Dirtstache optical illusion!
January 29, 2012 2:41 PM   Subscribe

When I shave my face, it always leaves behind the appearance of a dirtstache. How do I stop this?

Part of it is the fact that I don't grow much facial hair outside of my upper lip, so the "shadow" doesn't appear anywhere except there. (I'm east Asian). But I still wish I could shave in a way that doesn't leave my upper lip slightly darker than the rest of my face. I use a gillette fusion razor and gel shaving cream. I think the shave is plenty close, although I haven't tried many other methods. Sometimes I use an electric razor but I think the effect is the same. Any tips?
posted by anonymous to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
One method to getting a close shave is to shave the same spot in multiple directions. For your upper lip, shave downwards and then shave upwards. It takes more time and costs more but will give you a much closer and smoother shave.

Another trick is to put a hot towel over your face for a minute or two before you shave. This will bring the hairs to the surface and allow for a closer shave.

I have also found that the brand and type of shaving cream/gel can make a bit of a difference in the quality of the shave. I would experiment with a couple brands and types to land at your favorite.

Finally, after you are done shaving, splash cold water on your face to reduce the chance of irritation and maintain smoothness.
posted by mungaman at 3:06 PM on January 29, 2012

Is it possible that the skin on your upper lip is just a darker color than the skin on the rest of your face? I have a friend who has pretty much no hair on her face, but her upper lip is just darker than the rest of her skin, and she wears makeup to cover it up. In other words, this may not have anything to do with your shaving; it could just be your skin.
posted by decathecting at 3:39 PM on January 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

To follow up on mungaman above: Open your pores with heat before shaving to let the razor get as much of the hair shaft as possible. Hot towels can work, or do it after (or during) a shower. Close your pores after. Cold water is a cheap way to do it. Aftershave also works.

Most gel shaving cream is (in my experience) crap. I get better results with plain soap. The one exception is King of Shave Alphagel, which doesn't hardly foam at all unless you really work it in. But experiment and find something that works for you.

Shaving more than one direction is good too. Which directions work best depend on your personal landscape. If I go against the grain I bleed, but 90˚ from the grain gets good results.

The very best way to get a close shave for me is to not shave every day. The longer the hairs are the more there is for the razor to get hold of. That may or may not be an option for you.
posted by Ookseer at 4:15 PM on January 29, 2012

People recommending a closer shave are mainly missing the point. I have a shadow on my upper lip too, even after the closest shave. Partly I think it could be the angle -- since the plane of my lip tilts forward, you're seeing the follicle ends more head-on, as opposed to the other surfaces which are a more or less a straight 90 degrees with the hairs pointed downward.

Also it could just be a pigmentation issue like decathecting said. I know plenty of men and even women who have this. A little concealer might help, if you're the kind of guy who doesn't mind experimenting with such things.

In my case, I just try to remember that it is WAY more apparent to me than it is to other people -- I honestly doubt anyone else has noticed, and they'd probably be surprised if I pointed it out.
posted by hermitosis at 4:25 PM on January 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

I don't think recommending a closer shave is missing the point; I think it's a valid suggestion. The problem might not be how closely you're shaving above your lip, but you can find out for sure. Right after you shave, run your hand against the grain. Does it feel smooth? Or do you feel stubble? If the latter, the shave could be closer.

Follow the upgrades mentioned above. I would especially vouch for shaving in multiple directions. I believe best practices are to shave with the grain (for me, diagonally, down and to the outside (toward the ears)), then a second time at a 90-degree angle (diagonally, down but in from the ears toward the nose), and then a third time against the grain (for me, diagonally up and in from ears toward nose).

You also might find it worth trying a double-edged safety razor and good shaving cream, e.g., Taylor of Old Bond Street. Not too expensive on Amazon, and I swear you'll save so much on blades, the cost of the razor will come back to you quickly. A shaving brush is also helpful, and you might even feel like you're creating a bit of a ritual that's a tiny bit enjoyable in place of what used to be a chore.
posted by troywestfield at 6:55 PM on January 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

I shave with a good soap, a badger hair brush, and a double-edged razor, wielding super-sharp Japanese Feather-brand blades. I shave after a hot shower. I've watched countless videos online of "good shaving techniques", trying to suss out the Secret Method. I shave with, across, and finally against the grain.

You know what? I have the same trace of a 'stache, no matter what. I'm not a hairy guy, but those hairs are DARK, and you're going to see them on my pale Irish face no matter what I do Sorry, OP -- I think we're brothers in this one.
posted by ellF at 7:08 PM on January 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Get your face wet, soap and hot water in the shower. I just use plain soap, hot water but not steaming.

Use a sharp razor (duh.)

But really, the sharper the blade the closer the shave, with a new blade you can get your skin like silk. In fact, you can even get too close, be careful; it's no fun getting razor burn. Voice of experience.

Shave from different angles, as many above have noted. Shave from first angle, run your hand over your soapy face, you'll clearly know where to hit again and/or from another angle.

You said you wanted a tight shave; the following will get you the closest I know of, and I've been at this forty-five years now. When you get out of the shower, dry your face well. Then use an electric razor on anything that catches your hand.

Your skin will be smooth as a babies skin.

Shaving like this will take an extra minute or two above a "regular" shave but it will give you the best results I know of.

(You can leave an electric shaver in your car and finish on your way to work or whatever but it won't be quite as close as if you hit it when your skin is still open, right out of the shower.)
posted by dancestoblue at 9:12 PM on January 29, 2012

Have you tried double-edged razors?

I have the same issue you cited, and going with the grain, then against the grain on that area with a good shaving soap and brush helps. I also do a follow-up pass with some Kiehl's facial rinse which helps lift the hairs and lubricate before my final pass. And then if its still there, I use my electric razor the next morning.
posted by Elminster24 at 12:39 AM on January 30, 2012

ellF: "You know what? I have the same trace of a 'stache, no matter what. I'm not a hairy guy, but those hairs are DARK, and you're going to see them on my pale Irish face no matter what I do Sorry, OP -- I think we're brothers in this one."

Basically same here. I just shaved this morning, and my upper lip feels as smooth as a baby's bottom, but I've still got a visible (at least, to me) 'stache. The only thing that I find that actually helps reduce it is to get a tan. But who the heck wants to shave when they're on vacation? Life is hard.
posted by Grither at 4:23 AM on January 30, 2012

Hairy dude here.

If you've never tried shaving "against the grain", I've found (personally) that it reduces the Bluebeard effect of my newly shortened follicles. Other people here have had other experiences, but I for one see a difference when I do it. Please allow me to share, as others have, my shaving regimen.

Step one:
Shaving cream on the face, shave in the direction my hair grows.

Step two:
Shaving cream again, this time shave against the direction of growth.

Step three:
In order to avoid the irritation I've just invited by pulling my hair follicles out of their natural alignment, use the razor to go back over the skin in the direction the hair grows one last time. Go softly enough that you don't hurt your (by this point) very sensitive and delicate skin. Just really glide over where you shaved; you shouldn't even notice the razor-y part of your razor, just pressure against your skin. You'll be pulling your hair back into place, and will avoid red bumps, inflammation, and the gross weird pimples that shaving can sometimes produce. Going back over my shave has transformed my universe. Good luck!
posted by Poppa Bear at 8:05 AM on January 30, 2012

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