When’s the last time you took a step back and looked at when you shave? It’s easy to fall into a routine of shaving at a specific time every day, especially when you have a packed schedule. But just because your shaving ritual fits neatly between a quick shower and morning coffee doesn’t mean it’s the best time for you to shave.
While shaving post-shower has been touted to deliver the most efficient, enjoyable shave, Your Mileage May Vary (YMMV). Check the shaving forums and you’ll see just as many men exalting a post-shower shave as loathing it, with the latter claiming it sensitizes their skin.
If you find yourself stuck in a shaving rut and experience redness and irritation post shave, reevaluate your timing and take an honest look at what works and what doesn’t. A few changes can turn a monotonous shave into an enlightening one.
Here are the benefits and drawbacks of shaving after you shower and shaving before you shower.
Shaving after you shower
The ideal (i.e. most painless) shave involves removing everything that gets in the way of a clean, slick razor glide. Thus, many men shave after they shower, when their skin is soft and pores are open.
When your hair follicles are dry, they have the cutting density of copper wire, so you should never go at them before first reducing the cutting strength by wetting your beard. Steam from the shower softens hair, making it easier to cut with fewer passes. And an easier cut means less tugging and pulling your skin. Meanwhile, the steam opens pores, allowing you to get in closer to the follicle. Think about it: the tighter the pore, the harder it is to rip hair out of it.
Then there is the bacteria factor: shaving after you shower ensures you’ve let hot water wash away traces of pollutants, dirt, and grime so they can’t be caught in your razor and spread around your face. This bacteria can easily seep into microtears in your face, causing irritation and razor burn.
Shaving before you shower
While shaving after your shower has a hefty list of benefits, some men say doing so actually causes more irritation and makes their skin sensitive. Indeed, depending on how you like your shower, there is some truth in the matter. If you prefer hot showers, the water may over plump your skin, predisposing you to weepers and nicks. Super hot water actually dries out your skin by removing skin’s natural oils, leaving you with a dry feeling when you shave afterwards.
While the solution is to switch to warm water and perhaps apply pre-shave oil to remedy the dryness, it may not remedy the situation for everyone.
Also, not all of us have time to devote to a luxurious shaving ritual after we shower. Shaving before you shower saves time and the effort of extra clean up at the end.
So which is better?
Although the hair-softening, pore-opening steam of a warm shower is fabulous prep for your shave, your skin has its own needs. Try both methods to see which one gives you less irritation and fewer nicks. You may have been successfully shaving after your shower until now, but as your skin changes (due to age or varying climates) you may find that shaving before your shower works better.
Or pick the routine that suits your daily demands.
If you’re simply short on time and can’t afford to progress slowly through the shaving ritual, save time by shaving before you shower – but with one caveat: complete a hot towel treatment before you shave.
A good alternative: A hot towel treatment
A classic barbershop tool, a hot towel treatment is the mid ground between shaving before you shower and shaving after you shower. If you’re planning to shave before you shower, this treatment will warm and soften skin and hair. While a hot towel isn’t as effective at softening hair as a shower, it does make whiskers swell up. A hot towel won’t remove environmental pollutants and grime.
How to do a hot towel treatment:
- Wash your face.
- Soak a washcloth in warm water and hold it up to your face for at least 3 minutes, the amount of time it takes to significantly reduce cutting resistance.
- If you don’t have a towel on hand, you can also wash your face with warm water for a few minutes before applying shaving cream.
- Shave your face.
-For extra softening, use moisturizing conditioner on your beard in the shower. Look for one with softening properties, like Dreadnought Concentrated Conditioner.
-Test out your pre-shave shower method: use conditioner before you shave for a week, and then no conditioner for a week. Repeat.
-Beginners can benefit for a post-shower shave in the evening, when they can take their time to perfect their method.
-Option: exfoliate in the shower to achieve a closer shave. Exfoliation removes dead skin and debris that would otherwise get in the way of a clean shave. However, if you are a novice do not exfoliate until your skin acclimates to daily shaving. If you do exfoliate, do so on the days you’re not shaving.