How it works
Preparation is paramount. To get your skin ready for what lies ahead, your barber or therapist will apply hot towels to your face for several minutes. As well as softening those bristles, the heat opens up your pores and loosens the hairs from underneath your skin’s surface, making them easier to remove. It also serves a purpose in relaxing you, as well as your skin.
Depending on the treatment type, the next step could be an exfoliation of the skin, but this part of the process is often bypassed, as a wet shave exfoliates the skin anyway, automatically removing dead skin cells when the blade sweeps across your face. (A little secret benefit of shaving is that it keeps the skin on the face looking younger!)
Exfoliated or not, to be lubricated is a must. The razor needs to glide across the skin, not get tripped up on every tuft of sprouting hair so a pre-shave oil full of natural extracts will prevent any slip-sliding of the blade. Once the oil has been smoothed on, it’s then that the foaming fun begins. Using a shaving brush and some glycerine-based shaving cream the rules are – the bigger the lather, the better the shave, so by moving the brush in a circular motion over the face, your therapist will produce a healthy lather. The cream must be bursting with glycerine too, as not only does this soften the beard, but it locks in water ensuring the skin is kept wet throughout the shaving process.
It’s now that the razor work gets underway which is where that extra pair of hands can really make a difference. As your therapist holds your skin taught, you’ll feel them moving the blades gently over your skin in short, precise strokes. Beginning with the sides of the face, the cheek area will be seen to first, followed by the neck, chin and lip. It is highly recommended not to shave against the grain and upwards on your face...doing so increases the chance of razor bumps and burn.
It is also important to use hot water when rinsing the blades in between strokes to keep the skin accustomed to the warm blade (plus the extra steam that rises up from the sink or bath helps to keep the pores of your skin open throughout). Then, as soon as the hair has been snipped, cold water will be splashed onto the face to close those pores, help cleanse the skin and help reduce any irritation.
To keep your skin soft and hydrated, an intensive moisturiser will also be massaged into the area. Despite the shave being complete, your therapist might choose to end the treatment with a neck and shoulder massage, but this isn’t a given so don’t be disappointed if you’re ejected from the barber's chair as soon as your clean-shaven.
Is it for me?
Probably. Unless you’re into the Neanderthal look, some hair removal every now and again will be a necessary step to stay looking less waif and stray, more smooth and slick. Admittedly a wet shave might not be for you - some guys (and girls) like that whole rugged look, of which stubble is a vital element, but if you’ve got an important event in the midst, this is one way to guarantee a well-groomed mutt. However, if you do prefer a shave that’s less cut throat, electric shavers are still a popular hair-removal method.
There will always be the risk of a minor nick or cut and if you have particularly sensitive skin, razor burn a few days after the shave might flare up, although this should disappear within a few hours and should rarely happen at all if the therapist has used all the right ingredients.