Somewhere between the rosewater, the musky oil, the hot towels steamed in menthol and the cool transit of sharp steel across my chin, I realized this was probably the best shave of my life. In the hands of Mike Sposito, head barber and manager of the new Barber & Supply men’s salon in Brooklyn, my face felt smooth like never before, but just as memorable was the old-world pampering, with a mix of classic and new products, that Mike, a California native has picked up from barbers here and abroad. I asked him for tips on getting a shave like this at home—although for the full treatment, I’m afraid, you’re going to have to make a trip to the barber.
Closest isn’t always best. Most guys shave with a three-blade (or even five-blade) razor that slices the whiskers with ruthless efficiency. But the double-edged safety razor your grandfather used may have been better for the skin. “With a three-blade razor, each blade is removing a layer of skin, and over time, your skin can toughen up, and that can cause ingrown hairs,” says Sposito. Safety razors, which really aren’t dangerous as they look, have a couple of advantages: they cost pennies—you can find a box of 100 for $15 online—and since you use a new one every day, your blade is always sharp.”And shaving with a dull razor is the worst thing you can do,” says Sposito.
Rinse and repeat. Although the dozen or more steps that go into a great barbershop shave are sometimes more about creating a great experience, there are two you should never skip: Shave once, passing the razor with (not against) the grain of your beard. When you have finished, splash warm water on the bits of shaving cream that remains on your face and work up another loose, soapy lather. Now shave again, going across the grain (again, not against the grain). “That’s what we call a wet shave,” says Sposito. “The lather is still there to lubricate the blade, but it’s not as thick, so you can see through it. You don’t have to go over the whole face—this is your clean up phase.”
Feel the burn. Old school aftershave is enjoying a bit of revival now: some of the fragrances are amazing, and the serious jolt you get by splashing it on right after shaving does wonders for the sense of masculinity first thing in the morning. “I have one at home with bay rum scent that gives you that old man smell and alcohol to give that sting,” says Sposito. For daily use, however, he recommends a non-alcohol formula, such as Baxter of California’s Alcohol Free Aftershave Balm, with citrus, and at a bare minimum, a cold washcloth or splash of water to close up the follicles at the end of the shave. “That will help with any sensitivity or redness.”
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