It’s hard to say goodbye. But if your face has been bedecked with a bush for so long that you’ve forgotten what it looks like underneath, don’t underestimate the difference a fresh look can make to how you feel inside.

Once you’ve got used to the unfamiliar breeze across your cheeks, a clean-shaven appearance – and we’re not just saying this because we love shaving – could lend you a sprightly youthfulness. It could even see you showered with a barrage of unexpected compliments in the office (or, if you’re less lucky, get you age-checked at the supermarket for the first time in years).

Whatever the end result, the beauty of shaving your beard off is that unless you’ve got snail’s-pace growth, its warm embrace will be back on your face within weeks if you do change your mind.

Here’s how to get the most out of the big shave – making sure it’s a transformational move that’s as much about crafting a new appearance as removing the old one.

1. Don’t dive straight in

There are a few things to consider before shaving your beard off, and the first is timing. The urge to debeard could strike at any point, but common wisdom suggests a spring-clean approach whereby your face sheds its winter coat in preparation for the summer. Crucially, though, make sure you get in there early – if the sunny season has already begun, removing your beard could expose some very questionable tan lines.

However, choosing the right moment isn’t the only restraint you need to show. The bushier the beard, the more important it is that you stagger your shave. Firstly, get your clippers to hand before you even think about picking up a razor, and carefully trim off the bulk of your beard leaving a light stubble. Then come back to it a few days later to finish the job.

Removing your beard in two stages like this will not only soften the startling effect of a new (and slightly draughtier) appearance but will give you time to get your stubble and skin ready for the most effective possible shave.

2. Prepare your hair

Exfoliate and moisturise. We really can’t say those two words enough – they’re the key to a comfortable shave that you won’t regret in a couple of days’ time. Wash your face thoroughly with warm water in the shower beforehand, and use a good-quality brush on the stubble to loosen everything. This will help to open up pores and remove any dead skin, as well as lifting the hairs to make your shave smoother and closer, and lessen the chance of any becoming ingrown.

Lather up with shaving cream and make sure you get an even, thick layer that will fully protect the skin. Remember, you’re exposing skin that’s not been open to the elements for months (if not years) so it’s going to be sensitive, dry and very prone to mishandling.

3. Follow the grain

The benefits of a shave against the grain don’t apply here – sub-beard skin is uniquely sensitive and unaccustomed to the kind of exposure you’re about to give it, so don’t get carried away before you’ve even started. Stay firmly with the grain of your hairs on the first few shaves, and stretch the skin as taut as possible to make sure you don’t miss a spot.

For this particular shave you’ll need a razor that’s up to the challenge – and the Wilkinson Sword Hydro 5 Sensitive will ensure you get the closest and most comfortable shave possible. Its water-activated gel reservoir with aloe vera will constantly moisturise as it moves across your face, and the five ultra-glide blades will keep irritation down to a minimum.

4. Don’t forget the aftercare

Take a moment to admire your new face in the mirror, but you’re not finished yet, so don’t immediately go striding out into the fresh air. Firstly, use an after-shave balm to soothe any soreness that’s starting to show up. Pat it gently onto your face rather than rubbing it in – and make sure you lay off any aftershaves or perfumed products for a good few hours as these may cause irritation.

Rinsing off and towel-drying your face is a no-no at this point as you don’t want anything rubbing against it. Instead, dampen a flannel with cold water and leave it on your face for a good few minutes – this will lock in moisture from the balm and leave you feeling ready to go.