With the Grain or Against It? What Is the Best Way to Shave?

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If you’re someone who loves a wet shave, you probably fall into one of three categories: against the grain, with the grain, or a little of both. A lot of young boys are taught to shave with the grain. This means shaving in the direction of hair growth. But is this the right way to go?

Having the right tools for the job is every bit as important for personal hygiene and grooming as it is for doing construction work. They are just different tools!

Does the way you shave really make a difference?

A lot of men prefer to shave against the grain because it delivers a closer shave with fewer strokes — particularly on awkward areas of the face such as the neck and around the ears. There is also a school of thought that going against the grain is faster, so some men will do this if they’re late for work in the morning.

In most cases, shaving against the grain does, in fact, result in a closer shave with fewer strokes. While fewer strokes means less chance of razor burn, there is a downside. Shaving in the opposite direction of hair growth increases the risk of cuts and ingrown hairs. This method also pulls the hair away from the skin in a harsh manner, which can be very painful if the right preparations haven’t been taken.

Shaving with the grain may take a little longer, and it may prove very tricky on certain areas of the face — but it is usually more comfortable, and reduces the risk of causing nicks and cuts. Give yourself enough time, and you can make your daily wet shave an enjoyable, relaxing experience.

Of course, how often do you have the time in the morning to really enjoy a wet shave? When you’re in need of a close finish in a hurry, going against the grain is often the best option. And while it does pose a heightened risk of irritation, discomfort and cuts, it can be an effective method of shaving if you do it right.

How to shave against the grain safely

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Before you do anything, find out the direction your facial hair grows. There is a chance that different areas of hair will grow in different directions, so take a few minutes to do this. Slowly rub your hand up and down your face. The direction that offers the highest level of resistance is referred to as “against the grain” or ATG.

Hydrate your skin and facial hair for at least three minutes before applying shaving foam. The best way to do this is to take a hot shower. According to some estimates, this can reduce the force needed to cut facial hair by up to 70 percent.

Whilst you’re still wet, liberally apply a shaving gel or foam. If you have particularly dry skin, you might want to apply a pre-shave oil or cream beforehand. Give the shaving foam a minute of contact time to make sure the hair is as soft and moisturised as it can be. This will help to prevent nicks and cuts.

Mentally divide your face into sections — based on the shapes and surfaces you discovered when you were examining it. Each section should be no more than two square inches. Starting at the bottom of the section, very slowly and smoothly shave up against the direction of growth. Don’t exert too much pressure here; luckily, you won’t need to, as shaving against the grain requires less force than shaving with it.

Although faster, this method can lead to irritation for several hours afterwards. You should therefore keep applying moisturising shaving gel after every few strokes. As long as you have a sharp, multi-blade razor made to a very high standard, you will never need more than two strokes on the same area of skin.

The chances are you use a combination of both shaving methods to get the closest finish possible. But whichever method you prefer, rushing the process will result in cuts, irritation and rashes. Try getting up a little earlier in the morning to give yourself the time a safe wet shave requires.

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