While it’s pleasant for some guys, others may absolutely hate it. Yet, it’s possible that it’s necessary for both.
No matter which category you fall in, you might be interested to learn how to get a close shave.
But why would you want to know anyway?
Isn’t enough to just shave and get over with it and head to work?
I thought you might wonder why…
For men that fall under the first category, a close shave looks and more importantly, feels amazing. This feeling can only be compared to slow, gentle stroking of a furry white bunny’s back that has been previously washed with shampoo and hair conditioner while you stare in each other’s eyes.
It started getting weird already…
As for the man that doesn’t enjoy shaving and does it anyway, a close shave can mean less shaves during a week -depending on your beard density and growth.
Luckily, I fall under the first category and this is why I’m happy that I prepared today’s post for you.
Let’s see what you need and how to get a close shave without a razor burn step by step.
Have the right tools for a close shave with you
A close shave is a combination of using great shaving tools and technique.
But before we head to the technique section, it’s important to understand why these tools can make a big difference on your shave.
Let’s get to the details, shall we?
I know what you’re thinking.
Ever since the beginning of the post we’re talking about getting a close shave and now we’re talking about washing.
But you’ll see where I’m going with this.
Since proper preparation for a close shave is crucial, washing is probably the number one thing that you need to do. And washing your beard with a face wash is among the first steps you need to take before you get started with anything else.
But why is that so?
By washing your face, you make sure that your face is clean from any debris and oil.
A dirty face or beard, may be the reason why you get skin irritation when you shave.
Even though a face wash is great for wet shaving preparation, I would definitely advise that you don’t use a deep cleanser but a mild one instead. Since you’re looking to shave right after you wash your face, a deep cleanser might make your skin overly dry and strip oils that your body produces. A mild face wash will undoubtedly do the same but it won’t cleanse your face that deeply.
By using a face wash you also get the chance to massage your skin while the warm water softens your facial hair.
Recommended face washes:
Pre shaving products
Even though they’re not necessary, they do help in certain occasions to get a more comfortable and closer shave.
On the one hand, they soften your face and beard so that the razor cuts your facial hair easily without pulling. On the other hand, it offers excellent lubricity to your skin while acting as a protective layer between your skin and razor, so that the razor glides easily on your face while shaving.
Most pre-shave oils that are considered among the best, contain a combination of natural oils such as olive oil or coconut oil, which gives your face lubricity and hydration, preparing your face for a great shave.
You might find pre shaving products excellent if you have an overly dense and thick facial hair or if your face is overly sensitive and prone to irritation.
Instead of pre shave oil you can also consider pre shave cream. They both serve the same purpose and it’s up to your preference to choose one against the other.
I personally prefer pre shaving oil since I find it simpler to apply on face and it gives me the feeling that my face is better lubricated and ready to get shaved.
Recommended preshaving oils:
Wet shaving without lathering products is like pancakes without syrup.
Either you’re using shaving soap or your best shaving cream, lathering is necessary if you’re looking to get a close shave.
When you lather with a shaving soap or cream, you reduce the risk of skin irritation and razor burns, that result in a pain free shave.
Both do essentially the same thing. They soften your beard, offer lubricity to your skin and helps razor glides comfortably on your skin.
Now, why shaving cream or soap and not foam or gel?
One reason is that most shaving creams and soaps are made of natural ingredients that have softening and moisturising properties while they don’t contain any fragrances that may irritate your skin. On top of that, these two products are used in combination with a shaving brush, which is another wet shaving tool that will help you get that close shave we were talking about.
And since we brought up the shave brush…
Recommended shaving soaps and creams:
The use of a shaving brush is pretty much straightforward.
A good shaving brush is able to build up lather in a shaving bowl or directly on your face.
Besides building up lather and lathering your face, there are three good reasons why you would like to use a shaving brush:
- Lathering against hair growth, you lift the facial hair, making the hair easier to cut
- When you use shaving brush, you apply lather deep in the roots of your beard, making your facial hair softer. That makes shaving easier and beard hair is cut effortlessly.
- A shaving brush exfoliates your skin by removing any dead skin cells which reduces the chances of razor bumps. That being said, your skin will look much healthier and cleaner.
One thing that you need to keep in mind is the type of shaving brush that you buy. Ideally, you want one that is soft, has good water retention and latherability.
Most natural hair shaving brushes are fairly soft. Super and silvertip badger hair shaving brushes are among my favorites but you can also find very soft synthetic brushes as well.
If your goal is to get the closest shave possible, lathering with a shaving brush is the way to go instead of applying gel or foam with your hands.
Recommended shaving brushes:
The razor is probably the most important tool that will help you achieve that close shave.
Depending on the type of razor you select, you can expect difference in shave aggressiveness. That being said, you can choose among a cartridge razor, safety razor and straight razor.
Razor manufacturers make you believe that the more blades a razor has, the deeper the shave. However, this can’t be any further from reality.
When you shave with a cartridge razor with multiple blades, the first blade pulls up the hair and the rest of them cut under the skin and can lead to ingrown hair. This is why a single sharp blade can do a much better job in close shaving than a five, six or fifteen blade razor, without razor burns.
If you’re looking for a deep shave, a safety or straight razor should be your choice.
Few of my favorite razors are summarized below and I explain why I believe are the best ones for a safe, close shave.
Even though I believe that a cartridge razor won’t give you the close shave you might be looking for, in my opinion the Mach 3 is the best cartridge razor you can choose.
It’s got three blades, which are more than enough to give you a proper shave and the distance between the blades is sufficient so that hair (gunk) is washed off easily.
The gap between the blades of a cartridge razor is of great importance for a close shave without irritation.
I’m sure you’ve noticed that cartridge razors that have more blades are more tight together than that of Mach 3. This results in hair gunk getting stuck between the blades. The more you shave, the more hair gets stuck and as you shave, you scrape your skin with every pass that leads to skin irritation.
The Edwin Jagger dE89 is one of my favorite safety razors. It’s quite forgiving for a wet shaving newbie and it gives you a very close shave.
Safety razors are usually more aggressive than cartridge razors and in case you have no experience with them, you’ll notice big differences in shaving technique when you make the switch.
Another reason why safety razors may give you a very close shave is due to the sharpness of the replaceable blade of the razor as well as the large gap between the razor head and blade. The larger the gap between the razor head and blade, the more aggressive the shave.This is probably one of the best safety razors I’ve ever used in terms of close shaving. It’s an open comb (referring to the razor head), highly aggressive razor and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone who isn’t experienced with shaving with a safety razor.
If you’re looking for the closest shave of your life, the Muhle R41 is definitely one that you should expect to meet the expectations.
How to get a close shave step by step
Preparation for Shaving
Before you get all excited and start using all these nice tools for that well deserved close shave, there are a few things to take care of.
Shower before start shaving
A warm shower before you shave does two things.
- It cleans your face from any accumulated dirt.
- Your facial hair becomes softer and you get a smooth shave.
No shower? Warm towel it is
If taking a shower is not an option before you start shaving, you can do the following.
Soak a small towel in hot water (not boiling hot) for a few seconds and then place it on your face, covering the parts that you want to shave.
Leave it on your face for a minute or two.
The warm towel will serve the same purpose as the warm shower and that is softening your beard.
This is also the way barbers prepare your beard before they give you a nice, deep shave.
Razor and shaving brush in warm water
A good idea before using your wet shaving tools is to soak them in warm water. Especially for the brush, it’s good to leave it in warm water for about 10-15 minutes. No matter if it’s a synthetic or a natural hair brush, the hair bristles become softer and the brush is ready to build lather.
As for the razor, I tend to soak it together with the brush but I don’t think it contributes in any way to a deeper shave.
Razor with sharp blades
Either using a cartridge or a safety razor, a clean sharp blade is a must for not only a close shave but also any shave.
Keep in mind that a razor blade besides shaving your beard, it scrapes off a layer of your skin. When you shave with a dull blade, it scratches your skin and you have high chances of irritating your skin and potentially get a razor burn.
If you don’t know when to change blades, a good rule of thumb is to change them every three to four shaves, depending heavily on on the way you maintain and clean the blade.
Don’t try to save money by overusing your blades. You’ll pay for this with blood. Literally…
Shaving mug or bowl
A shaving bowl isn’t necessary but it can help you in both soaking your razor and brush as well as building up lather in it.
If you don’t have a shaving bowl, you can also use a coffee mug or a cereal bowl that is wide enough so that it allows you to swirl easily the shaving brush in it.
The time you were waiting for. Start shaving!
- I’ll stop you right here. Before you start shaving, I assume that you’ve already prepared your face for a shave, as discussed previously. Your facial hair should be soft and your face thoroughly wet. Already done? OK, let’s go ahead.
- Start by building up lather in the shaving bowl with your shaving soap or cream until it builds up. If you want to know the details on how to do it, have a look at my articles in which I talk about how to build up lather with shaving cream and how to use shaving soap.
- Once you’ve produced rich, non-soapy lather, start applying it on your face. In order to make the best out of lathering your face, swirl the brush across your entire face. In particular, try to apply the lather against the grain (hair growth). Once you covered your entire face, make a few gentle strokes with the shaving brush in order to have equally distributed lather volume on your face.
- Take the razor and start shaving. If you want to get a close shave, you’ll start by shaving with the grain on your first pass. The idea is that you shave as much hair as possible with the first pass so that long facial beard is no longer present. Don’t do any passes with the razor on unlathered face, especially if you use a safety or straight razor. Otherwise you’ll get skin irritation at best.
- When you finish your first pass with the grain, it’s time for the second one. Rinse your face with water so that you clean it from any lather and hair. Then, start applying lather again with the same technique as discussed during the first pass. One thing that you need to make sure of is that the lather in your bowl isn’t dry already. If so, drop a few water drops in the shaving bowl and start swirling again. Once lather is back to normal, start applying it again on your face.
- The second pass is the one that will give you a deeper shave. Start shaving across the grain and if you’re experienced enough with wet shaving, you can start shaving against the grain already. This second pass will cut most hair and will give you a closer shave. Once you’re done, repeat with water rinsing on face and lathering, so that you’re prepared for the third pass.
- Time for the third and last pass. If your beard isn’t very dense and thick, this last shaving pass might not be necessary. Nevertheless, this last pass is the one that will give you the closest shave possible. Even if you shaved against the grain during the second pass, start shaving again against the grain. Most of the times, three passes are more than enough to give you the best results. Some guys, including myself, may need four passes to get a close shave and smooth skin.
- Once you’re done shaving, rinse your face thoroughly, dry it well with a towel and apply an aftershave balm of your preference.
FAQ on how to get a close shave
Q. How many passes should I make?
There’s no rule of thumb on how many passes you should make in order to get a close shave.
This really depends on how thick and dense your beard is as well as the shaving set up. Most guys with normal beard growth need two to three passes to get a close shave.
Q. Is the shaving technique important for a close shave?
First of all, the number of passes is important. Most used technique is to make the first pass with the grain, second pass across the grain and third pass against the grain.
Besides the way you make the passes, it’s also important to remember that the way you hold the razor can change the way you shave and the closeness you get. That being said, when you shave with a safety razor, depending on the angle you hold the razor against your face, it will give you different shave aggressiveness and hence, deeper or milder shave.
Q. How to get a close shave without razor burn?
Besides doing all the stuff we discussed before, it’s very important to understand why you might be getting skin irritation. Unless your skin is prone to irritation no matter what you do.
- Your skin is prone to irritation
- Preparation isn’t sufficient
- Wet shaving set up isn’t optimal
- The shaving technique needs work
I will focus more on the fourth point since we discussed the previous three earlier.
You ideally want to make small strokes with the razor on your face.
Once you finish two or three small strokes, you need to rinse the razor with water so that the hair that is stuck on the blade doesn’t scratch your face. When you make long strokes, more hair is accumulated in between the blades and this results in irritating your skin as hair gunk builds up on your blade.
Therefore, small strokes with the razor, rinse with water and repeat.
Q. What shaving equipment can give me the closest shave?
I’ll try to classify them from the most aggressive to mildest shave.
- Cut throat straight razor
- Safety razor
- Cartridge razor with one to three blades and decent size gap between blades
- Five+ blade razor
- Electric razor
Q. Why would a razor blade give me a closer shave than an electric shaver.
Electric shavers are mainly built for convenience, speed, portability and safety.
With the safety aspect in mind, electric razors have their blades protected so that it doesn’t cut your hair deep enough and this way, it doesn’t give you any cuts.
A razor on the other hand, it has the blade exposed and this way you can reach deeper on you skin and cut your facial hair much closer than any electric razor.
Even though electric razors have come a long way and became excellent shaving machines, no electric razor can give you a close shave than a cartridge, not to mention safety or straight razor.
Do you know how to get a close shave? If so, what are your tools and technique?
Image Courtesy: flickr.com/reservoir_frog