhaps be the first time you become aware of your facial hair. It’s going to feel super thick and maybe a little itchy. You’re going to wonder if this was caused by your recent shave.
Yet, remember, the hair that’s growing out is completely fresh. It has not spent days (or even years) exposed to light and the elements like a blade of grass. This new facial hair is not weak at all! In fact, this is one of the few times you can feel your facial hair at it’s healthiest and strongest.
Second, because your grown-out facial hair is brand new and healthy, it’s going to hold more pigment. This can also be affected by hormones, genetics, diet, and exercise.
To demonstrate this, think of your favorite pair of jeans. When you first got them, they were probably a much deeper hue of blue. Over time, as you wore and washed them, they began to fade. This is no different than when you let your facial hair grow out, unshaved, for some time.
Now, as you age, your hair can become more stiff because of hormonal changes. It will change colors because of hormonal factors.
But, at the end of the day, this has absolutely nothing to do with how often or how young you began to shave.
This isn’t about an exact time, technically speaking. It’s about preparation. Is your skin “awake” enough to get the best shave possible? In today’s on-the-go world, it would be silly to assign a specific time of day perfect for shaving. Gone are the days where all of us wake up early in the morning, have breakfast at the same time and place and go to work in an office. It’s becoming increasingly more normal for people to work varying schedules, as freelancers, or owners of their own business.
So instead of thinking in terms of time, think in terms of preparation. For the best shave, you need to prepare your skin and hair follicles.
You may not think that shaving is tough on your skin, but it is. You’re pulling and scraping with a sharp razor. Naturally, this isn’t exactly the most skin-friendly thing to do to yourself.
And all that pulling, pushing and scraping is hard on your facial hair, too. If you don’t properly prepare your hair and skin, the hair will twist in the follicle.
Suddenly you’ll have ingrown hairs and irritated skin. All because you didn’t prepare your skin and facial hair before you put a blade to them.
So, whether it’s the crack of dawn, or right before you hit the club, here’s what you need to do to prepare your face for a close shave:
Warm your skin and facial hair up. Splash warm water on your face, put a warm wet towel over the area you wish to shave for 5 minutes, or just take a shower (but don’t shave in there). This is why barbers start by putting a steaming towel on your skin: it softens up the hair and opens the pores of your skin.
Apply a shave oil directly to your warm wet skin and facial hair. Make sure you rub it in well, as it takes at least 15-30 seconds for the oil to activate and do it’s job. And it’s job is to lift hairs away from your face. This provides a slick and slippery surface for the razor. It’s also going to help protect you from razor rash. We call this the foundation.
Reinforce the foundation with a good detergent-free shaving cream. You want to work this into your skin and facial hair aggressively. Now would be a good time to use a badger hair brush. Especially focus on extra sensitive areas, like the neck. And don’t worry about foam--most of it won’t touch your face anyway, so it’s not doing much of anything in that regard. Instead, we’re just creating a slicker and easier surface for you to shave with, and foam ain’t got nothing to do with that.
Now you’re ready to give yourself that perfectly close shave.
As you can see, time of day doesn’t have much to do with getting a good shave. It’s all about preparing your skin and facial hair. Which means, don’t skimp on the preparation. It’s the foundation to how easy and close your shave is going to be, so it’s worth the extra 10 minutes you spend getting ready.
#7 IS IT OKAY TO SHAVE AGAINST THE GRAIN?
Perhaps the biggest controversy in the men’s grooming realm is whether you should shave against the grain. Here’s what our grooming experts and barbers have to say about the topic. When we looked into the answers floating around on the internet about shaving against the grain, we couldn’t help but shake our heads. Our Grooming Experts from our elite barber shops had this to say about shaving against the grain of your hair growth:
Shaving against the grain puts you at a higher risk of having a shaving injury and creating ingrown hairs (you can read more about that in the question we answered regarding ingrown hairs).
Most shaving injuries (nicks and cuts) occur because there is too much friction between the blade and your skin/hair follicles. This can be remedied in two ways.
First, make sure your skin is properly prepped before your blade touches down (check out our answer to the question about best time to shave for more information). The better cleansed, warmed up and lubricated your skin is the less likely it is for you to have high friction while shaving.
Second, shave with the grain of your hair growth. Most commonly your facial hair will grow downwards or diagonally. However, it’s imperative that you diagnose the direction of your hair well before you start shaving. The next time you have an opportunity to let your facial hair grow out a little, take note of how your hair grows. You’ll probably find that it grows in different directions on different areas of your face and neck.
Once you’re well acquainted with your pattern and direction facial hair growth, use a sharp razor and shave in short and light strokes. Rinse your blade frequently so that you aren’t trying to shave with a clogged up razor (this causes accidents).
Then, at the end, if you have some seriously hard-to-reach spots or stubborn hairs, you can cautiously shave against the grain. Just make sure the area is well lubricated to prevent injury and to reduce shaving irritation and ingrown hairs.
Always finish your shave with some sort of moisturizer to further help your skin heal and the hair grow back in healthily.
And remember, shaving against the grain is a last resort, not your go-to tactic.
#8 WHY DO I KEEP GETTING INGROWN HAIRS AND RAZOR BURN AFTER I SHAVE?
Having red, rashy, and itchy skin is a total confidence killer. If it seems like you’re doomed to ingrown hairs and razor burn after you shave, read our grooming expert tips. There are some secrets to pre-treating, avoiding, and healing existing shaving irritations. Shaving is a hazardous ritual, but nothing is more dreaded than razor burn and ingrown hairs.
In a nutshell, razor burn is skin irritation that is caused by a couple of things.
First, it could be caused by a lack of prep. If you don’t prep your skin and facial hair properly, it’s going to be a lot harder to shave. Take a few minutes to soften and lubricate everything (for more on that, check out our answer to the question regarding the best time to shave)
Second, it could be caused by dirty skin. An essential step in prepping your face before you shave, is making sure it’s clean from any grime, oil, or dirt. When you shave your face with dirty skin, you’re just moving that dirt and grime into freshly opened pores. And that’s just asking for trouble.
Third, razor burn can be caused by a dull razor. You need a fresh, sharp blade to ensure you don’t irritate your skin with unnecessary tugging and pulling. When you use a dull blade, you also increase your chance for cutting yourself with the razor. It’s just not as precise, or healthy for your skin and hair.
Lastly, razor burn is caused by shaving too quickly and against the grain. You need to allocate enough time to shave with short, light strokes. When you try to rush the process, you tend to shave harder and cause more friction against your skin and hair follicles.
On the other hand, ingrown hairs are the most frequent and misunderstood of shaving maladies.
You may mistake your ingrown hairs for pimples or a boil-like sore. But it’s a good bet that if it occurs after you’ve shaved (or in frequent places where you shave), it’s actually an ingrown hair.
Ingrown hairs are baby hairs that are trying to break the surface of the skin–but somehow they just don’t make it. Instead, they push just under the skin, curl in, and begin growing down back into the epidermis (other layers of the skin). This causes inflammation, redness, itchiness… and irritation.
Sometimes this is because there is dead skin, oil or dirt clogging the pores of your skin, and creating a blockage to the pore your hair would normally grow from. (Again, this is why it’s so important you prepare your skin and facial hair before you shave!)
Sometimes ingrown hairs occur simply because your body and/or facial hair is curly. If you have curly hair that you cut close to the skin, it sharpens the end of the hair. Then when it tries to break through, it pierces the skin. This causes irritation–even if the hair makes it through the pore, it’s going to be red and sensitive, like a small wound.
Lastly, you can get an ingrown hair if you haven’t exfoliatedand moisturizedyour skin properly. If your skin is dry, your pores will be open, but tight–kind of like tiny shallow craters. The hair will have a hard time making it through the pore gently, and instead can cause irritation. It’s also hard to get the dirt and blockages out of dry, tight skin. As for oily skin, it’s usually clogged with oil. Even if the hair makes it through, the oil can attract dirt, and cause serious blockages around the root of the hair. Again this causes irritation.
On the last end of the spectrum, you could have sensitive skin. People with sensitive skin could do everything right, and still break out into razor irritation and ingrown hairs. If that sounds like you, head over to the article we penned for the sensitive mugged lads, here.
If you get ingrown hairs, we recommend grabbing The Shavior
#9 HOW DO I PREVENT RAZOR BUMPS, RAZOR BURN AND INGROWN HAIRS?
A couple extra minutes during your shaving ritual can save you the irritation and embarrassment of razor bumps, razor burn, and ingrown hairs. Most razor bumps, razor burn and ingrown hairs are due to a lack of shaving preparation, or old unhygienic tools. Here’s a quick rundown of the routine you need to prevent skin irritation:
Simple Tip 1: First, you need to clean your skin daily. Something gentle that won’t completely strip your skin of the healthy oils that it needs is best.
Simple Tip 2: Once or twice a week you need to gently exfoliate your skin. Exfoliators should have tiny beads that help to stimulate and massage the skin–releasing what is stuck in pores, and sloughing off dead skin. It’s best to do this at a time when you are not shaving (usually a bit after you shave is best)–because shaving itself can be a light exfoliation. Following up with a good exfoliating scrub can help get rid of any excess dead skin that might be left from shaving. Be moderate about how often you do this, as exfoliating too much can dry out and irritate the skin.
Simple Tip 3: After you wash or exfoliate the skin with a cleanser, you need to follow up with a light moisturizer. It should sink into your skin, leaving it feeling soft but not oily. If you’re preparing to shave, use a pre-shave oil to get the skin and beard ready. Make sure you rub it in thoroughly so your facial hair stands up away from the skin.
Simple Tip 4: When you shave, shave in the direction that your hair grows. Yes, it may take more time to get that wonderful close shave you crave. However, when you shave against the grain it can cause the hair to grow back in sideways–which also creates ingrown hairs.
Make sure you have a sharp, fresh razor. When you shave with a dull razor, you are creating a dull cut to the hair. This can cause the hair to have a hard time breaking the skin when it regrows–which causes ingrown hairs. Also, if you use an old razor it has tons of bacteria, oil, and dead skin on the blades. Which is a recipe for creating blockages for the pores.
Even after doing all this, if you still find yourself running into ingrown hairs it could just be due to the texture of your hair. Curly and thick hair has a hard time breaking the skin, and instead it often curls in and creates big nasty ingrown hairs and razor bumps.
This is when you need to grab a preventive treatment that helps prevent new bumps from forming, while soothing and treating the bumps you already have.
For the longest time we couldn’t find a product that could do that, without drying the skin out, creating breakouts, or causing the hair to become brittle.
So the Grooming Experts and fellas here at the Grooming Lounge created our own solution: The Shavior. Men’s Health gave it a Grooming Award, so it’s definitely worth a try if you have stubborn shaving irritation.