Thanks to vagaries of male pattern baldness, I now count myself among the ranks of the shaved headed. We are a fearless crew, and have much to teach about the fine art of shaving. This is due to a couple of factors: first, with a vastly greater surface area to shave, we have a lot of practice. Second, as we all have discovered at one time or another, your head bleeds for days if you cut it. So, there is a great deal of technique required to shave your noggin and not end up looking like Colonel Kurtz at the end of Apocalypse Now. In the interest of public service, I will now pass my wisdom down to you. As I've pointed out in the past, you're not really a dude unless you know how to shave. So, to help you make a legitimate claim on your own testicles, read on.
Use the right tools. There is only one way to shave: with a razor, water and some sort of lubricant. If you are using an electric razor, stop. It may be fast to grind off your stubble and outer layers of skin with some droning implement of techno-fetishism, but this bad for your face. It irritates, it screws up the hair follicles, and it is entirely contrary to the spiritual nature of shaving. The shave is a quiet ritual between you and your face. It is time for reflection, to look your reflection in the eye and take stock. This is difficult when holding a soulless, loud appliance more akin to a belt sander than a precision tool.
As far as razors are concerned, shaving technology reached its apex in 1998 with the introduction of the Gillette Mach 3. This is the best razor on the market, period. Oh sure, you can buy razors with more blades, or ones that vibrate. But if you're serious about shaving, this is all you need. The extra two blades on a Fusion are useless. The Mach 3 shaves close and comfortable, and with a minimum amount of technological frippery. And if you're using one of those "Power" razors, you should know you are wasting your money. You pay more the razor and the cartridges, and you receive absolutely zero benefit. Unless you dig the placebo effect.
Get wet. Water, and lots of it, is the key to a good shave. This is why I shave in the shower. The water softens up my stubble, and the moisture swirling about helps keep the razor moving smoothly. It also washes away all the tiny little whisker bits, making clean up a snap. But if you prefer to shave at the sink, make sure you do so after a shower, and not before. Also, rinse your razor after every 2-3 strokes. This will keep the blades wet, and help prevent you from slicing through valuable pieces of real estate.
Prep. If you have thick whiskers like I do, anything that softens those bad boys up is a useful addition to your shaving arsenal. You can buy a variety or pre-shave oils and such that claim to prep your stubble, but the best solution is way simpler. Before you shave, put on some Head and Shoulders 2-in-1 shampoo and conditioner onto your beard. Leave it for a few minutes, then rinse. Voila! Your beard is ready for the razor. And pleasingly free of dandruff.
Lube up. Unless you have iron skin, or super-fine hair, you will need some kind of medium to reduce friction between your razor and the skin. This is largely a question of personal preference. Gels, creams, oils...whatever works for you, use it. For myself, I like mentholated products because it refreshes my skin and makes me feel like a Mint Julep. I also don't like a product that lathers. Since I shave my head, and I do it in the shower, excessively frothy products have a bad habit of running into my eyes, causing me to lurch about in agony, blindly thrashing at my much-abused shower curtains and cursing the universe. No fun. So I prefer to use an oil or non-lathering cream. Currently, I've been enjoying Jack Black Beard Lube. It does a nice job of softening up the stubble, and stays put. It's a tad pricey, but I learned long ago never to scrimp on something that comes between you and very sharp blades.
Work the grain. Whether you go with- or against-the-grain, make sure you know what works best for your face. Both styles do a reasonably good job. No question, going against the grain gives you a closer shave. However, if you are cursed with a thick beard and sensitive skin (like me), you're probably better to go with the grain. I actually employ both techniques- I go against the grain shaving my head, and with on my face. I've tried to go against on my face, but the blood convinced me that was a bad idea. Here's a tip: if you want to go with the grain but want a closer shave, use diagonal razor strokes. You get the best of both worlds there.
Finish. Aftershave may be a bit of a cliche, but there is plenty of logic to putting something on your face post-shave. Shaving removes moisture and irritates the skin, so a little soothing is probably in order. Me, I use Kiehl's Facial Fuel. This stuff is good for a few reasons: it's lightweight, so you don't feel like you've been dipped in vasoline. It has sunscreen, so you don't end up looking like a shoe in 30 years. And, it actually has caffeine in it, useful for making your skin look a little less tired. A nice feature if you've been up all night eating chicken wings and drinking beer, as I often am.
So there you go. Nunc Scio's guide to shaving. If you have any tips or insights you'd like to share, leave 'em in the comments. I'm always looking for a way to up my shaving game.