I shave against the grain, a habit that’s probably going to get me in trouble one day. Every shave blog and traditional wet shaving instructional I’ve seen tells beginners not to do it, but each morning I find myself with an upside down razor merrily clear cutting the black forest.
So far I’ve managed to get away with it, I’ve only nicked myself once and that wasn’t really an issue of against the grain but rather getting quick and sloppy. I almost never get razor burn or ingrown hairs, so that’s not really a concern either. The worst I’ve gotten is a spot of blood here or there, which washes off and closes up with a good cold water rinse and aftershave. Instead, I’ve found that going against the grain from the start has several advantages for me:
First, it’s more satisfying when I’m shaving. That slightest bit of resistance, suddenly giving way when the razor is angled just right? Magical. Going with the grain feels smooth, but this feels like it’s getting something done.
Second, it saves time. My wife leaves for work before I do, and I generally make breakfast so she can get out the door with less stress and rush. Going against the grain allows for a close, consistent shave with just one pass. While I’m enjoying shaving as a process and experience, I do have day to day time constraints to deal with.
Today though I decided to do a couple things different. First, I decided to try applying the lather in a “paint brush” stroke rather than circular (I’ll talk about this more in detail another time, simply out though: it feels wonderful). Second, I decided to try doing the “beard reduction” method of at least one pass with the grain before lathering again and going against.
It probably only took an extra few minutes, but I’ve got to admit that the results feel pretty good.
I don’t know that it’s that much closer. If anything, it might not feel quite as slick when I run my hand with the grain. But, when I run my hand against the grain it feels noticeably better. With one pass there will be an occasional scratchy/sharp hair that’s only really noticeable when I’m checking against the grain. This time, while it doesn’t feel quite as close, it feels more even with no sharpness. Also, no spot bleeding. That’s a plus.
I don’t know that I’ll do this every time, but it’s something I’m going to keep working on. When I get to the really sharp blades, like the Feather, it might be good to be used to doing more passes rather than a one swipe wonder. I’d really rather not cut my face off, as that would put a real damper on the day. What I want to find out is whether with more time, attention, and practice this will result in a uniform shave that is close, smooth, and worth the extra time and effort.