So you’ve finally made the jump & gotten over those old fears of using a safety razor. Congrats. The question now remains, how to go about achieving that clean, close shave you’ve always wanted? Well to start, it’s time to discover the only map you’ll need for most of your grooming career.

Before we dive in, take a few steps away from the razor, and instead spend 10 minutes mapping your grain. Take the time to do this now, and trust that you’ll thank us later.

But what exactly is ‘with the grain’? Essentially, it all boils down to the direction in which your hairs grows. If you’re prone to irritation or bumps, you always want to shave with the grain (read why here).

This is a crucial step before shaving. Now if you wouldn’t shave without first putting on shaving cream, it’s also best not to shave without first mapping your grain.

Bottom line, given that everyone’s grain is configured differently, it’s still worth the investment simply because your grain map doesn’t change. And once you’ve got it down, you’ve got the key to a smooth, bump free shave for life. Read on for pointers to help you figure out what works.

Lay the Groundwork

  • Make sure your individual hair strands are the right length. It’s best to have 2-3 days of hair growth
  • If they are too short, you won’t be able to tell in which direction they grow
  • If it’s too long, the hair will start to curl and conceal the pattern (If you have a beard, that’s ok! Just trim it down with an electric trimmer and get mapping!).

Map Your Beard

Once you have the right length, take a look in the mirror. You should see individual hairs on your targeted area growing in a very specific direction. This direction is what is called ‘with the grain.’

Your hair likely changes directions across your face, so it’s best to work in five sections: start with your left cheek, then move to the right cheek, underneath your chin, the left side of your neck, and finally the right side of your neck.

Establish Your Beard Pattern

Once you have an idea of which direction your hair grows, rub each section with a credit card or a few index fingers to confirm. If you’re rubbing with the grain, it will feel like you’re smoothing your hair down. If you’re rubbing against the grain, you’ll feel your hair lifting up. So if the hairs on your cheek are growing top to bottom, you should feel the hairs smoothing out when you rub in this direction.

When you rub in the opposite direction, bottom to top, you may feel the hair lifting up (again, do not shave in this direction). Remember, it’s possible your hair is growing vertically, horizontally, and/or diagonally, so it’s important to be thorough.

It often helps to take several close up pictures so you can see your hair from a clear, straight-forward angle to confirm which direction you should shave. When looking at the pictures, notice where the hair starts to grow out of the skin and in which direction they’re growing. Take a look at these sample pictures for a better idea of what we mean.

Bevel Pro Tips // How To Take The Best Grain Photos

  • Have someone else take your photos.
  • Do not use the front facing camera on your cellphone.
  • Pay attention to your focus. If you zoom into the image, you should see your individual hairs sharply in focus.
  • Use natural light. You want to make sure light is even on your face when you photograph yourself. Shoot during the daytime and face a window (instead of having your back to the window)
  • Your photo should be a close up of your face, not a cropped image of you from far away. Only the section you are focusing on should be in the image.
  • Make your photo the highest resolution possible.
  • Exfoliate before you take the images. If your hairs are trapped underneath the surface of your skin, you won’t be able to tell which end is the root and which is the tip.