While traditionalists wax poetic about a DIY straight razor shave, a sharp blade in the hands of an experienced barber is still the safest, cleanest, and most thorough way to a stubble-free face. Even in this day of unisex salons, there are still a few good barbershops that offer a traditional wet shave. We put Executive Class host David Celdran under the knife to illustrate these five easy steps to the ultimate shave.
1. Lubricate the skin
Applying a hot towel on the face for at least five minutes does the job and opens the pores to loosen the hair follicles. This allows the blade to glide smoothly over the surface of the skin. For sensitive skin and full beards, pre-shave oils and gels can be used to soften the hairs and provide additional lubrication.
2. Lather up
To generate a rich lather, whisk the shaving soap or cream with a traditional badger-hair brush. The richer the lather, the better protected your skin will be and the closer and more comfortable the shave. A good brush and proper lather will help soften the beard and raise the whiskers for better contact with the blade.
3. Determine the grain
Shaving against the grain can cause skin irritations and ingrown hairs. An experienced barber can tell in which direction the hairs on your face grow.
Professional barbers prefer a straight blade or “cut throat” razor over cartridge razors because they are less prone to being clogged with hair. Traditionalists also believe a straight blade provides better hand control for more flexibility when applying strokes over difficult areas like the chin. For an even closer shave, the neck and face are re-lathered and shaved again—this time, very gently against the grain.
5. After-shave care
After shaving, a thin layer of skin is removed—leaving it sensitive and dry. An after-shave balm or cream is applied to soothe and moisturize the freshly-shaved face and neck and nourish the skin.
Photographs by Ena Lopez Terol
This story first appeared on Vault Magazine Issue 2 2011.