Your first shave was likely a messy one. You weren’t sure exactly what to do, but you felt excited to be participating in such a grown-up activity. I'll bet your first attempted shave didn’t go as smoothly (heh) as you thought it would.
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But over time, you got it down, perfected your technique and figured out your favorite brands. You're a veteran.
But after all the practice, you still can't escape those little red bumps that show up after a shave. Razor burn. It always seems to happen at the most inconvenient moments.
Luckily, razor burn is preventable and treatable. Those bumps on your face are just your follicles telling you they're irritated. Here are a few things you can do to combat that irritation and prevent the burn for good.
1. Start with a solid foundation
Bad skin is bad for shaving. Caring for your face will provide a nice smooth canvas for you to work on. Moisturizing daily will help prevent ingrown hairs that contribute to razor burn. You should also be exfoliating twice a week. Try exfoliating your skin lightly in the shower before a shave to give the area a deep clean. If your skin is easily irritated, cleanse the area with a pre-shave wash that contains salicylic acid.
2. Choose a quality razor.
Those generic 4 and 5 blade razors are too rough for sensitive skin. This is where a fresh, sharp blade comes in. You want to make as few passes as possible. The more passes you make, the more you'll irritate your skin. The razor should glide easily across your face. It should cut the hair without pulling it. Make sure to rinse the blade under hot water after each pass.
My favorite straight razor that I use currently is the Parker Straight Razor with Shark Blades. It's not too pricey and the quality is great. A couple of the barbers I work with swear by it.
I noticed that normal razors just couldn't give me that super defined cheek line I was looking for and that a nice straight razor was actually easier for me to work with in that area. Now, I'm an addict of that clean line.
3. Lather with the right products
Choose a shaving cream that will work with your sensitive skin. I’ve had success with both Aveeno Therapeutic Shave Gel and Taylor of Old Bond Street Sensitive Skin Shaving Cream. Rather than quickly coating your face with shaving cream, you should massage the cream into your skin.
This will help work the product deeper into your pores. You're coating the hair follicle down to the shaft, close to where irritation is likely to occur. Let the product sit on your skin for 30 seconds or so before you start your shave.
4. Check your technique
Facial hair grows in all directions, especially around the neck. This can make a good shave challenging. I know you’re aware that you should be shaving with the grain as opposed to against it, but it’s worth repeating. Get a feel for the layout of your mug and try to plan your strokes in the direction of the growth. When taking a stroke, you want to use as little pressure as possible.
Pushing too hard can cause the skin to bunch up and the razor could cut you. Since you’re using a sharp blade (you are right?), you shouldn’t need force to get a close shave. I mentioned before that you want to take as few strokes as possible when shaving. If you need to make another pass, re-apply your shaving cream. I see guys make this mistake all the time and pass over the area again without re-lathering. You needed to coat your skin the first time, why wouldn’t you need to do it again?
For more guidance on technique, check out the ultimate guide to wet shaving.
5. Finish Strong
So you’ve now got a close, irritation free shave, but you’re not finished yet. The way you conclude your shave is important if you want to keep razor burn at bay.
You should avoid harsh aftershaves. These products will have strong fragrances added to them. This can worsen the irritation.
Instead, take a towel soaked in warm water and add a few dashes of Witch Hazel to it. Hold this against your skin for about 30 seconds. Don't rub, or pat the area. Just let it be.
Witch Hazel has mild astringent properties and will soothe irritated skin. I’ve also used lavender for this, but some people can have an allergic reaction to it. Other notable things to try are Chamomilla, Rosehip oil, and Tea-Tree oil.
After applying the soaked towel, lightly splash cool water on your skin to close up your pores.
If after an hour you start to see bumps appear, call in the big guns. Grab some hydrocortisone cream from your pharmacy. Hydrocortisone has an anti-inflammatory effect and treats irritated skin. Add a small dab of this to the shaven area to bring down the bumps.
After following these steps, most people won't see any signs of irritation. If you’re still having some bump trouble, it’s likely time to see a dermatologist. They'll take a look at the underlying issues and prescribe you something stronger.
You should be able to enjoy the act of shaving and you should enjoy the way you look afterward even more. I hope these tips keep your face razor burn-free.