Whether you are just starting to grow some facial hair, or you have been shaving for years without questioning how often you should shave, you should know a few things about shaving.
After all, there is a lot of bad information and shaving myths out there that, as a barber, I feel like I should clear up.
It seems like most guys just start shaving when they are teens and don’t really think much about it again after that.
The fact is, shaving is not as simple as it seems. Nor is it complicated, but there are so many questions that this article seems necessary to get to the bottom of it.
Here are some of the most common questions I get about shaving.
When should I shave my face for the first time?
Everybody goes through puberty at different ages. Being Italian, I had to start shaving pretty early. How early is early? Well I was way beyond peach fuzz when I was around 14, so I started shaving a couple of times per week.
How old will you need to be to start shaving? It depends on what kind of facial hair you have coming in.
Now, you have probably heard the advice to not shave too early because then your stubble will come in thicker. That is a myth, which I write about at length further down in the article. So, ignore that completely.
If you have only slightly noticeable peach fuzz, then you really don’t need to shave it.
I think when you have a discernible mustache and your sideburn are starting to look like wispy, patchy mutton chops, then I think it is time to shave.
You don’t have to wait for your father to teach you, just get yourself a razor and some shaving cream and shave it right off.
Just make sure your face is wet when you apply the cream. Doing this after a shower is the best time. Then apply the cream evenly and you’re ready. Use short, light strokes without putting too much pressure and just work your way around your face, rinsing the blade often to get the hair out from between the blades.
Don’t go over the same spot too many times, and don’t shave against the grain. Always go with the direction of the hair. Once you have the hair off of your face, rinse with cold water and dry your face. If you have acne then make sure you use an aftershave after to kill any bacteria you may have spread around.
Should I shave to make my facial hair come in thicker?
I wish it were true that when you shave our hair would come back thicker. Then I would be shaving my head and grow back a nice, full head of hair!
But, alas, it is not true. It just seems thicker because the hair is darker and the follicle is thicker at the base than it is at the tip.
Take a look at the picture below to see what I mean.
You can see that the root of the hair is thicker so if you shave and the stubble starts coming in then it is going to seem thicker. It didn’t become thicker because you shaved, it is just you have exposed the thickest part.
And it is coarser because it is thick and it hasn’t been weathered down yet. As your hair is exposed to soap, sun, cold and other it becomes softer. So a longer hair follicle just feels soft and the stubble feels coarse.
Have you ever gotten the advice not to shave too high or you’ll regret it? I see lots of guys that leave a small bit of hair on their upper cheek for fear of shaving it and making their beard thicker. That hair has been exposed for a long time and is now nice and soft. If you were to shave it off, you would have the same amount of follicles and if you let it grow back to the same length, then those hairs will eventually feel just as soft.
File that under: Myth Debunked.
Should I shave with a razor or electric shaver?
This is a more difficult question to answer since it highly depends on personal preference.
Some of the factors that would go into a decision about whether to use a razor or electric shaver are:
- How sensitive your skin is. Some electric razors are really rough on sensitive skin. It may seem like a razor blade would be worse for your skin, but it is actually pretty gentle when your face is properly hydrated and lubricated. An electric shaver has a lot of moving blades that can end up irritating your skin.
- How much time you have to shave. Since you can use an electric razor on dry skin, there is less prep, so you can generally be done with your shave faster. And you can multitask since you aren’t tied down to being over a sink. I’ve seen plenty of guys shaving while they are in rush hour traffic!
- What your budget is. The initial outlay of cash for an electric razor can run into the hundreds of dollars. But, at least once you buy it you’re done paying. You won’t be buying razors every month or two. A razor can be pretty cheap to get started with, but you are tied down to replacing the blades and we all know how expensive they are. You can always get yourself a wet shaving kit, but, again you are looking at a high upfront cost.
There are so many ways to shave and with different types of razors that a whole course could be devoted to it.
Even if you decide on an electric razor you still need to decide between foil or rotary.
Should I shave every day?
So many guys work in offices where you have to be totally clean shaven. There are some guys that love a smooth, clean shaven face and would shave every day even if it weren’t required. But, most guys would not be doing this every day if their job didn’t make them shave.
Is it ok to shave every day? Well, really no, it isn’t great on your skin to shave every day.
Here are some things that shaving every day does to your skin:
- Strips your skin of its natural oils. Your skin needs sebum, which is a waxy, oily substance secreted by your pores. This oil contains all the nutrients and vitamins your skin needs to stay strong and healthy. The outer layer of your skin needs to act as a barrier to all the environmental factors that try to damage it. Sun, pollution, water quality all can make your skin age, look wrinkled or worse and your sebum is necessary to prevent these things.
- Spreads bacteria. Some guys end up breaking out with acne on their face and this is exacerbated by shaving every day. The razor ends up collecting bacteria and then spreading it around your face where it can become trapped in your pores. When you end up getting acne, then shaving every day can be excruciating.
- Irritates the skin. Shaving is great for your skin as it exfoliates and improves the circulation to your face. But, when you have to shave every day, then you’re taking the top layer of skin off without giving it a chance to repair itself. This ends up causing a lot of irritation, particularly for guys with sensitive skin.
- Can cause ingrown hairs. Ingrown hairs are something that many guys end up suffering from since they aren’t giving their hair a chance to grow long enough to be properly shaved. The best time to shave is when you have some stubble so that the hair has come through the outer layer of skin. It is able to be really hydrated and soften so you get a clean cut and it is able to grow better. When your hair is growing and then gets cut, it has a tendency to grow sideways and get blocked under the skin. Then it attracts bacteria and you end up with painful ingrown hairs. This happens often at the neck where your hair generally grows in a different direction.
If there is no way to avoid shaving every day then you can do a few things to prevent any of these problems from arising. Obviously the best thing would be to shave every two or three days, but for most that isn’t an option.
Do the proper preparation
Having the proper concept in mind before you shave will make the shaving experience much more pleasurable and the negative effects you might be experiencing will be softened.
The basic idea is this: Proper shaving starts before you even put the blade in your hand.
By getting your skin ready with the right products and taking your time, you are setting yourself up for the best shave you can do.
Shave after the shower
Water is the most important tool you have after your razor. In fact, it is so important that you can even shave without shaving cream if you get the proper hydration of your skin.
You can shave in the shower if you want but if you want to shave more comfortably then even at the sink works, but do it after the shower. While in the shower use a good face wash with moisturizing properties to get your skin nice and plump.
Having hydrated skin will keep irritation to a minimum.
Use a pre shave oil
Since your hair is not even what you could consider stubble, then you won’t really be getting much moisture into your facial hair, so lubrication becomes very important.
Using a pre shave oil will hedge your bets and create a nice smooth shave that will help you avoid irritation. Razor burn is uncomfortable and is one of the main reasons that guys hate to shave every day.
A pre shave oil also has the ability to give the skin what it needs to repair itself and give you a stronger outer layer.
Use a good shaving cream
Try to avoid cheap canned aerosol shaving creams. These may serve to add some lubrication, but they are pretty dry and don’t hydrate the skin. You can whip up your own cream by using a shaving soap with a bowl, but even if you don’t want to take the time to do that then at least use a shaving cream from a tube that is more like a lotion.
You can see the type I am talking about on Amazon.com.
Use a good razor
If you are shaving every day then you really don’t need a 5 or more blade system. Actually, if you do the prep right, you never need a 5 blade system. You’ve already set yourself up to have a smooth and effective shave.
You can go for a safety razor that only has one blade or just get a disposable that has two or three blades. This will go much easier on your skin.
Start a post shave routine
What you do after you’ve shaved is equally as important as the shave itself. Taking care of every step of the way will guarantee a smooth and enjoyable shave. If you’re going to shave every day then you probably have realized that these things are going to add a few minutes per shave which you may not be so happy to do.
After all, most guys just want to shave in a few minutes and then be on their way.
Adding all of these steps will ultimately be worth it in terms of preventing the negative effects of shaving too often but will also leave you feeling like a million bucks.
Use an aftershave
If you have irritated skin from shaving too often, then putting a harsh aftershave on your face is probably the last thing you want to do. It doesn’t have to be so harsh though, and an aftershave is necessary to disinfect your face to kill any bacteria you might have spread around by your razor.
There are plenty of aftershave lotions that won’t give you that bracing burn of an old school aftershave.
Some guys love that burn, and if you are one of them then go for it, but avoid alcohol based ones as they tend to dry out your skin. Though if you plan to use a moisturizer then it won’t matter. I’ll go into that more in a second.
Use a Witch Hazel based aftershave balm that will disinfect your skin while still being gentle.
Use a moisturizer
Now is the time to get that moisture back into your skin. Since you have stripped your natural oils you need to use a moisturizer that hydrates, repairs and nourishes your skin so it stays healthy and strong.
Look for face creams that contain aloe vera, shea butter and especially jojoba oil since it is the closest thing to your sebum as you can get.
Keeping some stubble
As you can see, sometimes how often you should shave comes down to your job. If you don’t have a job that requires you to have a baby butt smooth face every day then you can shave when you like.
How often should that be?
In my opinion, shaving every three days is ideal.
Why? Because stubble is important.
When you have some growth, your hairs are not quite as coarse as when they are just growing in. Not only that, but you have enough of the shaft exposed that the hair can absorb water.
As I mentioned earlier, water is extremely important to your shave. The more water you can get into your skin and follicle the better.
This will soften your hair and make it easier to cut. Clean, blunt cuts are what you want to have a smooth shave and avoid the potential of ingrown hairs.
I feel like three days growth gives you enough length to soften up without the hair being so long that the razor struggles to cut through it.
If your stubble is longer than 3 days, 4 max, then you’ll need to use a good stubble trimmer to bring it back down to the right length.
Don’t grow a beard to avoid shaving
Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of good reasons to grow a beard. I am not saying you shouldn’t grow one.
What I mean to say is that a beard is also a lot of work so if you decide you can’t be bothered by shaving and a beard will be easier, think again.
You need to take care of your beard to avoid looking like the Unabomber.
You’ll still need a maintenance routine that includes:
- Shampooing your beard a couple of times per week.
- Applying beard oil or balm everyday. (Or at least every other day)
- Combing or brushing your beard every day.
- Trimming the dead or split ends occasionally.
It isn’t too much work if you want a good looking beard, but it does take some discipline or your beard will look unhealthy and wild.
FAQ About Shaving
Q: Should I shave if I have acne?
A: Yes, you can shave with acne but the most obvious thing to do is to try to get rid of your acne anyway. While you are doing an acne treatment if you still need to shave then take some extra precautions to avoid pain and discomfort from shaving with acne.
Wash and scrub your face well prior to shaving. Use a soap like a black African bar soap from Amazon.com to cleanse the skin.
Then do the proper prep for a good shave including getting your skin really wet and using a pre shave oil. Obviously you should be very gentle with the razor when going over the blemish itself so it doesn’t get cut and bleed.
Post shave should include an aftershave balm that will properly disinfect the skin to avoid spreading the bacteria around.
Q: Should I shave if I already have ingrown hairs?
A: You can shave when you have ingrown hairs, but I don’t need to tell you it will be uncomfortable. You should try to get rid of your ingrown hairs and start with a clean slate. If you do need to shave when you already have them, then make sure you go through the whole routine for a proper shave as using the right products will help you get rid of your ingrown hairs. Start by using a good exfoliant before you shave to try to strip away the bacteria and dead skin cells that helped to contribute to the ingrown hairs, to begin with.
Q: Should I shave to make my facial hair grow faster?
A: It is a myth that shaving makes your hair grow faster. It only seems that way because you can see the growth more clearly when it is stubble coming in. But when you have a full beard it is growing at the same speed as when you only just shaved.
My advice is if you want to grow a beard that you just get started. Don’t buy into the idea that shaving will train your facial hair to grow faster to get a beard earlier.
Should I shave or should I grow?
If after reading this article you still have some questions about how often you should shave or any other shaving questions then remember that I am here to help. Just drop a line in the box below and I will get back to you.
I do hope that this article cleared up some misconceptions about shaving and that you take your shave routine back. Instead of being a chore, it should be a part of your day that actually makes you feel better and that you can enjoy.
Embrace the things that make you a man and then you won’t feel like shaving is a necessary evil in your life. This will not only make the process more enjoyable, but your skin will also thank you for taking better care of it.