There are nearly countless choices awaiting you in the personal hygiene aisle of your supermarket or pharmacy. Once you've chosen the razor that's right for you (and there are plenty of options), the other big choice comes down to what kind of shaving cream you'll use.
Besides making a man look like a foamy Saint Bernard, shaving cream (or any other shaving lubricant) has a couple of important purposes. Primarily, it helps soften the hair. That's why you should take a few minutes after wetting your face to massage the shaving cream into the hair you're about to shave. Shaving cream also helps the razor glide over the face without digging into or nicking the skin.
There are a number of shaving lubricants from which you can choose: shaving cream, shaving gel, shaving oil, shaving soap (the old-school method that requires a shaving brush) and shaving lotion. You may want to try them all until you find one that works best for you. But remember: The lather isn't terribly important. Anything that's not directly on the hair won't be of much consequence, so the ability to make a huge foamy layer should be low on the scale of importance when it comes to picking a shaving cream.
If you have dry skin, glycerin-based shaving lubricants will help the razor pass over your skin without nicking it and without drying it out. Because additives such as fragrance may irritate sensitive skin, you should look for shaving creams that contain skin-soothers such as coconut, aloe or vitamin E.
If your skin feels taut or stings after you shave, you may want to switch to a shaving lubricant that doesn't contain alcohol, which many do. The alcohol dries out your skin and can make it feel tight. Applying shaving oil to your hair and skin before applying other shaving lubricants can make for a smoother shave and reduce the likelihood of both cuts and dried-out skin.
It may take a little trial-and-error -- and a willingness to spend a few extra dollars on your personal hygiene -- but the added effort will pay off when you find the best shaving cream for you that creates a close, smooth, soft shave.
See the next section for lots more information about shaving.