Shaving -- just downstrokes or both directions?

I’ve been shaving daily for the past 35 years. I always start shaving with downward strokes on my face. After my beard became thicker, I added shaving upstrokes and even diagonal strokes to get a truly smooth shave.

I remember several years ago when the television show, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy was on, that they always advised just shaving down strokes, and not doing anything else. IIRC, they said using upstrokes irritated the skin.

So what is the straight dope on shaving techniques? What do you do?

I never had lessons (or if my father taught me, the memory has flown away, as so many do), but I tend to start on the cheeks shaving downward to the chin, then switch to an upward motion on the neck up to the chin, and then it’s pretty much free-form as i move my hand along my face to find patches I missed.

Helps to have a mustache and beard, saves at least 10-12% of the effort…

I think it depends on your skin. Upstrokes give me a bunch of ingrown hairs. Even doing all downstrokes gave me some blemishes; I really noticed a difference when I grew my beard out.

Based on what I’ve learned in a few years on some of the message boards concerned with shaving topics (stuff like straight razors, double-edged razors, brushes, soaps, aftershaves, etc…) the real trick to shaving isn’t upstrokes or downstrokes specifically, but to find out the “grain” of how your facial hair grows, and shave with that, or at worst, across that. You don’t want to go against that- it causes irritation and ingrown hairs.

So if you’re like me, the hair grows downward on my cheeks and around my mouth, and grows away from my chin on my jaw and neck (well, it sort of goes upwards near my Adam’s apple, and curves up and away the further you get).

So a good non-irritating shave is to go downward above my jaw, and upward below, like **The Stainless Steel Rat **suggests. But your hair may grow differently, so after a weekend without shaving, take a look and see how it grows and adjust your technique.

It depends on your skin and beard,

Shaving “against the grain” with a blade is smoother, but increases the risk of skin irritation for me.

With an electric, I shave against the grain because the razor can’t get quite as close.

On my upper lip, I occasionally will shave against the grain after taking the downward strokes, just to get the closest possible shave. On my cheeks, I shave down, and then across a couple of strokes, which gets close but avoids the irritation of going completely against the grain. It works for me.

I always have used down strokes. Trying to go up on the neck never ends well with me. I cut myself.

The one exception is along my jaw. I first hit it with down strokes (cheek to jaw) then one pass with the razor following my jaw. Sideways, I guess describes it best.

I use an old Schick injector razor that I’ve had for 30 years.

I never shave against the grain.

My hair is unusually thick and can be difficult to cut. I always start out shaving with the grain. Then if there are any hairs in weird places that didn’t get cut, I might use diagonal or upwards strokes to take care of them (for example, around the Adam’s apple or under the nose). But that’s just for catching the ones I missed.

Do you have a binary face?
I shave in multiple directions, especially around facial features (like my chin).

I definitely go both with and against “the grain”, but I’ll cut sideways and diagonally across the grain, as well.

I can’t get my face smooth unless I shave against the grain. I use lotion after I shave, to minimize the irritation, but I would rather have a smooth shave and put up with the irritation.

The Lovely and Talented Mrs. Shodan also prefers it that way, and signifies her assent in pleasant ways.


Another with the grain on the face, against the grain on the neck guy. Above my upper lip may need a couple of sideways strokes to get a smooth finish.

I use a Gillette triple blade wet razor with gel, if that makes any difference. I’m fortunate in that I don’t have a heavy beard, particularly not on my cheeks.

When I started shaving, I tried to get a very close shave, and found shaving against the grain more effective for this. I also had a lot of irritation, so I grew a beard at a young age.

I think I would have been happier shaving if I hadn’t fussed about a super clean shave, and I’d only shaved with the grain. Then maybe I’d be (more or less) clean shaven. I did tryshaving it all off a few years ago. I did better with the irritation, because I didn’t shave against the grain, but I couldn’t recognize myself in photos and mirrors, and it creeped me out.

As I’ve gotten older, more of my face has emerged from my beard as I trim more around the edges. I mostly only shave with the grain, with some sideways or against the grain to get the edge of my beard.

Also, I now shave with conditioner, in the shower. Usually every other day or less (minimal stubble is less noticeable with beard, I think). Much less irritation.

I always shave against the grain, don’t have any skin irritation.


When I’m done, I wet my face again and feel for and missed spots as well as for which direction the hair is growing.
If I find a spot that is this way… ///// …

Then I shave this way… <---- …

…and the result is smooth and problem free.

What the last two posters have said, adding that I shave my whole head that way. The only way to get it really smooth is to make at least one pass against the grain. In 15 years I haven’t run into any ingrown hairs or undue irritation.

If only there were a Straight Dope shaving seminar.

I was wondering who the other person still using an Injector was! Do you buy your blades on Amazon?

I’d suspect a barber would be the person to ask.

Another cross-shaver!