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Whether you prefer a double-edge safety razor or a straight razor, nothing can match the luxury of a true barbershop shave like the hot towel treatment; it creates a feeling of relaxation and tranquility that you can’t always achieve in the shower.

In this guide, we will show you various ways to easily recreate a true hot towel shave at home, along with tips and tricks to make this experience truly special.

hot towel shave

The benefits of a hot towel shave

There are two main reasons why we use a hot towel or take a shower before shaving:

  1. Beard hairs absorb water, which swells them and makes them about 30% easier to cut. This is desirable because it reduces the risk of the blade catching on the hairs, which can be painful and lead to an uneven shave. Heat is important because hot water is absorbed more easily; in fact, the steam seen in the shower or coming from the hot towel is absorbed more quickly into the hairs due to vapor molecules being smaller than water molecules. Additionally, it reduces blade wear because the blade doesn’t have to work as hard to cut through all the hairs, resulting in the blade lasting longer and potentially getting an extra shave before becoming dull. It’s a win-win.
  2. Heat relaxes the skin and “opens” the pores. By relaxing the skin, it creates a smoother surface for the razor blade to glide over for a close and smooth shave. The term “opening and closing” of pores is actually a misconception, as pores do not open or close. What happens is that heat makes it easier to dislodge any dirt or sebum inside the pore. This is important for cleaner skin but also because it clears away anything that could have coated the hair base, preventing it from fully absorbing water.

The specific benefits of using a towel before shaving are that you don’t need to take a shower, which can be much more convenient. Many also find that they get a better shave using a towel. In theory, as long as the hairs reach full absorption, it shouldn’t make a difference in the quality of the shave, but because a hot towel is a direct attempt to soften the hair, it can be easier to do a better job. In the shower, you might focus more on the larger task of cleaning yourself, and actually the time your face spends under the hot water is certainly not 3 minutes.

What type of towel should I use?

Pretty much any small towel will do, as long as it’s clean. Hand or face towels are ideal. If you want to treat yourself to a hot towel shave, it may be worth investing in a genuine barber’s towel. These towels are designed to hold more water and retain heat for a longer period, allowing you to complete the process more quickly!


For an extra touch of luxury, you can add essential oils to the towel such as lavender, sandalwood, argan, tea tree, etc. If you have scented shaving oil, you can use that instead. Add a few drops to the still dry towel before heating it.

The 3 methods to obtain a hot towel

Before proceeding with the following techniques to create a hot towel, it’s important to use common sense.

Please NEVER apply a scalding hot towel to the skin!

Remember that your hands are probably less sensitive to heat than your delicate face, so if you find the towel painful to touch with your hands, it will certainly be too hot for your face. If the towel is too hot, remove it from the sink (or let the water drain away) so that it cools quickly to a safe temperature.

When you think the towel is ready, carefully place it under your chin to assess its sensitivity and then (if it’s at the correct temperature) wrap it around your face. You should cover the areas you want to shave, so cover everything below the nose and fold back the hanging ends of the towel.

If you are standing, you can simply hold the towel pressed against the skin.

The idea is a luxurious hot towel shave; the towel should feel warm, but in a pleasant way. It certainly should not be painful!

  1. By far the easiest way to get a hot towel is to place it under the sink tap. Wait until the tap water is as hot as possible, then place the towel under it. It should take about 15 seconds to fully absorb the water and reach the desired temperature; at that point, wring out the excess water and apply it to the face.
  2. If your tap doesn’t reach a particularly high temperature, the next best method is to boil water in a kettle and pour it into the sink with the towel. Use the hot water from the tap to lower the average temperature to a safe level to handle.
  3. The most effective method to prepare a hot towel is to use a microwave. If you’ve ever experienced a hot towel shave before, you’ll know that barbers use this method as well. First, soak the towel and wring it out until it’s damp but not dripping. Place it in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave at full power for 30 seconds. Be very careful! The towel will become very hot and you may need to wait a minute or two before it’s safe to touch with your hands. The downside of this method is that you probably don’t have a microwave in the bathroom, so you’ll need to do this step in the kitchen. Additionally, you’ll likely need to repeat the process at least twice because the towel cools down before the beard is fully softened.

As mentioned earlier, it’s essential that your hair fully absorbs water for a more comfortable shave. Human hair takes about 3 minutes to reach maximum water absorption capacity, so you may need to repeat the hot towel application process 2 or 3 times to achieve the desired result.

If you have multiple towels available, prepare several so that you can move on to the next one as soon as the first one cools down.

When done correctly, this treatment is extremely relaxing and adds a touch of elegance to an already refined shaving method.