Go to the Pros: What to Expect from a Professional Shave
Gentlemen, when was the last time you saw your barber? If it’s been a couple of months, it’s time to book an appointment—not for a haircut, but for a professional shave.
Getting a traditional straight razor shave provides more benefits than simply a neat and clean appearance. It’s also a great way for the modern man to indulge himself in an old-fashioned luxury (and a great way to take care of your skin).
Professional barbers are masters of their craft. In recent years, they’ve stepped up their game tenfold and now offer men a bevy of services to complement their wet shave.
If you’re finally ready to put down your three-cartridge razor (bye-bye, beard rash!), here is what you can expect from a professional shave:
A Man-Centric Atmosphere
Step inside any barbershop and you’ll likely be greeted with earth-tone walls, traditional leather chairs and at least a hint of old-fashioned or vintage décor. The masculine environment that is often found in barbershops is purposefully designed to make men feel more at ease.
There are also some great barbershops which feature more unisex décor, so don’t rule them out based on décor alone. However, do be careful about so-called barbershops that masquerade as salons. If you’re the only man in the shop, you need to find a different place.
Achieving the perfect shave begins with prep work. To prep your skin and beard, your barber will place a hot, steamed towel around your face and neck.
The hot towel serves dual purposes. First, it softens your beard to help achieve a super-close shave.
Second, it opens the pores of your skin, which allows the barber’s high-quality skin care products to soak into your skin and get all the moisturizing benefits. A nice side-effect of the hot towel is that it’s super relaxing, which enhances the overall shave experience.
Essentially, you’re getting a mini-facial and a close shave at the same time. So sit back, relax and enjoy the pampering.
Pre-Shave Oil and Moisturizer
Next, the barber will continue his careful prep work by massaging a men’s moisturizer into your skin. This provides nourishment for the skin and helps prevent razor bumps after the straight razor shave.
After applying the moisturizer, your barber will fold another hot towel over your face. This helps the lather seep into the pores of your skin.
Then, your barber will massage a high-quality pre-shave oil into your facial hair. This is followed by a hot towel to soften the hairs and reduce post-shave irritation.
Heated Shaving Cream
Shave enthusiasts know that the key to achieving a great shave is using heated shave cream. The heat opens the pores and allows the razor to get a super close, comfortable shave.
Unfortunately, canned heated shave cream products that you can buy online usually leave much to be desired. This is but one reason why professional barbers are superior to your everyday shave.
Professional barbers create their own perfect shaving lather by using a small mug and a shaving brush. The best barbers use shaving cream that is glycerin-based because it helps soothes dry skin—a common side effect of shaving (see claim: “ In conclusion, a glycerin containing cream appears to be a suitable alternative to urea/sodium chloride in the treatment of atopic dry skin.”).
The shave cream (which is produced by a heating shave cream dispenser) is then mixed in the mug along with a tiny amount of hot water. The final result is a thick lather which is the perfect temperature and consistency.
Traditional Shaving Tools
The old-fashioned shaving tools you see at a barbershop aren’t just for show. Barbers use these traditional tools to deliver the ultimate shave for their customers.
The Shave Brush - This classic shave tool is key to generating a warm, thick lather. The shave brush also features numerous bristles, which lift the hairs on your face up to ensure a closer shave.
To top it off, the shaving brush is also an efficient exfoliator which gentle scrubs away dead skin cells and prepares the skin for the shave.
The Straight Razor - A high-quality straight razor is a tool which allows barbers to achieve an extremely close shave. Because this tool is difficult to use on oneself, the straight razor is best left in the hands of a professional.
Shaving with a Straight Razor
Once you finally reach the part where your barber begins shaving you, it’s completely normal to be nervous. Someone is wielding a sharp blade near your neck, after all.
If you’ve done your research, you should come away with nothing but a buttery-smooth face to show for it. At most, an inexperienced barber might accidentally cause post-shave irritation by scraping too hard at your face or at the wrong angle.
A good barber will (hopefully) warn you not to speak during the straight razor shave. Even an expert barber might accidentally nick you if you suddenly move your mouth.
A decent barber will never send you away without applying post-shave balm or oil to your face. This is key to restoring your skin’s natural oils that were stripped away from the straight razor.
Post-shave balms typically include powerful antioxidants such as vitamins C and E to reduce inflammation and restore moisture to the skin. Aloe, witch hazel and noncomedogenic oils (such as grape seed oil) are also common ingredients in post-shave balms because they can soothe the skin without clogging pores.
Every man should indulge himself with a professional shave at least every few months. In addition to achieving a smooth, clean shave, you’ll also get a relaxing facial massage and a slew of skincare benefits.
If it’s your first ever professional shave, avoid getting it right before a big event such as a wedding. You don’t know how your skin might react to the sharp blade and shave ingredients.
Besides, it’s important to test the waters with a new barber to see if they’re a good long-term fit. Once you find the ideal shave experience, you can make this old-fashioned practice a regular indulgence.