Given that the average man will spend something like 138 days of his life shaving, you’d think that by the time we hit the prime of our life we’d have this most basic of grooming chores down to an art. But that’s not necessarily the case says ‘Shave Doctor’ Mark Sproston, a man who counsels men of all ages on how to improve their shaving technique.
“I come across many men in their 50s who have inherited bad techniques and crave for a more comfortable and closer shave experience,” he says.
“Quite often this is because they were never taught how to shave properly by their fathers or they picked up bad shaving technique from day one.”
Even if you think you’ve got shaving down to an art and rarely experience problems, changes in our skin as we age mean you may need to tweak your technique a little to ensure you get super-smooth results. Here’s how:
Exfoliate before shaving
“Skin renews itself roughly every 28 days but this process slows down as we get older, making the skin look dull,” says Sally Penford of the International Dermal Institute. That isn’t just bad news for your overall appearance; it will affect the quality of your shave, too, because any dead cells that sit on the surface of the skin create an uneven shaving surface (never good news for your razor) and will clog your blades, creating unnecessary drag.
To remove these cells use a product such as Dermalogica’s Daily Microfoliant (£41.30), which, being a bit gentler on the skin than harsh scrubs, is perfect for more mature skin.
Moisturise moisturise moisturise! (And then moisturise a bit more)
As well as becoming more, er, ‘characterful’ on the wrinkle front, skin tends to become drier as we get older thanks to a slowdown in oil production. While this means an end to spots and pesky shiny patches, it also means drier, flakier skin and that’s bad news for shaving because dry skin has more microscopic ridges than the plump, hydrated type. This means your blade has a more uneven surface to navigate, and that can lead to tiny cuts and abrasions.
The solution? Moisturise. “If a man uses a moisturiser every day the skin will become far more supple and easier to shave and it’ll help condition the beard hair too,” says Sproston. He reckons he’s shaved men in their 50s who have better-conditioned skin that ones in their 20s because they’ve looked after it and moisturised properly.
Try Elemis’ Time For Men Daily Moisture Boost, £29, which is light and nourishing enough to be used as a post-shave balm too.
Don’t worry about the grey
One thing you don’t need to worry about (see, there is good news too) is how increasingly greying stubble might affect your shave. A lot of men complain that their beards gets coarser as they age but this is more about perception than reality.
“Contrary to popular belief, grey hair is not coarser,” says trichologist Philip Kingsley. “It may become drier, however, because oil glands function less effectively as we get older which may give the impression of coarseness.”
Side-step sagging skin
As we get older, skin becomes craggier and loses its elasticity a little. This increasingly uneven terrain and slackness can make shaving a tougher challenge but any problems are easily corrected by using your fingers to stretch the skin before you shave. This will ensure that the stubble rises off the skin, making it easier to cut.
Sproston also recommends taking a bit more time with your shave and using short stokes, around 2cm in length. Rushing, especially over uneven skin, only leads to nicks and cuts. Begin by shaving the softer stubble on the cheeks and neck, leaving the toughest bits around the chin and lips until last so they’ve had more time to soften.
Skip the aftershave
Given that skin becomes drier as we age, the last thing you want to do is put anything on it that makes it even drier: you want your face to be akin to a well-watered Welsh valley rather than an arid Australian desert. Traditional splash-on aftershaves, with their high alcohol content, are notorious for sucking out the moisture from skin.
Skip them altogether and apply an aftershave balm. Try Clinique’s Post-Shave Soother, £20, which has been designed to soothe and repair skin without robbing it of moisture.
Have a lesson in shaving
Like driving, shaving is a skill that once learned you never forget. But, also like driving, it’s easy to pick up bad habits and repeat simple mistakes all your life. And it’s never too late to correct those mistakes or to take a refresher course in how to master your shave.
Or treat yourself to a wet shave and pump the barber for tips. It’s never too late to teach an old dog new tricks – even if those tricks involve a razor and a shave cream.