Teach me how to shave my face?
January 27, 2017 2:56 PM   Subscribe

I need to understand how to shave my fave. Bonus difficulty: I'm female.

After having asked a few anon questions about the ridiculous amount of peri-menopause and post-menopausal beard and mustache I've grown, I came to the conclusion that laser treatment was my best choice. I've started that, and had the first of ten planned treatments on my upper lip and chin.

But I had no idea, until I actually talked to the laser nurse, that in between I have to refrain from plucking and bleaching. Which is a problem, because the laser treatment only works a little at a time, and meanwhile I've got, like, Magnum P.I.-level mustache.

The nurse told me to shave instead. And I've learned about this allegedly best in the world Japanese lady face razor. But I don't understand technique.

When should I shave? Before the shower? After the shower? Another time altogether?

In what manner should I shave? Against the hair growth? With the hair growth? I'm really trying to get as close a shave as possible because this is my face, I have a beard and mustache, and I am a woman who does not want to show the world I have a beard and mustache.

Do I need my skin to be dry or wet? If wet, what with?

I used to like to keep a tweezer in the car, because I'd invariably look in the mirror and in the good light see all the black hairs and then pluck them out. Can I keep one of these little razors handy for just such a case? Can I scrape it against my dry skin while I'm in the car? Will I wreck my skin?

Or are these razors the wrong thing? Is there something better for me?

Help me, shaving ladies. Tell me everything I need to know about shaving my face, please.
posted by anonymous to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (28 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
My mom needs to shave a bit. She uses those razors you linked to and LOVES them. She says: Always go with, not against, the hair growth. She does it when her face is a little sudsy from being washed.

Good luck!
posted by schroedingersgirl at 2:58 PM on January 27, 2017

General shaving advice for reference, from A Man:
Shave after shower, while face is still wet. Use shaving cream or foam where you will be shaving, for lubrication. Shave with the grain in your first pass. Follow up across, then against the grain if needed, re-lathering if needed. Rinse with warm water, then cold water to close your pores.

This may be overkill for you; adjust as needed.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 3:35 PM on January 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

You'll probably get lots of conflicting advice here, but here goes:
  • Shave after a hot shower.
  • If you've toweled off your face before shaving, get it wet again. Then really work the shaving cream into your skin, don't just dab it on. Barbasol is fine, it doesn't need to be anything fancy. You'll need less than you think.
  • Shave against the grain (this seems to be the most controversial point).
  • Don't get those ridiculous 6-blade razors, which are expensive and can't reach right under your nose. If you can find a decent 2-blade, go with that. Don't get the cheapest disposable out there, though—blade quality can vary a lot.
Sorry you're going through this.
posted by adamrice at 3:44 PM on January 27, 2017

I shave in the shower, and tend to use my facial cleanser as my lubricant. I go against the grain because I, too, do not want to show the world my beard and mustache, and have found that's what works the best for me.

You're not alone.
posted by The Almighty Mommy Goddess at 3:46 PM on January 27, 2017 [6 favorites]

Man. Splaining how he shaves:
I shave in the shower with a shower mirror hung from a hook/command strip combo. That way, my skin is warm and wet, which lessens the possibility of nicks and cuts. Shaving cream/gel is fine, but I use body wash because it's cheaper. I shave against the grain, but my beard hair is ridiculous. I've never shaved my legs (Might break the razor) but I figure that's a good general policy to follow, so that's what I do.
posted by cnc at 3:48 PM on January 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

Hi, dude here so this isn't lady-specific advice. The term you want to google for is 'wet shaving'... and try to ignore how hyper-masculine the content will be. Also try to ignore all the sites trying to sell you products to enable what has become a (ugh) lifestyle.

The most important thing you can do is prep--this is the 'wet' part of wet shaving. Make sure your facial hair is softened and clean by washing it with warm water for at least a few minutes (and gentle soap, if you like). Splashing on some hot water isn't enough. Shaving right after showering is a good way to do this. Leave your face wet, or re-wet it.

I think you can get a good shave with any kind of lather, but other people have strong feelings about this.

Shave against the grain for your first pass, putting NO pressure on the blade. Pressing it down hard against your face will give you a worse shave, not better. Let the weight of the razor being pulled across your face, do the work. A second pass, if done, should be perpendicular to the grain. Some people do a third pass, against the grain, to get the smoothest shave possible, but I think this is asking for razor burn until you know what you're doing.

People also have strong feelings about aftershave. I don't use it, others think it's critical.
posted by danny the boy at 3:53 PM on January 27, 2017

Thirding (fourthing?) the other shaving dudes here--you definitely want your skin to be wet, and preferably with hot water. Shaving dry is a misery, and doing it with cold water isn't much better.

I tend to use shaving gel, since it gives me a smoother, easier shave than shaving cream, but in practice you can use pretty much anything that'll let the razor glide along the skin easily.

Speaking of razors, that Japanese one doesn't seem like it would do much against any facial hair that'll put up even a little bit of a fight. I tend to use a Gillette Mach 3--the three blades shave me nice and close, and are pretty much the maximum number of blades I can still fit comfortably on my upper lip. Your mileage may vary, though.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 3:57 PM on January 27, 2017

Another perspective from A Lazy Man Who Shaves in the Shower: I just use bar soap (Lever 2000) as a shaving lubricant, because laziness, but I also have a beard so I'm only shaving my neck and lower jaw line because I don't want my beard to become a neck beard. I make several passes by feel over the areas I want to shave on my face by feel. I don't use aftershave. This method has worked for me for ~40 years.

This is a wordy way of saying that there are many ways to shave your face, and some are more ritualistic/OCD than others. Obviously, you may feel more comfortable following all of the rules and suggestions for how to get a perfect shave...but you should also take some comfort knowing that you can skip a number of those steps and still get a good shave.
posted by mosk at 4:04 PM on January 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

As a woman who has had to shave 1/2 a mustache and goatee daily for more than a decade (the right half if you were wondering) my technique is:
I shave in the shower, after everything else is done so the hair is as soft as possible.
I don't bother with a mirror, I can easily feel where the stubble is. That helps me find the odd stray hair far off to the side under my jaw.
It takes some practice to get the right amount of pressure, it does need to be very light but too light and you can go skidding off and cut yourself.
Use a good razor and change it out when it is never slightly dull or rusty - that's ok for body hair but not for the face.
I use my facial gel, but have also used a moisturizer with good results.

My biggest trick is at the end I rinse my face and razor, then make one more pass by feel without the gel.
posted by buildmyworld at 4:11 PM on January 27, 2017 [6 favorites]

I recently bought a fancy razor that came with instructions saying to first shave with the grain and then on a second pass against. I do this everywhere except under my chin, where shaving against the grain first seems to do a better job.

I also just use bar soap and shave in the shower without a mirror. I believe old fashioned lather is just soap and water anyway. However, if I was a female shaving for the first time I would advise you shave with lather and definitely with a mirror. Lush sells fancy shaving creams that smell like roses, etc. if using something more feminine appeals to you. A safety razor will give you a much closer shave, but you risk seriously cutting yourself. Oh yeah, for nicks and cuts you want a stimpel (sp?) pen. It's chalk, basically.

Try looking at videos of shaving on youtube. I know it sounds ridiculous but I'll bet there are a lot of them.
posted by xammerboy at 4:15 PM on January 27, 2017

> for nicks and cuts you want a stimpel (sp?) pen. It's chalk, basically.

Styptic pencil/pen. It's made of potassium alum, also known as shaving alum. Get it wet, shake off any water drops, and apply to the cut. It stings like a bastard because it's a powerful astringent that forces your tissue to contract. You can also buy whole blocks of alum to slam the door on your pores after shaving, but cold water does a good-enough-job for most people. If you happen to shave your legs, then block-alum would be more appropriate for that.

The stinging pain is short-lived, but it does leave a white mark (just some deposition of the alum) which you should leave on until the cut stops bleeding (30 minutes to be on the safe side-- facial cuts love bleeding). After that, wipe it off with a damp cloth.

Alum is a harmless chemical if you get a little in your mouth or tongue (you'll know it by the ultra-tart taste). Powdered, it's used in some Asian pickling techniques.

I'm a man, and I lather up with a brush and various shaving soaps. But when i'm just touching up the mustache area (which is the most difficult topography on the face, IMO, though the chin is never as easy as it ought to be), I dab on some conditioner instead; it softens the hair very quickly and lubes up the razor. Otherwise, I agree with everyone else here: after showering (or late in the shower), shave with the grain, then against the grain.
posted by Sunburnt at 4:37 PM on January 27, 2017

> stimpel (sp?) pen

99% sure this translates to styptic pencil. Contains alum. Useful for any 1st aid kit...
posted by kmennie at 4:38 PM on January 27, 2017

Female here with very sensitive skin who waxes her upper lip and chin while alternating plucking (mostly for my chin) and shaving (all areas) in between. Typically, I do it at the end of my shower with the same shaving cream (I like EOS) and razor (personal preference is Gilette Fusion ProGlide) that I use for my legs and underarms. I go with the grain/in direction of hair growth and haven't had issues with ingrown hairs. If I do it outside of the shower, I make sure to wet the area with warm water before applying shaving cream.

One tip that I stole from an exceptional waxer was to close my lips together and use my tongue to push out the areas around my mouth I'm shaving. I'll try to explain, but please memail me if it's not clear. For example, when shaving my upper lip, I center my tongue over the top row of teeth and with my tongue push my upper lip area out while keeping the skin taut/lips together. I then move my tongue counter clock-wise and move it across to the top left, then to the left corner of my lips (corners are a tricky spot), around the bottom row of teeth (left, center, right), the right corner, and the right upper lip section. Writing this out it sounds more time consuming or complicated than it is. All told, it takes a few minutes and I do it about once a week. I do find that the more often I shave, the quicker and thicker it grows in (same for legs and underarms), so I try to space it out as much as possible. I'm lucky in that my facial hair is light, however, so I have a bit more flexibility than those with darker facial hair. I think the important ingredients are a decent razor, sufficient lubrication, and a technique that works for you. I hope this helps!
posted by katemcd at 5:13 PM on January 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

Another female face shaver, I shave in the shower with a Gilette Fusion Proglide razor and have found that I get much better results and less irritation from using oil to lubricate (almond or safflower/castor blend). I used to use conditioner, but it rinses off too quickly. I do 3 or 4 passes from different directions, going by feel. Though if I did upper lip I might want a mirror.

It helps to lightly exfoliate before shaving. I use a muslin washcloth, then a konjac sponge to wash my face with my usual hydrating cleanser, then shave, then another once over with cleanser by hand to clean off the oil.

I had a set of 6 laser treatments on my neck and lower face a few years ago. Some of the hair has come back, but it isn't as dense as it was before. I'd go back for more if I could afford it right now. At least I do not require the layers of heavy makeup to cover beard shadow that I used to, just a bit of powder foundation that I'd use anyway.

For people who are considering laser on face:

Ideally, for the best results, one should stop plucking a few months before starting treatments. Shaving is your new best friend. Hide the tweezers, if that's what it takes. You might need to shave every day. It sucks, but you're going to be paying a lot of money for your treatments, so you want to get the best results you can.

Make sure the place you're going to has a good laser and a knowlegable and experienced operator. You want actual frickin' laser, not IPL. (I went to a dermatology office that had just upgraded their laser. It cost them more than my house, and something like $3k per month to maintain.)

It should hurt like hell. It is frying your hairs under your skin! Use the numbing cream, it is worth every penny. The laser operator shouldn't be using ultrasound goo, it can lessen the effectiveness of the laser. Pure aloe gel is great for after.
posted by monopas at 5:24 PM on January 27, 2017 [6 favorites]

So, completely different thing here: I actually use the razors you linked to shave my peach fuzz, I do it about once a week depending on how lazy I feel, and I do it when my face is dry. To my knowledge, "dry skin" is how those particular razors are meant to be used. I don't know for sure, that's just what I've heard and what I've therefore done. They aren't as irritating to the skin as regular razors are (as long as you don't push down hard) and as long as all you're shaving is peach fuzz, nothing will pull.

If you're shaving actual hair as opposed to peach fuzz, I don't think these will do the trick for you.
posted by gloriouslyincandescent at 5:49 PM on January 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

Consider trying an electric. No cream, no nicks, no drama. Very quick and cheap compared to other methods. For a super close shave of my horrible gorrilla fur I'll do electric first and then go over it with a razor, but I'm transgender and for a genetic female I think an electric would probably be sufficient most of the time.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 6:03 PM on January 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

Pale, sensitive skinned thick dark face hair shaver here. I shave in a hot shower or right after with a cheap but excellent basic BIC disposable, but when I'm in a hurry and just want to get it done without a lot of finesse, the Fusion is kinda awesome.

Because I have thick facial hair, I go with the grain for pass one, and (delicately, gently) against for pass two. I like CeraVe's foaming face cleanser for shaving, but will use bodywash or soap if that's all I have.
posted by zippy at 7:20 PM on January 27, 2017

Bald dude here, so I shave not just my face but the parts of my head that didn't get the memo the other parts of my head got. I shave in the shower, after everything else. At this point I don't use a mirror, but I didn't learn to shave solely by feel until I had to start shaving my head (because I couldn't see what I was doing back there anyway). I recommend learning with a mirror if you can, because there are lots of ways things can go wrong and if you can see what you're doing you can get the angles right for long enough to build up muscle memory.

Soap and shaving lather are not the same thing, as shaving lather should contain lubricants that stay wet and slippery in a way that pure soap doesn't. Your skin should be at least a little wet when you apply your cream, foam, or gel. Find one you like (Aveeno gel was my go-to from the drugstore, but I've switched to fancy creams now) and make sure you lift the whiskers when you apply it. I go in circles. When you find a product you like, you will also get a feel for how wet your skin should be when you apply it, but it's hard to say (with my fancy cream I want my skin very wet). Once you've lathered up, start shaving!

Shaving with the grain will reduce the likelihood of ingrown hairs, and irritates your skin less, but it does not result in as smooth skin as shaving against the grain. Shaving against the grain will remove more stubble, but at the increased risk of irritation and bumps. I shave with the grain, lather up again, and shave against the grain just to clean up as much stubble as possible. Replace your blade as soon as it starts feeling rough or starts to skid.

I don't know about that lady razor, but I do know that I've learned to shave with a double-edged safety razor instead of a multi-blade cartridge thing. It's much easier to really cut yourself with a safety razor than with a cartridge, but once you get past the learning curve it's oddly less likely to result in irritation. The trick, no matter the razor, is not to press too hard. Cartridges tend to reward a bit too much pressure, but that also causes more razor burn. And double-edged blades are much cheaper than cartridges, which can run upwards of $2 each now.
posted by fedward at 8:47 PM on January 27, 2017

I'm a lady who shaves my upper lip hair and I have tried the Japanese razor you linked to and it's not really up to the job. I shave after my skin is warm and washed (post-shower is great, but not necessary) and I use a premium razor (I use Gillette Venus) and a mild, foaming facial cleanser. I just shave with the grain as the razor is quite sharp and I don't need to go against the grain. I use the razor for a few face shaves and then demote it to a legs/armpits razor and get a new one for my face. I moisturize after. I shave in the mirror, I can't do it without looking. Also, tucking your tongue tip behind your upper lip to stretch the skin, especially at the margin of the lip, is helpful and prevents cuts. I rarely cut myself.
posted by quince at 9:22 PM on January 27, 2017

I like the KAI stiffer spine very sharp blade with an invisible guard very difficult to actually cut yourself with it.
posted by hortense at 9:34 PM on January 27, 2017

Not sure if it has been said before, but one important aspect of warm/hot water is to soften the hairs so they cut easily. But, hair has some waterproofing oils in it, so first you wash off the oil with soap, then the warm water can soften the hairs after a few minutes, then shave.
posted by coberh at 9:52 PM on January 27, 2017

If the electric is not a viable option, I hope somebody will say why. It really is MUCH less bother than wet shaving with creams and whatnot. It's something you can even use to do a quick touch-up in the middle of the day if need be, without access to a shower. If it takes off prickly man fuzz I'd think it'd do even better with a more delicate lady fuzz. I've heard of some women using them.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 10:58 PM on January 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

Menopausal lady lip shaver here. I was a little freaked out the first time I went to shave my face, despite years of experience shaving my legs in the shower, so I shave at the sink in front of the mirror, post-shower so I can see what I'm doing. I just use a simple razor, but instead of re-soaping, I use a coating of almond oil. It seems like less cleanup and a little extra boost of moisturizing.
posted by sarajane at 4:07 AM on January 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

Okay. Under your nose you can get away with a Daisy, but your throat and chin I use a Venus five blade. Shower normally and wash your face. Shaving is the last thing you'll do before getting out because you want your skin and the hair to soak up water. Use a sensitive skin shave cream like Aveeno, Target has a cheap Target-brand generic. Shave first with the grain. Rinse off and apply more shave cream, then go against the grain.

Now here's the important part. Use this ingrown hair cream, it's WONDERFUL. Then use moisturizer. Don't forget the ingrown hair stuff because you will develop them if you're not careful and they're ugly to look at on your face.
posted by 80 Cats in a Dog Suit at 6:46 AM on January 28, 2017

re: Electric Razors

Nope. They don't get as close as a manual blade, and if you are super pale with dark hair growth it ends up looking terrible. For some people it will make ingrown hairs worse and cause worse abrasion.

Addends to previous:

I use this ingrown hair cream when I need it. Cheap and effective, no fragrance or "botanicals" involved. Also no salcylic acid.

I use a men's razor, because I've found the blades to be better manufactured and to last longer than women's versions. Also, form factor for intended purpose. The Fusion Proglide razors have good angles and are hard to cut yourself with, compared to previous razor systems I've tried. Razor nicks bleed like hell and are hard to cover up. Occasionally, with the multi-blade cartridges, you get one that is just bad - like one of the blades is out of alignment. It isn't worth the pain, just toss it.

Exfoliating before and using oil has made a big difference in blade life. The way I use them, each cartridge lasts for at least a few weeks of face use before it is dropped down to pit and leg duty. Before, when I used shaving cream or conditioner and didn't use a face cloth, it was one week of face use, maybe 10 days.

Shower procedure: I do all body and face washing, which takes at least 5 minutes so hair has time to soften, then shaving, second face wash for oil, then I wash my hair last or the oil makes my hair stringy.

Always put on face moisturizer, and bump cream if using, right after you get out of the shower. Shaving can be thought of as Blade Exfoliation with Perks, so treat your skin with care and lotion.
posted by monopas at 8:36 PM on January 28, 2017

They don't get as close as a manual blade, and if you are super pale with dark hair growth it ends up looking terrible. For some people it will make ingrown hairs worse and cause worse abrasion.

Well, I'm super pale with dark hair growth, and electrics get the job done for me. (Also, we don't know the OP's coloring.) It's not rare for me to get ingrown hairs, rashes, nicks and zits when I use manual razors, but I pretty much never do with electrics. Seriously, electrics are so much more convenient for everyday use that I would strongly suggest at least giving them a try.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 10:26 PM on January 28, 2017

Secret scissors wielder here. I use a tiny scissors and cut the hairs very close to my skin. I have visible hairs on my lip and chinny chin chin, so that works for me. I bought one of those tiny razors but I didn't like the way the regrowth occurred after using it so, tiny scissors are my weapon of choice.
posted by Lynsey at 8:43 AM on January 29, 2017

Every morning I grab an electric razor and and buzz it around my jaw and upper lip against the grain, leading with the razor and ending with the foil. If I can still feel stubble with my fingertips it gets another pass. I do it dry.

It's the same razor I would use on my legs if I shaved my legs.

You don't need to sweat this. Start with something you can't cut yourself with and if that isn't close enough move on to something more deadly. And maybe try shaving first on Friday night, so that if you get razor burn it won't show on Monday morning.
posted by Jane the Brown at 9:09 AM on January 29, 2017

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