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.]


Kenny Haberman (9 Posts)

A San Fernando Valley, CA native, musician, husband and father of a beautiful boy. I came into wetshaving after being sick of razor burn (and being penniless) with my multi-blade cartridge razors. I'm so grateful for the Mantic59 videos!

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  1. 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!

    • I think here is a relevant blog post that might give you some insight on our mindset:

    • 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 .

  2. I was wondering if my experience was normal, or if I should get a new barber. I too just had my first wet shave but I got my goatee lined up as well. My barber did use a straight razor, however, while he was shaving me it was fairly uncomfortable, and gave caused a burning sensation across my entire neck and cheeks. It also felt like several time he cut me and, I would notice him stop and rub disinfectant on the area. When I was done I was nervous, to look at my face in the mirror. When I did, I realized that my fears were correct. I had several cuts on my face and there was razor burn all over my cheeks and neck. The line up, was very good however. I have coarse beard hair and was wondering if it just might be my beard or if I should get a new barber?

  3. I have read all your comments with great interest. I am in fact an Holistic Therapist based in the west coast of Scotland. I had always wanted to learn how to hot towel shave being female we wax, tan, manicure etc, and I thought this would be great to add to my qualifications and an additional income as there are always weddings within my area. I have found this has taken a lot of trial and error and find being female really out of my comfort zone. My first gentleman very kindly offered his beard to me as I knew I would require a lot of practice, my heart went out to him and I felt traumatised.(not a paying customer) I pride myself on being very thorough and good at what I do. I got back on the driving seat and have since completed many shaves, I am thorough and take my time being the only hot towel shave in the area, my reputation depends on it. I even found assistance from a barber in Paisley who gave me great advise. My treatment consists of hot towel steamed in lime essential oil, exfoliator, hot towel, pre shave oil warmed with chamomile and lime, I have taylors of bond street shaving cream or alternatively gillette gel this actually gives the gentlemen a more comfortable shave warmed in shaving brush & mug, thereafter prep the beard, 1st pass shave is carried out with an open razor, again hot towel, 2nd pass shave is then carried out with a pro fusion power blade (disposable) then completed with both open razor and disposable, to allow as much comfort to the gentleman as possible. Finally a hot towel then an ice cold towel dipped in cham and lav to soothe the skin. Air dried and moisturised with a small amount of shea butter and chamomile and completing the treatment a five minute indian head massage. I know I am not in any way as experienced as many others, however, the results and feedback have been positive, and with more experience I aim to only use the disposable blade if necessary. Obviously making a profit is the object of the excersise, however, as all women who have any kind of beauty treatment know, if it is not good we don,t go back.

    • Read your comment , glad your adding some mens pampering to the world. we are at a time where men need to take care of themselves more. I like your scented towel idea and will add that to our shops hot towels. We opened up only three months ago and we are youtube and trial and error educated. Many friends family and freebies have been used to add shaving to our list. Keep it up , its a great addition and always keep it sharp.

  4. Kenny Haberman says:

    Just out of curiosity, anybody know of a reputable barber in or around the San Fernando Valley, CA (like, ohmigod… fer suuuure!)?

    How about AoS in Glendale, CA at the Americana shopping center? Has anyone gotten a shave from the Original Mobile Barbershop?

  5. Did you use pre-shave oil before shaving? I know I used to just shave with soap/water in the shower and I would get razor burn but just assumed it was part of shaving (young and silly).

    I got an eshave shaving set which is the same products they use in their NYC barber shops. The luxury razor, silvertip badger hair brush and the pre shave oil, shaving cream, and after shave lotion. Everytime I shave with that, its crazy the difference. Closer shave, I never get razor burn, no ingrown hairs, and I truly am addicted to the orange sandalwood and white tea scents.

    I would never get a shave from a store that doesn’t use the highest quality products. If they aren’t using a straight razor (freshly sharpened!) or a brand new 5 blade Gillette, and they don’t have a line of those same products for sale, then I wouldn’t take the chance.

  6. Razor Kitten says:

    I got a nightmare straight razor shave last November. The prep was great (hot towel), but the shave was scary. I had about four days of growth on my face and didn’t think much when she asked me if I wanted to have an against-the-grain shave. I thought that it would mean that she would give me an against-the-grain pass to finish off the shave. Nope, she started right away against the grain. Trying to brave the pain, I didn’t say much as that dovo shavette ripped across my face. After shaving a cheek, she saw the nicks and said my face was just ‘sensitive’ and did the rest with the grain, which was still quite uncomfortable. After that pass, she said it was done. She asked if I wanted aftershave. I am used to using an alum block and aftershave balm after my normal shaves with my Merkur HD, so I welcomed it. It cost me 25 bucks for the shave, and my face felt a lot rougher than before (had over 30 nicks on my face). Never paying for one again unless the barber is really reputable.


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