How do I map my beard grain?
Mapping the direction of hair growth is a great place to start if you are new to wetshaving. Building a map will be a great indicator for your unique beard growth and where to begin. In the shaving community, there are two main ways of shaving: with the grain or against the grain.
Shaving with the grain is moving the razor in the same direction as the natural growth of your beard. The advantage to shaving with the grain is the minimal chance of razor burn or skin irritation. Sometimes shaving with the grain doesn't give you those extremely close and refreshing shaves you envision. This is where shaving against the grain comes into play.
When shaving against the grain, you must use caution and not over do it. Shaving against the grain pulls the hair up and away from the skin, which runs an increased chance of razor burn being left in it's path. It is recommended that you only shave against the grain in the areas of your beard where you typically need an extra close shave. Experiment with caution at first.
Now that we have the why, let's focus on how. It's best to have at least 2-3 days of beard growth in place before you start mapping out your grain. Too short? The direction of growth will be hard to find, and you'll likely make some wrong assumptions. Too long? A natural curl of a beard may conceal the true direction of your growth.
Once you have the correct beard length, look in your mirror at different areas of your beard: specifically your neck, chin, left cheek, right cheek, and under your nose. Notice which direction the hairs grow in each of these areas. To confirm, grab a business card, credit card, or even the back of a comb and pass it lightly over each section of hair. Hair growing with the grain will feel as if you are just combing it down back into place. Hair growth that is against the grain will feel like you are pulling your hair follicles upright.
Shaving according to your hair growth will not only help you get the close shave you've dreamed of, but also help avoid unwanted irritation.