Having sensitive skin is tough.
Shaving with such condition is even tougher because one wrong stroke can trigger razor burn or ingrown hair that can be very painful and itchy.
The first order of business in shaving with sensitive skin is finding the right tools and at the forefront of such is the razor.
I’ll divide this guide in three parts. The first part would be product recommendations.
Second are some practical shaving tips you can use to have a world class shave and lastly first aid tips and products to use just in case you cut and nick yourself. It’s actually not an if but a when.
So let’s get down to business. These are the razors you want if you have sensitive skin.
To help guide you through this review I’ve created a table of contents section…
If you’re a regular in my blog, you know pretty much by now my preference for safety razors over cartridge razors.
It’s nice to see these products making a comeback are decades of dormancy thanks to social media.
A lot of wet shavers on YouTube share their techniques that have garnered a lot of attention. Nick Shaves and GeoFatBoy are just a few of many VBloggers that do so.
Such publicity has fueled the resurgence and we consumers are the main beneficiaries.
The beauty of the safety razor is that ability to choose specific blades that will suite your skin and facial hair type. It won’t cost an arm or a leg. Since you’re just buying a blade, it won’t be as expensive as a cartridge refill.
This isn’t possible in a cartridge or disposable because blades aren’t removable in these products.
On the interim DE razors would be more expensive. Buying something decent would cost around $30 in Amazon.
Another downside would be the learning curve. Unlike cartridges and disposables that require little know how, a safety razor requires proper technique.
Something that takes time to learn and master but the results will be worth it. Not only will you get a closer shave but also save a lot of money long term.
Also it will take longer to shave compared it to a 5 blade razor but traditional wet shaving is a process. And shaving with a 5 blade razor in the long haul can be irritating to your skin and expensive in terms of the cost of cartridges.
Hands down the Merkur 34C is one of the best safety razors that you can buy whether or not you have sensitive skin. The beauty of this razor is the versatility it brings to the table.
Load a sharp blade like a Feather and you have a beard mower that can cut tough beards with ease.
If you load it with a smooth and yet sharp blade like a Personna you can use it on sensitive skin.
Another reason why I like this product is the price, it isn’t the cheapest out there but the build quality is great.
The two-piece design makes it easy to clean and assemble compared to any three piece razor. Blade alignment is pretty consistent which is very important when shaving sensitive skin because your margin for error is less.
If you’re willing to splurge just a little bit and value longevity over anything else, the Feather AS-D2 is worth a look.
One of only a handful of safety razors made from stainless steel. This is the main reason why it’s so expensive – over $150 in Amazon.
Everything about the AS-D2 screams precision. The knurling in itself is a thing of beauty.
It has a crosscross design from the neck down to the base. Six horizontal grooves provide additional grip which make it almost impossible for this to slip off your hands.
The grooves also tell you where the handle starts and ends without you having to look at the razor.
Blade placement is also excellent because of the four “mini towers” that automatically align the blades in place.
It also two rectangular posts that flank the main post in the middle. This ensures blade alignment each time a blade is loaded.
Men have raved about how this product shaves which is good. I must warn you that this is a mild razor and if you have a wiry tough beard, you may want to opt for something more aggressive.
Having an adjustable razor is one of the best investments you can make for sensitive skin.
The Merkur Progress has a knob that allows you to adjust blade exposure with a twist of a knob.
Let’s say your neck area is the most sensitive. Use the more aggressive setting on your cheek and lip area then lower the setting when shaving your neck.
This is the beauty of an adjustable – you don’t need two separate razors to do the job.
But there is a learning curve when using an adjustable, particularly in terms of assembly and grip.
I’m a big fan of safety razors but that doesn’t mean I’ve closed the door to cartridge razors altogether.
There is a place for cartridge razor in your shaving tool bag and the biggest reason is time.
If you do not have time to do a two or three pass shave then a cartridge razor is a great compromise for time and closeness of shave.
Five blade razors may cut close but cause more irritation because it has more blades.
These products are also hard to clean because it has very little space between blades.
Remember that a dirty razor equates to a not-so-good-shave. This means you will have to replace the cartridges often.
The Gillette MACH3 in my opinion and more importantly in the opinion of experts is the great compromise for speed, quality and closeness according to The Sweet Home.
There is more space in between the blades which makes it much easier to clean.
Shaving fact: A dirty blade is the worst possible thing you could use on sensitive skin because of the threat of spreading bacteria on an open pore or cut.
It features two lubricating strip bars – one of top and another at the bottom that provides additional lubrication to your face as you shave. It also has a strip that goes from top to bottom.
Mach3 Sensitive is also available with more lubrication to help blades glide over sensitive skin.
But using shaving cream should provide all the lubrication your skin needs.
You’ll notice that this product has the word “Turbo” on it. This simply means it has the vibrating feature that requires one AAA to function. Whether or not this feature works is up to debate. Consumers do say that it helps just a little but most didn’t even bother changing the battery so the difference could be negligible.
If you’re going this route you can experiment with different MACH 3 cartridges and see which one will suite you best.
For the busy man it’s hard to beat the speed and efficiency of an electric razor but choose one carefully.
Avoid using a rotary shaver if you have sensitive skin and go with a foil shaver as this is gentler. For more information about foil and cartridge razors you can check this article I’ve written.
Braun is manufacturers perhaps the world’s best foil shavers.
The series 7 is a great option for men with sensitive skin because it has a shaving mode for this purpose.
It also gives you the option for wet shaving. Make sure to choose the 7865cc variant that has this feature.
This German made product has a fully flexible head that will adjust to the contours of your face.
The foil design protects your skin from irritation and this product is fully water proof – you can wash it under tap water or use the holder that doubles as a cleaning unit that disinfects it automatically using the world’s first 5-action alcohol based system.
It also has different shaving modes from intense (for men with thick beards) to extra sensitive (for men with sensitive skin).
Even if this isn’t the latest Braun, it costs much less than a Series 9 and it give a close enough shave.
Most of these tips will apply to shaving with a cartridge or a safety razor. If you use an electric razor, you will not need to use any shaving cream or a shaving brush.
1. Take a Hot Shower Before Shaving
Taking a hot shower before shaving does two things, first it softens facial hair which makes it for a razor to cut. Second it cleanses the skin, removing any excess oil and debris that can clog the blades.
Just in case you can’t take a hot shower, washing with your face with hot water and a gentle facial soap for sensitive skin should be enough.
Another option would be soaking your whole face and neck area with a hot towel – this is what barbershops do prior to shaving.
Both of these achieve the same thing – softens facial hair and preps skin for shaving.
2. Ditch The Cartridge and Use a Safety Razor
Safety razors won’t irritate the skin as much as a multi-bladed cartridge because it only uses a single blade.
Less blades equates to less irritation.
And since blades are cheap, you can change them more often. A sharp blade is an important ingredient if you want to prevent irritation because these won’t pull or tug which often leads to ingrown hair.
While you can shave more efficiently with a cartridge, a safety razor will give you a more comfortable shave minus the irritations that go along shaving with a 5 blade razor.
Plus it will be a lot cheaper.
Even if you replace the blade of de razor every day, it will only cost you on average around 10 to 15 cents. Compare that to the cost of refills (these go for at least $2), you can easily save hundreds of dollars over the long haul.
This is the perfect intro to the next tip…
3. Always Use a Sharp Blade
A sensitive skin’s biggest enemy is a dull blade. Dull blades pull and tug on skin, causing more irritation in the long run.
A sharp blade will slice through facial hair and minimizes the number of passes needed for a close shave.
I’ve discussed double edged blades in detail here make sure to go through it to see how to choose one that is right for your skin.
This is the reason why I would prefer using a safety razor because of the cost savings alone.
4. Wash with a Gentle Facial Soap
Prep is probably the most important step that will determine if you will get a world class shave or not.
Washing your face prior to shaving is an essential step in removing excess oil and dirt on your skin, product selection is of utmost importance.
Make sure to select a product specifically labelled for sensitive skin.
Also look closely at the ingredient list and make sure that the product you buy does not contain any alcohol or detergent as these can dry the skin.
5. Avoid Shaving Against the Grain
Shaving against the grain simply means shaving opposite the direction your hair grows.
For most men this means you should only shave downward. If you want get close, shave across the face in both directions.
6. Invest In A Quality Shaving Brush and Cream
Applying shaving cream is a must if you want to avoid irritation as it gives your skin an added layer of lubrication that make shaving a whole lot easier.
You can apply shaving cream with your hand. But to truly get the most out of it, you will need a good shaving brush.
Using a shaving brush will help evenly apply the shaving cream, lift up hair follicles and also one of the best tools to exfoliate your skin.
Women can only dream about the kind of exfoliation you’ll get and the neat thing about this is that you don’t need to spend $$$ for it.
7. Always Rinse With Cool Water
Hot water opens up the pores of your skin and helps soften facial hair prior to shaving however you don’t want to leave these pores open. Rinsing with cold water closes the pores and prevents bacteria from going in.
Experts say that in addition to rinsing with cold water, you could also use an aftershave with tea tree oil and witch hazel to protect skin from rashes. It also gives a soothing sensation to the skin.
Now matter how experienced you are, nicks and cuts happen to the best of them now matter how careful you are. Here are some of the products you need to have just in case the inevitable happens.
Before anything else please watch this video…
Products mentioned in the video:
This product is designed to stop bleeding on its tracks. Hydrate the styptic pencil with water and apply it on the affected area. It will sting though but only for a moment.
These products are usually made from aluminum sulfate, aluminum chloride or aluminum chlorohydrate.
You have the option to buy this in stick, gel, match stick or roller ball form depending on your needs.
Some of these products have additional ingredients like Aloe Vera.
If you don’t have any styptic pencil on hand, alternative products include petroleum jelly and deodorant.
Yes, commercial antiperspirant contains aluminum chlorohydrate that can stop the bleeding. Just rub your fingers across the antiperspirant stick then apply it on the nick or cut.
Alum block contains potassium alum that also has anti-septic properties.
This product is a great addition to your aftershave routine because it leaves a cooling sensation. Unfortunately it can’t be use for spot treatment.
Just remember to rinse it off after leaving it on for a few minutes.