how to shave without pain

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The Independent Culture
Men fall into two distinct categories. There are those that emerge Adonis-like from the bathroom with the marble faces of Paco Rabanne models, and the rest of us, who come out wincing in pain with skin rashes and bits of toilet paper stuck on gashes, inflicted by rusty twin-heads.

Thankfully, there are barbers like Daniel Rouah, an impeccably-dressed Parisian-in-exile on Baker Street, and last year's Gillette Barber of the Year. He appears on television, collects antique shaving paraphernalia, hates beards, and says things like: "It's sexy to see a picture of a woman shaving a man," in a thick French accent. He also gives free shaving lessons to enlighten the British male on the finer points of this tiresome morning ritual.

"Always shave first thing in the morning, before food," he advises before the demonstration. "Get in the shower and soften your skin with warm water by pointing the shower attachment to your face and the pressure will soften up your skin. Then wash your face with a cleaning lotion without drying your face immediately after the shower."

He has just removed the hot towel covering my face and examines the results of two days' growth with disapproval. "The only way you can get a good shave is when the growth is eight to 10 hours old because it's short and the razor is sharp and it'll go over it very lightly."

He squeezes some moisturising cream on to my palm, which I apply to my face "to seal the skin and stop it from inflaming", says Rouah, who covers it with shaving lather, making circular motions with an old-fashioned brush. "It is better for getting your hairs to stand up," he tells me.

Though a master with the cut-throat, he feels my sensitive skin isn't up to it, so he uses a standard twin-blade. "Always shave downwards," he says, gliding the blade with short, even strokes through the mass of lather. "Shouldn't I be using shaving foam?" I ask. "You might as well get some sandpaper and scrape your face with it," he laughs.

If, so far, this method bears no relation to yours, here's more bad news - those cheap disposable razors in your bathroom cupboard will have to go too. "They scrape and irritate sensitive skin, causing it to inflame," says Rouah. "And remember - the blade mustn't be used for more than three days."

According to Rouah, men are so mean with themselves most never ask for an after-shave. An attitude which spills over into other areas of our presentation. "The secret of people's success is to project the right image. If you look good you feel good. It's all in my new book, Sex, Style and Sweetness, I'll send you a copy."

With a flick of the towel, and a "Voila" - my face is restored to pre-pubescent glory in just three minutes, though I'm worried that my skin has a slight burning sensation. "You should use a special moisturising cream," he says. "Wash your face every night and moisturise it, and every week you should give yourself a facial mask. If you don't prepare the skin properly, you'll never be able to shave properly."

Wondering whether I've got time for all this, I ask him why people cut themselves so often. "Because they shave in a hurry, don't use the right razor, the mirror may be steamed up, or they've drunk a lot of alcohol the night before." If you do shed blood, he recommends using a styptic pencil which helps to shrink the skin.

Rouah is now attending to Alex, a regular customer who claims to have once spent pounds 80 on waxing his moustache. "Why not?" says Rouah, "some men spend pounds 200 on a pair of shoes. Be clean, project sanity - that's what the girls are looking for. If you like yourself, you'll succeed in life."

One of his two female assistants gives me a list of skin and hair care products available at the barber shop as I leave Rouah to attend to Alex's follicles. "Give her your address and we'll send you a range of products," he shouts from the other side of the room. I'm off to purge the bathroom of shaving foam.

Daniel Rouah's Barber Shop, 7a Station Approach, London NW1 5TD (0171- 935 4362)

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