The best way to get a good shave is to prepare the skin. By this I mean that it has to be clean, damp and moist. This will soften the beard hairs, making them easier to cut and also relax the skin so that there is minimal resistance while shaving. Clean skin allows the razor to glide effortlessly over the area to be shaved. And the one way to make all of these conditions happen is to shave right after you come out of the shower. These three conditions are optimized because the amount of time used to take it, usually 10 to 15 minutes. It is the perfect solution. Try it - it really does work very well.
For a comfortable, close shave, soft whiskers cut more easily than dry whiskers. This is why barbers wrap a hot towel around your face when you get a straight razor shave. The heat and water combination softens your beard and makes it ready for shaving. You can replicate the barbershop experience by soaking a towel in hot water, wringing it out, and placing it on your face for a few minutes.
When it comes to wet shaving there are no absolute rules. Generally, men will do just about anything they can to achieve a close and comfortable shave.
STEP 2 - LATHER UP
Place a small amount of shaving cream into your mug. If you're using shaving soap, put the soap cake at the bottom of the mug. Soak your brush in hot water and shake off any excess water off of the brush. With the brush, mix the cream/soap thoroughly, using a combined stirring and churning motion until a thick lather appears and apply it generously to your face. The more you rub the brush on the cream, the thicker the lather. Apply the lather to your face with your brush in swirling motions. Ensure that lather gets up under every single whisker. When you've covered your face completely, take a few strokes to even everything out. As for the shaving brush, almost any one will do a good job but there are some types of brushes that are superior to all others. These are usually made of silver tip badger's hair.
Rinse your face off with warm water. This will easily disolve and rinse away any leftover shaving cream. A cool water rinse after this will close your pores. At this point, you may also choose to use to moisturize your skin and close the pores with a good aftershave balm. This type of finish is good for everyday use. On special occasions, you can splash a manly smelling aftershave (this contains more alcohol hence more irritation to the skin). Even better is cologne as it contains even less alcohol.
DEALING WITH NICKS AND CUTS
Cuts and nicks happen for several reasons, such as: (1) Using a dull razor (2) Holding the razor improperly (3) Shaving with a razor that's too hollow (4) Shaving in too great a hurry (5) Shaving against the grain. When you first start out with a straight razor, you're almost guaranteed to cut yourself. Don't let this dismay you. Cuts happen to even the best of us. Just keep trying and you'll get the hang of it. You can stop most minor cuts and nicks by simply pressing the cut together while adding pressure. If that doesn't work, take a syptic pencil to the cut or use a product called "Nick Relief" which is basically a powdered form of a styptic pencil.
HOW TO HOLD A STRAIGHT RAZOR
For first time straight razor shavers, a big question looming on their minds is: "How in the heck do I hold this thing?" Advanced straight razor shavers change up grips depending on whether they're shaving with, across, or against the grain or if they're shaving a certain part of their face. For the beginner, I would suggest this basic grip: Rest the first three fingers on the back of the blade. Rest your pinkie on the blade's tang. Place your thumb on the side of the blade near the middle. This grip gives you nice control of the razor. You may have to adjust it when you shave different parts of your face, like your upper lip or your jaw. Everyone has their personal preference when it comes to technique. As you gain experience, you'll find yourself changing things up to suit your preference. If a particular way to shave with a straight razor works for you, then use it.
The shave is always started going with the grain of your beard. If you have ever watched an experienced barber they will apply lather and as they begin to shave they rub their hand over the beard to determine the direction in which it grows. This only makes sense. Barbers use three strokes that are commonly used in all shaving: down hand (Freehand), Reverse Freehand and Backstroke.
SHAVING GUIDE - SHORT VERSION
Begin with slow, even strokes and shave in the direction of your beard growth. Shaving against the grain can cause ingrown hairs and razor bumps. Hold the blade at a 30-degree angle. Anything more and you risk cutting yourself; anything less and you won't remove much beard.
The Right Side
Start off by shaving the right side of your face. Reach over your head with your left hand and draw the skin upward with your fingers, thus making a smooth shaving surface. Shave downward until you clear about half the right cheek. Slide the left hand down further until the fingers rest in the middle of the cheek. Pull the skin upward. Continue shaving downward until you shave the entire right side of the face.
Right Side Under Your Jaw
After shaving the right cheek, move on to the right jaw. Tilt your head back and to the left, exposing the skin under your right jaw. With the fingers of your left hand, draw the skin tight under the jaw. Shave downward if the beard grows in that direction.
The Left Side
Many right handed shavers switch hands to shave the left side of their face. Personally, I don't trust the dexterity and touch in my left hand to make the switch. So I continue using my right hand to shave. Place the fingers of your left hand in front of and just above the ear. Pull upward on the skin so as to draw the skin taut. With the razor in your right hand, toe pointing upward, reach across the face, and shave downward. Walk your left fingers down as you get to the lower part of the cheek and chin. Keep pulling the skin taut.
Left Side Under the Jaw
Tilt your head back and to the right, exposing the skin under your left jaw. Pull the skin downward with your left hand and shave with the grain. Shave the Upper Lip Draw the upper lip down as much as possible to tighten skin. Shave downwards.
Draw your lower lip up as much as possible. This will pull the skin tight, making it easier to shave the whiskers underneath your lip and on your chin. Shaving Under the Chin Throw your head back and elevate the chin. With your left fingers , draw skin downward. Take extra care as you shave. The skin under the neck is much more sensitive and prone to cutting. Important Note: Always wear a sweet vest (towel around the neckline) when shaving with a straight razor. Should I do multiple passes? If you want that smooth as a baby's behind look, you'll have to do multiple passes with the razor going across and against the grain. For the beginner, I recommend just going over your face again with a downward stroke.
Shaving against the Grain
This involves shaving against the direction your beard grows. It's basically the reverse of shaving downward. If you decide to do multiple passes, the sequence goes thusly: 1. Shave with the grain. 2. Shave across the grain. 3. Shave against the grain. Before each pass, wash your face off and re-lather.Shaving across and against the grain increases the chances of cutting yourself. After you gain some experience with your straight razor, you can try adding an across the grain and against the grain pass. An across the grain pass is when you shave in the direction perpendicular to that which the beard grows. So if your whiskers grow downward on your cheek, you'll shave across your cheek from right to left or left to right.
It is generally recommended to shave with or across the grain of the beard, but not directly against it. Shaving against the grain is normally known as "close shaving" and can potentially lead to razor burn and in-grown hairs but it does provide a much better and closer shave. When first start using your straight razor, I recommend not shaving against the grain, as the razor will provide a LOT more feedback than you may be used to, and if not confident in the strokes on your face against the grain, or in your abilities the razor may "hop" around on your face a bit and cut/irritate you. Shaving against the grain is nothing difficult if you have a sharp enough razor - but for the first few shaves, I would suggest keeping it simple as this method requires alot more experience and a much tighter control of the shaving angle and a lighter touch..
Some men find that their skin can tolerate shaving against the grain, but only after shaving with the grain first. This process will be easier since most of the stubble has been removed when you went with the grain. Glide the razor gently over the skin, holding the skin taut with the free hand. Keep the razor well-rinsed to avoid clogging the blade and apply more water if necessary. Repeat a second time if necessary.
Often, it can be hard for beginners to tell if their razor is cutting, and cutting well. Sometimes, it can be tricky to tell if the razor is cutting evenly as well (the razor could have been improperly honed and dull in one area) to check and see how well, if at all the razor is cutting, feeling ones face in the middle of a shave is difficult and messy, and what's more - it can be difficult to notice one area not being cut as effectively as another merely by touch. A neat, quick and easy way to find out how well your razor is cutting, and in different parts of the blade is to very lightly wipe some of the lather off of the blade in whatever spot you think might not be cutting well, or in any spot (if you don't think you have the right angle, and it's not cutting well) after you have taken a few strokes on your face and accumulated lather. What you'll see on your hand is how much (if any) hair is being cut off of your face. This can be helpful when honing or when you run into problematic blades.