At New York City's Art of Shaving, the best shave of your life will cost you $55 – and no small amount of courage. In this era of ultralite pivoting four-blade razors so safe you can practically swallow them, it's unnerving, and a bit thrilling, to have an imposing Russian man named Boris come at you with six inches of gleaming diamond-sharpened steel.
At the risk of spoiling the show, though, Art of Shaving cofounder Eric Malka has a secret for you: It's just a clever parlor trick. "Men don't realize the key to a great shave is prepping," Malka says. In other words, that neoprene-smooth feeling you get afterward has less to do with the blade than with the other things being done to your face while you're focused on the steadiness of Boris's hand.
Things like opening your pores with steam and hot water, massaging essential oils into your beard, and lathering you up with an impossibly thick shave cream. Here's something else Malka probably shouldn't tell you: You can get pretty much the same effect right in your own WC. Just follow these four steps.
Make sure you've prepped your beard with warm water. Ideally, you'll shave in the shower, but after-shower shaving works nearly as well.
Once the moisture has softened your whiskers, massage some lubricant into your beard. Purists insist on a thick-lather cream, but gel provides a more than adequate alternative, and lets you see what you're doing as you shave your sideburns.
Now you're ready to shave. Apply light pressure, and shave with the direction of your whiskers to minimize irritation. When you're done, splash cold water on your newly shorn cheeks to close up the pores.
After you've patted your face dry, moisturize with an aftershave balm. The moisture soothes your skin and prepares it for the next time you – or Boris – drag a sharp blade across your neck.