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Shaving 101: With The Grain Or Against?

Who doesn't want a clean shave? While some prefer to leave some stubble for that rugged look, shavers always want the smoothest and closest shave possible.

Some debates rage continuously – Coffee vs. Tea, Apple vs. Android, E-Book vs. Movie – but none causes division in the bald brotherhood as the question: Should you shave with or against the grain?

This age-old question has turned bald head enthusiasts against fellow baldies, and we aim to settle this once and for all.

What is the "Grain"?

In shaving terms, "the grain" refers to the direction of hair growth. Hair may grow in different directions on your face, so shaving with or against that grain may require different techniques depending on the direction of a specific spot.

We wish all men had facial hair that grows flat and downward. In reality, only some men have this trait. Most of us have to change shaving directions based on the grain.

3 Central Questions to Settle this Debate

Freebird dug deeper and looked for answers to 3 central questions at the heart of this debate:

Question #1: Which is Gentler on the Skin?

Shaving against the grain can pull and tug on your skin, resulting in skin irritation, razor burn, and discomfort. However, shaving with the grain is gentler, allowing the razor to glide smoothly over your skin. Who doesn't want a smooth shaving experience, right?

Question #2: Which Prevents Ingrown Hair?

When you shave against the grain, you're more likely to cut the hair too short, which can cause it to grow back under the skin instead of outside of it. The result: ingrown hairs, which can be painful and unsightly. Shaving with the grain helps prevent ingrown hairs.

Question #3: Which is a Closer Shave?

Shaving against the grain gives the closest shave a baldie can dream of. As you shave against the grain, your razor blade tugs at the hair, pulling it away from the skin before slicing through. Shaving with the grain can never provide a shave as clean as this, thus constantly losing this part of the debate.

Does this apply to Head Shaving as well?

The principles of shaving with and against the grain apply to both head shaving and facial hair.

When Should You Shave With the Grain?

Shaving with the grain will help minimize skin irritation if you have sensitive skin. You need to live with leaving some stubble since shaving toward your hair growth doesn't clip the hairs as closely as shaving against the grain.

Again, this technique is best if you prefer a rugged look with some stubble.

Why is Shaving Against the Grain Harmful?

man shaving and experiencing irritation

Shaving against the grain may give you a close shave but increases the risk of ingrown hair. Other harmful effects include swelling, redness, razor bumps, razor burns, skin irritation, and hair follicle damage.

If you prefer to shave against the grain, the Freebird FlexSeries can lessen the chance of skin irritation.

How to Get a Closer Shave With the Grain

If you're on the shaving with the grain side of this debate, the good news is that you can still get a close shave shaving in the same direction your hair grows. Here are some hacks you can apply.

Examine Your Hair Growth Direction

bald man examining hair growth in front of a mirror

It's time to imitate your favorite barber and check how your hair grows. If it's not obvious, a mirror and a magnifying glass can help you determine your hair growth patterns.

Proper Prep

man being prepared for a shave

Washing your face and head with warm water opens your pores and softens your hair. Applying shaving cream or gel can also help your razor glide smoothly across your skin, resulting in a smoother shave.

Right Shaving Technique

bald man shaving with electric razor

Use gentle and smooth strokes without pressing too hard to avoid irritation.

Use a Quality Razor

Freebird FlexSeries shaving kit

A high-quality electric razor is essential to getting the best results. The Freebird FlexSeries is an excellent tool. It works well for shavers with sensitive skin, minimizing the risk of razor burn.

Post-Shave Care

bald man moisturizing after a shave

Post-shave care should be part of your grooming routine, whether you shave against the grain or not. Moisturizing after a shave is necessary since shaving can be harsh on our skin.

The Three-Pass Method

Do you want a barbershop-quality shave at home? The three-pass method can achieve this for you; all it takes is a little practice and you'll experience the benefits.

The three-pass method is a multi-pass shaving routine that involves gradually reducing your facial hair using multiple passes instead of the traditional one-pass shave.

Here's how it's done:

First Pass Method (WTG) With the Grain
Second Pass Method (XTG) Across the Grain
Third Pass Method (ATG) Against the Grain
  • First Pass Method (WTG): Shave with the grain

  • Second Pass method (XTG): Shave across the grain

  • Third Pass Method (ATG): Shave against the grain

The key to achieving good results is:

  • Apply very minimal pressure for each pass.

  • Reapply shaving cream after each pass.

  • Always use sharp blades

The Verdict

When it comes to shaving facial hair, it all boils down to your desire and your choice: Do you want a close shave that may cause irritation, razor bumps, and ingrown hairs, or a quicker shave that doesn't cause irritation and ingrown hairs, but also doesn't get as close?

The good news is that Freebird's FlexSeries Shaver can give you the best of both worlds – with the grain and against – by providing a close, quick, and smooth shave without any issues.

Electric rotary head shavers like the FlexSeries will get the same closeness when shaving against or with the grain.

Get one now and experience the best shave you've ever had.

Freebird FlexSeries shaving kit

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