As I sit in my backyard this cloudy autumn morning, with my dog Rusty excitedly waiting for me to throw his ball once again, I find myself pondering some of life’s bigger questions. What is the best way to prepare before shaving? Should I use a pre-shave oil, a pre-shave cream, or nothing at all?
Now, I know what you’re thinking. Wondering what to do before applying the blade to your face isn’t right up there with the meaning of life, and the beginning of the universe. But unless you proudly own a beautifully maintained (or not) beard, you’ll face the prospect of regular shaving.
If you or I make it to 80 years of age (and I pray that we do 😉), we are going to conservatively spend in excess of 1,700 hours of our life lathering up, and gliding a razor over our face. So men, if we are going to spend that much time dedicated to making ourselves handsome, we may as well make the experience as pleasant as possible.
What does Pre-shave mean?
When I first started classic shaving, I found that blokes in the know used the term “pre-shave” to describe a couple of things. They colloquially used the term to refer to both the product, and the process.
A pre-shave product can come in the form of a soap, gel, oil or cream. And the aim of this is to soften your beard, and lubricate your face enough to allow your blade easy passage through a sea of normally resilient whiskers.
Before I dive into the routine that I enjoy prior to shaving, I want to let you gents out there know that on occasion, I will use something like Proraso Pre-Shave. Generally though, I don’t use any pre-shave products. And the process that I’ll outline later will reflect that.
I’m not suggesting that I haven’t used pre-shave products in the past, what I am saying though is that at the moment, my pre-shave routine does enough to get my stubble ready for shaving.
As far as pre-shave products go, I’ve tried commercial offerings as well as natural alternatives.
A commercial product I’ve used as part of my shaving preparation is Proraso Pre-shave Cream. Which, as I side note makes an excellent, and always anticipated addition to my post-shave routine.
Personally, I didn’t find that it offered any extra benefit to my results. I applied it on a number of occasions, but for me, I didn’t notice any perceivable difference to the comfort of my shave. In saying that though, many blokes on various forums find that for them, it makes a significant contribution.
A quick visit to Google will uncover a ton of natural oils and home-made creations that can be included in your pre-shave ritual. I found coconut oil to be fantastic, but it did have its downside. Yes it did offer me an incredibly smooth shave, but it did leave my skin feeling tight for many hours afterwards. Not to mention the lingering (but not unpleasant) smell of coconut. Which of course can create conflict with your chosen aftershave.
I have also used olive oil. Once again this gave me a very smooth shave. It didn’t have the stronger smell of coconut oil, but for me the blade felt like it dragged a little on my face.
Other negatives of using pre-shave oil or cream is that they can be slippery and messy to handle. Also due to their viscosity, many pre-shave products have a tendency to clog up your razor.
Finally, they also add another possibly unnecessary process to your overall shaving routine.
In saying all that, most pre-shave products do what they’re designed to do, which is help lubricate your face in preparation for shaving.
There are plenty of popular pre-shave products to choose from. If you find that your whiskers feel particularly resistant as you shave, or you have a particularly thick beard, one of these options might just be the ticket for a smoother shave.
A couple of points on that though. If you are just getting into wet shaving, and experiencing an uncomfortable experience, you might want to also look at the quality of your tools.
Another thing that may contribute to slight tugging is cold water shaving. Although it has plenty of benefits; invigorating and helpful for those men with sensitive skin, the cold water encourages your skin to contract. Making your whiskers stand up more, causing some men to feel a little more resistance as the razor slices through the hair.
As the title alludes to, this includes all of the steps that you and I take to prepare your visage for the first pass of the blade.
If you ask 10 wet shavers what steps they take prior to shaving, you’ll get 10 different answers.
There is no right or wrong answer here. At the end of the day, you need to undertake the best pre-shave routine for you.
“Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”
When Abraham Lincoln gave us this quote, he was trying to convey an important truth that will serve us well in all areas of our life. If you take time to prepare well, it will make the task at hand a whole lot easier.
Regardless of how you prepare your face for shaving, we need to remember why we’re doing it. The sole purpose of a pre-shave routine is to ready your face and beard for the upcoming razor onslaught.
Having a shower is a great way to soften your whiskers and prepare your face for shaving. Water is of course the best hydrating agent available. The warm water and steam will moisten your face and start becoming absorbed by your hair.
The other advantage of showering before you shave is time. We blokes aren’t renowned for being able to do two things at once. This however, is one instance where we can do just that. Preparing your face has never been so easy.
My Pre-shave Routine
As I mentioned earlier, every man’s preparation will vary. The process I’m going to suggest is assuming that you haven’t showered beforehand. So my friends, a bit more care (and time) will need to be dedicated to your pre-shave process.
This shaving preparation is used by many gents in varying forms, to get their face ready for a comfortable, precise shave. I believe that if you find something that works, it’s not necessary to reinvent the wheel. It is a wonderful pre-shave routine that will suit every bloke and beard thickness.
And the best news! This process is simple and effective. Just what you need at the beginning of a busy day…or the end of a tiring one.
A caveat just before I begin. If the minimalist in you enjoys shaving with cold water, use that in place of warm or hot water where necessary.
While your shaving brush is soaking, splash warm to hot water over your face and neck.
Create your normal lather (enough for your usual number of passes plus one extra) using your desired soap or cream. Load your brush and apply it to your face.
Using your fingertips, liberally massage the shaving soap or cream into your whiskers for 1 minute.
Run a face washer or small towel under hot water, and place it directly to your lathered beard for 2 minutes.
Before removing the face washer, rub it over your face and neck to help lift the hair.
Splash warm to hot water on your face. With your brush, use a circular motion to massage shaving soap or cream into your whiskers for 30 to 60 seconds.
Finally, use another 30 to 60 seconds to use your shaving brush like a painter. Liberally layer your face and neck with a good coating of lather, ready for your first pass.
Although my preparation times are a little quicker, and well suited to me, Geofatboy from Shave Nation gives a great demonstration of this pre-shave process.
That’s all there is to it men. A simple pre-shave routine that will perfectly prepare you for that first glorious stroke of your blade.
What is your pre-shave routine? I’d love to hear what works for you. Let me know in the comments below.
Time to get your shave on! 😉