Why Do You Still Have Stubble After Shaving Your Face? (4 Big Reasons)

Shaving can be an incredibly relaxing and rejuvenating experience for your skin. But after exfoliating, lathering up, shaving, washing, and applying aftershave, it can be annoying to feel or see stubble on your face after shaving.

If you still have stubble on your face after shaving, this might be because your razor isn’t sharp, you’re not shaving across the grain or against the grain of your hair, or you don’t take multiple “passes” with your razor. Regardless of the issue, it all comes down to how close of a shave you can get.

In this article, I’ll address the key reasons you might still be feeling stubble on your face after shaving. Additionally, I’ll show you step-by-step how to shave without getting stubble. 

Why do you have stubble left on your face after shaving?

Whether you’ve been putting up with your post-shave stubble for years or you want to brush up on proper shaving techniques, this article will help you make your post-shave experience smooth and memorable.

There’s a common problem many shavers have after they’ve wrapped up their shaving session: there’s still stubble. Isn’t the whole point of shaving to have nice smooth skin? 

There are many reasons that can explain why stubble can be so persistent — and why getting rid of it can be tricky.

The four most common reasons there’s still stubble on your face after shaving are:

  • Improper Razor Selection
  • Dull or Damaged Razor Blades
  • Water Temperature Issues
  • Inadequate Number of Passes

To help you remove stubble after shaving your face, here are more detailed explanations as to why you have stubble post-shave.

Type of razors

The type of razor you use can have a huge impact on how close of a shave you have — and, as a result, how little stubble you have left on your face.

  • Safety Razors: I recommend using a double-edge or safety razor for shaving. The single razor blade on a safety razor puts the blade as close to your skin as possible. This means you can trim hairs as close to the surface of your skin as possible.
  • Cartridge Razors: Cartridge razors typically have multiple blades. As a result, they can cause more irritation to your skin. According to Purvisha Patel, M.D., board-certified dermatologist, cartridge razors need more pressure to ensure that stubble isn’t there after shaving. Adding extra pressure can cause ingrown hairs, folliculitis (irritation of the follicle), and inflammation. While cartridge razors might be able to get a closer shave, the irritation they cause can certainly be a drawback for any shaver with sensitive skin.
  • Straight Razor: Last but not least, there’s the straight razor. Unless you are a practiced and gifted straight razor shaver (i.e., a barber), your results may be mixed. In fact, a 1979 study with dutch researchers found that a straight razor shaves hair approximately 2/1000 inches shorter than electrics. So, unless you’re an expert, you might want to stick with the safety razor. 

Type of razor blades

To make sure your shave is as close as possible, you’ll want to use a new razor each time you’re shaving. Whether you decide to use a cartridge or a safety razor, you want a clean and sharp blade.

A sharp blade has the ability to cut the hair as close to your skin as possible. According to materials scientists at MIT, if you use a dull or damaged blade, you greatly diminish the efficiency and effectiveness of the razor. 

As for the brand of razors you use, there’s one industry standard for safety razor blades: Feather. Made in Japan, these razor blades are some of the highest-rated blades in the world. According to New York City barber Julien Howard, “Feather is the sharpest on the market, period.” 

But with sharpness comes great responsibility. Ensure that you don’t press the blade into your skin aggressively or move the razor across your face too fast. Take your time if you’re using the sharpest blades on the market, and let the blade do the work.

Cold vs. Hot Water Shaving

Hot water shaving has been the standard for shaving. Part of this has to do with the relaxing qualities hot or warm water has. 

But, in recent years, the internet has abounded with testimonial evidence on the benefits of cold water shaving. 

One theory is that cold water shaving “stiffens” hairs, making them easier to cut. However, a dermatologist at the Cleveland Clinic, Rachel Ward, M.D., believes that using warm — not necessarily hot — water is the best way to minimize the chance of cutting yourself while at the same maximizing the chance of a close shave.

Like all things in shaving, it’s important to see what works for you, your hair texture, and your skin.

Number of passes

Passes in shaving refer to how many times you move the blade across your skin. To get as close a shave as possible and reduce the amount of stubble, you will likely need to make more than one pass with your razor.

For most shavers, two or three passes with a safety razor reduce the possibility of having stubble left on your face.

It’s important to note that these passes are done in specific ways. 

  • First Pass: Typically, the first pass moves with the grain of your hair — meaning the razor is moving along the same way your hair grows. To find out which way your hair grows, feel your hair. Which direction feels smooth and doesn’t meet resistance? That’s the direction that goes with the grain.
  • Second Pass: The second pass moves across the grain and, occasionally, against the grain. Against the grain is the pokey and sharp direction that is the opposite direction your hair grows. Across the grain is halfway between across and against the grain. 

NOTE: Take extra caution when shaving across and against the grain. You’ll meet the most resistance shaving in these directions; however, you’ll most likely achieve the closest shave if you complete two or three passes — one with the grain and one or two across and against the grain, respectively. 

How do you get rid of stubble on your face after shaving?

If you’ve just finished shaving, it can be frustrating to see stubble on your face after you’ve cleaned up.

To remedy the situation, it’s important to catch any left-over stubble before you apply aftershave or moisturizer to your face. This allows you to reapply shaving soap to the area that still has stubble. 

From there, make sure that your first pass is with the grain of your hair. And, if needed, make your second pass across the grain of the leftover stubble.

If you didn’t notice the stubble until after you’ve applied aftershave or moisturized, you have a couple of options:

  1. Wash the aftershave/moisturizer off of your face. Then, proceed to re-shave the area that still has stubble.
  2. Continue about your day and hope your sand-paper stubble doesn’t rub anyone the wrong way.

In all seriousness, the easiest way to rid yourself of stubble on your face after shaving is to reshave the section. 

Plucking or waxing are fairly impractical, and those methods may cause more irritation to your skin. 

How do you shave without getting stubble?

To avoid getting stubble after you shave, you’ll want to pay attention to these four aspects of shaving:

  • Getting reliable, high-quality shaving supplies.
  • Preparing your face properly for a close shave.
  • Shaving with good technique and a sufficient number of passes.
  • Caring for your skin in a post-shave routine.

Below is a more detailed explanation of how to shave without leaving stubble on your face.

Best Equipment for a Close Shave

To minimize skin irritation while providing the closest shave possible, you can’t go wrong with a safety razor. As I mentioned earlier, the single blade allows you to get as close to the skin as possible while applying little pressure. 

There are a variety of safety razor styles. Some have long handles, while others are more compact and lighter. You’ll also want to look for a safety razor with a comb, as this will help align the hairs as you move the razor across your face.

You’ll also want to have new, sharp, high-quality razor blades like the Feathers that I mentioned earlier in the article. They’re top-of-the-line, and they will help shave without getting stubble.

Last but certainly not least, you’ll need shave soap, a brush if you need to lather, and an aftershave or moisturizer.

Pre-Shave Prep

Make sure your face is prepared for shaving by exfoliating your skin. It’s easiest to do this in the shower, but you can also exfoliate at the sink with warm water and a cleanser.

When deciding what kind of cleanser you may want to use, consider one that has an alpha- or beta-hydroxy acid like salicylic acid. These types of cleaners will remove more dirt, skin, and oil from your face, reducing the chance of ingrown hairs or irritation. 

You’ll also want to make sure that you’ve placed a new blade in your razor. This will ensure that you have a sharp razor to cut hair as close to the skin as possible.

Shaving

Start by applying a thick lather of shave soap to your face. The lubricating nature of shave soap allows the razor to glide across your face while moisturizing the skin.

When you start your first pass, make sure that you shave with the grain of your hair. When shaving with the grain, you cut the hairs at an angle that typically won’t pull or tug your skin. You may notice that there is still stubble on your face at that point — and that is totally okay! 

To address that persistent stubble on your face, you’ll want to re-lather your face after the first pass and make a second.

For your second pass, bring the razor across the grain or against the grain. Shaving your face from these angles will bring the blade closer to the point where the hair follicle emerges from the skin. 

Take extra caution when shaving against the grain. Oftentimes, shaving against the grain can irritate the skin. Additionally, if you have to hold the razor at a different angle or with a different grip, be careful you don’t move the razor laterally. Otherwise, you may cut or nick yourself!

Once you’ve finished your second pass with the razor, take a moment to examine your face.

  • Look: Do you see any stubble on your face?
  • Touch: Can you feel any stubble on your face?
  • Touch-up: Do you need to re-lather your whole face for a third pass, or can you lather a specific section and reshave?

While you may feel like you want to make multiple passes, know that you start to experience diminishing returns beyond the third pass. Too many passes can irritate your skin and leave your face raw, irritated, and red.

Post-Shave

Once you’ve examined your face and found that you don’t see any more stubble on your face, go ahead and use cold water to wash the shave soap off of your face.

After your face is clean and free of soap, be sure to apply an aftershave or moisturizer to your face.

If you have sensitive skin, you’ll want to avoid an alcohol-based aftershave. These types of aftershaves can dry out your skin.

With your moisturizer or aftershave applied to your face, pat yourself on the back for learning how to shave without getting stubble. 

Just remember: depending on how quickly your hair grows, you may start to feel stubble again in as little as a few hours after shaving (hence the name “5 o’clock shadow”). If you’re someone who grows facial hair quickly, you may need to shave daily to ensure you don’t have stubble on your face.