Is Shaving Against the Grain Bad?

August 29, 2018 5 min read

Is Shaving Against the Grain Bad?

Naked Armor

“To be or not to be,” so begins the famous question.

Published by Naked Armor

Anyone taking up Shakespeare would immediately recognize Hamlet’s soliloquy against the slings and arrows of his particular misfortunes.

But given that the Bard-if we are to believe his only portrait that had survived the centuries-was also sporting a kick-ass beard, one can also remark tongue-in-cheek that he was also referring to whether or not he would have to shave against the grain.

Because how else could he have gotten those sharp beard lines?

Is Shaving Against the Grain Bad?

Among shaving purists, the question of whether it is bad to shave against the grain is an age-old question. I’m sure even the Egyptians, who started the fine art of shaving had also thought about it too. But given that they were more into shaving their heads bald, instead of beards, they probably did not give it too much of a serious thought.

This is probably why that until today, there is no widespread consensus on whether shaving across the grain is good or bad. In the particular male subculture of shaving connoisseurs, opinions are as varied as there are a number of beard styles. Dive into any of those online forums about shaving, and you’ll always find someone who swears shaving for or against the grain.

But First, What Is The Grain?

Simply put, the Grain is the natural direction that the hair grows in.

Right at birth, our hair follicles are set to grow in a predetermined pattern. Those of us who have the balding gene will lose hair at an early age; similarly, those of us with Bigfoot-like lush body hair are also a product of our genetic makeup.

Hair growth differs in every individual. If you examine your facial hair closely right now, you will find that at different spots, hair direction varies.

Your cheek hair may go downward, while your chin hair may go upward. The neck hair might grow upward and slightly towards the center of the throat. This, of course, varies per individual. The challenge here is how is to determine which parts are where the grain changes direction. These are the places that you want to end a stroke and start with another.

For most men, there is a sharp change of direction that occurs just around the jawline. Memorize that spot so you will know when to stop your downward stroke and begin with another to cleanly shave off your beard.

— Derek, Naked Armor Founder

So, How Does One Find the Grain?

First, you gotta let your hair grow out first for a couple of days. By then, you will have enough of a stubble to guide you along the grain. Run your fingers across each part of your beard in all directions. If you feel resistance, that is against the grain. The direction which has the least resistance is the direction of the grain.

For most men, there is a sharp change of direction that occurs just around the jawline. Memorize that spot so you will know when to stop your downward stroke and begin with another to cleanly shave off your beard.

Fendrihan Blog has a couple of useful tricks to help you map the grain on your face. On YouTube, chirhomin has an excellent how-to video which uses sound to guide you in finding your grain. Check it out.

Now, Should One Start Shaving Against the Grain?

No. At least, not yet.

Here at Naked Armor, we consider the art of shaving as the manliest of rituals. It cannot be rushed. A clean shave, where one achieves a baby-butt smoothness of chin and mug, cannot be obtained in just one stroke. It has to be approached with a certain sense of glacial indulgence and luxury.

A clean shave, therefore, can only be obtained in three passes.

Good Things come in Threes

First, begin shaving by going with the direction of the growth. This pass will be the easiest and less likely to provoke skin irritation. Use short, gradual strokes and approach from the right angle to prevent nicks or razor burns.

Once you’re finished, rinse your face and re-apply lather. On the second pass, shave across the direction of the growth by making a perpendicular stroke. Now, you’ve achieved a much closer shave.

Rinse and re-apply lather. Remember also to wash your razor.

Finally, since third time’s the charm, shave against the grain. Lay the blade almost flat against your skin and go really slowly. Don’t put too much pressure or you’re likely going to get cut by the blade. Let the razor’s weight do the work for you.

Shaving Shack has this excellent illustration on the suggested angles for each razor pass.

This three-pass shaving method allows you to gradually reduce your facial hair to achieve a close shave. So, yeah, it’s not a bad thing to shave against the grain. Just don’t do it on the first pass.

The Blade’s the Thing

Now that you know it’s okay to shave against the grain, you have to equip yourself with the proper tool to achieve the closest shave. With the convenience of modern razors, any kind or brand can almost certainly do the job. But being the discriminating gentleman that you are, I’m sure you wouldn’t just settle for the mediocre, right?

The Traditional Straight Edge Shaving Razor

Technique and method won’t matter a whit without the correct equipment. To get that elusive clean shave with just minimum strokes, you need to get a straight razor.

Straight Razor shaving has risen in popularity over the years. Men see it as the ultimate accessory in mastering the art of shaving. MenBiz says that using a straight razor is “like driving an E-Type Jaguar, despite that fact that modern cars have more technology packed into a single door handle, because it is the greatest car ever made.”, Enuff said.

There are many benefits to using a straight razor. The best one is that it really gets the job done.
Because straight razor blades are very sharp, they can cut beards close to the skin with a minimum amount of passes.

At Naked Armor, our fine selection of straight razors is made from high grade Japanese stainless steel and quality wood. Our Solomon Straight Razor, in particular, has merited wonderful reviews.

So if you’re looking for the one blade to easily cut across the grain of your stubble, why settle for anything less than a Naked Armor straight razor?

Read Next

How to Get a Close Shave with a Straight Razor?

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