How To Get The Best Shave

How To Get The Best Shave


Want a pro-level shave in the comfort of your own home? Or just to stop nicking yourself? Sam Hickey, head barber of Murdock London, and Andrew Cannon of Ruffians can help...

Let’s go back to basics. What actually is wet shaving?
Sam: Wet shaving is when you would use a traditional, manual razor with blades, as against using an electric razor with mechanical blades. I personally believe wet shaving is better for the skin – it causes fewer ingrown hairs – and will always trump an electric blade for a close shave. I've found my older clients who have wet-shaved with a blade have a lot better skin health than people who electric shave.

How often should you shave?
Sam: You can shave every day if you need to. It’s definitely not going to harm your skin if you shave in the correct manner. There’s no right or wrong, but there are a few things to know before you get started: always wash your face before a shave. You want to remove and reduce the amount of dirt and oils on the skin beforehand so they do not get into your open pores. I would recommend using a sulphate and paraben-free face wash so it doesn’t harm the skin or alter the pH balance too much.

Andrew:  Yes, the best shaves definitely happen when the skin has been well prepped. And the best preparation happens with a good face scrub that removes dead skin cells and other impurities. If you’re a committed soap user and it works for you, then stick with this as it will remove dirt and grime sufficiently. However, I would recommend investing in a gentle moisturising face wash designed for your skin type before the shave, then a good thorough rinse, and some moisturiser afterwards.

"Always wash your face before a shave."

Should you shave before or after the shower?
Sam: After. The steam from the shower will allow the pores to open, which allows the hairs to come out a bit further for a closer shave. Always use hot water to shave; only use cold water afterwards to close the pores. A good lather is key, but not the only key. There are many other contributing factors to a good shave such as a well-prepared face (I recommend using a pre-shave oil), a sharp blade, a shaving brush and the right shaving angle.

And what is the right shaving angle?
Sam: Always shave with the grain, never against and keep the angle 30º to the skin. To get to tricky areas – under the nose, corners of the mouth and side burns – stretch the skin! I can’t emphasise that enough. Make sure to stretch the skin to suit the angle of the blade so you can catch all those pesky hard to reach hairs. Finally, use your hands to feel around the face to see if you’ve missed any areas.

Andrew: My three top tips: clean skin; clean blade; and also to stretch the skin so the stubble stands up. Treat your face like Playdoh; stretch and pull it to expose the hard-to-reach areas. Essentially you want to create as flat an area as you possibly can, so you can gain access with your blade. You’d be surprised how mobile your nose is if you try hard enough. The closest shaves happen when you do two passes. The first one to remove the bulk of stubble and the second pass to refine and get those harder-to-get hairs. When you do your first pass, make sure you are shaving with the grain, as this is the harshest on the skin. With the second pass go across (side to side) to catch the difficult hairs.


"The closest shaves happen when you do two passes."

Is that the most common shaving mistake?
Sam: A lot of guys are not using high-quality shaving products to prepare the skin. Lots of them also don’t change their blade regularly enough. I change the blade on my safety razor after each shave to ensure sharpness and a better result. 

Andrew: Shaving against the grain is definitely one of them. Another common mistake I hear of is guys not rinsing their faces properly afterwards, which leads to blocked pores and ingrown hairs.

So, how do you stop cutting yourself when shaving?
Andrew: Take your time. If you’re in a rush, don’t shave. A little stubble looks much better than bits of toilet roll stuck to your face or blood spots on your collar. A decent home shave should take around 15 minutes. Gillette has produced some great shave heads which have tiny protection guards over the actual cutting blades that make it safer. If you do nick yourself, cold water helps a lot as it slows the flow of blood. Or there is a shaving accessory called Alum Block – literally a block of salt which helps stop the flow when rubbed over bleeding areas. The saying ‘rubbing salt in the wound’ comes from it aiding the healing of wounds. It hurts, but it works.

Sam: Ensure the blade is wet enough and the skin is stretched taut. To reduce redness generally, a cold flannel post-shave will cool the skin down and a post-shave balm will also soothe and reduce any rouge.

What advice would you give to someone who needs to shave but has bad skin?
Sam: I’d introduce a face scrub to your shaving regime. The use of a face scrub once or twice a week on the areas which are spotting will help to work away any layers of skin, which should in turn help reduce the amount of spots.

Andrew: Don’t shave too frequently. When you do, make sure you are getting the face really clean with an anti-bacterial wash. Using a shave product that contains either tea tree or aloe vera will help soothe the skin during the shave. Wash again after the shave with the anti-bacterial wash. Allow the skin to dry completely and then apply a light sebum-balancing moisturiser.

Are there any products you should use if you have sensitive skin?
Sam: Use paraben and sulphate-free products always. These will cause less harm to the skin than regular products. Also use a shaving cream rather than a gel or a foam, as it won’t dry the skin out as much. There’s not a huge difference between a shaving cream and a gel; both contain a lot of chemicals so I wouldn't recommend either. A foam can be more cushioning for a shave than a gel; however, a gel allows you to more easily see any missed hairs.

Andrew: Avoid products that contain sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS) and instead look for sodium laureth sulphate (SLES) among the key ingredients – it will be gentler. SLS is much stronger and can be very dehydrating, which can cause aggravation to the skin.

What actually causes razor bumps?
Andrew: When you shave against the grain, you pull on the pore and stretch it. It will quickly bounce back into shape, but usually that stretched area has filled with either your own blood or potentially the product you’re using to shave with. As the skin closes over, it traps that fluid, which can get infected and swell. Washing the face and exfoliating before the shave; shaving with the grain; using a clean blade; and moisturising well afterwards will all help you avoid in-grown hairs.

Sam: Razor bumps can sometimes be confused with ingrown hairs, which are caused when a thick hair gets stuck under the skin (or it grows over a freshly shaved hair) and turns into a bump. These can be extremely sore and red. Shaving with the grain only is a great way to avoid them. Also, use a pre-shave oil to soften the stubble before a shave.

And what tools do you need for the job?
Sam: You need a good, sturdy razor of choice alongside a shaving brush with a healthy amount of bristles. I’d also use a shaving bowl to mix up my lather in. Product-wise, I would recommend Murdock Pre-Shave Oil, Shaving Cream and Post-Shave Balm alongside a face moisturiser. If you’ve not used a shaving balm before, it is normally applied to the skin to help soothe and rehydrate the skin post-shave. When shopping for a post-shave balm, look out for ones with ingredients such as chamomile that soothe the skin and reduce redness.

"When it comes to blades, Wilkinson Sword’s are amazing."

There are so many different razors out there… Can you share your top three?
Sam: Murdock’s Ernest Double Edge Razor is such a cool razor. It incorporates a sharp single blade for effective cutting and minimal irritation. It also allows you to catch any hard-to-get hairs with ease as it is fixed at the perfect angle for shaving. Philips OneBlade is great for people who don’t want to go completely clean-shaven. It’s also good for anyone who has sensitive skin. Finally, Acqua di Parma’s Razor Barbiere looks really cool. When it comes to blades, Wilkinson Sword’s are amazing or Merkur blades for a disposable or safety razor.

Andrew: I like the Gillette Mach 3. I feel three blades are more than sufficient for shaving, rather than the five. Harry’s is doing some wonderfully stylish razors that are available on a subscription-basis. Mühle also design a great range of shaving equipment and accessories; the razor heads are designed for Gillette blades. I always advise guys to buy more than one razor, so you can keep one in your bathroom and one in your wash bag, if you’re heading to the gym or off travelling. Every guy has ended up not having a razor available at some point or another because he’s left it at home.

Any tips on how to store your razor in between shaves?
Sam: The blade should be patted dry and left to hang upside down to allow any excess water to run off the blade. When travelling, take any sharp blades out of the razor and place into your luggage with your toiletries. I would also purchase a new packet of blades which is unopened. This should allow you to breeze through airport security with no bother.

Andrew: There are some great stands available which not only look good in your bathroom, but are great for standing the razor upright. This helps with draining away moisture which, if left flat, will pool around the head and cause those lubra-strips to deteriorate.

Finally, do you have any tricks to keep your face stubble-free longer?
Sam:  Always use a sharp blade. Wet shave first, then go over the skin again with a second pass of the blade in a diagonal motion.

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