There’s more to a great shave than just a great razor. Make the most of your tools by mapping the ways your facial hair grows.
Tomi Um - Photographer/Illustrator
Five O'Clock Staff - Author
THE GREAT GRAIN DEBATE
Ever wonder if you’re shaving in the right direction? You’ve probably heard guys debate over whether it’s best to shave With the Grain (WTG) or Against the Grain (ATG), but those methods don’t mean a thing if you don’t know which direction your facial hair is growing—aka your “grain pattern"—in the first place. It’s not as simple as up-and-down or side-to-side. For most guys, grain patterns are highly irregular—like those storm maps you see on The Weather Channel.
FINDING YOUR GRAIN PATTERN
To figure out which way you’re growing, lightly run your fingers across the skin on your face and neck as if you were shaving. If there’s little to no resistance against your fingers, you’re going WTG. If it feels prickly and weird—like petting a cat the wrong way, you’re going ATG. If you can’t feel a difference, let your whiskers grow out for a day or two and try again before your next shave so that your face’s patterns will be more obvious.
THE PATH OF LEAST RESISTANCE
The first pass of your shave is where your facial hair is at its longest. So to avoid that irritating "tug and pull” feeling, your first pass should always be WTG. Going ATG on the first pass, on the other hand, could make your shave a bit uncomfortable (even painful). It’s not that ATG strokes are wrong altogether, there’s just a time and place for them.
ENTER: THE SECOND PASS
If you’ve got thicker-than-average facial fuzz, or are just looking for an even closer shave, re-lather and lightly take a second pass ATG. With less hair and dead skin cells in the way to create resistance for your razor, you don’t have to worry as much about the tug-and-pull and the risk of irritation or dismemberment.
REMEMBER, LATHER UP
Regardless of the pass or the direction—if you’re pulling a sharp blade across your skin, it needs to be protected. So grab your shave cream or gel, work it into a lather and cover your canvas using small circular motions.