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That's George on the right standing next to his father George. They're barbers. (circa 1936, City of Portland Archive)

Please welcome our newest member of the Olfactory Obsessed team, George the Barber!

George the Barber runs an old school barbershop in our neighborhood and comes from a long lineage of barbers going way back from 1845.  George likes to boast that his great great-grandfather trimmed Abraham Lincoln’s beard and his family was one of the first barbershops set up during the Gold Rush.  He runs his shop exactly the way his great great-grandfather, his great-grandfather, his grandfather, and his father did and takes pride in the fact that the decor hasn’t changed one bit.  He is old school through and through.  And if there is a question you need to ask about men’s grooming, George is your man!

Olfactory Obsessed:  Hey George, welcome to the blog!  I’m so glad you’re here to help all our male readers look and feel their best!

George the Barber: Why thank you! I’m honored to be here, whatever I can do to help!

Olfactory Obsessed:  So I have a question I’m dying to ask that I’m sure the menfolk out there want to know.  Do you have any tips and techniques on how to get the perfect close shave?

George the Barber:  Haha! Funny you should ask!  I get that question all the time from my clients.   Which reminds me…I have a joke for you!

A man enters a barbershop for a shave. While the barber is lathering him up, he mentions the problems he has getting a close shave around the cheeks. “I have just the thing,” says the barber taking a small wooden ball from a nearby drawer. “Just place this between your cheek and gum.” The client places the ball in his mouth and the barber proceeds with the closest shave the man has ever experienced. After a few strokes, the client asks in garbled speech, “And what if I swallow it?” “No problem,” says the barber. “Just bring it back tomorrow like everyone else does.”

(George the Barber slaps his knee and chuckles)


Olfactory Obsessed:  Mmmm…kay? That’s disgusting.  Now back to my question, George…

George the Barber: Oh yeah, sorry toots!  Here are my top easy peasy tips for that barber style shave at home:

First off, in order to get the optimum shave. You’ve got to have the proper tools:

The Brush

One of the most important tools for any barber is the badger brush which does three things: (1) The badger brush holds moisture and creates a rich creamy lather to help it stick to the skin. (2) The bristles massage the skin and helps to lift the hairs enabling a closer cut. (3) It smooths out the skin by exfoliating dead skin cells and reducing the chance of razor bumps.

The Razor

A good quality razor is obviously a must. I find the best razor for a close shave is the straight razor but most men find that intimidating. (The straight razor should be left to professionals like me anyway.) Use a good quality razor with sharp blades. Keep in mind you’re not just cutting off hair but also two layers of surface skin. A dull blade can traumatize your skin and is one of the contributing factors to razor burn. Always remember to change the blades often. Frequent usage promotes bacteria and accumulates dead skin gunk. You don’t want that on your mug. In my opinion, blades should be used no more than twice.

Shaving Cream

Use quality shaving cream with lubricants and moisturizer.  The primary function of shaving cream is to create a protective barrier so that the razor glides smoothly and easily across your face.  Also the less resistance, irritation, and nicks mean a longer lasting blade.  Make sure that your shaving cream produces a rich creamy lather instead of the foam that comes in those cans from the drugstore.  Foam does absolutely nothing for your face or your shave.  The aerosol from the cans actually cool the skin which is counterproductive to a good shave.  I recommend a high quality shaving soap.  They produce the richest lather.

Aftershave Moisturizing Balm

As I mentioned earlier,  shaving removes two layers of surface skin making your face sensitive and dry.  This is why you need a good aftershave moisturizing balm. Preferably one that is menthol and alcohol free. Menthol and alcohol will make your skin more dry and produces an unpleasant sting. Make sure it has moisturizing and healing proprieties such as shea butter, and Vitamins A&E.  The aftershave moisturizing balm will replenish your dry skin and promote a healthier looking face.

Now that you’ve got your tools, on to the technique:

1)  It’s always a good idea to shave right after you get out of the shower.  The heat and wet steam from the shower will soften your beard by penetrating into the hair shafts.  This is why you see us barbers wrap a hot wet towel around a client’s face.  I timed it and it takes approximately four minutes for the hair to become soaked with water.

2) Now it’s time to prep your brush and soap.  Fill a mug where you keep your shaving soap with hot water, submerge and soak the brush for one minute. Remove the brush and shake off excess water from the brush.  To create a lather, dip the tip of your brush into the soap mixture and start mixing the brush around the dish in both clockwise and counterclockwise directions until you produce a rich creamy lather.

3) Before you proceed shaving, you need to prep your face.  Wash your face with your favorite cleanser.  Using your hands spend 1 – 2 minutes rubbing the warm water over the area to be shaved. The warm rubbing action will heat up the skin and also puff up the cheeks making the hairs stand up. It is very important to keep your skin warm and wet at all times when shaving with a razor blade.

4) Apply the lather. With a nice thick head of soap on your brush apply the lather in small circular movements ending in an upward stroke. This helps lift the beard away from the face and allows the brush to cover all the hair with soap.

5) Now it’s time to take the blade to your face. It is important to shave in the direction of beard growth. Not doing so will result in nicks and ingrown hairs which cause razor bumps.  Start with the sides, the neck, the moustache area, and end with the chin.  The chin has the toughest areas of hair, and reserving the chin for last will give the chin hairs time to soften under the soap lather.

6)  When shaving, take your time and use short gentle strokes.  Pressing the blade too hard will result in razor burn or much worse deep cuts!  You would apply just enough pressure that you are following the contours of your face but not so much making an indent into your face.

7) Remove any residual soap with warm water then wash your face with cold water to close the pores.  Gently pat the face dry leaving it a little damp.  This is the time when your face is most vulnerable so go ahead and apply the aftershave moisturizing balm.

And there you have it, a barbershop style shave at home!

Olfactory Obsessed:  Wow! As a female, I had no idea shaving would be so involved! I can’t believe men do this almost every day.

George the Barber:  Yeah, it’s a pain in the neck! It seems like a lot but once you implement it into your routine, it makes shaving an enjoyable experience.

Stay tuned for more of George’s tips.  If you have a question on shaving tips and tools, feel free to leave a comment and ask George the Barber!