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What Men Don't Know About Shaving

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Brush Up continued...

How often you must change blades is another good reason to stick with inexpensive single blades rather than three- or five-blade razors, which can be quite costly. The more expensive the blade, the less likely you may be to change them as often as you should.

As for straight razors, Penstein advises leaving those to the pros. "They're much harder to handle and to keep even," he says, "and they're not as safe."

Barber Charles Kirkpatrick says straight razors are a lot harder to use and that it's easy to get hurt with one.

"Some people say it's daring to use it, but I love the word safety, myself," says Kirkpatrick, an executive officer with Barbers International and owner of a barber shop in Arkadelphia, Ark.

Hot and Cold

Another key to a good shave is keeping the skin hot and moist. A great way to do this, Penstein says, is to shave in the shower or just after you get out. At the barbershop, Kirkpatrick piles on hot, moisturized towels to prep the skin and then again during the shave to keep the hairs soft.

One big advantage Kirkpatrick says the pros have over home shavers is the ability to warm their shaving lather. You can buy kits to do this, but Kirkpatrick says they tend to clog when not used often.

Follow your shave with a cold water rinse. "Cold water reduces inflammation. It's like putting a cold compress onto an injury," Penstein says.

Go With the Grain

Penstein and Benabio both recommend shaving with the grain -- that is, in the direction your hair is growing. Though you may get a closer shave if you go against it, you make razor burn or ingrown hairs more likely.

Softening the hair first, as described above, should allow you a close, comfortable shave in one with-the-grain pass. That's ideal, Penstein says.

"The more time you go over an area, the more irritation you'll get," he says.

If you have thick hair, Benabio says, it's particularly important to go with the grain.

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