The four-pass shave is a technique whereby each section of beard is shaved four times. The reason for this is a theory called beard reduction where the beard is incrementally trimmed closer to the skin until it is all gone. Each pass is reliant on the previous pass being effective.
In practice, you may end up doing more than four passes in some areas and fewer in others. Four passes is a guideline only.
You need a sharp razor blade and a good prep to attempt a four-pass shave. People with sensitive skin may not be able to complete a four-pass shave without irritation.
You shave your beard in a direction relative to the grain of your beard (the direction the hair grows):
Rinse and re-apply shaving cream between passes.
Pass 1 is WTG. Using a light touch, allowing the weight of the razor to do the work, shave your beard in the direction of hair growth. Different parts of your beard will have different growth patters, so keep this in mind while traversing your face and neck.
Pass 2 & 3 are XTG. Using alight touch, shave perpendicular to the direction of the hair. You can go across the grain in two directions, so the first time should be in one direction and the second time should be in the opposite direction.
Pass 4 is ATG. By now the beard should be short enough to tolerate a light-handed pass against the grain. Shaving ATG can be traumatic to some people in some parts of their beard so be careful. If it doesn’t feel like it will be comfortable, stop. There’s no shame in tapping out to a pss ATG.
Rinse your face and touch up any spots as required. Ensure you follow a good aftershave care routine to help your skin bounce back after the trauma of shaving.
You may have figured this on out yourself. Pulling skin taut with your free hand can help you get to parts of the beard that were otherwise inaccessible. It also creates a flat surface for the blade to glide across.
Be careful not to pull the skin too tightly. The goal is to make the skin flat, not to stand the hairs overly proud from the pores. Cutting hairs that stand too proud can result in in-grown hairs.
It may be unsightly, but pulling your chin in to your neck and pretending you have a few extra necks can make shaving the jawline easier. Coupled with the skin pull technique, you can navigate those tricky corners between th e face and neck more easily.
Pursing your lips can make the skin above and below your mouth easier to shave. The pursing pulls the skin flat and really helps with shaving the philtrum (the little groove under your nose).
This is a simple technique where the blade is pulled repeatedly across the same small patch of beard many times. Each stroke is only two-three inches long. Be sure to keep a light touch. This is a good finishing move to get the last little bits of hair that won’t submit to a full pass of the blade, particularly around the neckline.
Power-up your buffing by rotating the razor as you go.
This is a tricky move and not one you want to get wrong. It is where the razor is pulled forward and down at the same time. It mimics the motion of a slant razor where the blade is attacking the hairs of the beard on a slight angle. It is effective when used on long patches of beard, e.g. the cheeks.
If you get it wrong though, you could turn your face into hamburger meat. Be careful and perform this at your own risk!
The J hook and upside-down J hook are just as you’d imagine. The blade is pulled down and then swooped back up in a slight arcing motion to draw out a J shape. The inside edge of the blade may only cover an inch or two of space and the outside edge will sweep wider cover several inches.
This is a good finishing move that can clean up some of the hard to get hairs where the beard direction changes.