RZA Shaved the Track and He Caught Razor Bumps
June 22, 2010 5:51 PM   Subscribe

Teach me how to shave properly.

If I shave more than once every third day, I get terrible razor burn, I bleed all over the place and I break out. As such, ever since I reached shaving age (and it's been like 15 years now) I've just shaved every third or fourth day, or whenever mandated by my girlfriend.

What the hell am I doing wrong? In those occasions when I haven't shaved for several days I am fine. I don't bleed, I don't chafe, and I don't break out.

Oh Metafilter, can you please teach me how to shave?
posted by orville sash to Health & Fitness (30 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
What kind of razor do you use? My husband hates those new multiblade razors, says they collect chaff and irritate the hell out of his skin. He uses a lathering soap/creme and a single-blade razor or a straight-razor.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 5:56 PM on June 22, 2010

Many questions. Let's start with the first and work our way down the list:

What razor are you using?
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 5:57 PM on June 22, 2010

Make sure the hairs are properly soaked first, shave in the direction of the growth and don't stretch the skin to try and get it all - this will result in you cutting the hairs shorter than skin depth which leads to ingrown hairs.

Try looking into some aftershave balms and lotions to sooth the skin and prevent razor burn, and remember to moisturise as shaving can take a lot of moisture out of the skin. Gently exfoliating the skin with either a soft and sensitive scrub or with a wash cloth can remove the dead outer layers of skin that cause problems.

Ultimately there are a lot of different tips for shaving, and it is just a matter of finding the right balance for you. Try different tips out, some may work and others not.
posted by tumples at 5:58 PM on June 22, 2010

Normally I would never recommend an electric shaver. But that might do the trick for you here.
posted by holterbarbour at 6:06 PM on June 22, 2010

Is there some impetus for you to shave every day? It's pretty rough on your skin even when you do it perfectly. I too shave every third day or so (neck), and usually that's enough. Also, you use a razor and not an electric shaver, right? Most men I've met who shave daily use an electric razor and don't get a super-close shave like what you get from a safety or straight razor. Anyway, here are some things I took away from personal experience and mantic59's shaving vids:

- Wet, wet, wet! Everything should be wet. Soak your face with a hothothot washcloth for ten minutes before shaving, or shave directly out of the shower. Your face should be wet when you put the shaving cream on it. Keep the razor wet. Don't shave off dried-up lather; rinse and re-lather with fresh foam. The more water, the better.

- No double-strokes. Go over every spot once, and do not touch it again unless you re-lather. Try and get it so you can do one pass down, one pass up, and one touch-up pass to get those weird whorls and multi-directional spots.

- Keep your razor clean and sharp. Use scalding hot water on it before shaving to help eliminate bacteria buildup on the blade. Don't use a dull blade.

- Splash your face with shockingly cold water after you shave. It helps to close the pores in your skin up (they've just been violated, and were already open from the wet heat earlier) and prevents bacteria getting in there and raising a burn. I go either way on the moisturizer afterwards depending on whether I have any around, but it smells nice. Don't use anything with alcohol in it.

Give mantic's videos a shot. He's very much a shaving enthusiast, but remains cognizant of and accounts for not everyone wanting/able to go as far as he prefers.
posted by carsonb at 6:08 PM on June 22, 2010

This is not unusual and you can get a handle on it.

Okay, so first, equipment and prep for a good shave:

0) get good sleep and take a multi-vitamin
1) warm shower
2) sharp razor (if you've tried the old-fashioned safety razor, try an newfangled one; if you've tried newfangled, try old-fashioned; if you've tried both, consider purchasing something higher quality)
3) a good shave cream, or shaving oil. Give the oil a shot; just spread a thin layer on warm skin and shave. You can also use thin layer of oil under a bit of regular shave cream.


1) always, always use very gentle pressure. Just move the razor across your face, don't push it or drag it very hard at all against your skin. This is why razors are so sharp: they don't require very much force to cut well.
2) always shave with the grain on the first pass, and take another pass with the grain of your facial hair if needed. If the shave isn't as close as you'd like after that, try shaving across but not against the grain.

Hope that helps!
posted by clockzero at 6:09 PM on June 22, 2010

My husband's shave and skin look a lot better after he followed these tips. He likes the products too, but they are not necessary.
posted by cestmoi15 at 6:09 PM on June 22, 2010

Response by poster: In answer to everyone's question, I use a mach 3 razor, and I switch blades once every other month or so.
posted by orville sash at 6:17 PM on June 22, 2010

Shave secret shaving oil. Its less than $4 for a bottle at Walmart and it's lasted me about 6 months.

I use a multi-blade razor, but I started running it backwards against my arm to clean it out each time before shaving. It seems to make a difference.

This nut shows you how...
posted by wrnealis at 6:17 PM on June 22, 2010

Response by poster: Oh, and answers to more questions:

I shave in the shower = hot/wet face
I use soap between razor/face
Sometimes (not always) shave against the grain.
posted by orville sash at 6:22 PM on June 22, 2010

Changing the blades in a Mach 3 "every other month or so"? I'm surprised your face hasn't fallen off entirely.

As others have said, use a real shaving cream/gel, go with the grain (this isn't necessary for everyone, but it appears to be necessary for you), and for the love of Vulcan, pop in a new blade every couple of weeks at the outside.
posted by Etrigan at 6:29 PM on June 22, 2010 [4 favorites]

For me, doing it after a shower is the key, + gel + cheap disposable razor (renewed every couple of weeks). When in shower, wet face first so it has max wet time by the time you are out. Without shower, I have a terrible time of it.
posted by Kevin S at 6:32 PM on June 22, 2010

Go here and meet your Damascus Road.
posted by digitalprimate at 7:01 PM on June 22, 2010

I have fairly coarse facial hair and when I'm using something like a Mach 3 I change the blade about once a week. It varies from person to person, but even only shaving a couple of times a week, it's going to be pretty blunt after a couple of months.

On those days I know shaving is going to be bad, I find that shaving oil applied first and then a proper shaving soap helps (the soap on top of the oil, which sounds like it shouldn't work, but it does). As mentioned above, it's pretty cheap, and you only use a tiny amount each time. A good shaving soap also helps.

Depending on how much you're bleeding, an alum block can help stop the bleeding. It wont stop a severed artery, but it'll stop the little nicks quickly.

Slapping on a bit of moisturiser after shaving can help reduce the shaving rash/burn, and there are some blokes moisturiser which are specifically for this (though whether they work better than any other moisturiser I have no idea).

But even if you do all that, for some people shaving is just never going to be easy I suspect. I have a pretty good shaving technique, but some times my skin just doesn't want to play. Some days my face feels like a baby's bum after shaving, and other times I may as well have shaved with a cheese grater, with no noticeable change in what I do. Shaving more regularly may help you, but it's possible you just need to grow a beard.
posted by damonism at 7:48 PM on June 22, 2010

I used to have that problem. Now shaving with a badger hair brush (like this) and a shaving soap (like this) and my problems disappeared. i recmmoended to a few friends who ahd the same issue and it worked for them as well.

I also hear good things about the fancy shaving gels, but the brush lasts ages, and the soap... costs $10 (here in Australia) and lasts ... maybe a few years.
posted by Admira at 8:14 PM on June 22, 2010

Nthing changing the blades on a Mach 3 every week or two at the most. They are cheaper at Costco, by the way.
posted by conrad53 at 8:40 PM on June 22, 2010

My brother, the venerable kprincehouse, got me a starter old-timey shaving kit for Christmas. Using a single-blade safety razor with the proper technique has revolutionized my shaving world, and I even look forward to it in the morning. The tl;dr is that you need to (1) warm your face to soften the hairs (2) use proper shaving cream (3) make multiple passes, and (4) change the blade every 2-3 days, which is feasible because these blades are very inexpensive.

Here are the verbatim instructions he sent me:

Merkur 38c razor
Speick shaving cream
Semogue 1305 boar brush
Provence Sante green tea shaving soap
Alum block
Styptic pencil (to stop the bleeding)
Blades (20 Feathers, 5 Israeli Personas, and 10 assorted blades for variety)

In no particular order, here are some pieces of information that may be useful:

Your brush is a boar hair brush. They are not only cheaper but superior in certain ways: Stiffer bristles give a scrubbier action when loading harder soap (the softer badger brushes don't do this well and are best used with creams), and the stiffer bristles also give the a better exfoliating action. Or so they say. However, the hairs are larger and thus fewer in number, with the result that the brush is not capable of holding as much lather as a badger brush. For this reason, if you're not using a bowl to build and hold the lather, you may have to build the lather twice. The boar bristles also may be a bit scratchy at first, but after about two dozen uses the tips will be noticeably softer.

Before you shave, soak the brush in warm or moderately hot water for... well, five to ten minutes is about ideal, but less is ok. Note that the handle is wood, and may swell and crack if it gets too wet--ideally, the brush sits bristles-down in a cup of hot water such that the handle is not submerged. Then take the brush out and give it a few sharp shakes to dry it off. You don't want the bristles too wet to start.

Shaving soap and shaving cream serve the same purpose. Cream is just softer. The process is roughly the same for each:
1. Load the brush. With cream, just apply one to two almond-sized servings to the brush (or bowl, or your hand if you build the lather in your palm). With soap, take the (only slightly wet) brush and scrub it on the top of the soap for about thirty seconds to load it up. It really does take that long to load the soap. It helps if you put a few drops of hot water on top of the puck of soap while your brush is soaking.
2. Once the brush is loaded with soap or cream, it'll take one or two minutes to build the lather. This is done just by swirling the brush around in a bowl, mug, your palm, or your face. (If you put the soap in a container, don't build the lather in the same bowl--the puck will get too wet and will degrade over time). Gradually add warm / hot water--swirl for ten seconds, add a few drops, repeat until done. If you see big bubbles it's a sign you've added too much water too fast. You're done when the lather is slick and cushiony.
3. Apply the lather before each pass. For example, a shave routine may look something like this: Shower (but don't dry your face), build your lather, apply some to your face, shave with the grain, rinse, apply more lather, shave against the grain, rinse, apply more lather, shave against the grain, rinse, and use the alum block.

When building your lather, if your face dries it'll undo the hydration that the shower accomplished. Hair, like pasta, is softer when it's hydrated. Putting a bit of lather on your face will help, also, as that damages the outer protective layer of the hair and lets more water in. While building the lather I usually put a bit on my face so it has a minute to sit there before my first pass.

The alum block is a post-shave device. Run it under water to get it wet, then just rub it on your face. It's weird, but it controls irritation and tones the skin. Make sure it's dry when you put it away or it will dissolve.

If your face happens to be bleeding at the end of it, wet the styptic pencil and touch it to the spot to stop the bleeding.

I included mostly Feather blades, which are my favorite. They are also notoriously sharp and unforgiving. They will punish any mistakes in technique. It may be better to start with the Personas. Each blade will last for 3 to 5 shaves--I usually only go for three per blade. They're cheap.

Proper technique means correct angle and no pressure. The correct angle can be found by holding the razor so the handle is normal to your face, then tilting it down until the blade just starts to cut. This ends up being around 15 to 30 degrees. If the blade angle is steeper, it'll be dragging across your skin instead of just slicing the hair, and this will lead to irritation (especially with the extremely sharp Feathers).

The forums at Badger and Blade are the best resource for additional information.

posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 9:13 PM on June 22, 2010 [3 favorites]

I used to be an inveterate against-the-grain'er and finally had to give it up when my skin couldn't take it anymore and I was winding up bloody before job interviews 'n shit. This was well into my 30s and I certainly think that physical changes in my skin as I got older had something to do with it, and so it goes. I eventually learned that if you have a sharp enough blade, shaving with the grain works just as well. I'll still touch up against the grain and sideways, but judiciously.

Cartridge blades I wouldn't use more than 10 times, if that.
posted by rhizome at 9:44 PM on June 22, 2010

So I had problems with shaving for an embarrassingly long time, until I figured out the following:
  • I need to always, always, always shave in the direction of growth
  • and, here's the tricky one, the direction of growth for my hair is completely, totally retarded. Like, it's downwards on the left side of my face, and upwards on the right. My hair grows in some kinda crazy spiral. But for years, I refused to listen to the evidence that was literally right there on my own damn face. For some reason, I thought the direction of growth was downwards on both sides (because really, who expects their hair to grow in some kinda crazy spiral?). As such, I would cut the right side of my face all to hell embarrassingly often. So the short of it is, always shave with the direction of growth, and pay close attention to what the direction of growth actually is on every side of your face, even if the direction seems dumb.

posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 10:47 PM on June 22, 2010

Also, three blade razors still give me trouble... good two-blade razors (I like to use the gillette sensor excel, though I'm sure there's better razors out there) are much more satisfactory all 'round.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 10:49 PM on June 22, 2010

For those of you throwing out Mach IIIs after one week, here's an interesting way to extend the blade life:

Basically you rub the razor the wrong way down your forearm when it starts to get dull and it sharpens up again.
posted by GregorWill at 1:55 AM on June 23, 2010

Hot water on the face but only cold water on the blade - it helps keep it keen.
posted by evil_esto at 2:45 AM on June 23, 2010

I had the same problem as you. It really sounds like you're changing blades too infrequently, I know they're really expensive.

The things that solved my problem was this article

My 2 problems were old blades and shaving in the wrong direction mainly on my neck. First blades, I shave with a new blade every time now. Because I'm using a safety razor, they're pretty cheap. Second, shaving in the direction the hair grows stopped all kinds of irritation that was happening on my neck. My neck hair grows in multiple directions, so it took some time to get used to.

But that's basically the solution.
posted by bindasj at 3:25 AM on June 23, 2010

The problem I had was that I was shaving too closely then I would get ingrown hair which would swell and turn red and itch like the bejesus as hair started to grow parallel to my skin rather than normal to it. If I nicked one of those (easy since they well up), they bled horribly.

Personal Solution 1: don't shave so closely - shaving with the grain helps so much
Personal Solution 2: grow a beard - I trim every two weeks and use the bare trimmer with no attachment to clean up my neck.
posted by plinth at 6:26 AM on June 23, 2010

I'm coming at this from the opposite end - I only need to shave every few days because my beard grows so slowly, but still...

If you find you really can't shave every day, but want to look like you were tidy once, by some hair clippers - the kind you use to give yourself an army haircut. Set it to "0" and run it over your face. Depending on the speed your bread grows, you'll probably get a 'late night' look.

For shaving...

1) get your beard very hot. Not, shower hot, but a flannel that's "monkey noises" hot.

2) use a decent lather - I'm a big fan of the King Of Shaves gels - and warm it up before it gets on your face. There's no point in getting your face hot if you put cold lather on it.

3) Rub the stuff in - lift the hairs.

4) Use a decent razor - I'm a fan of the King of Shaves Azor - and swap the blade out every half dozen (or so) shaves.

5) Here's where I disagree with the rest of the people here - I've NEVER managed to get a decent shave by shaving with the grain of my beard. I've always shaved against the grain - sideburns going upwards and the rest moving toward my nose. Interestingly, my KoS can gel (which I haven't tried yet) says "with the grain" but then shows someone shaving the way I do. I wonder if by "with the grain" they actually mean "not across the grain".

6) Cold water. Monkey noises cold. Then a good moisturiser. I've yet to find one I reliably like, but I tend to come back to the KoS one...

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posted by sodium lights the horizon at 6:32 AM on June 23, 2010

I know most of this has been mentioned here but here's my 2c. I had been using disposables for years after, like most, trying just about everything (I still have an electric I keep around because it has a flip out beard trimmer that comes in handy for trimming up my hair).

I started reading things like badger and blade, which can get quite cumbersome if you're unfamiliar with what to do or what you're talking about yet.

After a bit of research I settled on the Merkur Classic and a badger brush (don't go overboard, they can get really pricey) and some cream . Some people prefer the less expensive tube of proraso, which you can also get from bath and body works. Remember - the tiniest dab on a wet brush will create a HUGE lather. I've been shaving this way for eight months and haven't gone through even a quarter of the jar and honestly could use even less. I wet the brush thoroughly, then shake the excess off, dip it in the tub of cream VERY lightly, just barely touching it, then start brushing my face (up and down helps get the hairs to stand out). Keep brushing and you'll have more lather than you can use in a few seconds. I use derby razor blades, both because they have high ratings (rightfully so) and they are dirt cheap. You can get them as low as about 5c a blade, and they'll last me more than a week (I only shave every other day) - they're still wicked sharp when I toss them but I don't take chances.

As far as the actual shaving goes, I have a fogless mirror in the shower and I shave there. As "wet" of a shave as you can get. Don't pull like with disposable/cartridge razors - let the weight of the razor do the work. There are vids about this on the net - also for lathering.

Finally, I use a semi-inexpensive aftershave (you should see the prices out there for good ones!) that I recommend to everyone (also the replenishing is good too) - it doesn't smell much and its really nice. You can go with others, but good balms can get pricey.

At first it seems like a big investment (and it sort of is) but the brush should last forever if you take care of it and so will the razor. You'll go down to basically 5c a blade plus a teeny tiny amount of shave cream.

And I actually enjoy shaving now. I look forward to it and when I'm done I feel really refreshed.
posted by debaser42 at 7:07 AM on June 23, 2010 [3 favorites]

Some really great advice here, even though some is contradictory. I don't mean in a bad way. What works for one, may not work for another. You've got to experiment. Also, the difference I experience between, say, the brush-and-soap lather versus Edge gel is well worth the effort in time & initial monetary outlay. You may not think so.

My Shaving 101 input.

And in a weird synchronistic happenstance, a friend and I were just talking about shaving last night. I may be venturing into the realm of the single blade Merkur.
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 7:57 AM on June 23, 2010

Oh, forgot to mention... I agree with the "shave with the grain" crowd. But, I do find that when I want a VERY close shave; I shave once with the grain, then lather up again, and shave AGAINST the grain. No razor burn! (I don't know why - maybe the first pass removed most of the "resistance"?)
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 8:01 AM on June 23, 2010

Shave every day in the morning. You're not allowing your skin to build up a tolerance to shaving by shaving every three days.

Also no one has mentioned this important step: wash your face before you shave. Do not use a regular body soap. Use a face cleanser or a face soap like Erno Laszlo*.

Your razor is fine. Don't use cheap shaving cream like Gillette or any of those supermarket brands. There's all kinds of propellants and shit in those brands that irritate the skin. Try Kiss My Face. It has all kinds of natural healing properties. Read the ingredients. Kiss My Face strikes the right balance between not made with crap but not so "organic" that it doesn't protect you from irritation.

*You should never use a regular body cleansing soap or deodorant soap on your face anyway.
posted by L'OM at 8:36 AM on June 23, 2010

Another vote for Mantic's videos!!

Kiss My face is cheap *and* good (whereas some of the other stuff mentioned upthread is very pricey). I am a pretty humble guy, spending-on-my-face-wise, so I huant the "Selling & Trading" forum at Shave My Face (http://www.shavemyface.com/forum/viewforum.php?f=10) to find stuff that other guys are getting rid of. It's a nice way to try out good stuff, cheap. I think there's someone on Badger & Blade who does samplers of shaving creams, too -- but for a new guy, stick to Proraso or Kiss My Face for a while.

Let your stubble grow out a few days if possible so you can see which direction it really points. Running your hand across it meditatively for a weekend helps. :7) Then when you shave -- after your shower, natch -- you lather up and shave once WITH THE GRAIN, Using a very light toucxh. Then rinse, lather again, and shave against the grain but with a]n even lighter touch.

Short strokes beat long strokes for minimizing blood, and slow beats fast (no mtter how much you want to hurry).

And eventually you will need to lose the twelve-bladed Gillette disposable and buy a good DE (I have the low-end Merkur Classic "heavy") but for now put a new blade in it.
posted by wenestvedt at 11:31 AM on June 23, 2010

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