No disrespect to the old man, but a lot has changed since Pops taught you how to shave with a handful of Barbasol and a Bic disposable. With the latest crop of precision instruments and products—and the proper technique, courtesy of The Art of Shaving’s Thomas Cheung—you can turn the much-hyped “perfect shave” into just another part of your morning routine. Dad would be proud.
Step 1: Time It Right
Shave when your beard is the most hydrated—ideally right after you step out of the shower. “Steam hydrates your beard. When you’re shaving with a razor, you want the growth as soft as possible,” says Cheung. Start by applying a pre-shave solution or scrub—Cheung recommends The Art of Shaving Ocean Kelp Pre-Shave Gel ($25, theartofshaving.com). John Allan’s Slick Water Pre-shave Solution ($30, johnallans.com) is another option we love, with a superslick consistency. If you’re in a rush, the Every Man Jack Signature Mint Face Scrub ($6, everymanjack.com) will wash your face at the same time.
Step 2: Lather Up
Top-notch shaving cream is glycerin based and produces a rich lather. Glycerin “pushes water into the hair, making it swell up and easy to shave,” says Cheung. If you want to shave in the shower, Edge Body Renew Face & Body Shave Cream ($7, edgeshave.com) will cling to your skin while water washes over you. If you attract nicks, Nivea Men’s Sensitive Shaving Cream ($5, drugstore.com) provides soothing moisture without any drying alcohols.
Step 3: Mow-Town
When shopping around for a cartridge razor, pay attention to the handle, particularly the weight—an instrument with a heavier grip, like Harry’s The Winston ($20, harrys.com), will help you achieve even strokes. If you’re battling thicker stubble, opt for the industrial-strength power of the Gillette Fusion ProGlide ($13, gillette.com), or the Schick Hydro 5 ($14, schickhydro.com), whose four-blade cartridges will have your beard wondering why it even bothered growing in the first place. First shave with the grain, then lather up again and go against it (it’s cool, trust us). The second step isn’t for everyone, though. “For those with curly hair,” Cheung explains, “when you shave against the grain on the second pass, [hairs] can get under the skin,” causing ingrown hairs. If time is of the essence, rely on an electric razor like the Philips Norelco Shaver 4100 ($70, usa.philips.com) to get you out the door faster; if your style involves some detailing, we recommend the Conair i-Stubble facial trimmer
Step 4: Close Up Shop
Whatever you do, don’t skip the after-shave solution. It closes the pores (preventing them from filling up with dirt and grime throughout the day) and acts as a protective barrier. “You’ve pretty much taken off a micro layer of skin, so you want to protect yourself from the elements,” Cheung says. “I like balms because they don’t have alcohol.” Check out Kiehl’s Ultimate Men’s After-Shave Balm ($18, kiehls.com), and be sure to apply it evenly to the area you just shaved.