For many of us, shaving feels like a chore. Not everyone has their nick-free routine down and there’s nothing more frustrating than realizing you missed a spot later in the day. Hot towel shaves are here to turn that chore into your new favorite self-care ritual.

A hot towel shave is a grooming service where your face is shaved after using a hot towel to soften your hair and skin. This gives you a much closer shave while offering an experience that makes shaving feel like a treat, rather than a necessity.

First, your barber will wrap your face in a hot towel, which helps you relax and improves your shave. After your shave, your barber may opt for another round of hot towels or cool it down with a cold towel. 

Each barber’s hot towel shave is going to be a bit different but the basics of using the warm towel before the shave will be the same. 

person getting hot towel in the barber shave

What are some hot towel shave benefits?

Its benefits go beyond cosmetic — your hot towel shave can actually be good for your health and skin. So, why should you and your barber put in the extra effort for a hot towel shave? 

Open pores

While the process of “opening your pores” is a misnomer, the popular belief is correct in stating that heat and steam can help you clean your pores better. “Opening” your pores isn’t possible (and it would be disastrous for your skin!) but steam does loosen up dirt and oils in your pores.

This makes it easier to clean your skin and is why your face feels so much smoother after a hot towel shave.

Promote circulation

Warmth brings blood to the surface of our skin, which promotes healing. This is especially important because shaving can be irritating to your skin. A hot towel reduces this irritation and helps your skin heal itself if you’re prone to razor burn or nicks. 

Soothe and moisturize skin

Heat can be very soothing to your skin and helps your skin stay moisturized. Moisturizing products contain humectants, which are ingredients that draw moisture into your skin. 

The steam from your hot towel maximizes the impact of these humectants for deeply moisturized skin. If you’re prone to dry skin, consider pairing your shave with a moisturizing mask to keep your skin soft and irritation-free.

Exfoliate skin

Exfoliation is the process of removing dead skin cells from your skin and it’s essential for any skincare routine. Your skin sheds cells all the time and exfoliating them can reveal smoother skin underneath.

Shaving exfoliates your skin and using a hot towel beforehand makes it easier to remove your dead skin cells. This means your skin will be extra soft post-shave.

Soften skin and hair

We all know how irritating a dry shave can be. That’s mostly because of how stiff your dry hair is. Steam from a hot towel softens up your hair. When your hair and skin are softened from steam, your razor doesn’t need to tug to remove your hair

The result is a much gentler shave with better results.

Relax your mind

It’s a no-brainer that a hot towel shave is a much more pleasant experience than hovering over your sink and struggling for an even shave. Many barbers add essential oils to their towels and use luxurious-feeling products.

This all makes your shave feel like a special occasion. You can recline and relax knowing that you’ll exit the barbershop with a great shave.

person getting straight razor shave at the barbershop

How does a hot towel shave work?

When you head to the barber for your hot towel shave, you can expect that they will use a warm towel before a traditional shave. Some barbers will also use a warm towel to soothe your face post-shave. Your barber will let the hot towel warm and soften your skin and hair before going in with their preferred shaving products and giving you a smooth shaving experience.

You should wash your face before heading to the barbershop. Coming in with a clean face reduces your risk for ingrown hairs and is good etiquette to give your barber the best base to work with. After you arrive, your barber will likely follow these steps:

  1. Apply pre-shave oil: Don’t fear using oil on your face — there’s a reason that our skin produces its own oil. This helps protect and moisturize your skin before shaving.
  1. Apply the first hot towel around the face: Your barber will probably leave this towel on for a couple of minutes to ensure that your skin and hair are softened up. Some barbers will apply shave cream at this step. It’s also normal for your barber to cover your eyes too — they want you to relax.
  1. Apply shaving cream: If not done already, your barber will apply shaving cream with a shave brush. A shave brush is an essential tool that helps brush up your softened hair for a closer shave.
  1. Shave: Patience is a virtue. Your barber will probably take a bit longer to shave than you do at home. It takes a bit of time for a perfect shave. The razor of choice for many barbers is a straight razor but everyone does things a little differently.
  1. Apply another hot towel: This second hot towel helps clean off the excess shaving cream and any remaining hair from your shave.
  1. Apply a cold towel: Not every barber ends their shave with a cold towel. This step can be an extra soothing step to help you cool down, de-puff your face, and reduce redness.
  1. Apply aftershave: If you’ve ever skipped this step, then you know how uncomfortable and tight your skin can feel after a shave. Aftershave skincare keeps your skin soft, prevents ingrown hairs, and prevents bacteria growth. Some barbers use talcum powder, which soaks up excess moisture without drying out your skin. 

You can also DIY a hot towel shave at home by following these steps. You just might want to stick with a traditional razor unless you’re already a straight razor pro.

man in barber chair getting shave

How do I ask for a hot towel shave?

Everyone performs their hot towel shave a little differently, so call your local barber ahead of time if you’re unsure whether their shop offers this service. 

Hot towel shaves can be offered under different names. At some barbershops, every shave is a hot towel shave. At other shops, it’s an add-on to their services. 

Because there can be variation in hot towel shaves, pricing and appointment length can also vary a lot. The amount of time your shave takes will depend on your barber’s process and experience. Along with these variables, the types of products that your barber uses will affect pricing.

If you’ve never experienced a hot towel shave for yourself, there is no better time than now to de-stress and get your best shave. Check your local barber’s offerings and you’ll be relaxing in that barber chair in no time.