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How To Get Rid Of 5 O’Clock Shadow

There’s nothing wrong with a bit of manly stubble across the jawline, but if you want a neater look, here’s your complete guide on how to get rid of 5 o’clock shadow.

Table of Contents

What Is A 5 O’Clock Shadow?

A 5 o’clock shadow is the ultra-short stubble that starts poking through your skin a few hours after you’ve shaved. It’s called a 5 o’clock shadow because a guy who shaves his skin closely at 7 am might have some growth by 5 pm. The stubble looks like a dark shadow over the skin. Put it all together, and you get the phrase “5 o’clock shadow.”

Not that your 5 o’clock shadow has to show up exactly at 5 pm. The rate of hair growth is incredibly different from person to person. It’s a question of your genetics, age, and hormones. Some men will already have a bit of stubble just a couple of hours after shaving, while for others it can take days. 

Another factor is how closely you shave. Wet shaving with an aggressive razor will give you a closer shave that’s less likely to lead to a 5 o’clock shadow. If you dry shave with an electric shaver, the higher the chance some stubble will pop up later in the day. 

When researching whether women like beards, we discovered that women rank light stubble pretty highly, but the clean-shaven look is still number 1. So while having a 5 o’clock shadow is really no big deal, it makes sense if you want to keep things looking even cleaner.  

How To Get Rid Of 5 O’Clock Shadow

So how to get rid of 5 o’clock shadow? It’s as simple as just shaving again. I’ll explain how to wet shave to achieve a super-close shave that removes every last bit of stubble. 

If it’s the middle of the day and you’re at school or the office, wet shaving can be a little complicated. I also included some problem-solving tips for dealing with mid-day stubble as it comes and for the long term. 

Exfoliate Regularly 

How you prep your skin before shaving can have a surprising impact on the quality of your shave. First, make sure to exfoliate your skin a few times a week with a face scrub or acid-based exfoliant. Exfoliation removes dead skin buildup, which has all kinds of benefits. Specifically for shaving, getting rid of that debris will help your razor shave closer to the hair follicle. 

Always Moisturize 

Then, make sure to moisturize your skin on a daily basis – you can do this with an aftershave balm or any old moisturizer. 

Moisturizing is important for fortifying the skin, but as far as getting a closer shave is concerned, the main benefit is that it fills in gaps and smoothes down unevenness in the very top layer of the skin. This makes the skin smoother, and helps the razor glide and cut more easily, for a cleaner shave. 

At the very least, you should moisturize after every shave, but ideally, you’d be doing it twice a day regardless of whether you’ve shaved or not. 

Opt For Wet Shaving In The Morning

You might be able to prevent a 5 o’clock shadow by getting a closer shave in the morning. Wet shaving, which means shaving with water and a shave cream or soap, is the technique that provides the smoothest shave. 

Using a straight razor over a safety razor will give you the most dramatic results, but really, any razor that you’re comfortable using will do. If you prefer to shave with an electric razor, make sure to choose a waterproof one that’s safe for wet shaving. 

Use Water To Soften Your Hair 

The best time to shave is immediately after a shower since the water and steam help soften the hair and make cutting it down easier. As an alternative, you can soak a towel in warm water and hold it over your face for a few minutes, or apply a layer of glycerin to damp skin as a pre-shave. 

Apply A Shaving Aid

Make sure to coat your face in a thick layer of shaving cream, shaving soap, or a moisturizing shaving gel. These kinds of products act as cushions that help the razor glide and cut more easily, and they help soften your facial hair even more. 

If you’re opting for a traditional soap or cream, I’ve written a whole guide on how to use shaving cream which explains how to build a lather. 

Shave More Closely

When it’s actually time to shave, consider whether your shave could be closer. In general, I always recommend shaving with the grain of the hair – I think a gentle shave is vastly superior to a close shave, especially for men with sensitive skin. 

But, if you think your skin could handle it, doing a few more passes as you shave will help you achieve smoother results. If you’re using a manual razor, your first pass should always go in the same direction as the hair growth. Move in short strokes, holding the razor so the blades are at a 30-degree angle against your skin. 

Then, for the second pass, shave against the direction of hair growth, or even perpendicular to it (meaning, shaving sideways rather than up or down). Since you’ll have already done that first pass with the grain, there’ll be less drag as you shave against the grain, but you’d still be able to achieve that extra closeness. 

Carry An Electric Shaver For Later In The Day 

Some men just can’t help it – no matter how smooth a shave they get in the morning, that tell-tale shadow still shows up by the afternoon. If you’re at home, you can just wet shave again, but if you’re out and about, that’s not realistic. 

Instead, you can carry a portable, cordless electric shaver with you. Both rotary shavers and foil shavers will do the trick. When you have a moment, pop into the bathroom and quickly shave your skin with your tool of choice, without lathering up or getting water all over yourself. 

Consider Electrolysis or Laser Hair Removal 

If you’d really like to never experience a 5 o’clock shadow again, there are some permanent options for hair removal. Laser hair removal is a fast and relatively affordable permanent hair reduction treatment. Usually, after a year of monthly sessions, it stops hair growth altogether or at least greatly reduces it.

Electrolysis is a real permanent hair removal option that gets rid of hair completely. It’s very time-consuming and it usually takes longer to show results. If you want to take this route, I suggest starting with laser hair removal and then doing electrolysis once you’re just left with some persistent stragglers. 

Skip The Wax 

Another suggestion you’ll see pop up sometimes for how to get rid of a 5 o’clock shadow is to wax. I suggest you give that one a miss. You can only wax hair if it’s grown long enough, so while it can prevent a 5 o’clock shadow for a few weeks, you’ll then have to grow the hair back to get it done again. It’s also incredibly painful, especially when done to remove coarse facial hair, and it can lead to some gnarly ingrown hairs. 

You’re much better off either perfecting your shaving technique, carrying an electric razor with you, or trying laser hair removal.

Miles is a professional men's grooming analyst who believes that to look good a man just needs to take good care of himself. He’s all about wet shaving, sustainability, and evidence-based grooming - an obsession he’s ready to share. Miles is known for his in-depth analysis of men's grooming products, brands, and best practices you can't find anywhere else.