Enjoying a close, quality shave can be a simple process when you pay attention to the basics.

Despite the fact that it’s a part of nearly every mans daily routine, the truth is that most of us are never taught how to shave properly. I never took a course in it, never read about it and if I weren’t a dermatologist, I’m not sure that I would know the best way to do it. Most men make all kinds of mistakes while shaving. Fortunately, they’re easy to correct.

The essentials

The best time to shave is right after you get out of the shower, when your skin is moist. If that’s not possible, wash your face well with warm water the hotter, the better. Then apply a shaving gel. A gel actually lubricates your skin while going from a gel state to a foam state. You can use any gel or even a standard foam. Just be sure to look for one with a built-in moisturizer, as some can be very drying. Massage the gel or foam into your skin and let it sit for a minute in order to push up the hair and soften it for the shave.

In the area of blades, technology has come a long way from the days of single blades, which didn’t slide across the skin very well. Every bump on your face could result in a nick or cut. Today, razors come with up to five blades and pivoting heads that follow the contours of your face.

How do you know when its time to change your blade? It differs for every man, based on how often you shave or the thickness of your facial hair, but when the blade stops sliding smoothly or any kind of pulling results, that’s when it needs to be retired. The good news is that well-made blades today are

sharper and better honed than they used to be, so even if they cost more money up front, the blades are likely to last longer.

Shaving best practices

Wash before shaving. Even if you’ve just taken a shower, a splash of warm water can help open up your pores.

Let the gel/ cream sit. Waiting for a minute before shaving will add moisture from the gel to your follicles, making them easier to cut.

Replace blades when they pull Shaving should be a smooth process; if your razor blade is pulling hairs, it’s not sharp enough.

The technique

Now comes the actual shaving part. You want one nice, even stroke from top to bottom in the same direction, not multiple strokes in one area. If you have to go over an area repeatedly, your blade isnt sharp enough. When shaving your neck, note the direction of hair growth and shave with the grain,not against it. It’s not uncommon to have hair that grows sideways on the neck, so shave those areas sideways for the best results.

If ingrown hairs are an issue, you may be tempted to shave less. However, you should actually shave more. A┬áconsistent daily routine doesn’t give the hairs a chance to become ingrown. If it’s a problem no matter what you do, see your dermatologist.

The process is as simple as that. Afterward, rinse your face with cold water to relieve your skin from any nicks or cuts before patting it dry with a towel. You can then put on your favorite cologne (or alcohol-free after shave if you prefer, though it’s not necessary) and enjoy that smooth, close shave.

Dr. Jeffrey S. Dover, M.D., FRCPC, is a Boston dermatologist and co-director of Skin-care Physicians. He serves as Associate Clinical Professor of Dermatology at Yale University School of Medicine, Adjunct Professor of Surgery (Dermatology) at Dartmouth Medical School and Adjunct Associate Professor of Dermatology at Brown Medical School.