When it comes to grooming, ailment we guys usually have it a bit easier than the womenfolk – perhaps it’s the universe’s way of compensating for the whole shorter average life expectancy thing. Of course, visit there’s one area that, for whatever reason, we can’t always breeze right through. Shaving.

For centuries we have submitted to this practice as a way of ridding our faces of unwanted facial hair. It goes without saying that throughout those centuries there’s been more than one period where facial hair of some sort was considered de rigeuer, be it a full beard, a swashbuckling Zorro-style moustache or landing strips down our chins, but regardless of what the current fashion in facial folicles has been, we’ve still needed to put cold metal against hot skin and drag away the fuzz.

viral fashion 2011 shaving mens fashion grooming beauty skincare razor hommageIt sounds easy enough: shake can, spray foam/gel, lather on face, press blade on skin and voilá, right? WRONG. As one of many men who prefers my visage clean shaven let me be the first to tell you, in case you’re one of those lucky guys who doesn’t yet know, that shaving can be a bitch. A bitch and a half if you’re having a really great day. A combination of a heavy beard and sensitive skin means that, because I prefer my face clean shaven, I have willingly tortured myself in the name of vanity and personal comfort. And I know I’m not the only dude out there who has shelled out what seems like a ridiculous amount of money on replacement cartridges of varying quality and blade count in an effort to achieve a good shave that never seems to materialize. Nowadays of course, the product selection is endless, extending far beyond the standard of canned shave gel and plastic cartridges, but the selection is both a blessing and a curse. The good part is that with so many different specialty grooming lines devoted entirely to men’s needs out there, there’s a product to suit every man. The downside is that it can be really overwhelming to make sense of it all. So being a willing guinea pig I set out to re-learn how to shave.

The first step on your pathviral fashion 2011 mens fashion grooming shaving beauty skincare baxter of california razor to shaving enlightenment is, not surprisingly, rethinking the razor. For whatever reason, an entire generation of men (myself included) have grown up with plastic disposible cartridges as the preferred method of manly hair removal. Why, I don’t know, but that’s just the way it is. Luckily there are a number of companies – not to mention professional barbers trained the old-school way – who have been pushing something old as the next new thing. Double-edge safety razors, the kind our fathers or even grandfathers would have used, are making their comeback, as are shaving brushes. Now these new takes on old tools are pricey, but when you consider what you spend on replacement cartridges in a years time suddenly everything is put into perspective and the money you shell out for a box of replacement blades for your shiny metal razor seems miniscule. One company in particular, Baxter of California, is doing their part to educate the uninitiated with an in depth list of helpful hints for those of us who have never used a double-edged blade before. It can best be summarized thusly: Don’t use low quality tools unless you want a low quality shave, maintain your tools to maintain your skin, and don’t speed through your shave with your brand new blade because that’s how accidents happen. Their advice is more comprehensive than that, of course, but you get the gist. viral fashion 2011 skincare beauty mens fashion grooming shaving baxter of california shave brushA shaving brush, on the other hand, is a bit easier to get the hang of, but again, quality is important. Most pros recommend a brush made of natural hair – badger, to be specific – over synthetic because it’s better for building a lather with shaving cream and it helps lift the hair away from your skin, which offers a close shave. Done correctly a shaving brush, paired with the right shaving cream of course (in other words, none of that canned gel-to-foam stuff) will give you the perfect lather.

Next comes the products. As I said, that gel-to-foam we’ve all no doubt used at some point or another is not what we’re talking about here. Why we men have trained ourselves to skimp on quality skincare products is a mystery, but since we’re on the path to enlightenment we might as well pick up some new goods on the way. With so much to choose from it’s not the easiest task to find the right stuff for you – believe me, I’ve tried. It’s important – nay, imperitive – to try out a variety of different products before commiting to one, and remember, you’re not just shopping for shaving cream.

Now that you’re set with a new lineup of products, you’re ready to shave. A proper shave is actually a four step process, and one that shouldn’t be rushed through.

Shower – Every tutorial you’ll read, every expert you’ll talk to will recommend shaving fresh out of the shower. For most of us that’s our routine anyway, but for those who don’t already do it that way know this: hot water both softens the hair and opens the pores, which makes shaving that much more comfortable. Trust me, it helps.

viral fashion 2011 mens mens fashion grooming beauty shaving skincare products kiehl's anthony logisitcs for men jon allan'sPre-Shave – Most commonly in oil form, these products go on first to lubricate both the skin and the hair folicles to slick the way. While they’re not mandatory – I must admit I haven’t always been head over heels for some of the ones I’ve tried, or the oily residue they left behind on my face and razor – when you find the right one it can make all the difference.

viral fashion 2011 mens fashion grooming beauty shaving skincare products molton brown kiehl's kyokuShave Cream – This stuff is mandatory, in case there was any doubt. While most of these require a brush to lather them up, some don’t. While you don’t want to go overboard, it certainly can’t hurt to use a little extra. Better too much than too little, after all, so don’t be stingy.

viral fashion 2011 menswear mens fashion grooming beauty products shaving skincare kyoku for men anthony logistics for men mensciencePost-Shave/After Shave – The finishing touch, so to speak, there are a few common variations on a post-shave treatement. Balms are the most common, providing light moisture to freshly shaved skin, while lotions are richer, and ideal for drier or more easily irritated skin. Astringents, though somewhat uncomfortable to apply are great for their anticeptic properties, and can help soothe irritation as well – just avoid those that are heavy on the alcohol, unless you like that burning, stinging sensation. And for those prone to ingrown hairs, there are dozens of treatments that have both immediate and long term effects, easing the re-growth of beard hair.

Along with proper shaving technique – short, choppy strokes for heavy beards, long, fluid ones for lighter hair growth, stretching the skin taut when covering an area, and of course shaving in the direction that your hair grows – the right products and quality tools can make all the difference. Let’s face it, shaving is never going to be fun, or even particularly pleasant, but it doesn’t have to be torture, either.

by Justin Friedman

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