After washing my scruffy face with glycolic facial cleanser, I pat it dry. I unscrew the bottle of Williams Lectric Shave and squirt a stream into a cotton ball before dabbing my chin, cheeks, and neck with the skin-smoothing solution, infusing the air with the citrusy scent of a pre-shave.
Every man has a ritual to their shaving routine and this is how mine begins.
After 15 seconds, I power up my Andis T-Outliner and remove the five o’clock shadow on either side of my mouth before neatly trimming my moustache, the droning buzz of the clippers echoes in the bathroom as freshly clipped hair falls into the sink and onto the counter.
I reach for my Philips Norelco electric razor for the last round of hair removal, letting its whirling triangle of circular blades glide across the contours of my face and neck. Roughly 30 minutes have passed and my skin feels smooth and silky. As a final step, I douse another cotton ball with Tend Skin and gently dab the shaven areas to help prevent ingrown hairs and razor bumps.
This is my shaving routine circa 2019. But it has evolved over the years, from when I first began trimming my facial hair in college to what is now a Sunday ritual that heralds the start of each work week.
When it comes to shaving, every young man starts out clueless. Learning what products and techniques will work for your hair and skin type is often a journey of trial and error filled with questions.
I hadn’t thought much about how I shave until my fellow college alum, Nelda, read my blog post about learning to do my daughter’s hair and asked if I would share thoughts on shaving products. “I’m clueless about what my 13-year-old should/should not do in terms of grooming tips for Black men,” she said.
When it comes to shaving, every young man starts out clueless. Learning what products and techniques will work for your hair and skin type is often a journey of trial and error filled with questions: How do I prep my skin before a shave? What kind of razor should I use? Is dry shaving better than wet shaving? What’s the best aftershave to use on my skin?
I suspect that every man was introduced to shaving by another man—their father, an older brother, an uncle, a barber—at an age when shaving seemed a mystery. Nowadays, there’s Google and thanks to YouTube, thousands of how-to videos dedicated to male grooming.
(Nelda, in your case I recommend: “Shaving Tips for Teen Guys” by WebMd for the basics and “Shaving 101” from Walker & Company, makers of Bevel, a line of grooming solutions for men of color. Their blog, Bevel Code, is also a great resource.)
The internet wasn’t an option for those of us who grew up in an analog world where VCRs, Walkmans, and Yellow Pages were the norm and the closest equivalent to a search engine was a trip to the local library where you had to physically find books using the Dewey Decimal System or pick up a landline telephone to ask a friend or family member for advice. This was the phone-a-friend option long before Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.
I was introduced to shaving by my stepdad who used to mix a powder called Magic Shave in a ceramic mug with water and apply it to his face before each shave to help prevent razor bumps. The product’s smell was so odorous, he’d open up the bathroom window and close the door behind him to prevent our apartment from smelling like rotten eggs. But Magic Shave worked wonders for him.
For me? Not so much. I can’t grow a full on beard and am not as prone to ingrown hairs and razor bumps, so Magic Shave probably wouldn’t do much for me—except burn my skin. Ouch.
It wasn’t until I went to college that I figured out what works best for me.
During my freshman year, I lucked up with a roommate by the name of Marcus who was an excellent amateur barber. So much so that he often turned our dorm room into a makeshift barbershop to make money on the side. Our room number was 185 and I used to jokingly refer to it as “185 Barbershop Drive” because of the seemingly endless procession of guys strolling through to get their hair faded on Fridays.
But here’s the thing I noticed about Marcus at the time: he never used a razor on his face. He always used an electric trimmer. And he didn’t seem to struggle with razor bumps. That stuck with me.
As I grew older and my facial hair became coarser, I gravitated toward dry shaving with an electric razor as my preference, mainly because it was uncomplicated and a timesaver, especially during the years I was a daily reporter and constantly on the move, chasing breaking news.
I’m sure I’ll continue to tweak my shaving routine as the years go by, but for now, this works for me.
Originally appeared on Fatherhood at Forty.
Photo by Shutterstock.