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Why shouldn’t you shave against the grain?

shave against the grain

More hotly contested than blue/black or gold/white dresses, the question of whether or not you should shave with the grain or against it is rife with opinions.

The arguments go that shaving the same direction of the grain helps you to avoid irritation, and keep your skin smooth. Against the grainers think a little chafe is worth it in order to get a closer shave.

So which is right?

Why You Should Shave With The Grain

The only way to guarantee a more comfortable shave is by shaving with the grain. While shaving against the grain helps you get much closer to the skin, it also increases the risk of skin irritation, razor bumps, or even razor burn.

What happens when you shave against the grain is that the razor blade tugs the hair before it cuts it. This is the strongest argument, as people believe that you’ll get a much closer shave this way. What happens in reality is that you increase the risk of getting ingrown hairs, as well as uncomfortable red razor bumps.

How to Shave with the Grain

To shave with the grain, first you need to map out your stubble.

Run your fingers over your stubble to determine the direction your hair is growing. If it feels rough or prickly against your fingers then you’re moving against it. If it feels smooth and soft then you’re moving with the growth, or grain. So to shave with the grain, you want to go the same direction that the hair is growing.

Some people might find that they can shave against the grain without getting irritated or sore skin, but the majority of people will find that they can’t.

How to Get A Close Shave

Shaving with the grain definitely doesn’t mean that you have to sacrifice the great feeling of a close shave. There are a few solid ways that you can still get a close shave without having to irritate your face or damage your skin.

First of all, you want to invest in a single-blade razor. Multiple blades have often been seen as the better way to get a closer shave, but modern cartridge razors can often cause razor bumps and irritation.

Your razor should also be sharp – ideally a fresh blade. A worn blade is likely to be much less efficient and can do the unfortunate pulling of the hair which leads to major discomfort.

Then you want to wash your face with warm water. It’s particularly helpful to press a warm flannel to your face to open up the pores – this makes the hair much easier to cut. Then apply a pre-shave oil or shaving lotion to soften the hair. This also acts as a kind of lubricant on your skin, making the razor slide as smoothly as if you’re on ice.

Don’t worry if you accidentally nick the skin, or even in spite of your best efforts end up with some bumps. Aftershave lotions help get moisture back into the skin, which stops the skin from getting flaky or uncomfortably tight. Many lotions also have natural oils to help ease any inflammation.

So when it comes to shaving, the real difference between shaving with the grain or against it comes down to your own personal comfort, and protecting your skin. The above advice is a great way to make sure that you can get a consistent, stylish shave – while also making sure that you stand the best chance of having clear skin at the same time. It’s a win all round!


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