Turbocharge Your Shaving Kit

Shaving cream and a razor are just a start. To take your personal grooming to the next level, equip your Dopp bag with these tools.

The humble Dopp kit -- named after its early 20th century inventor, leather craftsman Charles Doppelt -- has come a long way since it was a standard-issue razor-and-toothbrush carrier for WWII GIs. Just as modern man’s grooming needs have evolved to include more than a bar of soap and bucket of warm water, so have the innards of his Dopp kit.

Think of it as your personal arsenal of grooming weapons -- whether you’re headed off on a relief mission or simply prepping for another war at the office. Here’s everything you need:

1. Face wash
Put down the bar of soap and step away from the sink. Seriously. Now. Soap is drying and irritating. The trick here is to dissolve dirt and clean skin without stripping away all the oil, which can actually cause your skin to overcompensate by producing excess oil. And remember, when it comes to your face, you don’t want to over-cleanse. Once a day, preferably before you shave, is enough.

What to look for:

If you have dry skin, select a cream-based cleanser. If your face looks like an oil spill, look for an oil-free, soap-free liquid. And if you’re especially prone to breakouts, choose one that contains salicylic acid.

2. Pre-shave oil
Think of this as a primer for the second coat (that would be the shave cream). It softens skin and hairs to prevent razor burn and provides a super-slick surface for the razor to glide across.

What to look for:

Opt for natural plant-based softeners like coconut oil or olive oil, instead of petroleum-based products, which can clog pores.

3. Sensitive skin shave cream
Even if you don’t think you have sensitive skin, choosing a “sensitive skin” cream, gel or foam can help protect against redness and irritation.

What to look for:

Opt for one that contains aloe, glycerin and mineral oil -- key ingredients that soften and soothe. 

4. Shaving brush
This old-school tool is making a major comeback thanks to properly educated barbers and sophisticated consumers. It doesn’t just feel good on your skin, it’s backed by actual science: The gentle action of the bristles exfoliates skin and removes dead skin cells, then fluffs up your whiskers so they’re standing straight up for a closer shave.

What to look for:

Select one made out of badger hair -- it’s more expensive than boar but is higher-quality and softer on your face. (Plus, it will last a lifetime.)

5. Razor
If you’re still using the cheap disposable kind or one with too few blades, it’s time for a major upgrade.

What to look for:

Research has actually demonstrated the benefits of multiple-blade razors. The basic science is that the first blade engages the hair and pulls it out of the follicle so that the subsequent blades can cut the hair further down the shaft. Translation: a closer, smoother shave with less risk of nicks and cuts.

6. Styptic pencil
This short, medicated stick is a blast from the past that helps stop bleeding fast if you get a nick or cut. It stings but it works.

What to look for:

Aluminum sulfate in the ingredient list.

7. Aftershave
Use an aftershave gel or balm to calm the skin and reduce irritation.

What to look for:

Skip alcohol-based products, which can cause irritation and dryness. Instead, choose one that contains aloe and vitamin E -- Mother Nature’s original soothing and healing agents.

8. Electric nose and ear hair trimmer
You don’t need two separate tools -- one will do.

What to look for:

Look for an electric rotary version: It uses a rotary blade system that cuts in a circular motion to trim along the inside of the walls without getting too close. Other key features to look for are a built-in LED light (to help guide you in those dark cavities) and an integrated vacuum system (to collect hair as it trims).

9. Moisturizer
Contrary to every TV ad, face cream isn’t just about preventing wrinkles and fine lines: It helps keep your skin hydrated, protects against sun and wind, and can even promote skin cell regeneration.

What to look for:

If your skin is dry, look for ingredients like shea butter and aloe. If you’re prone to breakouts, look for an oil-free version labeled “noncomedogenic.” Either way, always choose one that contains sunscreen. (The American Academy of Dermatology recently upgraded its minimum SPF recommendation from 15 to 30.)

10. Eye cream
The finest, most delicate skin on your face is around your eyes. That’s also the first place to show signs of aging (like puffiness, crow’s feet and dark circles).

What to look for:

If your main objective is to reduce puffiness, pick a product that contains cucumber and caffeine (to soothe and tighten) with a roll-on application -- the simple act of rolling it on helps redistribute lymphatic buildup under the eye skin. To combat dark under-eye circles, look for a product with vitamin K -- studies have shown it can be an effective treatment because our body uses this vitamin in clotting.

11. Lip balm
Let’s face it: No one wants to kiss a pair of cracked smackers.

What to look for:

A non-petroleum-based product. It moisturizes without drying and promotes faster healing.

12. Stainless steel
This blanket category goes for all those little metal doodads: grooming scissors, nail clippers and tweezers. And when we say stainless steel, we mean it: You might be tempted to cut corners and go for the cheapest versions, but when you’re manscaping and clipping your sensitive zones, do you really want to risk diving in with rusty, dull blades? Didn’t think so. >

What to look for:

Select tools that can accommodate the size of your mitts. More and more companies are coming out with “man-sized” grooming tools for this very reason.

13. Hair styling products
Here you have many options, including gel, for an all-day, extra-strong hold with a bit of a wet look a la “Mad Men,” or paste/putty for a textured and spiky bed-head look.

What to look for:

If you’re a gel guy, look for a glycerin-based version for added moisture. If you swing for the paste/putty league but can’t decide which team to join, remember this: Putty offers a stronger hold (similar to a gel), while paste allows you to go back and restyle your mop throughout the day.

How Shaving Sharpens Your Life

Shaving accomplishes much more than just removing hair from your face. Here, we reveal the surprising benefits that accompany the right cut.

As even cavemen knew thousands of years ago, the act of shaving removes facial hair (except, their method involved sharp rocks, which couldn’t have been much fun and which made removing neck stubble, in particular, an adventure akin to dodging the dreaded follicle-saurus). What they -- and maybe a smart iPhone-carrying, Wii-playing guy like you -- didn’t realize is that the act of face-blading can also boost job prospects, improve skin health, curb wrinkles, and according to scientific research, make you more attractive. Here’s how.

At Work
Fair or not, people make assumptions about what job you’re suited for based on whether you’re clean-shaven or bearded, according to a Stockholm University study. The psychologists heading the study collected photos of men with and without facial hair and asked subjects to decide which job best fit each man.

The results were surprising: Apparently, having a beard is a positive for a college professor or scientist, but the opposite is true for white-collar jobs. If you’re a lawyer, budding executive or salesman, your favorability goes up once the stubble is shorn. Keep this in mind next time you’re weighing whether or not to come back from vacation with the Grizzly Adams look. 

In the Fountain of Youth
Using a razor keeps the skin healthier and holds acne at bay. It all has to do with exfoliation, the mild removal of the top layer of dead skin. “This helps cleanse your pores and reduce microscopic pimples that could ultimately lead to full-blown pimples visible to the naked eye,” says Dr. Daniel Sheehan, a dermatologist at the Medical College of Georgia.

A second benefit to exfoliation: It stimulates collagen production in the skin, which promotes elasticity and a younger, more vibrant glow.

Behind the Foliage
Dr. John C. Browning, a dermatologist at the University of Texas, notes that beards block you from applying moisturizer, the lack of which can speed up wrinkling. “It also allows others to fully see your face and takes away any assumption that the reason you have facial hair is because you need to hide behind something,” he says.

There’s a caveat, though: “Having a clean-shaven face exposes you to the sun’s rays more, so it’s important to apply sunscreen,” says Browning. “In case you’re worried about not getting enough vitamin D, which your body produces when you expose your skin to sunlight, take dietary supplements.”

In Love
Two studies offer good news for the clean team. The first was conducted by the international market intelligence company Synovate. It found that 26 percent of American women prefer men with beards, while the other 74 percent go for clean-shaven guys. (The highest ratio of women who prefer men who use razors comes from South Africa, at 94 percent; the lowest is Canada, at a still whopping 70 percent.)

The second study came from scientists at Barry University in Florida and the University of Louisville. In it, a group of men and women were given pictures of whiskerless and bearded guys, and they were asked to rate them on certain specific traits. The findings: Clean-shaven men were regarded as more appealing, more agreeable, younger and more mature.

Get Your Whiskers on: The Right Razor Cut for Your Face

A few swipes of the blade can highlight your best -- and distract from your, well, less than best -- facial features. Here’s how.

The hair on your face can work the same kind of magic as the hair on your head: The right cut can make you more handsome; the wrong one can emphasize your flaws.

“The general rule with facial hair is that you want it to offset the shape of your face and the size of your features,” says Eddie “Champ” Hall, owner and head of faculty at Champ’s Barber School in Pennsylvania. “If your face is long and skinny, a chinstrap beard can create the illusion of width; if it’s round, a goatee will help draw the eye down and make your face appear longer; if it’s square, a circle beard can help soften the jawline.”

And when it comes to trends, it’s not always the best idea to take your cues from Hollywood. The Van Dyck look (a mustache and pointy goatee -- think Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler) was all over the red carpet at last year’s Oscars, but it’s not a look everyone can pull off.  

Here’s how to get the look you want:

Circle Beard

Looks like
: A small chin beard that connects around the mouth to the mustache, creating a circle or oval shape. Also referred to as a “door knocker.”

Good for
: Square faces. This style helps soften the jawline and adds curves.

How to get it
: “In general, you want to grow a lot more hair than you think you’ll need,” says Cori Randall, New York City-based hairstylist and instructor. “Grow a full beard, 2 to 3 inches in length, and then shape it down using clippers, making sure the outside lines are sharp and even and line up with your smile lines.”

Looks like: A small chin beard resembling the facial hair on a billy goat.

Good for: Round faces, especially those with double chins, because it helps draw the eye down and make the face appear longer.

How to get it: “Completely shave the cheeks and upper lip,” says Hall. “Then shape the area around, and slightly under, the chin into a desired patch of hair.”

Looks like: A mustache combined with hair on the chin (basically a circle beard, minus the connection between the two patches of hair).

Good for: Square and oval faces, to add curves.

How to get it: “Just like the circle beard, you’re going to need a lot of hair to work with,” says Randall, “so you’ll need to grow it out for a few weeks.” Then use a razor to completely shave off the cheek area and the connection between the chin hair and mustache.

Van Dyck
Looks like
: A mustache and a separate pointed goatee. It’s named after the 17th-century Flemish portrait artist of the same name, who often sported the look and used it in his paintings.

Good for: Square and oval faces, to add curves.

How to get it: “Again, this is a look where you’ll need to grow out a full beard before you trim it down into shape,” says Hall. When you have enough hair to form a slightly longish goatee, “shave the cheeks until you have a circle beard, then carefully remove the connection between the two patches of hair and continue removing hairs until you get your desired shape.”

Looks like: A line of facial hair that extends from the sideburns and runs all the way along the jawline.

Good for: Round and oval face shapes, to introduce lines and angles.

How to get it: Shave the cheeks, upper lip and chin area, leaving a strip of hair along the jawline. “Start out by leaving a wider strip of hair than you think you need,” says Hall. “You can always narrow it down to a desired width later on.”

Soul Patch
Looks like: A small patch of hair -- circular, square or triangular -- located directly below the lower lip above the chin. The look was made popular by beatniks and jazz musicians in the 1950s and ’60s.

Good for: Any face shape, to add character and style.

How to get it: “The key to creating this look is absolute symmetry,” says Randall. “Shape it slowly from both sides, using your chin and mouth as guideposts.”

Manscaping: The Art of the Body Shave

Whether your back resembles the Amazon or you just think below-the-belt topiary’s cool, here’s what you need to know before you begin.

Remember that guy in middle school with all the back hair? He probably had a nickname like “werewolf” or “yeti.” And he had no choice but to learn the art of body shaving, better known as manscaping, at an early age (or it’s possible that he was so scarred from the locker room jokes that he turned into a recluse and didn’t bother).

Now that you’re older and pumping out more testosterone than when you sneaked into PG-13 movies, the subject of body hair isn’t quite as funny. Whether or not to shave -- and where -- is entirely personal. But being clean and tidy is definitely in.

“It is one of those things that men are finally comfortable talking about,” says Dr. Lisa Kellett, a dermatologist. “Many men are acquiring a more tailored, less hairy look.”

Successful manscaping without nicks or ingrown hairs involves somewhat different strategies than those used for shaving the face. Here are tips for clearing hair -- all the way down to the groin, where it can sometimes be hard to spot the lion in the tall grass.

Always manscape after or during a shower so the skin and hair is completely softened. To get an even smoother shave, shear any long hair with an electric trimmer or scissors, says Dr. Jeffrey Benabio, a dermatologist and skin care expert. Then apply shaving gel or cream and use a razor that adjusts to the shape of your body. Rinse it often.

Remember the cardinal rule of shaving: don’t apply pressure with the razor. To avoid nicks and ingrown hairs, let it glide across the skin. When you’re finished, avoid an alcohol-based deodorant for a while: It’ll irritate.

Sure, women shave against the grain on their legs, but don’t follow their lead, especially on the chest, where the skin is softer. Glide the razor mostly downhill except around the nipples -- you’ll need to be extra careful here. (Losing a nipple would make for lots of stares at the beach -- not the good kind.) Follow the hair’s varying directions and be sure not to nick the coarse skin.

Don’t try this alone. The person shaving should merely follow the advice above (shave with grain, let razor glide, etc.). A few more words of wisdom, though: don’t ask a girl to do this on your first date.

Again, cut the hair short first. Then use a fresh blade, pulling the skin as taut and flat as possible. Use only light, short strokes. These last tips are especially important when clearing the brush around the tree, so to speak. There’s no real danger to hitting any veins or lopping anything off in this, um, especially sensitive area.

Still, nicks are easier to get if you’re not meticulous. When you’re done, use moisturizer or else the area could itch for days and result in ingrown hairs -- the manscape from which there’s no escape.

Shaving: Secrets Dad Never Told You

Maybe you and Pa never had “the talk.” Or maybe you did, and still your face suffers from razor bumps and irritation. Here’s the shaving primer you never had.

It’s that subject you and your dad never mentioned. He felt too awkward to talk about it, and you -- fearful he’d go into graphic details on how it’s done properly and (ugh) tell the story of his first time -- didn’t even know how to bring it up. Yes, we’re talking about shaving.

As a result, you haven’t enjoyed the benefits of a baby-clean face since before your voice dropped an octave. And if you don’t have the sharpest shaving IQ, don’t worry: You’re not alone. Dr. Lisa Kellett, a dermatologist, says about 50 percent of her patients don’t shave properly. “It’s a time-consuming ritual, and the other problem is educating men about their skin,” she says. “The trend of men’s skin care is a new one.”

Your dad will agree with that last point, although you and he will probably never talk about it. Here are some pointers on how to shave the right way so you and the old man can talk about more comfortable subjects, like women.

Step 1: Shower first
Hot water opens the pores and softens the skin and hair. Ideally, you should also use an exfoliator, which will remove the dead outer layer of skin and keep the pores clean, recommends Kellett.

Step 2: Lather up
Use a thick, nondrying shave gel and apply it in a circular motion. “If you have one, use a badger-hair shaving brush, which helps lift the hairs, allowing the razor to cut them more cleanly and minimizing the stubborn few that escape the blade,” says Dr. Jeffrey Benabio, a dermatologist and skin care expert. 

Step 3: Use a sharp, multiblade razor
If you don’t have an effective, multiblade razor, you’re undermining all your other efforts. Rinse after every pass to remove hair and shave cream, and don’t press hard when shaving or you’ll be removing a layer of skin too. “Men don’t have to sacrifice their skin for a closer shave,” says Kellett. Just let the blade glide over your face and replace the cartridge after four or five uses.

Step 4: Shave in the direction the hair grows
Shave in the wrong direction and you’ll scrape away a layer of skin. And keep in mind: Hair doesn’t always point downward -- especially on the sideburns, chin and neck, notes Benabio. 

Step 5: Wash your face
Splash with cold water to close the pores. Pat dry.

Step 6: Moisturize
Lotion or aftershave will regenerate the skin. “A gel-based one is better for acne-prone skin,” advises Kellett.