PHASE ONE: PREP

1. SHOWER
Always shave in the shower or immediately after one. As with the hot towel, steam is the key—it opens pores, which in turn causes whiskers to rise so theyíre easier to lop off. If the bathroom mirror hasnít fogged up, the shower isnít hot enough.

2. CLEANSE
Wash your face with a bar of soap or liquid cleanser. ďI explain it this way,Ē says Anthony Sosnick, founder of the menís grooming brand Anthony Logistics. ďYou always wash your car before you wax it.Ē Shave without washing first, and youíll trap dirt and grime in your pores, leading to bumps and blemishes. Also, donít confuse exfoliating with cleansing—using a harsh scrub may do more to irritate your face than refresh it (and between using a brush to apply your shave cream and shaving, your beard area will get plenty of exfoliation as it is).

3. APPLY PRE-SHAVE OIL
Although itís often omitted, shave oil is crucial in eliminating nicks, cuts, and irritation. Pour a dime-size drop of it into your hands and massage it thoroughly into the beard to soften whiskers and help the razor glide smoothly. Donít worry, this minuscule amount wonít leave your face with a greasy sheen.


PHASE TWO: SHAVE

4. APPLY SHAVE CREAM
The cream should be spread over the oil. This is best accomplished with a badger brush, which further preps the beard by raising hairs. Wet the brush, then use it to whip the cream into a lather and spread it on in a circular motion. Avoid shaving soaps and canned aerosol creams like Barbasol, which foam excessively and make it harder for the razor to get close to the skin. Opt for creams in jars or tubes instead, which produce a thin, gentle lather.

5. THE FIRST PASS
A razor should always be drawn in the same direction that stubble grows—i.e., with the grain. Regularly shaving in this direction lifts whiskers from their pores and prevents ingrown hairs. Begin shaving at the sideburn and work your way down. Save the neck for last—this gives the oil and shaving cream extra time to relax the thicker stubble. Always use long, even strokes, and rinse the blades frequently.

6. LATHER UP AND SHAVE AGAIN
Typically, just one pass provides an amply close shave. But going over the beard twice makes for the closest shave possible. On this second pass—and only now—shave against the grain. Note: Make sure you use an extremely light touch.


PHASE THREE: REPAIR

7. RINSE
When you are finished, splash your face repeatedly with cold water. In addition to washing away the remaining shave cream and oil, the cold water helps close pores and soothe skin. Then gently pat (donít wipe) your face dry with a towel.

8. AFTER-SHAVE CARE
Whether out of fear of fragrance or of getting shiny skin, many men mistakenly shun after-shave products. But even when done properly, shaving is traumatic for the skin, so a little TLC is in order. There are two primary types of after-shave that will do the trick: alcohol-free toner, which is ideal for oily skin, and should be patted on lightly; and moisturizing balm with soothing benzocaine, which should be gently rubbed in until absorbed. Balm or moisturizer is a must for anyone with dry skin; if you have normal skin, you can use whichever you prefer.