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Shaving 101 – How To Prepare Your Skin Before Shaving

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[Note from Mantic59: as a follow-up to my recent article about shaving gift sets, Sharpologist will be running some “shaving 101” articles to help the newcomers get on board!]  You have your new shaving kit and you’re trying to avoid making mistakes.  One of those mistakes is being skimpy on preparation.  But do you really know how to prepare your skin for shaving?

First Things First

Before you even begin thinking about preparing the area to be shaved, thoroughly wash your hands first!  Dirty–or worse, contaminated–hands are just going to make it that much more difficult to clean the area to be shaved.

And I’m not talking about a quick rinse-and-wipe.  I mean really wash your hands, with soap and water, thoroughly (health professionals often suggest humming the “Happy Birthday” tune to yourself, twice, before a rinsing).

Use A Face Soap To Prepare Even If You’re Not Shaving Your Face

The next step in preparation is to begin rinsing the area to be shaved with generous amounts of warm-to-hot water (not uncomfortable to you) and cleansing with a product made specifically for the face–even if the area you’re about the shave isn’t the face.  Why? Because “deodorant soaps” or “body bars” strip away too much of the skin’s natural oils that make shaving easier.  Yes, you’re going to be using a shave lubricant (shave cream, soap, gel, etc.) when you take the blade to the skin, but why make the product work harder than it has to (or even can)?  The skin can still be clean and have some natural oil at the same time.

If you’re not sure what to use, there are a number of products I can recommend (Amazon links are affiliate, but you should be able to find these locally in the US).  If you want to run down to the corner store you can find:

  • Neutrogena’s “Razor Defense” Face Scrub.  This was one of the first “drug store” products I tried when I started wet shaving with traditional kit and it’s marketed specifically as a shaving-related product (part of Neutrogena’s “Razor Defense” product line);
  • Nivea’s “Original Moisturizing” face wash marches to a slightly different drummer.  It’s a thick gel that somehow applies quite evenly when rubbed onto the face;
  • CeraVe’s Foaming Facial Cleanser (one for dry-to-normal skin and one for normal-to-oily skin) is getting a reputation as an exceptional pre-shave wash;
  • Noxzema’s “Classic Clean” face cleanser cream from the jar has been around for ages and is widely known but a lot of men have never considered it for a pre-shave wash.  This stuff is mildly-scented, cleans well (low-lather), hydrates well, rinses quickly, and performs exceptionally well “underneath” shave lather.

If you want to “up your game” a bit there are a couple other products worth searching out.  I have always been a big fan of ACH Brito Glyce Lime Pre-Shaving Soap and I also quite like Lucky Tiger’s face wash.  But these are more “specialized” products that are less commonly available.

Take The Time

Spend up to next three minutes to wash and rinse the area to be shaved, with warm water. Physicians will tell you it can take up to three minutes to properly hydrate the skin for a shave.  Start at the far end and experiment working your way back to a time frame that works for you.  Personally, I only need a minute or so.

If you are going to be shaving your face be sure to pay attention to your neck area as well.  Many men neglect properly preparing the neck and then they wonder why they get irritation there….


You can easily integrate these ideas into a shower routine, saving some time and hassle.  After you shower your skin should be nicely clean and hydrated anyway, so why not go from there straight to a shave (don’t bother drying your face after showering)?

What About Pre-Shave Oils?

I’m not a big fan of pre-shave oils as a part of preparation.  They do nothing for cleaning the skin, and although they may help with lubrication during the shave, I think that if you use good products you won’t need them anyway.  If you do use a pre-shave oil as part of your shave preparation, apply it after cleansing but before applying your shaving lubrication product of choice.

What preparation techniques have worked well for you?  Leave a comment below!


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

1 thought on “Shaving 101 – How To Prepare Your Skin Before Shaving”

  1. Mo Bro's Discount Codes

    Thank you so much for letting us know how to prepare skin for a perfect and smooth shave. I have been having trouble in shaving since my teenage and now I am really fed up, your article has really helped me a lot in figuring out what I have been doing wrong all this time.

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