A scientist's guide to life: How to have the ultimate shave © Luca Zarantonello

A scientist’s guide to life: How to have the ultimate shave

Fed up of nicks, cuts and rashes? This month, Dr Mary Sommerlad from the British Association of Dermatologists explains how to have the ultimate shave.

Wet shaving is recommended

Dry shaving with an electric razor is good if you’re trying to maintain stubble or have a history of ingrown hairs, but if you’re after a clean, smooth shave, then wet shaving is the way to go. To avoid irritation, keep the blade clean and sharp, so if it’s disposable, change it regularly.

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Five blades aren’t necessarily better than two…

…But a razor with multiple blades might help you reach some of the less accessible areas of your face more easily, such as under your jaw. It’s about being able to move the tool around your face without having to keep changing your position.

Moisturise and exfoliate

Moisturise regularly to avoid dryness. Choose a product that nourishes the skin barrier and suits your skin type, and use a liquid exfoliator every day. Exfoliators remove dead skin cells and help open up hair follicles – particularly helpful if you’re prone to ingrown hairs.

Preparation is everything

Wash, exfoliate and moisturise the night before, then, in the morning, gently cleanse your face. Avoid scrubbing as this can cause inflammation. Next, place a clean, warm, damp cloth on your face for a few minutes. This helps open up the follicles and makes for a closer shave. After that, apply a shaving cream or balm, to reduce the drag of the razor against your skin.

Take time with the main event

Be methodical. Start on one side and work your way across. Rinse the razor after every stroke. I recommend shaving in the direction of hair growth – downwards for most people.

Need to know…

  1. Your nan was wrong: your hair won’t grow back thicker, coarser or darker if you shave it.
  2. Keep shaved skin happy by moisturising often and applying a liquid exfoliator to remove dead skin cells.
  3. Although this advice is given in regard to faces, it’s just as applicable to armpits, legs, chests and… elsewhere.

Take care with the aftershave

When you’ve finished shaving, rinse off any remaining product and apply your moisturiser. If you’re going to use aftershave, don’t slap it on your face like they do in the films; apply it gently, after rubbing some into your hands. Aftershave doesn’t prevent you from getting ingrown hairs and the alcohol can really sting.

Expensive products aren’t necessarily better than cheaper ones

More expensive products don’t always contain more expensive ingredients. You’re often paying for the packaging and the marketing. That said, cheaper products are sometimes bulked out with ‘filler’ ingredients.

If you’re looking for a liquid exfoliator, make sure that glycolic acid is listed in the first six ingredients. Similarly, if you’re after a moisturiser, look for ingredients like shea butter, glycerine and hyaluronic acid near the top of the list.

Male and female shaving products are the same

The only difference is the price. Studies have shown the existence of a gender-based price discrimination, or ‘pink tax’, where certain products aimed at women cost more than those designed for men.

Read more from A Scientist’s Guide to Life:

Be kind to nicks and cuts

They happen. Just don’t go sticking bits of toilet paper to your face, as they dry and stick. Instead, apply pressure to the area if needed, then dab on a little barrier cream. Creams that contain vitamin B5 or ‘panthenol’ are good. Then moisturise on top. Cuts heal well in a moist environment, so a moisturiser aids the process.

Shaven hair does not grow back thicker

It’s a myth. The hair remains exactly the same thickness. All that happens is that the tips of the hair can look blunter, giving the illusion of thicker hair.

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