An important factor in getting a great shave that is also irritation free (as mentioned in this post here) is to know how your facial hair grows. If you do not know how your hair grows, it is likely that you are getting irritation and or ingrown hairs fairly frequently (I know I was). Our goal here is to help you learn how to map your growth so you can avoid the irritation and ingrown hairs.
The easiest way to map your growth is to let your hair grow a few days. The reason behind this is that the few days’ worth of growth will make it easier to see the growth pattern. Very few people have their facial hair grow straight north to south all over the face. It is quite frequent that hair growth direction will change drastically, even in the same part of your face. The general consensus is to let the hair grow three to five days to get an accurate mapping. The photos below (photo credit goes to Marion Hixon) show about 30 hours’ worth of growth.
You can see form the photo above that the hair grows at an angle. If you have a hard time detecting the angle on your own growth, you can take a credit card and run it up and down and sideways in a particular area and listen to the feedback and the feel to determine which way is truly with and against the grain. When you rub the card against the grain, you should feel some slight tugging. The sound will also be fairly louder than with or across the grain. You can also use a cotton ball and rub it in different directions. If the cotton ball is rubbed against the grain, it will leave a trail of cotton behind. If you rub the ball with or across the grain, the cotton ball will leave a clean trail in its wake.
Here is a great example of hair that grows sideways under the chin. Surprisingly this is a fairly common growth pattern in many people with whom I talk to about growth. This is also a great example of how hair changes direction in the same general area. We can see that some hair grows sideways, some grows north to south and some grows at varying angles. There is also a swirling patter that looks kind of like a hurricane. That type of growth can be very tricky to get an extremely close shave due to the numerour directions changes that happen in a small space. Knowing growth pattern in areas like this is key to decrease irritation and in grown hairs.
With all of the pictures here it is pretty easy to see that there are various growth patterns of hair. If one were to go against the grain on the first pass, that is where irritation and ingrown hairs occur.
In conclusion: if you can let your hair grow for three to five days, that is a great way to see which direction your hair truly grows. Ince you know how your hair grows; you can work out a sequence to shaving so you are not constantly changing direction for the strokes. A sequence is also important should you decide to venture into straight razor of shavette shaving