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To Go Or Not To Go? (Against The Grain)

By Julien Sauvalle

Jeremy, 26, from Sacramento, CA, asks:

"Why do people always say: 'Never shave against the grain'? I do it and nothing bad seems to have happened. What gives?"

There's pros and cons about against the grain, but ultimately it's a matter of knowing your own face. Some guys have a hair pattern that allows them to shave in any direction. For others with a more intricate hair disposition, shaving against the grain can quickly turn into a blood bath.

Shaving against the grain usually gives you a closer shave, but if your hair pattern is tricky, it can also cause painful bumps and ingrown hair. Take some time to study your own pattern: Look at your 5 o'clock shadow and see in which direction your hair grows.

Professional barbers always start by shaving with the grain, then they do a second round shaving sideways. If you can't get a close shave without going against the grain, give it a very careful try. Use your free hand to pull the skin of your face with your fingers, that way the blade will run against an even surface.

It could also help to start using a pre-shave oil before you apply shaving cream, or a shaving oil instead of your regular shaving cream. The Swedish skincare brand REN makes a high-glide Tamanu Shaving Oil ($28, 3.4oz) that works wonders.

Finally, a good rule of thumb for those who, unlike Jeremy, are prone to irritation: Always shave after a hot shower. The warmth opens up the pores and softens the hair. Wrapping a warm towel around your face for a few minutes does the trick too. And my personal tip: Shave before going to bed. It helps post-shave recovery, because your skin regenerates a lot faster at night.

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