Thursday, April 16, 2015

That Troublesome Neck Area

If you are like me, you have a beard that grows not only on your face but also down your neck nearly all the way to your collar bones (technically called the clavicles). Also if you are like me, your neck skin is lean, not well padded with fat, so the neck skin follows the contours of the underlying anatomy. Finally if you are like me, your skin, being sensitive as well as thin, is also susceptible to nicks and weepers from normal shaving. Combine that with a tough beard and non-uniform grain or uniform grain that grows in directions other than straight up or down, shaving mid neck area can be challenging.

So if you want a close shave on your neck, what to do? What to do?

Well, first of all, a mild razor is called for. The uber-aggressive designs that some use -- specifically with a large blade exposure or blade span (or worse, both) -- will likely grab and wound this thin, sensitive, highly-contoured neck skin quite readily leaving wounds in its wake. This is one of several reasons that I exclusively use razors that are considered by most to be of moderate to mild shave character. For a close shave, three passes are required.

Particularly problematic can be the sternocleidomastoid muscles (shown above making their V shape, running from above the sternum to below the ears). To shave the neck, the chin is usually elevated as in the illustration, which tightens the skin, but also causes the sternocleidomastoid muscles to stand proud, causing difficult-to-shave depressions between them.

Further manual tightening of the skin with the non-razor hand can help, but only helps so much. The solution is that for one of the three passes, the razor's blade edge must be parallel to these sternocleidomastoid muscles. This is especially true if the grain of the beard tends to run side to side.

So to shave closely in this real estate, the blade edge will be on the diagonal to be parallel to these troublesome muscles. When making razor strokes across the neck (as opposed to up or down the neck), they will either have to be oblique strokes (that is, the blade edge not square to stroke direction), or they will have to be not directly across the neck, but rather directed diagonally across the neck and not precisely side to side.

When I shave this area and under my jaw line, I have to use both methods if I want a close, safe shave.

Is this area difficult for you? What are your solutions when you really want a smooth shave?

Happy shaving!


  1. Definitely a difficult area. I go for less irritation rather than bbs, so if a razor can give me a decent shave on my neck without much irritation then it stays in my rotation.

    Grain mapping really helped a lot. This video has some good tips:

    Also see this post:

    Seems like the skin on the neck is different than that of the face which also contributes to the difficulty.

    As a last resort maybe getting nice and fat is a solution - I've seen shaving videos where someone with a double chin has no problems transitioning between the jaw line and neck and doesn't have trouble shaving their neck. :P

    1. Or laser hair removal... you'll never have to shave again and will always be bbs.