Should You Shave With or Against the Grain?
Remember the way your father taught you to shave? Do you still shave like that? Do your buddies from college or friends shave in a way completely different from the way you shave? Men have a lot of opinions about the proper way to shave. So who’s right?
The answer is more complicated than that. There’s a time and place to shave with the grain just like there’s one to go against the grain. You might find that using a combination of both techniques gives you the best results. Most men will find that shaving with the grain is much better for their skin.
What is “The Grain”?
In terms of shaving, “the grain” refers to the direction of hair growth. You might have several grains on your face. It isn’t unusual to have spots of your hair grow in different directions. Your hair might spiral in towards a cleft in your chin. You might also have places on your face where your hair grows sideways.
Those spots will become noticeable when you allow your beard to grow full. It might appear that one side is slightly longer than the other due to the direction of hair growth, even though both sides grew exactly the same amount. Asymmetrical hair growth is possible, but rare.
Some men find that all the hair on their face grows flat and downard. This is the ideal scenario, but nature rarely happens ideally. These men often have the easiest time shaving. If you’re among them, consider yourself fortunate.
Shaving with or against the grain may not be as simple as following one consistent direction for the entirety of your shave. Even if you’re picking one technique and sticking to it, you’ll still have to change directions to match the way your hair grows.
What Happens When You Shave With the Grain?
When you shave with the grain, you aren’t shaving the hair flush to the skin. You’re clipping it off closely and leaving some stubble behind. This is because the razor is pushing the hair down to cut it, rather than lifting it up to cut it against the surface of your face.
There are a few reasons why you might choose to do this. The first is the aesthetic of leaving a little stubble behind. If you don’t like to appear too clean and wholesome, you might like the look of a permanent five o’clock shadow.
Men who frequently experience ingrown hairs, like men with curly beards, might choose to shave with the grain because a little bit of the hair remains above the skin’s surface. The hair won’t get stuck growing into the skin if it’s already emerged and is sitting on the surface. You don’t have to worry about the curl pattern of the hair digging its way beneath the skin and causing razor bumps.
Men with sensitive skin might also benefit from shaving with the grain. The hair serves as a barrier between the razor and the skin when it’s pushed down, minimizing the opportunity for direct blade to skin contact and preventing scrapes or irritation from the razor.
What Happens When You Shave Against the Grain?
Shaving against the grain causes the razor to lift the hair up from the surface of the skin. The razor gets the hair shaft out of the way, clipping it as close to your face as possible. This method will always give you the cleanest, smoothest shave.
In doing so, you’re increasing the risk of razor burn or irritation. It’s a win-lose situation. Yes, your face will be baby soft. It might also be red, sensitive, or bumpy when you’re done.
If your skin is tough, you may not notice any redness or irritation after shaving against the grain. If you’re experiencing problems with your skin after shaving against the grain, it may not be the best choice for you.
Getting a Close Shave While Minimizing Irritation
Shaving with the grain undoubtedly minimizes irritation, but men who want a close shave are hesitant to use this technique.
Shaving with the grain can give you a smooth shave and leave your skin soft, provided you’re utilizing the proper techniques. You might want to swap out your razor and find a shaving cream that works better for you.
Before You Shave
Before you shave, you need to get rid of the dead skin cells sitting on the surface. Your razor will pull these away first and drag them around your face, inhibiting its ability to actually cut your hair. Exfoliate and take a warm shower, gently buffing away the dead cells. When you shave, it will be much easier for your razor to go directly to your hair.
Choosing the Right Razor
A single bladed razor will cut your hair as close to your skin as possible in a single pass, provided you’re using the right angle. Nothing gives a better shave than a straight razor, but there’s a bit of a learning curve involved.
Many people new to single blade shaving prefer safety razors. Our design makes it easier to determine the perfect angle while minimizing the risks for cuts and scrapes. It may take you a few attempts with a safety razor to achieve the perfect with-the-grain shave, but once you have it, you’re golden.
Using the Right Shaving Cream
Keeping your skin moisturized and reducing friction will prevent sensitivity, irritation,and in some cases, razor bumps. Choose a shaving cream formulated without chemicals and loaded with skin healthy ingredients. LTHR shaving cream uses glycerin to draw moisture to the skin and provide slip, coconut oil to moisturize and lubricate, and aloe vera to calm sensitive skin.
Our shaving cream works with our compact hot lather machine to enhance your shaving experience. Warm lather helps to soothe your face and soften your whiskers, making it easier to get a close clean shave when you’re going with the grain.
You can go against the grain if you’ve perfected your shaving technique and you aren’t noticing any irritation as a result of shaving this way. If you’re moisturizing your face and wearing sunblock regularly, you might find that shaving against the grain works perfectly for you.
If you have sensitive skin or are prone to irritation, go with the grain. While it’s technically less perfect, it’s worth the compromise to avoid damaging your skin or the uncomfortable side effects you might experience as a result of shaving in the opposite direction.
LTHR is here for you no matter how you shave. Our chemical free shaving cream and portable shaving cream warmer transform your home bathroom (or hotel bathroom if you’re travelling) into your own personal barber shop. Use the right tools, take your time shaving, and enjoy a few moments of peaceful grooming.
Why Hair Grows Faster on One Side | Science Notes
Ingrown hair - Symptoms and causes | Mayo Clinic