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Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response?

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According to Wikipedia, “Autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR)…is a perceptual phenomenon characterized as a distinct, pleasurable tingling sensation in the head, scalp, back, or peripheral regions of the body in response to visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory, or cognitive stimuli.  The nature and classification of the ASMR phenomenon is controversial, with strong anecdotal evidence to support the phenomenon but little or no scientific explanation or verified data.”  Could it be why we like shaving?

ASMR Stimuli

Again, according to Wikipedia:

“A commonly reported stimulus for ASMR is the sound of whispering. As evident on YouTube, a variety of videos and audio recordings involve the creator whispering or communicating with a soft-spoken intonation into a sound recording device and generally a camera.

“Many role-playing videos and audio recordings also aim to stimulate ASMR. Examples include descriptive sessions, in a style similar to guided imagery, for experiences such as haircuts, massages, visits to a doctor’s office, and ear-cleaning. While these make-believe situations are acted out by the creator, viewers and listeners report an ASMR effect that relieves insomnia, anxiety, or panic attacks.”

I took a look on YouTube and there are quite a few ASMR-related videos that involve shaving.  Here is one example, with 1.8 million views:

There is even an ASMR barber on YouTube.

But Does It Work?

Wikipedia and it’s referenced sources say there is anecdotal evidence to support the concept, but not much in the way of hard scientific evidence.  On the one hand the Director of General Neurology at the Yale School of Medicine suggests that ASMR maybe a type of “pleasurable seizure” or another way to activate the pleasure response.   Neurologist Edward J. O’Connor says there may be no single stimulus which triggers ASMR for all individuals.    On the other hand psychiatrist Dr. Michael Yasinski supports the legitimacy of ASMR and claims it is similar to meditation.  The bottom line is there isn’t any scientific evidence to support neither harm nor benefit.

What is your response to this?  I often read of new shavers experiencing satisfaction at the sound of stubble being cut with an all-metal razor.  I’ve even read of “newbies” dreaming about shaving.  Is it a feeling of satisfaction or are we feeling a real pleasurable response?


Shave tutor and co-founder of sharpologist. I have been advocating old-school shaving for over 20 years and have been featured in major media outlets including The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and Lifehacker. Also check out my content on Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest!View Author posts

7 thoughts on “Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response?”

  1. I just sort of skimmed the two videos. The first I intend to go back and watch when I have more time. The second with throat slitter…no way! It creates quite the opposite reaction in me.
    My wife cuts my hair, I have only been to the barber once in our 40 years of dating and marriage. I generally have to fight off falling asleep while she does so. There is one sensation I particularly enjoy. She uses what is called a Trim Comb to thin my hair. This thing is a plastic housing with comb like teeth and embedded in the bottom of the teeth is a DE razor blade. I think this may have been one of those “as seen on TV” items like the Vegematic from back in the 60s or 70s. She has had this thing for years.
    The best results for a pleasurable sensation is when the blade has been used just a bit. It has a pleasurable drag, tugging on my hair gently and then snipping it off with a pleasurable audible feedback. So I would say yes ASMR is a very real phenomena.
    Regarding shaving, truth be told, I …ah…ahem…er really don’t enjoy shaving and I have found that using a DE makes me enjoy it even less. Yes, yes I know, I am not doing it right, I don’t have a silver tip badger brush, I don’t spend a half hour prepping my face, I don’t put on a variety of smelly greasy balms etc. etc. etc. I will concede that I haven’t given it enough time. I haven’t learned right muscle movements, and possibly do not have the right combination of brush, bowl, soap, razor, blades, balms, preps, after shaves, techniques…etc.
    Wet shaving? Yes I will buy into that. It is a definite improvement over Gillette Foamy (red can el cheapo). Wet shaving with my old two blade Gillette Sensor with Excel blades. It is mildly pleasurable…but kind of like brushing your teeth. Nothing that I look forward to. It the DE part that I am having a rough time with. I used a Gillette Fatboy adjustable when I started shaving back in the mid 60s. I went into the military in 1970 and we were issued cheap Shick injector razors. I loved the thing compared to the Gillette. I probably threw out an heirloom at the time. Anyhow long story short, I have been satisfied with Gillette Sensors until about two years ago when I got several batches of bad cartridges. I went to the Excel cartridge which fits the same razor and is a couple of bucks more and once again I have been satisfied with the results. As a piece of hardware goes, nobody is going to get excited by a Gillette Sensor razor. So when I got into wet shaving, of course it did not take long to get exposed to the DE culture. I got bit by the mechanical beauty of Merkur razors. I wanted a 510 C for the adjustability, but the price was a bit stiff for starting out. So I got a 38 C. What a beautiful piece of equipment. I love thing until I have to shave with it. Yes I have hacked up around my mouth and the old man wattles that I have on my neck. So in an opposite effect to ASMR I have found that when I am shaving the easy areas, using the Barberpole is somewhat pleasurable but when I get to the difficult areas, my hands start to shake with negative anticipation of hacking myself. (It may not help that I also have MS, fortunately a benign form with out relapses…but the original damage from 30 years ago is still there.) So when I get around my mouth or my neck wattles, I am like a kid with a 12 gauge shotgun. I am afraid of the kick. The only trouble is that I am not a kid. I collecting full social security benefits. OK so maybe the Barberpole wasn’t a good choice. So I bought a 510 C. I love the thing, even the plastic knob that everyone bitches about. Quite actually I love both these razors, but it is like how I love my old Craftmasn 3/8 drive flex head ratchet…it is a wonderful tool…but I really would prefer not to use the damn thing. Even with the setting on 1 I have to be careful, ultra careful…and truth be told, I don’t find it very enjoyable. But I am persevering. The 510 has restored some confidence. What I do now is shave with the 510 with the grain all over. I go across the grain on a second pass only on the easy places. (Against the grain will never happen, my beard lay extremely flat.) Then I get out the Gillette Sensor with the Excel blades and touch up the bad places. It works and by current blades usage in the Excel I have enough blades to last me a long time. I hope to find that magical combination of blades and settinga that I can forget the Sensor, but so far that has not happened. I can assure you, it is not the Barberpole with Feather blades!
    But getting back to ASMR, I do find the sound of the whiskers being cut by a DE to be quite pleasurable. There is definitely an audible feedback off a DE, it almost sings that you don’t get with cartridge blades, and yes, if you are not hacking off hide along with the whiskers, it is pleasurable.
    Oh regarding newbies dreaming about shaving, very real. Check out the research of Robert Stickgold. There is a segment on Radio Lab on how he made it to the cover of a science journal by researching dreams about Tetris:
    Also a piece in Scientific American:

  2. Weird, I thought I was the only one who got this, cool to see its a known phenomenon. I usually get it when certain people are talking to me, but I did experience it when I went for a professional straight razor shave. Like tickling, I’ve never been able to do it to myself. The feeling for me is like a small orgasm at the base of the skull and back of the neck.

  3. I’ve never experienced a tingling, but I do find it very relaxing/calming to watch shaving and/or massage videos on YouTube. I’ve seen several of the ASMR Barber’s videos; one of them features a shave with a Daune shavette.

  4. I think the shave itself is consistent with Zen. The ASMR is what I feel in anticipation of the shave, the prep, and choice of product etc.

  5. I subscribe to various ASMR channels on youtube and I wouldn’t descibe the feeling I get when shaving as ASMR, more along the lines of something like zen. More still calm than head-tingling.

  6. I look at razors and get a feeling of calm and relaxation. Same thing when looking at guitars or firearms, just a nice calming sensation. The scene in one of the latest bond films where he gets shaved by the female with his straight razor provided a great feeling similar to actually shaving myself.

  7. It’s real. The making of lather starts it off for me. I always see my Dad and grandfather’s faces lathered up, and Benny Bell’s song is playing in the background.

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