How Safe Is Your Face From The Barber?

A Barbershop Experience

First, let me introduce myself. My name is Kenny. I am 38 years old, born and raised in the San Fernando Valley and converted to traditional wet shaving a little over a year ago. The best grooming decision I ever made. I can’t really remember what prompted me to search YouTube for shaving, but at the top of the long list of shaving videos: Mantic59.

Who was this guy? Why would he devote a whole channel to shaving?

Let’s just say I am so thankful to Mark for all the hard work he’s put into this topic.

Obsessed? Him? Never.


On New Year’s weekend, I decided enough was enough. A new year was upon us, and I wanted to start off clean. And for Pete’s sake, if the Mayans were right about 2012, I needed to be presentable when I meet my maker!

In the recent past, I scoured Yelp for a reputable barbershop in my area. I found one called Manny’s Barbershop in Van Nuys, CA. Since my experience there (for haircuts) was quite good, I decided that I would have a revisit.

There are four barbers there: Manny, two other guys and a woman on the end. The woman on the end had done a good clipper cut on my hair before. Manny and the other guys were busy, so she was the person for the job.

The haircut went fine. Nevertheless, I decided to treat myself to my VERY FIRST barbershop shave. What’s another $15, right?


She started off with some warm lather a hot towel on the face. So far, so good. Felt wonderful and relaxing. It was nice to be able to lay back and let someone else do the prep for a change.


After prepping my beard, she proceeds to start the shave. She had what appeared to be a regular disposable safety razor, but I wasn’t sure how many blades it had. She didn’t speak much English, and I only speak un poquito Spanish. The last time I was there she shaved another guy using a straight razor. “That’s weird.”

Then, the horror began. She starts scraping my face. Hard.

At first, I didn’t know what to think. A few times I grimaced and voiced my discomfort. She said she would go slower and not press so hard. Stupidly, I let her finish the shave. I’m still not sure why I didn’t stop mid-shave. Maybe, I’m a masochist. I don’t know. The only time she broke out the straight razor was to line up my sideburns (before the shave) and to get the little area right below my nostrils.

Needless to say, I opted out of the aftershave (alcohol-based) and had her use some lotion. My face was so raw and bloody, and I had such bad razor burn, I just wanted to get out of there. So, I left.

This is what my face looked like just after. Believe me, it hurt much worse than it looks. This never… let me repeat… never happens when I give myself a shave.

Barbershop Razor Burn, This is what happens when someone with bad technique gives you a shave
Barbershop Razor Burn

When I got home, my face was burning so bad, I had to get some help. Luckily, the guys at the Original Mobile Barbershop were so helpful. They said to use a cool compress and head over to see Brian at Friend’s Beauty Supply in Valley Village, CA, for some stuff to help heal my wounds. Luckily, they are just up the street from me.

The staff was extremely helpful and friendly there. Originally, it was suggested that I use Tend Skin, but as I have a sensitivity to acetylsalicylic acid, I couldn’t use that. Instead, I got some cactus gel from The Healing Desert. This stuff is AMAZING. Within a few hours, my face felt better. I have to say that this stuff also makes an incredible aftershave and moisturizer. It’s very similar to aloe gel, but I think it works better.

After the pain subsided some, I called back to speak with Manny, but he had left early because of the holiday. Needless to say, the guy who answered got an earful. Respectfully, I told him that she has no business shaving anyone else until she gets more training, and that her technique (or lack thereof) was completely wrong. He only could offer an apology. I’m going to call back and speak with Manny soon.

So, that’s my tale of woe. Next time, I’m going to go to the OMBS or Art of Shaving to see if I can get a real shave. It’s more expensive; I hope it’s worth it.

I let a few days go by before my first shave after the “incident”. I wanted to wait until I was completely healed. What a great shave I gave MYSELF!

  • Semogue 830 boar brush
  • Erasmic cream
  • 1948 Gillette Superspeed w/Feather blade
  • Thayers Alcohol-Free Cucumber Witch Hazel with Organic Aloe Vera
  • The Healing Desert cactus gel
  • Pre de Provence aftershave balm

We would love to hear your own experiences. If you can recommend a good barber or spa for a shave in your area, let us know!

[Note from Mantic59: In the coming weeks several professional barbers will be discussing what to expect in a barber shave, how to get the best shave experience at a barbershop, and what the barber’s attitude towards shaving is!  If you are a barber and would like to contribute please leave a comment.]


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  1. joe says

    This is hilarious to read all this bellyaching about these less than perfect shaves. Let me give you a little history. Barbers at one time did more shaves in the course of a day than haircuts, but then came Mr. Gillette with his safety razor invention. This as we know nearly ended shaving in the barber shop. So the customers abandonded the barbers and left them with half their income. Now that this idea is becoming somewhat trendy again everyone seems to be so shocked that the poor barbers who were abandoned by the public for their shaving services are now suddenly expected to put out this fabulous, luxourious baby smoth shave! When they may not have done one for many months, sometimes years. This is why many barbers have just discontinued face shaving altogether. It’s impossable to stay in practice when so few desire the service. Now that there is some renewed interest in this service by the public where is the barber to get the practice? The only way sorry to say is on their customers. How do you think they learned to shave 75 – 100 yrs ago before trade schools?
    First they started as lather boys, just entrusted to lather the faces of the barbers customers, then gradually allowed to start shaving customers themselves. Probably some fairly rough shaves at first. It’s similar to going to a barber for a haircut fresh out of barber school compared to one who has been practicing for 40 yrs. Same price, same license, same training, but usually a better job from the 40 yr. man because of EXPERIENCE!
    Experience means everything and the public has taken the barbers “experience” away with the much cheaper and more convenient safety razor used at home.
    As for the complaint about the use of the disposable safety razors instead of straights this is partly due to a desire on the part of barbers to be safer (again due to lack of practice) Although sometimes this is because a beautician is really shaving you instead of a barber. In most states comotolegists are not allowed to use a straight razor (only safety) It used to be that beauticians were not allowed to work in barber shops and vice versa. But now the public is being duped. When a guy walks into a barber shop with a barber pole by the door and a dead animal head on the wall he is going to assume the people behind the chairs are barbers. But due to our regulatory agencys trying to blur the distictions between these two trades one can’t be sure of anything anymore.
    Buy a Mach 3 go home and shave yourself! And this is coming from a barber!

    • Female Barber says

      Joe ,
      Your a star, thank you for pointing out that VERY fact … We as Barbers are out of practice. I have been a Barber for 25/26 years now and up until 10 years ago did open razor shaves on a regular basis . The Barber shops I have worked in however over the past 10 years did not offer this service to their gents so over the years I have been out of practice . I have just opened my own wee Barber shop recently and seriously want to get back into the swing of shaving my gents again . I won’t however go out there and just start shaving as over these lost years I’ve had working in “pretend” Barber shops things have changed .. Rules and regulations, even shaving techniques have changed. Instead I will bide my time, practice practice practice and gain experience again and hopefully a good name for myself and others in the same situation in the Barbering trade.
      I’m tired of people asking me if I’m a hairdresser just working as a Barber etc because I’m female . NO IM A BARBER, I had an apprenticeship straight from school! I got sent for buckets of steam and bubbles for spirit levels . I’m proud of my trade and now I have my own place I’m so excited at the prospect of passing on my years of experience to an apprentice .
      GENTS … Put down your mac 3s etc and come and give us forgotten about Barbers a chance , it’s the right thing to do. Use your common sense and if the Barber shop you go to looks dud then you can always walk out again .

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