The average man has more than 25,000 hairs as hard as copper wire coming out
of his face and spends 3,000 hours in his lifetime shaving them off.
The Egyptians were the first to do it — to bathe several times a day and
remove body hair, sometimes with a clam shell. (What is the Egyptian word for
“ouch”?) But even though men have been shaving for thousands of years, a lot of
us are still pretty bad at it. And despite wondrous breakthroughs in shaving
technology — Waterproof cordless electric shavers! Four-bladed razors! — many
guys still go to work with stubble and razor burn and bits of tissue staunching
their daily shaving wounds. So what are we doing wrong? WebMD turned to some
shaving experts to find out.
Terry Waters, a former college wrestler and baseball player, loved working out. He got real pleasure out of pushing himself hard at the gym, and he liked the feeling of tired but virtuous afterwards. He figured regular physical activity and its health benefits would always be a part of his life.
Then came marriage, three kids, a demanding job as a software engineer in Boston — and a thousand and one excuses not to make it to the gym. “For a little while, you convince yourself you’re still in pretty...
Roxanne Griego, administrator and director of the Arizona Board of Barbers,
has been a barber for 32 years and followed her father and grandfather into the
profession. The first step in shaving, she tells WebMD, is to prepare the
surface of the skin. “You want to remove the hair while preserving the skin's
integrity,” she says. “Massaging in the cream or shaving soap plumps up the
muscle called the erector pili, which pushes the hair up, kind of like
gooseflesh. This also releases skin-softening oils from underneath the skin.
What you want is to push the hair up and soften it so you can cut it off in one
A lot of people, she adds, don't follow the instructions on the creams or
soaps, or the creams and soaps do not have adequate instructions. You need to
heat the skin and then massage in the soap. “Work it in, form an emulsion,” she
“Shaving in the shower is good,” says David E. Bank, MD, director of the
Center for Dermatology, Cosmetic and Laser Surgery in Mount Kisco, NY. “Keep
the water on the warmer side. You can even put a hot, wet towel over your face
for a few minutes — like in those Westerns, where guys sit in the barber chair
under a towel.”
Choosing the best shaving cream, the best razors
Bank prefers a gel to a shaving cream. Cheaper soaps lather up and it's the
layer of soap next to the skin that counts, not how mounded-up it is. “Gels are
more toning,” Bank says.
Some people use a badger-hair brush to moisten the cream and spread it
around. “I say if you like it and it doesn't hurt you, fine,” Bank says of
expensive (often British) shaving products. “Remember,” he says, “price does
not necessarily translate to better quality.”
Griego notes also that barbers cannot use badger-hair brushes because they
can hold bacteria that can infect subsequent customers. If you use one with an
accompanying solid soap, replace the brush when the soap is gone.