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OPINION | MALE CALL: A good close shave depends on prep, proper tools

by Lois Fenton | January 23, 2022 at 2:30 a.m.

Q Hi Lois, I am hoping you can help. My son is in his early 20s and clearly has always had trouble with razor burn and bumps. He's not one to look for advice and I know my late husband had similar problems, but solved them. I suspect his inheriting red hair is part of the problem. Are there specific products or methods that he should know?

A I will be happy to help. There is a mix of correct and incorrect information on the web and among barbers, so I think giving an accurate breakdown could assist many with similar concerns. Just how a man goes about approaching this morning ritual is the key to a better shave. By changing the way one attacks his beard each day, he may be surprised to see how great a shave he gets and how much better his skin will feel.

Men should not allow themselves to be put off by thinking of special oils and moisturizing products as "feminine cosmetics." Instead, think of them as enablers and anti-irritants. Gathering together five essential ingredients will help to accomplish the best results: 1. Pre-shaving oil, 2. shaving cream, 3. a quality shaving brush, 4. a good razor, and 5. a soothing aftershave product.

Pre-shave oil prepares the skin before shaving; it works along with the shaving cream to help the razor glide smoothly against your skin. By lubricating the skin, pre-shave oil helps combat itchiness, ingrown hairs and irritation (nicks and cuts).

Shaving cream is ideal for a close and comfortable shave, but many men are happy with shaving foams or gels. Some even use a cake of soap with their brush.

A genuine badger shaving brush, though expensive, is a worthwhile investment that lasts a lifetime. It helps create a richer lather. (With Valentine's Day coming soon, I can recommend it as a great gift.)

A good razor, that has the proper weight and balance, that feels right in your hand, and does not drag, is worth seeking out.

This is the element that changes for each man. For some, it will be the old single blade; for others, the most common double, triple, etc. blade. Electric shavers will never get as close, at least not without irritating those with sensitive skin. The science of whether "the first blade knocks it down and the second cuts it off," as old commercials claimed and others spoofed, is at best questionable. What succeeds for you is personal and works differently on different skin types and different beards as does the usefulness/hindrance of an additional lubricant or "lubricating strip" on the blade.

A good aftershave product soothes dry skin and helps restore moisture. It comes in balm form and a lighter lotion. Alcohol-free aftershaves reduce post-shave bumps, redness and ingrown hairs.

With the proper items on hand, you are ready to proceed with the following steps:

• Prepare your skin for a smooth shave by first applying a protective layer of pre-shave oil.

• Take a hot shower to soften the beard hairs.

• After (or during) the hot shower, lather up with your badger brush.

• Using a sharp blade that has been dipped in hot water, shave with the grain of your beard (note that the beard can grow in different directions). Then, for a closer shave, re-lather and shave again against the grain.

• Rinse with cold water and pat dry.

• Apply a moisturizing aftershave product. This should be fragrance-free if you are wearing any other scented product (deodorant or cologne), so they do not conflict.

Another approach is to hire your own valet. Your son may not yet be able to afford that.

Please send your men's dress and grooming questions to MALE CALL:

Lois.Fenton@prodigy.net


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