Proper skin care is as much a part of your shaving routine as the razor and blade. You can have the closest shave in the world but if you don’t take care of your skin properly, the end result is not going to be good.
The vast majority of the skin care market is targeted towards women. In fact, a lot of guys hardly give skin care a second thought. Maybe splash some aftershave on when the shave is done and that’s about it. That might be better than nothing or it might make the situation worse, depending on your skin and just what you’re using.
Pre-Shave Prep Work
If you’ve ever gone to a barber for a hot shave or seen it done on TV or in a movie, you’ve probably seen the barber wrap a guy’s face in a hot towel before the shave. This isn’t just for show, it’s a critical step.
The hot towel hydrates your face and softens up your facial hair before you start shaving. It seems logical that the hair is easier to cut if it’s softer, right?
One of the easiest ways to deal with this is to either shave while you’re in the shower or right after getting out of the shower. That way your skin is well-hydrated and your beard will be about as soft as it’s going to get. If that doesn’t work for you, the next best thing is to wrap a hot towel around your face for about three minutes before you start to shave.
During the Shave
The most important thing about taking care of your skin during the shave, and avoiding nicks and cuts, is to keep your skin well-lubricated while you shave. That means water or oil.
If you’re shaving with cream, it’s important to lather up the cream with plenty of water. Not so much that it’s a runny mess, but enough that it lubricates your skin and helps the razor glide across it rather than scraping at it. This can take a little bit of trial and error and it can also vary a bit from one shaving cream to another. It won’t take long to “dial in” your lather though, just experiment with it a bit to find the right combination of cream and water.
The brush is important in this step. Some types of brushes – badger hair in particular – are better at holding water. So when you lather up the cream, that water transfers into the lather. As you spread the cream on your face, the water comes with it.
If you use shaving oil, don’t just apply it once and leave it at that. It will depend on the oil and how much you use but chances are you’ll need to apply more to touch up spots you missed or to make a second pass. Don’t skimp on the oil you use, it’s helping to protect your skin while you shave.
Post-Shave Skin Care
A step that a lot of guys miss after they shave is to use a cold towel to close up the pores on your face. The hot towel before you shave helps to prep your skin, the cold towel afterwards helps to seal things up. If you start with a hot towel, you can just hang it on the towel rack or lay it out on the counter while you shave. By the time you’re done, it will probably have cooled off enough to use it again as your cold towel.
I like to rinse my face off after shaving as well, before the cold towel. I use lukewarm water (no soap) to wash away any hairs that might still be hanging around after the shave.
Another option for post-shave is to use an exfoliating scrub. These scrubs are designed to clean away the dead skin cells on your face and they can help keep your skin looking healthy. They can be hard on your face however, especially if you have sensitive skin, so I don’t recommend using them more than two or three times a week.
Once you’ve closed up your pores with the cold towel, you can finish off with an aftershave lotion or balm. Traditional aftershave, which is often more of a cologne than an aftershave, can feel like it’s really effective. Splash some on your face after shaving and you’ll feel the burn – it just feels like it’s working.
But the burning sensation is caused by the alcohol in those aftershaves, which is not the best thing for your skin. Alcohol can cause your skin to dry out and if you use it too often, it can do more harm than good. Instead, try using an aftershave balm that moisturizes your skin. This will help keep your skin looking and feeling much healthier, and lessen the effects of aging over time.
Beyond the post-shave care, make sure you’re using sunscreen when you’re outside exposed to the sun. And use a good quality face wash every day to keep the natural oils in your skin under control. This will also help keep your skin looking healthy and avoid skin problems like acne.
Developing a good skin care routine can take some experimentation, and you’ll need to spend some time actually taking care of your skin. But it doesn’t have to be a lot of time, especially once you get comfortable with the process. And the time you spend now will pay off in spades down the road, when your skin is looking great and you look years younger than you really are!