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Skin Care - Grooming - Living Life

Shave School: Mapping

Facial hair grows differently on each person and can often be quite unpredictable. This is why mapping can help an individual determine the best method to obtaining the perfect shave.

Mapping is the exercise of using your fingers to "map" out the directions your hair grows. Your fingers will move smoothly when rubbing in the direction of hair growth and will feel some friction in the opposite direction.

Let's start with a few key mapping terms.

Shaving with the Grain (WTG)

Shave in the same direction that your hair grows. It's the conservative play, but it gets the job done. After shaving, your skin should feel smooth when rubbing your fingers in the direction of the shave but you'll feel some invisible stubble if you rub your fingers in the opposite direction.

Shaving against the Grain (ATG)

Shave in the opposite direction that your hair grows. This method results in the closest shave but if you have curly/kinky hair or sensitive skin, it can lead to some unsightly irritation, razor burn and/or bumps. I don’t suggest trying this for the first time before an important event.

Shaving across the Grain (XTG)

Shave across the direction that your hair grows. It's the Goldilocks of shaving; not too hot (ATG) and not too cold (XTG). This technique is a great way to clean up areas prone to thick stubble after shaving with the grain without risking as much irritation as shaving against the grain.

Pro Tips

There's no science to choosing when you should go WTG, ATG or XTG; I utilize each on different parts of my face (WTG on my upper lip and neck area, ATG on my sideburns and XTG on my chin) but there are a few rules to live by:

  1. Everybody is different and there's going to be some trial and error when experimenting beyond WTG.
  2. If you have sensitive skin or are prone to razor bumps, don't even think about ATG. All the technique in the world can't save you; biology is biology.
  3. Take your time when experimenting with ATG and XTG. Using a lubricating shave gel helps but so does being patient.