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Your best shaving tool -- patience

January 19, 2009|By ANDREW GAY / Special to The Herald-Mail

Shaving is a job that's gotta be done. It's a chore many men rush through as quickly as possible so they can get on with the important stuff in their day.

There are many questions about shaving tools - razors, creams, gels, lotions, cologne and brushes. But there is one question in particular that surpasses them all.

How do you get the perfect shave?

Barbers out of the shaving business

At Mary's Old Tyme Barber Shoppe in Blue Ridge Summit, Pa., the day of the shave is over.

"Very few barber shops do shaves anymore," said Karen Martin, a barber stylist at Mary's.

She said a facial shave is still required to receive a barber's license, but Mary's stopped doing facial shaves around 30 years ago. The reason? It takes time and can be expensive for customers.

Today, the only shaving being done in Mary's is the back of the neck. At least Martin still uses a straight razor.

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It is the same case at Becky's Barber Shop on Salem Avenue in Hagerstown. Becky Ellyson, a barber at the shop, said most barbers only do neck shaves today.

"If I don't do it, I don't feel like I've finished the haircut," she said.

Ellyson said that she uses a straight razor because it gives a closer shave, although many barbers opt for newer electric shavers to save time and effort.

Dermatologists say speedy shaves lead to razor burn, skin problems

Get a good shave at home

If the barber shop is no longer a viable option for the everyday shave, where does that leave you? You can purchase a straight razor yourself, but does a normal person have the time and patience? I know I don't. So that leaves you back at square one - back in the shaving aisle facing shelves of razors, creams, gels and other options.

But is it just the tools that make the difference?

Sean McCagh, a dermatologist with McCagh & Roberts Dermatology in Cumberland, Md., said when it comes to getting a better shave, the products aren't as important as the technique.

"The key with shaving is to slow down," said McCagh, "Speed is the main problem when it comes to shaving."

McCagh said most of the shaving-related problems he sees are from people not taking their time preparing their skin. He noted that when more time is taken to prepare the face, the better the shave is.

"Use a good gel, wet your face and let the water set for a good 30 to 60 seconds before you begin shaving," said McCagh.

Dermatologist Paul C. Waldman, who has an office in Hagerstown, had a similar sentiment when it comes to shaving.

"A preshave is more important than an aftershave," said Waldman.

He noted that razors and creams are a matter of preference for the consumer.

"It depends upon the individual and if they have any skin problems," said Waldman, "Occasionally, I see people react to fragrances."

Skin problems

Some people face problem skin conditions, such as razor burn, ingrown hairs and pseudofolliculitis barbae.

The American Osteopathic College of Dermatology defines pseudofolliculitis barbae as a persistent inflammation which forms lesions and bumps on the face and makes shaving difficult.

"Regular-type disposable razors and closer shaves may not be the right choice for these people," said Waldman.

McCagh said when people come in to his office with more serious problems, he tells them to use Aveeno or another therapeutic gel.

Aftershaves and lotions are another aspect of shaving that both dermatologists leave to personal preference.

"Aftershaves are more out of a tradition," said Waldman. "Most people don't need an aftershave," said McCagh, "Cream or gel gives your face a moisturizer."

McCagh said a lotion or aftershave might be an option for someone who uses an electric razor.

"They have no moisture buffer on their face beforehand," said McCagh.

The clear-cut truth is that shaving is not an exact science.

There are so many choices in the aisle because there are so many different needs with shaving.

The best way to go about it is to buy, try and take your time.

With patience, it should turn out all right.

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