I was inspired by @Rawhead with his recent posts about barber shops.
A few years ago I read an article that started with the following sentence:
Most adult men are still shaving the same way they did in high school.
I was indeed guilty as charged. In high school I developed the habit of shaving in the shower. I used the shaving gel in the aerosol can and a cheap disposable razor. I carried this habit forward until a few years ago when an article changed my view of shaving.
I used to view shaving as a chore. I wanted to get it over with as soon as possible. But what's the rush? As long as you are going to shave you might as well enjoy it, right? So I shifted my view to one where shaving is an opportunity to take my time to pamper myself and enjoy the experience.
My current shaving regimen can be broken down into three parts:
2. The shave
The pre-shave ritual is all about preparing the face (or whichever area you plan to shave). You know those hot towels you get at a barber shop? I have one of those towel warmers in my bathroom. I wet some towels and turn the warmer on at least an hour or two before I shave to make sure they are nice and hot. I typically use three towels. The first towel is just the warm up on my bare face. Next, I apply pre-shave oil. Pre-shave oil conditions the skin for a smooth glide with the razor and helps the hairs stand up so that they will be cut rather than pulled. I apply a second towel after the pre-shave oil for good measure and because a hot towel just feels darn good.
Another key to a great shave is the type and application of shaving cream. I got rid of the stuff in the aerosol cans. Those creams tend to dry out the skin and they have all these additives that are supposed to help moisturize but they don't. I use old-fashioned shave cream that I put in a bowl and whip up with a little water and a genuine badger hair brush. For some reason badger hair lends itself well to this process. Once I have a nice lather, I use the brush to apply the shave cream to my face in a circular motion. The brush and circular motion further help to draw the hairs straight for a better cut. When you apply shave cream with your hand, you inadvertently pat down the hairs making them more difficult to get a clean cut.
I start with a single-blade safety razor. The blades are cheap, so I use a fresh blade every time. I perform a first pass with-the-grain shave on the whole face. Next, I apply some more pre-shave oil to my neck area that happens to be my sensitive spot. You didn't forget about that third towel did you? I pull out the last towel for one more warm up before the final pass. I apply another layer of shaving cream and use the safety razor for a second pass, against-the-grain everywhere except my neck. I have learned my neck needs special care, so I use the Gillette Power Fusion razor for my neck and any touch-up. Yah the blades are expensive, but in my opinion they edge out all other disposable blades including the new kids Harry's and Dollar Shave Club.
Once I have used the last towel to clean my face of any remaining shave cream, it's time to soothe the skin. I do not use aftershave products that are primarily alcohol-baed because that's a shock to the skin. Alcohol also dehydrates, and what the skin needs most after a shave is soothing hydration. If I have a cut or some bleeding, I will use Witch Hazel, which is a natural astringent. After blotting the affected areas, I will apply an aftershave lotion designed to rehydrate the skin. I clean up all the tools and voila I'm ready to go.
How long does all this take? I've got it down to about 20-25 minutes. Again what's this rush?? I usually shave the night before I travel and can make it through the week. This would be a bit much if you shave every day which I don't. Obviously this show would be tough to take on the road, so I have an electric shaver with me on the road in case I need it.