The challenge of shaving is to cut the beard hair as closely as possible to the skin without unwanted effects on the skin. To achieve this requires the understanding of beard hair and male facial skin biology as both, the beard hair and the male facial skin, contribute to the difficulties in obtaining an effective shave without shaving-induced skin irritation. Little information is available on the biology of beard hairs and beard hair follicles. We know that, in beard hairs, the density, thickness, stiffness, as well as the rates of elliptical shape and low emerging angle, are high and highly heterogeneous. All of this makes it challenging to cut it, and shaving techniques commonly employed to overcome these challenges include shaving with increased pressure and multiple stroke shaving, which increase the probability and extent of shaving-induced skin irritation. Several features of male facial skin pose problems to a perfect shave. The male facial skin is heterogeneous in morphology and roughness, and male skin has a tendency to heal slower and to develop hyperinflammatory pigmentation. In addition, many males exhibit sensitive skin, with the face most often affected. Finally, the hair follicle is a sensory organ, and the perifollicular skin is highly responsive to external signals including mechanical and thermal stimulation. Perifollicular skin is rich in vasculature, innervation and cells of the innate and adaptive immune system. This makes perifollicular skin a highly responsive and inflammatory system, especially in individuals with sensitive skin. Activation of this system, by shaving, can result in shaving-induced skin irritation. Techniques commonly employed to avoid shaving-induced skin irritation include shaving with less pressure, pre- and post-shave skin treatment and to stop shaving altogether. Recent advances in shaving technology have addressed some but not all of these issues. A better understanding of beard hairs, beard hair follicles and male facial skin is needed to develop novel and better approaches to overcome the challenge of shaving. This article covers what is known about the physical properties of beard hairs and skin and why those present a challenge for blade and electric shaving, respectively. © 2016 Society of Cosmetic Scientists and the Société Française de Cosmétologie.