Shaving is an ironic rite of passage. The moment we’re able to grow hair on our faces, we’re trained to get rid of it. When I was barely a teenager, I didn’t care what products I used. A handful of Barbasol and a little Old Spice aftershave for that trademark sting, and I was good to go. Almost two decades later, it’s strange to think that I haven’t really changed my shaving routine at all. That’s exactly why it was time to re-examine what I’ve been doing to my face for all these years.
My first order of business was to get a professional shave. I wanted to learn from an expert, so I went to Timmy Yanchun at the SLS Hotel’s dreamy Ciel Spa in Beverly Hills. I never expected to be sitting in an ethereal all-white treatment room getting in-depth follicle attention from a master barber, but life as the Green Guy is full of surprises. Besides, Timmy taught me some great tips. Most important: pay attention to your face. “If you look really closely,” Timmy says, “it’s like a roadmap up there of the way your hair grows.”
Timmy suggests straight razors for the most accuracy, but there’s a degree of difficulty in learning how to do it right, so multi-blade disposables are good in his book, too. As for the right shaving cream, he recommends going fully organic. Anything with fragrance and alcohol can dry out your face and leave your skin irritated. As with all things, the fewer chemicals, the better.
The most interesting piece of advice I got was to use a serum or a shave oil instead of a cream. The transparency allows you to see the hair you’re going after instead of just lathering up and blindly shaving. It’s the equivalent of driving in the middle of winter–you’re never going to be able to see the street if it’s covered in snow.
With this great advice in mind, I headed home to improve my shaving ritual. Since the serum that Timmy uses is his own special recipe and not yet available to the public, I tested out a wide variety of different options. First up was the line from brand-new hipster company Brooklyn Grooming, based in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. This shaving oil allows you to see your whole face when you shave and it’s free of any of the stuff nasty commercial products use so you can feel good using it. As a bonus, the line includes beard oil and mustache wax so if you’re a bearded man such as myself, you’re not left out of the grooming party. The only downside is that it’s an oil, so by its very nature it’s going to be, well, oily.
Since I wasn’t crazy about dealing with an oily face every time I shaved, I switched back to a more traditional option with Ursa Major’s Stellar Shave Cream. The rich, thick cream worked really well to coat my neck and the natural fragrance was light and pleasant enough that I barely noticed it. The denseness was a problem, though, as I truly couldn’t see what I was doing. Luckily, I found HIS Bioelements’ Perfect Shave. It had all the positives of the Stellar Shave Cream but ended up being slightly thinner so I could actually see my skin as I worked on it.
The first step to becoming a man may be shaving, but the true rite of passage comes when you learn to shave the right way. Now that I’m armed with my new shaving knowledge, I’ve found myself coming up with excuses to shave more. Every time I look in the mirror, I can tell that my beard is getting nervous and for good reason: it may be time to see just how tough these shaving products really are.
JASON KESSLER is a lifestyle writer/columnist for Bon Appetit, Food Republic and a slew of other publications. Follow him on Twitter @TheHungryClown.