Shaving and Skin Advice
December 11, 2003 2:59 PM   Subscribe

What are some good shaving tips for men? And is there some technique or miracle product for getting rid of blackheads?
posted by malpractice to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (45 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Have you ever seen Queer eye for the straight guy? It's like an hour long shaving how-to every week.

I've gathered a few things from it: use an oil or cream to make the blade slide easily. Shave after you shower, so the hairs are soft and standing up. Shave with the grain, never against, and go slowly, not quickly. The fewest strokes, the better for your skin. Follow it up with other skin products as your needs dictate.
posted by mathowie at 3:05 PM on December 11, 2003

Use a brush; it's cheaper, more environmentally friendly and much nicer.
posted by timeistight at 3:10 PM on December 11, 2003

For blackheads, I recommend Pond's Pore Strips, usually available at your local pharmacy. Then tweezers. Carefully.
posted by brownpau at 3:11 PM on December 11, 2003

i know it's against the rules to go against the grain, but that's the only way to get a close shave on my neck. of course, this is only with the manual thingymajig, not those fancy electric ones.
posted by poopy at 3:16 PM on December 11, 2003

I gave up on razors. I was cutting myself every other time, but the real problem was running out of cartridges and having to pay almost a buck per replacement. I'd already been holding out for years against buying one of those Mach-Force-One super-razors, and I was always afraid the manufacturer would stop making my kind and I'd have to upgrade.

Then I bought a $50 electric razor. After a short adjustment period, I began loving it. It's been almost a year now since I bought it, and I can tell the blades aren't as sharp as they were on day 1, but I still get a great shave in about a minute.

I don't have dense facial hair, but the hairs themselves are very thick and coarse. The Norelco cleaves them off painlessly, though sometimes it requires a few passes. I use it either wet or dry. Using it wet for 3 full minutes yields a fantastic shave, but I can get a decent pre-work shave in about 10 seconds, dry.

The drawbacks are: not having a straight-blade to make a clean line on my sideburns, having to charge it, and someday I will have to pay $30 for replacement blades.

I'm not sure if in the end it will be cheaper than blades. Possibly, if I factor in shaving cream and band-aids. But it's definitely safer, quicker, less mess, and not a half-bad gadget fix.
posted by scarabic at 3:34 PM on December 11, 2003

poopy, try shaving with the grain. If it's not close enough shave again but perpendicular to the grain. This is a great shaving cream. It takes a while to get used to a non-lathering type of cream but it results in a nice smooth shave.
posted by anathema at 3:36 PM on December 11, 2003

Well, i used an electric razor for about 8 years before i finally decided that electric wasn't giving me the closeness that i desired.

i'm personally a big fan of the mach 3 turbo (i know, i know pepsi blue filter) but as a newbie shaver, it's working wonders for me.
posted by Stynxno at 4:02 PM on December 11, 2003

at the risk of sounding too enthusiastic, you've give the people at gillette credit for a brilliant marketing campaign when it comes to the mach 3. a few weeks after my eighteenth birthday i got one in the mail free, along with a can of gillette shaving cream. i asked around and found out that many of my friends had been sent mach 3s after their eighteenth birthday as well. i haven't used anything else since then. although i've always wondered, how did they know our birthdays?
posted by joedan at 4:19 PM on December 11, 2003

I find shaving has been a real pain (quite literally) Matt, I've tried to follow Kyan's advice on Queer Eye but have had mixed success. I'm curious if anyone has any experience with straight-razors? Dangerous anachronism or quality shave?
posted by filmgoerjuan at 4:23 PM on December 11, 2003

Dangerous anachronism or quality shave?

I just like that sentence.
posted by anathema at 4:34 PM on December 11, 2003

I also love the Mach 3, and all the guys I know who use it love it.
posted by kirkaracha at 4:39 PM on December 11, 2003

I use one of the fancy Braun electric shavers (the top of the line one with the high speed action). Everything I've shaved with before, electric or manual, has resulted in nasty razor burn and ingrown hairs, but the Braun really does the trick: it gets rid of the whiskers painlessly, and in the days that follow, I don't get painfully infected bumps all over the place. I use a pre-shave with them. I do NOT shower first; sure, that makes the whiskers softer, but it also makes my skin softer and easier to rip up.

But mostly, I avoid shaving altogether unless I need to impress someone. I don't care much about impressing my co-workers so I typically just cut the whiskers close with the trimmer (like you'd do before shaving if your beard was more than a couple days' long) a couple times a week. That guarantees that my skin won't get all torn up.
posted by kindall at 4:53 PM on December 11, 2003

I'm a girl - so no direct personal experience here - but my boyfriend has a thick coarse beard too. Like scarabic, he was a big proponent of the electric razor. Then a couple years ago we were at EuroDisney and spotted an "Olde Tyme Barber Shoppe" in the Main Street USA area. We had some time to kill so Rodd decided to go in and get a "proper shave". I sat there terrified as a little French man who barely spoke English went over his face and neck with a gleaming straight razor. The guy was awesome though and Rodd said it was one of the best shaves of his life. Afterwards the barber started pantomiming and eventually managed to ask him, "You use... the machine?" As in, an electric razor. Rodd nodded yes. "Very bad! Don't use!" admonished the barber. Apparently not only can a real barber tell when someone uses one, but it changes your face in such a way that it makes it harder to get a close shave with a blade. Rodd hasn't used the electric since.
posted by web-goddess at 4:53 PM on December 11, 2003

For blackheads, my favorite cleanser is Clearasil's face wash (comes in a blue tube). I think they also have a version that has little exfoliating microbeads (ooh!). Also, if you are comfortable in your maleness and don't mind using a face mask once a week, Origin's charcoal mask or Queen Helene's Mint Julep mask (drugstore) are both really excellent products for sucking out blackheads.
posted by gatorae at 4:59 PM on December 11, 2003

I've got a coarse, thick beard. A Braun electric with a pre-shave powder was the easiest and fastest shave I ever had, but left me with heavy 5 o'clock shadow. Mach 3 works well for me, but blades cost a fortune and I have to change them often if I don't want to get evil razor burns.

I've never found a shaving cream that worked as well as normal soap. I rub the bar of soap directly on my face. Creams clog up my pores and give me spots. I try not to use too much water, since a watery lather doesn't lubricate as well.

Wash the oils off the hairs to soften them before you shave. Then heat is the key. I read once that you need at least 45 seconds of water as hot as you can stand before the hairs start to soften. If you let your face cool, the hairs get tough again.

Lots of short strokes are better than a few long ones. Rinse the blade often in hot water, and keep the hot water running to steam up your face. I shave gently once, then relather and shave again to get a close shave.

Anyone have good advice about how to shave your head?
posted by fuzz at 5:09 PM on December 11, 2003

As for your blackheads
Two things that helped me; in my 30's have more now than in my early 20's from the higher humidity that I live in today. Always use a clean wash cloths everytime you are washing your face. I use two in the shower, one for the face then one used the privious day washing only my body. Never use one w/cloth for the whole body or wash your face first. Rinsing with cold water after showering/bathing helps too; it closes your pores.
{why do I feel we are on tv and being laughed at:P}
posted by thomcatspike at 5:10 PM on December 11, 2003

filmgoerjuan, I believe Gillette did a deal with the government for its Selective Services data to send you that free razor.
posted by jschuur at 5:39 PM on December 11, 2003

Mach 3 -- good
Quattro -- better

razors make your face feel cleaner because they _make_ it cleaner -- razors remove dead cells and other bad stuff

if in your area there's a gym with a steam bath and/or sauna, by all means shave as soon as you get out of the steam room -- it'll go real smoooooooooth
posted by matteo at 5:50 PM on December 11, 2003

What works will depend partly on your hair-growth pattern, and the toughness of your skin. I have tough, Mediterranean-type skin, and dense, coarse hair that tries to grow along the countours of my face, rather than straight up and out. My Queer Eye has found that the following regime helps: shave in the shower; exfoliate first, with a washcloth and a gritty lotion (there are lots of them out there, with ground-up apricot pits, olive stones, walnut shells, etc.). I use a shaving brush with Body Shop shaving cream (a fantastic deal, BTW: one jar lasts forever) and a Shick Extreme razor (basically like Mach 3). I shave downwards first, then upwards. Every second day, I only shave downwards. Finish with a moisturizer.
posted by stonerose at 6:18 PM on December 11, 2003

There are less than a handful of consumer products that I believe truly have made a difference in my quality of life. One is my Zen Alarm Clock, which wakes me up gradually every day with a slowly-accelerating series of single chimes, another is Silk Coffee Creamer, and another is the Mach III. It absolutely changed my attitude about shaving.

OK, it hasn't made me want to shave, but whereas all my life previously I had to look forward to cutting myself here and there on my neck where I have sensitive skin, now I approach the task cheerfully - the Mach III shaves me just as close there if not closer, with no cuts. And the blades last a good long time (for me anyway) before they start getting gnarly - I mentioned in another thread earlier this year how Gillette seems to realize they goofed on this and has launched a big ad campaign trying to convince men that they need to change their Mach III blades every week.
posted by soyjoy at 6:58 PM on December 11, 2003

How loud does that alarm clock get? I'm looking for a new alarm clock for my mother who is hard of hearing.
posted by anathema at 7:36 PM on December 11, 2003

I'm a sound sleeper who's hard to wake up, so I use an alarm clock-radio. I use the radio, tuned to one of the local Spanish-language channels and turned up loud enough to start clipping.

A billion decibels of GSSSHHHHABBADASSSHH EL MARTILLO TEJANOSSSSSH HABBADA wakes me up efficiently enough, even if it doesn't endear me to my favorite wife.

From personal experience: The most effective means of waking up, bar none, is to have a live, wild mouse run down your arm. It will wake you RIGHT the fuck up, bringing you to an instant state of mind-bending heart-pounding panic. I dunno if you can get a varmint-based alarm clock for your granny, though.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:20 PM on December 11, 2003

anathema, you might want to check out a clock radio with an increasing volume level, like the one soyjoy mentioned. For instance, my RCA comes on really low in volume and then the volume increases until shut off, maximizing at the 2 minute mark when it is REALLY loud. i usually wake up in about 5 seconds but i imagine the 30 second mark would be loud enough to wake anyone. the best part of this is you wake gradually, rather than to a sudden BZZT! mine was only $30 canadian. it also has a huge LED on it, excellent for older folks hard of hearing.
posted by dobbs at 9:41 PM on December 11, 2003

I think I have the same RCA alarm clock. Some years ago, when I was keeping odd schedules, I found that my old alarm clock wouldn't always wake me up, and was in fact not going off at all sometimes, so I bought the RCA because 1) I can read it with my glasses off and 2) the alarm ramp-up would be sure to wake me up eventually.

Shortly thereafter I discovered that what I must have actually been doing was shutting off the alarm without waking up -- the old alarm clock worked fine, I was just turning it off when it went off and never realizing I'd done so. So I started to use them both, which worked most of the time.

Then I moved to Seattle, got on a regular schedule again, and stopped needing two alarm clocks, but kept the RCA since, as I said, I can read it with my glasses off.
posted by kindall at 10:32 PM on December 11, 2003

A billion decibels of GSSSHHHHABBADASSSHH EL MARTILLO TEJANOSSSSSH HABBADA wakes me up efficiently enough, even if it doesn't endear me to my favorite wife.

That's one of the finest sentences I've heard all day (and I've heard some good ones today!)
posted by oissubke at 11:01 PM on December 11, 2003

Anyway, I'm a big fan of the Mach 3. I'm a pretty average guy -- I don't have any kind of shaving fetish, I just want a quick and painless way to look good for the wife when we're going out.

Now on work days, it's all about the Norelco. Greatest present anyone's ever given me. I love being able to do something productive during my hour-long morning commute.
posted by oissubke at 11:05 PM on December 11, 2003

I'm also a fan of the mach3, or maybe its just the name.

I also used an electric razor for a couple of years. Props to those who enjoy them but after using a razor you couldn't pay me to go back. Not even in the same ball park (other than convenience).

Shave after you shower, so the hairs are soft and standing up. Shave with the grain, never against, and go slowly, not quickly.

I've never watched this show, but is this the kind of 'insider/expert' info the guys give out?

It seems like this came as news to several people in this thread, and not being snarky at all, I thought that was all pretty common knowledge. Maybe I'm just an advanced shaver ;)
posted by justgary at 11:08 PM on December 11, 2003

I too shave in the shower and thus avoid drying that shaving creams caused. What a shaving cream does is to hold moisture in your stubble, having it saturated means you don't need the cream. I use a cream cleanser first to clean my face, personally I find exfoliants too drying and gel not drying enough, find out your own best needs. It may be that it is a good idea to use an exfoliant on your upper face as this may have the most impact on blackheads, but that your lower face needs less of this due to the exfoliating effect that shaving has.
posted by biffa at 1:15 AM on December 12, 2003

I'm not nearly so "product" oriented as some people seem to be, but last year I switched to using Lubriderm as my shaving cream. I use a bunch, and let it sit on my face and beard for a minute or so before shaving with the Mach 3. It softens up my beard nicely, and (obviously) doesn't dry out my face the way my shaving cream was.
posted by Irontom at 5:03 AM on December 12, 2003

Am I the only one that finds the standard Mach 3 infinitely better than the Mach 3 Turbo? The latter always slices up my chin, ick. Currently growing out a sunnah beard, looks kinda funky ^_^
posted by Mossy at 5:53 AM on December 12, 2003

If you have other skin problems, changing how you shave may help. I'd used Braun electrics for years, and was very happy with them. I have very dry skin, and shaving with a manual had always left me uncomfortable. About a year and a half ago I started getting little sores (diagnosed as acne, though I have my doubts) and red, blotchy patterns on my cheeks, chin and neck. After multiple trips to different doctors and a plethora of prescription lotions and potions, nothing had changed. (In retrospect, I find it curious no one ever asked about my shaving habits.)

On a whim, I bought new blades for the Sensor Excel handle I dug out of the bottom of the vanity, and viola - within a week my skin had cleared, and has been great since. I shave in the shower for the simple reason that I feel more "rinsed" when I'm done. If I'm standing at the sink I never feel like I've gotten all the cream off.

A tip for those using cartridge shavers: Get a Costco (or similar membership discount chain) card. I buy them in bulk. Cost per unit drops and you have such a large supply you find yourself running out much less frequently.
posted by jalexei at 5:57 AM on December 12, 2003

I'm a 2 alarm clock person myself (one buzzes and one plays the radio), and they're set 5 minutes apart as a for shaving and stuff--in the shower, not every day (altho i should), mach3, edge gel with aloe, always with the grain, and biore pore strips once in a while, also lubriderm non-pore-clogging moisturizer (esp. in the winter).

so many metrosexuals here--who knew? ; >
posted by amberglow at 6:06 AM on December 12, 2003

re: with the grain / queer eye, etc: On a queer eye show I caught earlier this week (don't know if it was new or a rerun), they said that in the lower part of the neck (I think they were suggesting below the adam's apple), shaving "up" is actually with the grain. I'd never heard that before.

And let me eighteenth (or whatever number we're on) the mach III.
posted by pardonyou? at 7:06 AM on December 12, 2003

Am I the only one that finds the standard Mach 3 infinitely better than the Mach 3 Turbo?

Not infinitely better, but I got ahold of a sample Turbo and was turned off. The lubricating strip seemed to cause a slight bit of disgusting slime to form between my skin and the razor housing. Plus the damn thing cut me, which I'll repeat my regular Mach III never does until I've seriously overused the blades.

you might want to check out a clock radio with an increasing volume level, like the one soyjoy mentioned.

Just for clarity - the Zen Alarm Clock isn't one of those that increases the volume level. The chime is struck the same way, by the same mechanism, each time. What changes is the frequency (of striking, not the pitch). It starts out 3-1/2 minutes apart and then comes more often, increasing according to the golden ratio, until it's going off every four seconds (I think it takes about 12-15 minutes to get to that point). By that time you are waking up for damn sure, but the process along the way is extremely smooth, gradual, and welcoming - the antithesis of the mouse-across-the-arm method. But it does the job, and you do wind up awake.
posted by soyjoy at 7:14 AM on December 12, 2003

As a person with sensitive skin, I've rubbed my face with an ice cube for relief of shaver burn.
On a whim one morning I rubbed my face with ice and a light drying before shaving (electric shaver) nearly as close but no burn.
posted by DBAPaul at 7:30 AM on December 12, 2003

fuzz: Anyone have good advice about how to shave your head?

I've heard good things about the headblade, but have never used it myself - too many moles on my noggin for a close shave.
posted by SteveInMaine at 8:08 AM on December 12, 2003

I have thick, very course facial hair. I use a Mach III and the Kiehl's shaving creme that anathema recommended. I always shave up on my neck- otherwise, it's just not close enough. I do get ingrown hairs, which is a pain, though nothing seems to remedy that- I've come to accept it's just part and parcel of my super-course and curly hair.

My strongest advice is to shave in the shower. Get a good, non-fog mirror. You'll never go back.

What do people think about shaving brushes? Is the badger fur really worth it?
posted by mkultra at 9:13 AM on December 12, 2003

Shaving in the shower and Edge Gel rock, as do multiple-blade razors.

Also, any women who stumble upon this thread are well-advised to buy men's shaving products. They're higher-quality than the women's stuff.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:46 AM on December 12, 2003

fuzz: Anyone have good advice about how to shave your head?

It's more Mach 3 bandwaggoning, but I started buying that brand after trolling a few random bald-guy infosites and seeing most of them recommend that blade for head shaving. With it, I can shave my own head and get a clean cut... without it, I have to have someone else do it or I savage myself.

I do get closer shaves by exfoliating first, though. Nivea has a "Nivea for Men" line in the men's sections these days, and I use their "Exfoliating Face Scrub" on my entire head pre-shaving. Works great.
posted by frallyth at 10:20 AM on December 12, 2003

I've never used the Mach III because I boycott Gilette (animal testing) but the Xtreme III works great for me.

For some reason I think the new four-blade one is a bit much. Next year, will there be a six-blade razor? I'm imagining some time in the next ten years or so when I just wake up and grab something that looks like GoGo Yubari's mace with a motor at the end. "Hmmm... well, seventeen blades is a bit risky, but god DAMN if that isn't a close shave!"
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 11:24 AM on December 12, 2003

Anyone else remember that new yorker article about the Mach 3 that came out around the time the blade did? It was one of those fascinating peeks into a totally different realm, the story of the researchers and developers whose entire work was centered around a product most of us probably hadn't given much thought to. Or at least, I hadn't. I'm female, and lazy about shaving. Still, the amount of work and thought and inventiveness involved was memorable, even if you'd started every day muttering "there's gotta be a better way..."
posted by mdn at 5:26 PM on December 12, 2003

I'm just growing a beard. To hell with it all.
posted by adampsyche at 8:03 PM on December 12, 2003

I forgot to mention that one tube of the Kiehl's shaving cream lasts for a very long time. Shaving on average for or six times a week one tube can last eight or nine months.
posted by anathema at 5:52 AM on December 13, 2003

Well, after reading most of this thread, I tried the Mach III. Eh. I get a better shave using a bic disposable. Maybe that'll change after I learn to deal with the stupid pivoting blade head, but even so, I did not note any significant benefit.

Maybe it's just my shaving style. I shave in the shower (mirrorless) and I also shave against the grain. Screw the Fab Five. Maybe that'd be bad if I shaved more often than twice a month.
posted by ursus_comiter at 7:44 AM on December 18, 2003

By far the best information I have seen online about shaving and men's skin care comes from Paula Begoun's See the articles "Men's Skin Care" and "Battle Plan for Men" which are free online:

To start with, all men need a gentle, water-soluble cleanser, a gentle shave product (foam, cream, or gel), followed by a gentle, nonirritating aftershave or shaving lotion (which is actually just a masculine name for a gentle toner). An ideal after-shave product for men would be an aspirin-based topical product that uses additional potent anti-irritants. Aspirin is a very effective anti-inflammatory agent for irritated skin and is able to alleviate the redness and razor bumps/burn.

Begoun goes on to review most of the major brand-name shaving and men's skin care products, including some mentioned in this thread.
posted by tranquileye at 8:34 AM on January 6, 2004

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