What's the best way to prepare skin for shaving?

Beautiful Skin Image Gallery If she has sensitive skin, she might be sorry she didn’t shave with the grain, instead of against it. See more pictures of getting beautiful skin.
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For millions of people, shaving is a part of their everyday grooming routine. They can all appreciate the soft, smooth feel of a close shave. However, attaining that stubble-free skin can be an irritating affair. But if you take time to ready your skin properly before taking razor in hand, you can avoid the pitfalls of poor preparation. Banish razor burn, razor bumps, nicks and cuts by following a few simple tips.

There are a few pre-shaving techniques that apply to everyone -- no matter who's doing the shaving or where. The first and most important step is to clean your skin thoroughly before you shave. That way, if you do happen to nick yourself, you'll be less likely to get an infection. While you're cleansing your skin, you should determine the direction of growth for the hair you want to target. Contrary to what you might have heard, it's best to shave with the grain (direction of hair growth), not against it. Doing so not only saves your skin from irritation, but it can also keep ingrown hairs at bay. Another thing to consider while cleansing is exfoliation. It can be helpful to exfoliate your skin once or twice a week to remove dead skin to keep pores clear, which can also combat ingrown hair problems.

Next, it's all about hydration. For those who shave in the shower or bath, you have a leg up on the rest of the shaving population, especially if you save the shave until the end of your bathing process. The warm or hot water from your bath or shower softens hair and opens the pores to release the skin's natural oil, which helps protect skin. And men get an added benefit -- hot water relaxes the muscles of the face, making the skin smoother and easier to shave [source: Greenberg, Madaras]. For those who prefer to shave at the sink, you can get similar benefits by placing a warm, wet towel on your skin for a few minutes prior to shaving.

OK, so your pores are open and the area you're about to shave is totally doused in warm water. What's next? Shaving products. Keep reading to find out what shaving-prep products and tools will make you razor ready.