Should I shave with or against the grain? There are three different ways to shave: with the grain, against the grain, and cross grain. These are often seen as WTG, ATG, and XTG in the wet shaving community.
There's a lot of opinions out there on how you should shave to get the best shave. However everyone's skin condition is quite unique and one shoe doesn't fit everyone. I'll break down the pro's and cons of each direction of shave so you can decide for yourself. I'll throw my opinion in there as well.
Shaving With The Grain (WTG)
Shaving with the grain is the safest way to shave. By shaving with the grain you greatly lower your risk of shaving related issues. Shaving issues such as ingrown hairs, razor burn, and general skin irritation.
Shaving with the grain means shaving in the direction of hair growth. Sometimes this may be in an upward motion so don't confuse that with against the grain. Facial hairs around the neck often change growth direction and begin to grow from south to north.
As for your question "should I shave with or against the grain?", I believe you should always shave with the grain. Then you can shave across the grain if you think your shave isn't close enough. I recommend avoiding against the grain.
Shaving Against The Grain (ATG)
Shaving against the grain is the best way to get the closest and smoothest shave. Shaving against the grain cuts in the opposite direction of your facial hair growth. This allows the razor to lift the hairs and cut extremely close to the skin.
The problem with shaving against the grain is it opens you up to more shaving related issues. The same issues you avoid by shaving with the grain you open yourself up to by going against the grain. The most common issue from shaving against the grain is ingrown hairs.
Since you're cutting the hairs so close to the skin the hair is more likely to grow back under the skin. The thing is it isn't just every now and then either. It's way more common when you shave against the grain.
Shaving Across The Grain (XTG)
Shaving across the grain is the best alternative way to get a close shave without going against the grain. It's my favorite way to get a close shave and avoid having ingrown hairs the next day.
If you have sensitive skin this is going to be your go to shave as well. You just shave at an angle to the hair growth which isn't with nor against the grain. However, it should be across the grain in a direction that follows the hair growth direction.
Shaving across the grain should be done as your final pass of shaving. Your first one or two passes should be with the grain and final pass across the grain. This is the best way to get a close smooth shave and avoid shaving related issues.
Swap Your Razor To A Safety Razor
One of the biggest things you can do to make a dramatic change to your shave is moving over to a safety razor. Your cartridge razor with three to five blades is overkill and the source of a lot of shaving problems.
The more blades your razor has the more passes it counts for with each stroke. Basically if you have three blades and you make a single shaving stroke it's running three blades across your skin for technically three passes.
This is horrible for your skin and if you have sensitive skin you know exactly what I'm talking about. People with sensitive skin get a lot of issues from these multiple blade razors.
Safety razors have a single blade and gives you more total control over your shave. You'll get a closer smoother shave with less skin irritation. If you follow our WTG, WTG, and XTG shaving technique with a safety razor it will change your shaving routine for the best.
I've written several articles on some great safety razors. If you're in the market for one check out my articles and reviews on parker razors and some of the least aggressive safety razors. Both places are a good place to start.