If you’re like a lot of the dudes here at Men’s Fitness, you remember being a kid watching your dad shave in the mirror each morning. When you earned your bearded bragging rights and took to shaving your face on your own, you figured out how to remove the hair, and that’s probably about it. You didn’t run to dad to ask the do’s and don’ts. “Why do I get in-growns and that guy doesn’t?” “What purpose does a shaving brush serve?” “Do I need five blades, or will one be OK?”
Turns out, the face is a sensitive area and there is more to it than simply running a razor over it. Don’t worry though— we got your back. We consulted with Troy Harris, Shaving Expert from The Art of Shaving at Mall of America in Minnesota. He sees a lot of faces from all over the US, so who better to answer some of the more tricky questions about men’s facial hair. Founded in 1996, The Art of Shaving was ahead of the game by providing an experience for men who shave (most men, presumably) at a cost that wasn’t too exorbitant. With men realizing that they deserved to put a little more time, effort and care into their morning routine, other great brands followed. Harry’s, Dollar Shave Club, and Bevel are a few excellent options to look into depending on you shaving needs. So without further ado, let’s get some of these pesky questions answered. If you still have questions after clicking through, tweet us at @MensFitness or leave us a comment below.
1. Do the same shaving rules apply to every guy?
Nope. First of all, different nationalities can have many different types of hair. Most men fit into these basic categories: fine hair/thin beard, thick hair/ thick beard, thick hair/sensitive skin, or thin hair/sensitive skin. While of course, there are general beard types seen more in one national background than another, we find each man is uniquely different no matter their skin color and we have seen all sorts of shapes and sizes when it comes to beard hair.
2. Is there a tried and true method to preventing ingrown hairs, especially around the neck?
The key for any man is proper preparation and the right products and razor. With hair that is tightly curled and coarse, it is important to properly prep your skin and beard hair for the shave. By using a facial scrub and overnight intense moisturizer you will produce healthier skin and help release trapped hairs below the skin. The better the condition of your skin, the better and easier your shave will be. During your shave, always make sure to shower first to let the steam and hot water begin to soften the beard hair. Then use a pre-shave product, like The Art of Shaving Pre-Shave Oil, to further soften the beard hair. Now, you will lather up with a shaving brush. This step makes ALL the difference for men of color. It helps lift the beard hair and deliver more heat and water to the beard hair furthering the softening process. When the beard hair is lifted you have a better time cutting at the base of the hair which will minimize the creation of in-grown hairs. Finishing with a moisturizing after-shave balm or lotion will calm and soothe the face and help replenish lost moisture.
3. Sometimes in-growns are just going to happen. What is the best product for them when they do?
Exfoliation is the best way to release in-grown hairs. Using a facial scrub at night along with a good moisturizer will naturally allow the trapped hairs to release. DON’T go digging! This can cause infection and scarring. Also, a professional shave from a Master Barber can help you by producing a clean, close shave. The barber can also tell you about your hair pattern growth and the best approach to take when shaving to avoid creating in-grown hairs.
4. If there is a stubborn in-grown that won’t react to any product, and you just got to get in there, what is the best method for removal with no, or minimal, scarring?
I don’t recommend you go digging often. A professional, such as a dermatologist, can help remove stubborn in-grown hairs while keeping it clean from infection. If you need to remove an in-grown hair yourself, it is very important you keep everything clean to minimize scarring and infection. Clean your hands with soap and water. Clean the affected area with alcohol. Use a pointed end tweezer, also cleaned with alcohol, to remove the hair from under the skin. Hopefully the facial scrub has helped thin the skin in this area to make it easier to remove. If you are finding it difficult to pierce the skin, then you will need to wait a few days and use facial scrub to help ready the in-grown for removal. If you try to cut in to the skin too early, you will create havoc in the area and make it worse when trying to heal after removal.
5. There are a tremendous amount of different shaving products on the market. Highlight the difference between using a shave gel, a shave foam, and a shave cream. And who benefits most from pre-shave oil?
The biggest differences between shave gels, foams, and creams are the amounts of moisturizers and surfactants (soaps) in each type. Gels and foams tend to have a higher level of surfactants and lower level of moisturizers (although this differs between manufacturers). People with sensitive skin would benefit more from a shaving cream or shaving soap due to their higher levels of moisturizers like coconut oil and glycerin. They help increase glide without using any ingredients that could cause irritation to the skin.
Everyone can benefit from using a pre-shave oil! People with sensitive skin prone to irritation, razor burn, and in-grown hairs will find it most beneficial since it places a protective barrier on the skin as well as softening the beard hair.
6. There are seemingly endless options for razors and blades (single blade, many blades, electric). Is there a method that works better for each different skin type?
It truly depends on the person’s preference and the time they can dedicate to shaving. Wet shaving is always best because it allows you to properly prepare the skin. In terms of using a straight, safety, or cartridge razor, it depends on the closeness desired and how much time they have. Straight and safety use one single exposed blade which takes a bit of learning to use. Where with cartridge blades the stretching of the skin and angling is done by the blade, with straight and safety you are doing this yourself. Cartridge blades come in multiple blades and take advantage of the natural hair pull of a razor to cut closer and deeper on the beard hair. All types will give you a clean and close shave—it just depends on your preference.
7. If you had one universal tip to give all guys for their shaving regime, what would it be?
Prepare, prepare, prepare and always use a shaving brush. I know that’s two (or maybe four), but each one is so vital for a clean, close, and comfortable shave. The more you prepare and soften the beard hair and skin, the easier the cut will be. Hair that is not properly prepared for the shave will be harder to cut and can cause irritation.
8. We know we can’t make facial hair grow where is there is none, often resulting in thin or patchy beards. Is there a pro trick that can give guys with sparse shadow a little more sufficient stubble?
Unfortunately, we can’t make hair grow at will. People looking for fuller stubble or beards may need to look into a different facial hair style that suits their hair growth pattern. A Master Barber can help you decide on the best look for your hair and facial shape. It is important to shave everything off and grow the beard from the beginning so you have the most even hair growth possible.
9. Sometimes even guys with full face bush want to shave some definition into their beard. What method is the fastest and best way to make sure your beard isn’t trying to grow straight up to the eyebrows?
Just because you have a large and manly beard, doesn’t mean you can’t keep it tamed. Using the back end of a ProGlide razor, like the Lexington Fusion Razor, along with shaving cream and pre-shave oil will help produce clean lines at the top of the beard giving you a finished look. Depending on the length of the beard, you may want to create lines at the neck area as well. Clipping and trimming the base of the beard will keep it looking more full than over grown. Finish with a beard oil to keep fly away hairs tamed and smooth.
10. A post shave routine can contain as many or as few steps as one may see fit. What is absolutely necessary following a fresh shave to prevent irritation and skin damage?
Always use a moisturizing after-shave that does not contain irritating alcohols to replenish moisture lost during the shave. While the burn of an alcohol-based facial splash may feel good for a split second, it is in the long run irritating the skin. Using an SPF moisturizer will help protect skin from the harsh effects of the sun.