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Traditional Wet Shaving - Correctly Zoning Your Hair
Many are unaware of just how much the grain direction on the beard can vary. This can result in people unknowingly shaving against the grain.
Luckily for me, the grain direction on my face is all one way. My entire face has a downward grain direction. My neck is a quite different case. At the bottom of the beard, I have a one inch thick line that has an upward grain direction. The center front part of the neck all the way to the jaw is a downward grain direction. The upper sides of my neck to the jaw actually has a side orientation.
Zoning your beard is easiest when done when your hair is just past the point of a skin close shave. This very close, short beard is going to feel very rough when going against the grain, but will still feel skin smooth when going with the grain. The time will vary depending on how fast your beard grows. For most people, this will be between 12-24 hours after shaving.
To zone your beard, take your finger and stroke it across a section of your face or neck. Move it up-down, down-up, front-back, and back-front. The direction where it feels skin smooth, or the least rough, depending on how far your beard has grown back, is the grain direction of that area (WTG). The opposite direction should give your finger the roughest sensation. This is the against the grain direction (ATG). Therefore, running perpendicular to that will be across the grain (XTG). I believe this is best accomplished starting at an endpoint on the beard, such as at one of the ears. When you find the grain direction near the ear, run your finger gradually along your face in that same direction until you encounter a significantly rougher feeling. Then perform the same test to make sure it feels smoother in another direction, because there is a chance that the rougher feeling could be a result of the varying closeness of your shave. If you do encounter a smoother feeling in another direction, then that is the beginning of a different zone of your beard. After you finish with your face, start at one end of your neck and repeat that same procedure.