Even if you’ve been at it since puberty, the shaving run-down you picked up from your dad probably didn’t include expert tips on the best tools, how to pick gels versus creams, and when to use (not abuse) aftershave. But now’s your chance to play catch up. Ditch the five o’clock shadow for an opportunity to show off a chiseled jaw, and consider this the rule book for your smoothest shear yet.

1. The Schedule

As long as you keep skin moisturized, going after stubble on a daily basis is OK. Bonus: Shaving exfoliates skin and actually keeps it looking fresher. With every scrape, you slough off a layer of dead skin cells—the ones that accumulate more quickly with age and cause skin to look sallow. But if skin starts to look red or irritated, set down the razor for a day or two. And if you notice ingrown hairs (what a dermatologist would deem pseudofolliculitis), it means you’re getting too close—shave in the direction that hair grows to avoid further irritation. 

2. The Blade

Sure, Daniel Craig deemed the classic straightedge Bond’s choice, but an angled multiple-blade razor boasts a few advantages. An angled blade makes it easier to cover all the curves of your face, and additional blades catch annoyingly tiny hairs. Plus, multi-blade razors are easier to use (read: fewer nicks and cuts). For sensitive skin, try an electric razor. It won’t shave as close, but it’s less irritating to skin.

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3. The Right Prep

A quality shave cream or gel is key to a smooth shave. Skip alcohol-based products, which dry out skin, and look for moisturizing ingredients, like glycerin, instead. Chamomile and aloe are also both natural anti-inflammatories that calm and hydrate skin.  Also look for earthy products that contain marshmallow, green tea, calendula, and evening primrose extracts--all help ease minor cuts and fight razor burn, irritation, and itchiness.

Picking the right product for your skin type also keeps your face at its softest (and prevents redness or irritation).

  • Guys with sensitive or dry skin should pick shave gels, which are more hydrating than creams. 
  • Guys with oily skin should go for creams—their richer lather protects skin and allows blades to get closer to skin. 
  • Guys with normal skin are good with either gels or creams. Just look for those moisturizing ingredients.

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4. The Technique

Shaving after a hot shower is best since steam opens up pores and softens coarse hairs, two things that make for an overall smoother shave. Use warm to hot water to lather up your cream or gel. Then use long, even strokes to move the razor  in the direction of hair growth—this is the best tactic  for preventing razor burn and ingrown hairs. To finish off an extra-close shave, re-lather your face and gently shave against the grain. Think slow and steady to prevent cuts.
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5. The Aftershave

To maintain that just-shaved smoothness past 11 AM, follow up a razor session with a moisturizing aftershave. To reduce redness and irritation, look for one that contains aloe. Apply the product when skin is still damp so it locks in moisture. If you notice irritation, use an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream. It’s safe to use on your face, and cuts down on the inflammation that causes redness. 

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6. The Clean-Up

Reusing blades too many times gives bacteria and mold time to grow, and you might wind up with staph, strep or fungal infections on your grooming tools—gross. Replace disposable razor blades every week and clean electric razors with alcohol after each use.