For men, shaving is a rite of passage. . . that I never learned. Each attempt at it always left me with an assortment of cuts all about my face—and once on the back of my ear! Even when I did manage to get all the hair off my face, I was left with such razor burn that I’d missed far too many important events because the bottom half of my face glowed an angry red.
I finally settled on a routine of seeing my barber once a week. I was fortunate in that a five o’clock shadow usually took three days to grow; however, a recent uptick in the growth of my beard and mustache demanded I learn how to shave myself.
I enlisted the help of a barber from The Art of Shaving®. John Rivera (@theNYBarber on Instagram) is a master barber who spent two years as an apprentice before being licensed by the state. The Long Island native cuts hair in Art’s hybrid store on Manhattan’s Upper West side, which combines retail space with a barber shop in the rear of the store, separated by an austere glass door.
Rivera simplified shaving into four steps, highlighting key points important to men who have coarse facial hair, namely men of color.
- Pre-Shave: While shaving commercials on television highlight the ease of a 5-min shave in the shower, Rivera says a pre-shave procedure is important to ensure a clean shave. Using a pre-shave oil lubricates the skin to help your razor glide. Wet the face with hot water to open pores and soften the beard.
- Lather: Rivera explains that using a brush to lather exfoliates the skin; however, he says using your hands to lather allows a man to find the direction in which his hair grows. If you’re a novice, like me, use your hands until you learn the way your hair grows.
- Shave: For most men, a two-pass system is recommended: first, shave in the direction your hair grows, applying gentle pressure on the blade with the fingertip against the razor’s head. Re-lather and shave against the grain if you’re seeking a closer shave. For men of color, Rivera warns that shaving against the grain usually leads to razor bumps. If you find that the first pass wasn’t close enough, he says one more pass with the grain should do it. Don’t tempt fate with more than two! Selecting a razor: Rivera suggests a single-blade razor with this method of shaving, and he explains that commercial razors with three and five blades are for the unskilled and those pressed for time, as the extra blades work as a second and third pass. Again, he warns this may cut too close for men of color.
- Moisturize: To finish off the shave, wash face with cold water (to close pores) and pat dry. Do not apply alcohol! Rivera says the drying properties of alcohol could irritate the skin and that barber shops usually slap on the pain to ensure the death of germs and bacteria. Skip the alcohol and reach for a moisturizer instead! He recommends an overnight moisturizer for coarse or curly hair, as it helps keep the pores open so the hair can grow through and not curl back on itself, which causes razor bumps.
John’s shave took about 40 minutes and there were a few extras thrown in that you can expect on a visit to the barbershop (e.g. hot towels with lemon and lavender essence oils). On your wedding day, the extra steps could not only ensure a “perfect shave,” the few extra minutes could be used to calm jittery nerves. Or you, too, could enlist the help of a master barber at The Art of Shaving®, especially if you have my luck with shaving.