It’s The age-old question in men’s grooming – one that, to a degree, we’ve tackled on Bevel in the past. Still, the debate rages on: to shave against the grain, or not? Common wisdom advocates going with the grain (shaving in the same direction as natural hair growth), but there are solid arguments for going against the grain as well. Today, we’re going to dive into the thick of it to better establish which option works best for a clean, and, more importantly, hassle-free shaving experience.

Avoid Shaving Against the Grain (Seriously)

The primary reason guys shave against the grain is the misconception of attaining a close shave. When you shave against the grain, you pull your hairs back, away from the skin, allowing your razor to get in close, but consequently, this causes the razor to cut beneath your skin, allowing ingrown hairs to arise (which eventually leads to the irritation and razor bumps we all dread).

The complexity of shaving against the grain while avoiding shaving top layers of skin is a bridge far too difficult for most men. If you have coarse or curly hair, you’ll likely get irritation and razor bumps shaving this way. Hairs are pulled up while shaving against the grain and gets cut beneath the skin – when the blade lets go of them, they don’t retract to the exact same position. And consequently, they continue growing into the skin instead of out of the pore. For a closer shave, just complete more passes with the grain, re-lathering before each one. You might also try shaving “across the grain” with extra caution to not go completely “against the grain”.

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Exercising the Proper Technique

To get that close cut, sans irritation, you should start with a page out the playbook of every barber worth their salt — study your hair growth pattern. This step will allow you to find the grain of your beard hairs and, afterward, shave with them to avoid upsetting your skin. Growth patterns can be unique, but in general, the grain will go down the face and up the neck.

With your hair growth mapped out, you’ll proceed as normal. Start by washing your face (warm water and perhaps an exfoliant) to clean away dead skin and dirt. The warm water should also help open your pores. (Additionally, you can use the hot towel treatment to soften up your beard hairs and prep them for shaving, if you so choose.)

Before putting on shave cream, apply a foundational layer of priming oil made with castor and olive oils to soften your hair, making for an easier shave that helps to protect against irritation.

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Next, apply a hydrating shave cream using a brush, which will not only help create a rich lather but will also help to exfoliate skin and create a barrier that allows your razor to cut at skin-level. Using a double-edged safety razor, shave with the grain, remembering to rinse after each stroke to prevent hair from building up.

Go slow with small strokes to minimize irritation, and remember to pat down your face with a dry towel and apply an alcohol-free balm to moisturize your skin. This will keep it from drying up without clogging up pores, and further, minimize the risk of irritation.

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Quick Rewind

To review, these are your major shaving takeaways:

  • Shaving against the grain can give the initial feeling of a close shave, but ultimately increases the chances of ingrown hairs, which eventually lead to irritation and razor bumps.
  • Shaving with the grain, slowly, and in short strokes helps mitigate the problem.
  • Using the right technique and proper safety razor can help provide a close shave while going with the grain.

Keep these factors in mind the next time you need to break out the razor, and there’ll be no doubt that you face will thank you for it.