Years of playing high-level sports have allowed me to have an interesting relationship with pressure. There are always people on the team, who when they are winning, will be relaxed and zen-like, but when the game gets tight they freeze up.
Pressure is not good or bad, it's just how you use it and how you absorb it that matters. Too much pressure can break pipes, but lots of pressure is also required to make diamonds. The trick is using the correct amount of pressure for the task.
Shaving requires pressure on the skin. The blade needs to glide over the surface of the skin and slice away the excess hair. Too much pressure results in irritation due to scraping off layers of skin. This skin can get caught in between the blades making it get duller faster. Flakes of this skin can get into the hair follicles and increases the chance for irritation.
Too little pressure means that you don't get good contact between the blade and your skin. Now you run the risk of essentially plucking the hair out as opposed to cutting through it. This creates a painful experience and it doesn't produce a smooth shave.
First things first, get a good handle, you want the weight of the handle to help the blade cut the hairs. The principle is that the weight of the handle applies the pressure and the sharpness of the blades slice through the hair. This produces the smoothest shave with the least damage to your skin.
This is the same principle, ironically, is how you should use a knife when preparing food. The old adage is you cut yourself with a blunt knife more than a sharp knife. The knife's weight should apply the pressure and the sharpness of the blade slices the food. If the blade is dull you have to force it and that's when you slip and cut yourself.
After you have a great handle, you want to stretch the skin to make it taut to give yourself a smooth surface to improve the chance of a clean cut. Smaller strokes are better so if you can only flatten small sections its no problem.
Finally, go with the grain. Make sure those short strokes go with the grain to start with. I know that around my neck it appears the hairs are growing in every conceivable direction. So all you can do is just do your best to go with the grain. To finish off to get an even closer shave you can go against the grain, but this is a risky manoeuvre so you don't have to do that every time.
- let the handle do the work (if you are not slicing through the hair then it's potentially time to change your blade).
- Hold the skin taut.
- Shave with the grain.