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what is a guy to do?

Hello shaving gurus! My name is Ryan- I'm a student from Canada, and I really need advice!

No matter what I do, I can’t seem to get a really close shave. Perhaps I should provide a bit of a description?

Firstly, I have terrible facial hair. Its sort of scraggly or patchy- only in any concentration on my upper lip, chin, and the middle of my cheeks. However, what facial hair I do have seems to be quite coarse and tough, and likes growing in every which direction.

Because it is patchy and dark in colour- I really need a smooth shave. Any stubble at all looks ridiculous in the dark patches- but the nature of the hair makes it very difficult to shave.

At present, I exfoliate my face twice a day, one in the morning and once in the evening. Before I get in the shower, I shave with a Panasonic Linear electric- which I basically mash into my cheeks, as I also have fairly uneven skin- and I can get closer this way than I can with a blade. Then I shower and wash my face while my brush is soaking, and my bowl is heating up- afterwards I shave with a Merkur Vision.

Shaving down my face (cheek to throat) seems totally ineffective, and only serves to shorten my beard so that the blade doesn’t grab so much against the grain. Then I do at least three more passes, two at a sort of a 45 degree angle against the grain in either direction, and at least one pass directly against the prevailing grain.

This procedure- which takes ages, leaves me with only a mediocre shave in the morning- and by the afternoon it looks and feels like hell. At the moment I’m shaving 2-3 times a day just to keep my face sorta smooth, and that causes quite a bit of irritation. For the record, I’ve also let my face ‘rest’, and tried only shaving once in the morning, and only with a blade. Is there anything else I can do? I’m seriously considering months of electrolysis if I can’t find a better solution.

more experienced guys will be of more help than I but I wouldnt discount the reduction you're doing while shaving with the grain. That shortening of the beard before cross and against the grain passes dramatically reduces pulling and irritation. You may want to even try another with the grain pass before you start your cross passes. other than that id say take a long hard look at the direction your hair grows and attack them at the various directions but still in order, ie with the grain (try 2 passes), cross grain, half cross half against (like the 45degree angle you describe) and then finish against.

after all that it seems tough to imagine youre only left with a mediocre shave unless your blade isnt sharp but id imagine if that were the case you would have described more irritation.

edit- id try all of this without using the electric you have, let the multiple with grain passes serve the purpose of reduction
Yours is a complex question that probably doesn’t have a simple answer. I don't doubt that you have a difficult beard to deal with but it sounds like you are taking the bull-in-the-china-shop approach. I am no skin expert, but exfoliating twice a day is too much. It is usually recommended only a couple of times per week, and then not on your beard area. Shaving takes care of that for you.

Second, shaving more than once per day can be very harsh. Some guys can pull it off but for most of us, one shave a day, done right, is all that is needed. Multiple shaves along with exfoliation can really beat the hell out of your skin. How can you get a good shave if your face is borderline traumatized?

One of the biggest wet shaving principles is reduction. That means bringing your beard down in stages rather than trying to shave skin close right from the get go. It sounds like you are trying to accomplish that with your electric razor. If it works for you and you enjoy using it, continue to do so, but as we all know an electric razor will not shave skin close if you have any kind of substantial beard.

As far as the actual blade shave goes, I am not a big fan of wasted motion. If a particular type of pass does not remove hair, then don't do it. If a straight N/S pass serves no purpose other than to abrade your skin then try a transverse pass that goes across your face. Once the transverse pass has done its job then move to a pass that goes upward. Ultimately I would suggest focusing on the blade portion of your shave, develop some questions, and then come back here and continue to ask.

Also, don't be too critical of your own appearance. We shavers tend to be perfectionists and want to eradicate every hair we see with our noses pressed against the mirror. That is certainly a noble goal, but the outside world can not see minor amounts of stubble. It is better to have a slight amount of stubble and intact skin then a face that looks like it was attacked by a cheese-grater.
When I was an adolescent, I was looking through this big, glossy, coffee-table, photo book with super-magnified pictures of everyday creatures and objects. The idea was to guess what you were looking at. After you turned the page it would have the non-magnified version of the photo, much to the delight of bored, stupid coffee-table-crouched readers like myself.

Anyway, there were two photographs that I'll never forget. Both were close-ups of a different unshaven 40-yr-old man's face. The first guy had shaven with an electric shaver for his entire adult life. The second, used a regular razor (the make and model of which I now wish I knew).

What impressed me about those detailed pics were the extreme directional differences in hair growth. The regular razor guy had what appeared to be normal stubble with individual hairs all pointing straight out or down. The electric razor guy, on the other hand, had a twisted, multi-directional, matted stubble which swirled from his face like a tornado ravaged swamp-forest or the shaven belly of a mangy cur.

Now, I don't know if a lifetime of shaving actually trains the hairs on your face to grow in a certain way or direction, but I do know that those two pictures have kept me from ever using one of those tri-blade spinning braun's or norelco's.

I completely agree that you're over-exfoliating your face. And I suspect that a gentle face wash, a good badger brush and a quality shaving cream might give you better results.

Read through the many posts. Give a different safety razor a try. And above all, avoid oversized, impressionable books with food stains and sneaky photographs.
Thanks very much for the advice!

I can see that I've got some more experimenting to do. I will start by cutting back on exfoliating, and forgoe the electric pre-shave entirely- sticking with just the brush and blade.

Thanks again!

Hi Ryan,

You have already gotten some good advice. Axe the exfoliation. Shaving is exfoliation enough. I exfoliate (mostly because I enjoy it) maybe once a week.

Second, ditch the electric. It is just getting in the way of you learning proper technique with the DE.

Third, work on your beard prep. Shave after a shower, or use hot towels to get your beard as soft as possible. Use a good quality cream or soap and spend some extra time working that into your whiskers.

Fourth, work on your DE technique. Are you using the proper angle, i.e. handle as parallel to the floor as possible?

BTW, even a perfectly smooth face after shaving will usually leave your face looking dark. Work on feel, not looks.

Last, ask a zillion questions in this forum!

Welcome to B&B..I echo Scotto's sentiments: put the electric in the draw and throw away the cord. :001_smile
When you finally get your technique down, then you'll understand why we say that. If you are "mashing" that electric razor on your face, then that's half your problem right there. Electric razors chew up faces, bad.

Secondly, and I say this at LEAST once a week on here. Prep is everything. Prep prep and more prep makes for that glassy shave you're wanting. If you have a steel wool beard, then you need to spend more time than the average guy getting your face saturated with water. Shave immediately coming out of the shower and even before shaving, douse your face with hot water and even use hot wraps. You want your beard as soft as possible and your pores wide open. This all makes for less drag of the razor, translating into less irritation.

Also, post as much info on here as you can so the shave diagnosticians can help you.
Hi Ryan and Welcome aboard,

I agree with Justso on this...prep is everything and hot wraps work wonders. I've taken to even nuking a cheap plastic pitcher of water in the microwave for about 8 minutes or so and then dumping in a hand towel on the way to the shower. When I get out of the shower, I got a towel that is almost still too hot to grab onto. Flop it into the sink and get rid of some of the excess water and place directly onto my face. Might sound crazy but it works wonders and it feels great.


Welcome to B&B. You have received enough advice to keep you busy for several shaves, so I'm going to hold off for now. Do, however, keep us posted on your progress.
Thanks again to all, for the help!

I am happy to report that using a hot towel has been a revelation. I thought this step would be superfluous after stepping out of a hot shower- not so! This alone has improved my shave more than any other variable I've tried on my face. While and cross grain passes still seem futile, I now get MUCH less resistance shaving against the grain. Yay!

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