How To Create a Barbershop Hot Towel at Home

One of the best parts of a barbershop straight razor shave are the copious amounts of hot towels the barber presses on your face. It’s so stinking relaxing. There’s also a practical reason for this classic ritual: the heat from the towel softens up your beard so the barber can give you a nice, close, comfortable shave.

Unfortunately, it will be awhile before I experience the pleasure of a hot towel shave at a barbershop again. My old barber retired and took with him his amazing antique, gas-powered hot towel warmer! While I’m looking for a new barber who offers hot towel shaves here in Tulsa, I’ve decided to re-create the experience in the comforts of my own home. It’s a great addition to my pre-shave routine on mornings when I have a little extra time. Below I show you how it’s done.

Step 1: Get a Towel/Washcloth

You don’t need anything fancy. Any old bathroom hand towel or washcloth will do. I prefer washcloths because they’re just the right size for your face.

Step 2: Pick Your Essential Oil

Many barbers add essential oils to their towels before steaming them in order to make the towels even more relaxing. Three traditional and relaxing barbershop scents are lavender, eucalyptus, and sandalwood. You can buy vials of essential oil at many health foods stores; prices vary depending on the scent (sandalwood is crazy expensive).

For a eucalyptus-scented hot towel that also packs the punch of invigorating menthol, you can improvise (and save money) by using some Vicks VapoRub. A Vicks hot towel not only softens up your beard and makes your skin feel great, but it acts as an nasal decongestant when you’ve got a cold. My sinuses cleared right up after applying my Vicks-imbued hot towel to my face.

Step 3: Apply Essential Oil to Dry Towel

Whatever essential oil you go with, apply it to your towel while it’s dry. If you’re going with the cool, refreshing menthol experience from the Vicks VapoRub, just spread a small, thin layer of the goop around the center of your towel. You don’t need too much. This stuff packs a powerful punch when heated up!

If you’re using an essential oil like lavender or sandalwood, just apply a few drops on your washcloth, like so.

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