Shaving Tips for Women and Men (cont.)

A lot of people, she adds, don't follow the instructions on the creams or soaps, or the creams and soaps do not have adequate instructions. You need to heat the skin and then massage in the soap. "Work it in, form an emulsion," she advises.

David E. Bank, MD, says "Like in those Westerns, where guys sit in the barber chair under a hot towel." Bank is director of the Center for Dermatology, Cosmetic and Laser Surgery in Mount Kisco, N.Y.

"Shaving in the shower is good," Bank says. "Keep the water on the warmer side. You can even put a hot, wet towel over your face for a few minutes."

Choosing the Best Shaving Cream

Bank prefers a gel to a shaving cream. Cheaper soaps lather up and it's the layer of soap next to the skin that counts, not how mounded-up it is. "Gels are more toning," Bank says.

Some people use a badger-hair brush to moisten the cream and spread it around. "I say if you like it and it doesn't hurt you, fine," Bank says of expensive (often British) shaving products. "Remember," he says, "price does not necessarily translate to better quality."

Griego notes also that barbers cannot use badger-hair brushes because they can hold bacteria that can infect subsequent customers. If you use one with an accompanying solid soap, replace the brush when the soap is gone.

Griego prefers a single-edged blade and thinks double- and triple-edged razors can irritate the skin. "If you've prepared the skin, all you need is a single," she says.

Bank agrees, saying he doesn't think double and triple blades make much of a difference. In any case, the blade should be sharp.

Fine-tuning Your Technique

Bank recommends shaving in the direction of hair growth for at least the first one or two passes. "It won't be as close because the hairs are at a 45-degree angle instead of 90 degrees, but it is gentle. You can always do one last pass against the grain."

Remember, hair grows in different directions on different parts of the face. Slide your hand over your face and neck to see which direction it is growing.

After shaving, rinse with cool water and pat, don't rub, with a towel. Since shaving can remove two layers of skin in addition to whiskers, a balm-like moisturizer rather than a perfumed alcohol-toner type aftershave is recommended. The ones made for guys do not leave a greasy film or make skin shiny.

Rinse the blade thoroughly, but do not dry with a towel, which dulls the cutting edge.

Griego points out that there are special shaving creams for African-Americans. "African-American hair is curlier, more coiled," Bank adds. "If it's pulled up with the razor and then slips beneath the skin again, it may not find a straight channel out of the follicle and pierce the side of the channel, regrowing or turning back on itself."