The question of whether to shave with or against the grain is both one of the most searched questions in regards to shaving, as well as one of the most argued ones. You can find barbers and other professionals, as well as shaving products companies that hold either of these positions while claiming that the other is categorically wrong.
So, which way do we sway and what would we recommend? Well, realistically, both methods of shaving have their pros and cons. And the cons of both methods can be mitigated with the right technique and products. However, we are definitely of the position that shaving against the grain isn’t worth it overall while a good shave with the grain can give you what you and your skin need.
Still, what are the pros and cons of both methods and how can you negate most of the cons? Let’s take a more detailed look. But first:
What does it mean to shave with or against the grain?
This question essentially translates to “Do you shave up or down on your skin?” i.e. do you shave in the direction of your hair’s growth or against it? For most men, shaving with the grain means shaving down, while shaving against the grain means shaving up. If you’re not sure about the direction of your facial hair or about certain trickier areas of it, just use your hand or a credit card to see which direction offers more resistance – that direction will be against the grain.
What are the pros and cons of shaving against the grain?
The reason a lot of men shave against the grain is that this way the razor will lift the hairs up before cutting them and will actually cut them lower and closer to the skin. The main benefit of that is rather clear, so, let’s go into the pros:
- This method offers an effective and close shave with minimum strokes because it cuts the hairs closer to the skin.
- Shaving against the grain is also often preferred because it can be performed faster – instead of several strokes with the grain, one or two strokes against it can offer the same or even closer shave.
So, what are the negatives of this method?
- Shaving against the grain can be very irritating to a man’s skin. Your skin doesn’t need to be overly sensitive to be irritated or even damaged when shaving this way. The pressure from this method alone can cause rashes and razor bumps.
- Shaving this way also creates a lot of ingrown hairs. With this method, you will often shave your hairs so close to the skin or even slightly below it that they will start growing inward. This tends to create big, visible, and irritating razor bumps that are both unsightly and hard to deal with.
- The whole process is more painful and unpleasant than the smooth feeling of shaving with the grain. You’ll need to take a lot of precautions and preparations to negate that.
How to protect your skin when shaving against the grain?
The key to knowing how to shave against the grain is in knowing how to keep your skin healthy while doing so. Moisturizing and softening it properly before shaving is a must – preferably you’ll be taking an extensive hot shower before a shave. After that, a pre-shave oil can also drastically improve the shaving experience, and using a nice shaving gel or soap is also obviously a must.
All this, together with simply being careful while shaving against the grain, can make the whole experience less irritating to you and your skin and can prevent a lot of the razor bumps and ingrown hairs. However, it can also be quite time-consuming, thus removing the second pro of this method – the speed. Additionally, the same results can be achieved in a similar manner when shaving with the grain, so let’s take a look at that method as well.
What are the pros and cons of shaving with the grain?
Given everything we mentioned about shaving against the grain, the pros of shaving with it are rather obvious:
- Shaving with the grain causes little to no skin irritations even on people with sensitive skin, as long as it’s done right.
- Shaving with the grain is also pain-free and effortless. If you’ve ever worried that shaving hurts too much, you should try shaving with the grain.
- This method of shaving rarely, if ever, causes any razor burns or ingrown hairs.
Of course, the mere fact that the opposite method has its benefits means that shaving with the grain has at least a couple of drawbacks as well:
- This way of shaving can take a bit more time to create a smooth and clean shave.
- Getting a good and smooth result when shaving with the grain requires top-quality equipment such as an excellent and sharp razor, quality shaving cream or soap, as well as shaving oil. Yes, such quality products are especially important when shaving against the grain too, in order to prevent skin irritations, but when shaving with the grain they are needed to achieve an actual close shave.
As you can see, both methods have their positives and negatives. And, as with everything else, subjective preferences also come into play – if you don’t want an extra close shave, then you don’t need to shave against the grain. If you have sensitive skin, then shaving against the grain is pretty much not an option anyway. And if instead, you have a rather coarse skin and you insist on a perfect shave with minimal effort, with little care for pain and discomfort – we can’t tell you not to shave against the grain.