I just got my first professional shave yesterday, and I've still got a bit of a high from it. I'm working on a story on professional shaves for Cargo (read it here) and my editor sent me to The Art of Shaving for the Royal Treatment. This is so why I became a journalist.
I walked into their little salon on Madison and 45th and was escorted to the back, where Leda, a robust Russian woman of about 30, proceeded to wrap my face with a steaming hot towel, leaving only my nostrils exposed. It was incredibly soothing, but as something of a mouth-breather, I found myself taking shallow breaths.
After a minute or so, the towel was removed and Leda applied a pre-shave treatment with mint and essential oils that really perked my skin up. With my eyes were closed, I could only hear the whir of the shaving cream warmer as it heated up the lather. Next thing I knew, it felt like someone was tucking my face into a warm, fluffy blanket (Note to self: Buy a shaving cream warmer ASAP). I could have stayed like that all afternoon, but it was time for the actual shave.
The idea of having a straight razor inches from your juguluar keeps most guys pretty loyal to their Mach 3. But Leda was so graceful, I instantly felt at ease. There was not a single nick or scratch--nothing even close! I can't even manage that when I shave in the shower. She shaved me once going with the grain (the direction your hair grows) and once against it. I had heard it was bad to shave against the grain, but I think I'm going to incorporate her method into my usual routine. In fact, the best thing about the shave (besides the euphoric buzz I walked out the door with) was that I learned a number of things I can use when I shave at home. I'm definitely doing the hot towel thing--Leda said you can heat it up in the microwave, so that its warm but not sopping wet.
My only complaint (and its a minor one) is that Leda and the other barber, an older man in his 60s, kept kibbitzing in Russian. Now, my Russian is limited to "how are you" and "I don't speak Russian," but you dont have to know a language to understand someone's intentions. Leda and this guy were totally bitching about work. I don't think they were talking about me ( I was the perfect customer, after all), but they would make quick, sarcastic comments as other customers came and went. It took away from my feeling of relaxation a bit, but maybe I was just being paranoid.
Still, I can't recommend getting a professional shave enough. If Art of Shaving is out of your price range (with tip, the Royal Treatment cost $65), many old-school barbershops offer them for much more reasonable rates. Its a great present to yourself or the man in your life.
<-- Me with my new baby-smooth punim.