Barbershop-style hot towels are ideal for priming your beard but they’re hardly practical at home. A hot shower will have a similar effect, opening pores and helping soften the beard.
A cleanser or, better yet a face scrub, should be your first preparatory potion. Not only will the scrubbing action lift hairs, making them easier to cut, but it will also slough away the microscopic dead skin cells and dirt that’s been festering away on your face. By ‘sanding down’ the surface of your skin with these products, you’re reducing the likelihood of razor drag and an inferior shave.
The choice between foam, cream soap or gel as your main shaving product is simply a case of personal preference.
If you’ve got a really thick beard, source products designed specifically for tough stubble instead of your run-of-the-mill shaving cream or gel. This will add more lubrication, increasing glide and reducing the likelihood of your shave turning into a B-movie bloodbath. Using a face scrub before shaving can also make those coarse hairs easier to cut.
To ensure a close shave, pull a patch of skin taut with one hand and, in one controlled movement, sweep the blade across the area, following the direction of the hair growth. Do not use small stuttered movements or continually scrape away at the same patch as this will only cause more irritation. If the shave is not close enough, re-lather the area and go over it again – this time you can go against the grain if absolutely necessary.
Shaving is a pretty hard on the skin, which makes aftercare just as important as preparation. A lot of guys still use an alcohol-based aftershave or fragrance when they’re done. This is the worst thing you can do as the alcohol content of these products dehydrates skin and increases the chances of post-shave problems.
After splashing your face with cold water to help close pores, reach for a soothing after-shave product. Whether you choose a balm or a lotion is simply a matter of personal preference; products that contain more than 50% alcohol, however, will provoke irritation and dry out the skin.