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Perfecting the art of shaving

Seamus Torpey, always interested in becoming barber, began his career when he was 15. He was running his own barbershop in Miltown Malbay by the time he was 20 but left this to go to NUIG. After completing a research masters in information technology, he travelled South-East Asia, India, China, Mongolia and Siberia, before going back to Galway in 2007.

Seamus Torpey, owner of Fat Tony's Barber Shop. Photograph by Declan MonaghanIt was there that he returned to work as a barber with a renewed enthusiasm, eager to learn everything about the craft.
In Fat Tony’s, a chain of barbershops in Galway, one of the first things that Seamus learned was the art of shaving.
“I hadn’t been doing shaving before and I wanted to learn everything when I went back to barbering. I learned the shaving from Turkish lads; they are the masters,” he recalls.
“Prior to learning the shaving method I had no real cut-throat shaving experience,” Seamus jokes. “The Turkish style is a wet shave with scented hot towels. A natural bristle brush is then used to soften and lift stubble for the closest shave possible and repeated again for maximum effect. To finish it off, you receive a healing moisturising facial and a soothing head, neck and shoulder massage.”
This year, Seamus opened his own branch of Fat Tony’s on the Quin Road in Ennis and he estimates that about half of the men who come in for a shave haven’t been using the right shaving technique.
“I would say one in every two people that comes in here for a shave needs to get advice. They aren’t doing it correctly. They have barber’s rash or ingrowing hairs or that,” Seamus explains. This is one of the reasons that he has decided to hold workshops in schools teaching young men about how to perfect the art of shaving.
According to Seamus, the most common shaving problems are razor burn, cuts and ingrown hairs.
“Razor burn is an irritation of the skin caused by using a blunt blade or not using the proper technique. It appears as a mild rash a day or two after shaving. In severe cases, razor burn can also be accompanied by razor bumps, where the area around shaved hairs get raised red welts,” he describes.
“Cuts and scrapes are a result of poor preparation, a dull blade or applying too much pressure on the blade,” he continues. “Ingrown hairs occur when hairs are either pushed back into the skin while shaving or curl back, re-entering the same follicle. They look like pimples and can be quiet itchy,” Seamus outlines.
But he is keen to point out that these pitfalls can be avoided by employing the correct techniques. “Shaving is an art. Time and effort should be taken and results will be felt and noticed,” the Miltown Malbay man believes.
In recent years, according to Seamus, men have become increasingly conscious of their appearance, a fact that should bode well for his business.
“Men have definitely taken a bigger interest in their appearance for sure, and this has reached the highest levels of Government. Our last Taoiseach Bertie Ahern spent almost €22,000 on make-up services and cosmetics in 2007, which was actually down from the €25,500 he spent on foundation and concealer in 2006. Today, the average male spends between €20 and €100 on grooming and products per month in Ireland,” the barber claims.


Fat Tony’s tips for the perfect shave

Before the blade
Always shave after or during a hot shower, never before. This emulates the procedure used in the barbershop, whereby scented hot towels are used to soften the beard. Applying a little hair conditioner in the shower to the beard helps soften the hair. A nice soft beard can be removed far more easily than one that feels like a brillo pad.  Before shaving, apply a shaving oil, which protects the skin by creating a layer of oils that help the razor glide across the face easier, preventing razor burn and cuts.

Lather up
A good shaving cream can be rubbed into the beard with the fingers but for best results, use a good quality badger hair shaving brush. Synthetic shave brushes are generally made from nylon and are stiffer and don’t get in around the hair, whereas a natural or badger brush is softer and will get the soap in around the hair much better, therefore softening the beard better. It’s all about making the job easier.
Apply the cream in a circular motion, softening and lifting the hairs. The cream, when applied, must be kept moist to prevent ‘burning’. The longer you massage the cream into the beard, the better the results.

Go with the grain
Always use a good blade that has been warmed in the sink or under the hot running water. Shave in the direction of the hair growth. Use light, short strokes and clean the blade after every stroke. Every time you make a pass on your face, your blade is collecting hair and shaving cream. This gets in the way of the blade making a clean cut.
Never shave “against the grain” of the beard. In awkward areas, such as under the chin, you can shave across the direction of growth, but never against as this pulls the skin in the wrong direction, causing bumps and small cuts. Try not to apply too much pressure on your razor, as this strips away important layers of new skin.
Rinse the face thoroughly with cold water to seal the skin and pat dry with a soft towel. Dry your blade and brush, thus preventing bacteria.

After shave
A good wet shave exfoliates and cleanses the skin, leaving a smooth, healthy, clean appearance. Newly exfoliated skin needs to be protected from the elements, so for healthy skin, it is important to use an after-shave moisturiser. It is good to apply this 10 to 20 minutes after the shave if possible. Products containing alcohol should not be applied to the skin directly after shaving, as this may inflame the skin and cause dryness. Cologne should be applied to the area behind the earlobes and on the sides of the neck. It is good to use an exfoliating cream a few times a week. Use this the evening before the shave, as this will remove the dead skin and prevent ingrown hairs. Never use exfoliating cream after the shave.

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