How to prep your skin for a great shave

How to prep your skin for a great shave

TL;DR: Wash your face, rub in a non-inflammatory shaving cream or soap. Enjoy.

What to do before you shave


Ok, not literally.

It’s what all the fitness experts tell you to do before you work out, or go for a run. Stretching loosens your muscles and tendons, increases flexibility and blood flow so that your workout yields the best effects….and you’re less likely to get hurt.

Shaving is very similar. The more consistent you are with prepping your skin for the shave, the better your shave will be. Moreover, you’re much more likely to leave your skin in a healthier state afterwards. You then benefit from that domino effect of starting each shave from a better starting point. Just like working out, the healthier state you are when you begin, the better results you’re likely to see.

The majority (that’s right, majority) of men experience some form of shaving casualty. Whether it be razor burn, irritation, razor bumps or in-grown hairs, shaving side effects are widely experienced. And yet, like stretching, not enough men properly prep their skin and hair for the shave.

Ok, so let’s get into it.

Soften your hair with water.

First things first, wet your hair. The part of your hair that’s visible is made up of dead keratin cells, which are generally quite hard — especially facial hair. You’ll want at least a minute of soaking for best results.

Note: Shaving immediately after you shower means is an ideal way to prep your skin while adding any steps to your morning routine.

In case it’s not intuitive as to why cutting softer hair is better for your skin, think of it this way:

Softer hair is easier to cut, which means that less cutting force is needed. Less force means less initial load needed (i.e. how hard you press the razor against your skin). The more load, the drag force, which leads to more blade friction against your skin.

It would be like trying to scrub some dried BBQ sauce off a plate. If you soak it the sauce gets softer and you don’t need to apply as much pressure to clean it. Otherwise you have to press harder and risk scraping your dish or pan.

Warm or cold?

This topic is less clear cut in terms of conclusion. Many shavers swear by the benefits of cold water, while other’s insist on warm. Both temperatures achieve the same softening advantage, but there are some nuances in terms of the opening of your pores, and the movement of the hair follicles. Generally, your mileage may vary in terms of temperature, but we recommend using warm water ahead of the shave. Especially since some of the other benefits of cold water (helping the follicles stand up) can be achieved in other ways.

Note: We highly recommend rinsing your face post-shave with cold water, to help close your pores.

While you're at it, wash your face.

Washing your face ahead of your shave serves a useful purpose. First, it helps remove excess oils, debris and dirt from your skin, all of which could be disruptive to a clean cutting surface. You want to give the blade clean access to the hair follicles. Additionally, the removal of said debris further helps reduce trapped hairs or hairs with very low exit angles — again, making it easier to present the blade’s edge to the hair follicle.

Apply a shaving cream or soap.

Applying a cream or soap to your face will help your razor glide along the surface of the skin, minimizing surface friction and irritation. For best results, use your fingers and really rub the cream into your hair, this agitation of the hair follicles will help them stand up more (catching onto a key theme, yet?) making it easier to cut. The fewer passes you need to take the better.

Lots of people I think just look at shaving cream as having to cover your face. Sure — but if you take an extra 30s and really massage it into your skin you’ll see better results, and your skin will thank you for it.

Beware certain ingredients.

The primary ingredient in virtually all shaving creams and soaps is water. Which, yes, is good.

A long standing practice in shaving and skin care is to create some psychological benefit through appealing scents or cooling agents. A great example is Menthol (naturally derived from peppermint), which has a pleasant fragrance and provides a cooling sensation on the skin. This sensation makes the user believe it is soothing — when in reality it often sensitizes the skin, and can increase dryness and trans-epidermal water loss.

Another ingredient to watch for is Propylene Glycol, often used to help a product’s absorption into the skin, can be very irritating to people with sensitive skin. Glycerin would be a safer alternative.

Similarly, sulphates are often used in shaving creams to generate a more substantial lather. These as well can cause irritation, dryness and redness.

Many creams include an emulsifying agent (basically to allow liquids and fats to mix). Here you want to avoid Treithanolamine (TEA), a known allergen.

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