When you first decide to start shaving with a single blade, it can be incredibly intimidating. Where do I start? One of the best places to start is mapping the growth of your beard. Think of it like a road map that traces the direction of all of your facial hair.
Before we get into the how, let's explain the why. In the shaving community, there are three terms that are used often in conjunction with an excellent shave: shaving with the grain, shaving against the grain and shaving across the grain.
Shaving with the grain is moving the razor in the same direction as the natural growth of your beard. The advantage of shaving with the grain is the minimal chance of razor burn or skin irritation. Sometimes shaving with the grain doesn't give you those extremely close and refreshing shaves you envision. This is where shaving against the grain comes into play for most.
When shaving against the grain, you must use caution and not over do it. Shaving against the grain pulls the hair up and away from the skin, which runs an increased chance of razor burn being left in its path. For this reason, we recommend our customers to avoid shaving against the grain, if possible.
Instead, we recommend shaving across the grain -- this is the practice shaving perpendicular to your beard growth. This means taking horizontal strokes instead of vertical, for most. This shaving method will get you a closer shave than going with the grain, but won't be as harsh on your skin as shaving against the grain.
Now that we know the why, let's talk about the how. It's best to have at least 2-3 days of beard growth in place before you start mapping out your grain. Too short? The direction of growth will be hard to find, and you'll likely make some wrong assumptions. Too long? A natural curl of a beard may conceal the true direction of your growth.
Once you have the correct beard length, look in your mirror at different areas of your beard: specifically your neck, chin, left cheek, right cheek, and under your nose. Notice which direction the hairs grow in each of these areas. To confirm, grab a business card, credit card, or even the back of a comb and pass it lightly over each section of hair. Hair growing with the grain will feel as if you are just combing it down back into place. Hair growth that is against the grain will feel like you are pulling your hair follicles upright.
With a better understanding of your beard growth, it's time to get a close, comfortable shave. Once you're all lathered up, remember the grain direction for each region of your face and shave with the grain. If you need another pass, re-lather and go with the grain again - pivoting and changing the direction you're shaving to follow your unique beard map for each region. If after two passes with the grain, you haven't achieved the closeness you desire, you may want to bump up your shave setting.
Shaving according to your hair growth will not only help you get the close shave you've dreamed of, but also help avoid unwanted irritation. Here's a video of Patrick explaining everything beard grain, and why it's important.