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.
By Mehmet C. Oz, M.D.
Because your body thinks you're about to starve. Thousands of years ago,
hunger was a caveman's primary source of anxiety. When food became scarce, his
body coped with the resultant stress by releasing steroids, which were absorbed
by his omentum — a fat reservoir that hangs like an apron over the stomach —
and promoting fat storage. And since your body doesn't know the difference
between a demanding boss and a depleted herd of mastodons, your omentum will do
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.