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Pre-shave prep

Pre-Shave Prep or Pre-Shave Preparations are the actions taken prior to executing the actual mechanism of shaving. The purpose of these actions will vary at least slightly between the individuals executing them, however, a general purpose that is common to all shavers is that of conditioning the beard hairs for the easiest or most efficient removal. Along with this, one may need/desire to also take measures to better prepare the skin for repeated contact with a sharp blade.

Skin-type, thickness of hairs, and density of growth will greatly determine the necessity and effectiveness of any pre-shave activities. These factors should also serve to guide an individual as they choose the methods that will best prepare them for the shave.

Why Pre-Shave Prep

Indeed an important question to answer in understanding pre-shave preparations is why they are necessary. Better understanding of this can be found through better understanding of the hairs that you will be attempting to remove.

Understanding Hair

The shaft, or part of the hair
that protrudes from the skin, is composed of three parts or layers. The inner two layers are called the cortex and the medulla. The outermost layer, which holds the greatest relevance to this topic, is called the cuticle.

The cuticle is a hard, shingle-like layer of overlapping cells, very similar in comparison to a stack of plastic drinking cups. It is the most resistant part of the hair and acts as the first line of defense against all forms of damage. The cuticle's armor like structure and resistance to water make it an excellent protective barrier for the soft inner structure of the hair.

When dry, the cuticle exhibits a strength nearly equivalent to copper wire of the same diameter. While it will bend, the cuticle has little to no elasticity. Though the cuticle does serve as a sort of armor for the hair, there are chemicals and media that will effectively weaken it. These applications achieve their goal by causing the shingle-like cells of the cuticle to lift or fan out and expose the underlying layers of the hair. Along with allowing easier access to these more readily cut parts, a damaged cuticle permits easier absorbtion of water, effectivley permitting a plumping of the entire hair shaft.

One such cuticle damaging medium is hot water. By itself, hot water will impart some damage on the hair, though extended exposure is required to cause noticable damage. A much more efficient method of damaging the cuticle is to combine hot water with an alkaline solution (the most readily available of which is soap). The combination of these two agents will quickly damage the cuticle and serve to saturate the hairs.

Pre-Shave Methods

An effective method for preparing the facial hair to be cut is simply one that damages the cuticle of each hair, saturates it with water, and does so as quickly as possible while not irritating the underlying skin.

Pre-shave Preparations can include any number of different activities. Common practices include repetitive and sustained application of hot water by means of splashing, applying a warm, moist towel to the shaving terrain, or even showering before the shave.

Additionally, there exist a cornucopia of topical, pre-shave applications on the popular market. These products typically come in the form of oils or creams. While the effectiveness of each individual product can be highly debated, it would also appear that performance can vary drastically between the individuals who subscribe to their use.

The Classic Barber's Approach

One effective means for properly preparing the beard for shaving is to adhere to the pre-shave techniques set forth by the barbers of yesteryear. Old barber's textbooks give credence to using nothing more than the lathering medium and steaming towels in combination with a structured methodology of application for pre-shave preparations.

Hair Conditioner as a Pre-Shave Aid

As conditioner would be used to rejuvenate the hair on your head, the same principle applies for your beard. This allows your hair to have an additional softening agent. (Other than the hot water you're supposed to be using.)

Pre-Shave Oils and Creams

Homemade Pre-Shave Oils and Creams

  • from zman1403: 50% - shea butter, 50% - 99% pure aloe vera, 2 drops tea tree oil
  • from steveni: one part olive oil (any Type), one part castor oil; add a few drops of essential oil for scent (adjust scent to your liking).
  • from squeg: one part sweet almond oil, one part avocado oil, few drops each of lavender and sweet orange essential oils for scent (adjust scent to your liking).
  • from ackvil: Five parts of Jason Natural Vitamin E oil, 5,000 i.u.( which is a mixture of almond, apricot, avocado, and what germ oil) plus .5 part of EVOO, glycerin, and one part each of almond oil, grape seed oil, and jojoba oil.
  • from ackvil: Five parts of Jason Natural Vitamin E oil, 5,000 i.u.( which is a mixture of almond, apricot, avocado, and what germ oil) plus .5 part glycerin, and one part each of almond oil, grape seed oil, and jojoba oil, with a tiny amount of Pantene hair conditioner (this recipe omits the EVOO and adds hair conditioner). Shake bottle before each use.
  • from Christoph: pure Extra Virgin Olive Oil (any decent brand)
  • from engblom: Jojoba oil + some drips of essential oil of choice. Jojoba oil is actually a liquid wax with very low comedogenic rating and is unlikely to clog the pores.
  • from ncfyrfyter: three parts extra virgin olive oil, one part castor oil. Add any desired fragrance or essential oil.

See Also

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