Many men's magazines have a stock in-trade of periodically telling us how to shave. I absolutely love this; I've got to the age of 45 and have always kind of thought I'd mastered this dark art by now.
Visits to a barber and a bit of experimentation have proven me wrong. Previously I'd used a bit of shaving gel and a Gillette cartridge type razor. I couldn't help but notice the barber shave I had a few weeks ago was a damned sight closer than my usual, so I asked a few questions. Here's some of the stuff I found.
First, wash with hot water and a cleanser - you'll open the pores up and soften the hair.apply an undercoat. I'd been using shaving oil which is fine; I'm now using a tub of Proraso, Google it, it's very refreshing on the skin and wakes you up if nothing else. It has menthol and eucalyptus and smells like it, although only when you've got it on. It nourishes the skin a bit and allows for extra smooth razor glide.
Then put some shaving soap on with a brush. Ordinary soap will make your skin dry up; something that moisturises a bit is ideal. I've taken to using Bluebeard's Revenge, which is allegedly scientifically formulated to reduce stubble growth for those of us with loads of five o'clock shadow. I'm no scientist but I know it stays foamy and doesn't dry up so is comfortable to use, and doesn't pong. This is my idea of what a shaving preparation should be like.
The use of a brush is important as it makes bristles stand up. People like me who've massaged a bit of gel in first have been smoothing our hairs down before shaving, which doesn't actually make a lot of sense. The next step is actually shaving. The ideal technique is to go in the direction the hair grows, otherwise you're juddering a sharp blade against your skin. Aim to reduce rather than eradicate hair, you need to be a bit gentle. Then lather up and shave again, this time maybe going sideways but never against the grain of your hair growth.
Rinse with cold water if you're not squeamish - it'll close the pores back up and start protecting your skin. Use a moisturiser once all the soap is gone and you've dried yourself off - technically you've just assaulted your skin and you need to start repairing it. Don't, repeat don't, splash aftershave all over - if you want to smell nice then the chest will get warmer and expel heat (and therefore scent) quite nicely, as will the back of the neck; skin that's just been shaved is more likely to react badly to a scent being applied as it'll be sensitive for a few hours.
Later in the week I'll discuss different blades.
My thanks to George at The Valet who quite unknowingly acted as a source of much of that. He will of course be delighted to note I was listening!