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Men's Health

Getting a Close Shave

Experts share tips on how guys can get the smoothest — and least painful — shave possible
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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.

Griego prefers a single-edged blade and thinks double- and triple-edged razors can irritate the skin. “If you've prepared the skin, all you need is a single,” she says.

Bank agrees, saying he doesn't think multiple blades make much of a difference. In any case, the blade should be sharp.

Griego and Banks point out that there are special shaving creams for African-Americans. “African-American hair is curlier, more coiled,” Bank says. “If it's pulled up with the razor and then slips beneath the skin again, it may not find a straight channel out of the follicle and pierce the side of the channel, re-growing or turning back on itself.” About half of African-Americans, Bank says, use electric razors. Depilatories to remove hair do not solve the irritation problem.

Fine-tuning your shaving technique

Bank recommends shaving in the direction of hair growth for at least the first one or two passes. “It won't be as close because the hairs are at a 45-degree angle instead of 90 degrees, but it is gentle. You can always do one last pass against the grain.”

Remember, hair grows in different directions on different parts of the face. Slide your hand over your face and neck to see which direction it is growing.

After shaving, rinse with cool water and pat, don't rub, with a towel. Since shaving can remove two layers of skin in addition to whiskers, a balm-like moisturizer rather than a perfumed alcohol-toner type aftershave is recommended. The ones made for guys do not leave a greasy film or make skin shiny.

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