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

Shaving Prep: Products, Tips and Tools

A key to proper shaving prep is in the products you use. And it's here where the shaving preparation process can start to change for different people. The main thing to keep in mind is that you want something that will protect your skin while you're passing the razor along it. The goal is for the razor to glide smoothly over the surface, taking only hair -- not skin -- with it. Why is this so important? The friction of the blade against your skin is what causes irritation and razor burn. The product (or products) you pick can depend on your skin type and even your hair's texture.

Before we delve into the topic of oils, soaps, creams and gels, let's talk about the shaving brush. If you've ever seen an old Western or a movie set in the 1940s or 1950s, chances are you've seen a shaving brush in action. If you're not recalling such an image, the device is pretty simple -- it's used to lather up and distribute shaving soap or cream. Most experts agree that the best shaving brushes are made of 100 percent badger hair, which does an exceptional job of holding water and can act as an exfoliant [source: Greenberg]. Ladies, pay attention -- brushes aren't just for men. More and more women are starting to incorporate them into their shaving routines and there are women's skin care lines to prove it, including Whish Body and The Art of Shaving for Women [sources: Whish and The Art of Shaving for Women].

Now that you know the benefits of the brush, let's talk about the products to use with (or without) one. Unless you're operating an electric razor, you need to use something to protect your skin while shaving. But first, some people recommend applying a shaving oil prior to this step, insisting that it can help open your pores, soften hair and protect your skin [sources: Whish and The Art of Shaving for Women]. Whether you go for the oil or opt not to try it, definitely don't skip the shaving soap, cream, lotion or gel.

Old-school style shaving soaps have been around for a very long time, and they continue to be used because their high-fat contents provide a good protective layer for your skin. Shaving cream, lotion and gel also provide protection. Pay attention to ingredients and, if you're prone to dry skin, opt for products that don't contain alcohol or other drying agents. Whatever you choose, massage it gently onto your skin. The massage will help stimulate the release of oils from your skin. And there's no need to make yourself resemble a pile of whipped cream -- you only need a thin layer of shaving product against your skin to achieve a smooth shave [source: Lawrence].

Though many of these pre-shaving tips work for everyone, you might want to take special precautions if you have particularly course and/or curly hair. Approximately 30 to 40 percent of African-American men suffer from pseudofolliculitis barbae or PFB -- razor bumps caused by ingrown hairs [source: Gite]. When you shave, your hair is pulled slightly by the razor. Hair that curls back on itself can slip back beneath the skin's surface. It can then have a harder time finding its way back to the surface through the original follicle channel. This process can cause ingrown hairs [source: Lawrence]. To help with this problem, you can buy shaving creams formulated specifically for curly hair. Another tip involves grabbing a pair of tweezers to unravel hairs that are growing back toward your skin. Once you've got the hairs unfurled and heading in the right direction, you can shave them [source: Gite].

To learn more about getting the best shave possible, visit the Web sites below.

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  • Gannon, Chris. "Shaving 301: put down the can of foam." Las Vegas Business Press. December 4, 2006. Accessed online via MasterFILE Premier, EBSCOhost (Accessed 10/2/09).
  • Gite, Lloyd. "How to take the bumps out of shaving." Heart & Soul. June 1996. Accessed online via MasterFILE Premier, EBSCOhost (Accessed 10/2/09).
  • Greenberg, Corey. "How to Get That Perfect Shave: Latest Trends and Products to Avoid Those Nicks and Cuts." Weekend Today. 1/30/05. (Accessed 9/5/09)http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6886845/
  • Lawrence, Star. "Getting a Close Shave: Experts Share Tips About the Best Way for Men and Women to Shave Off Unwanted Hair." WebMD. 2005. (Accessed 9/5/09)http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=53571
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