Last updated on December 20th, 2018 by Garrick Dee
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.
A safety razor like the Merkur Classic 2-piece (or the 34C) will be up to the task. The single blade will not irritate skin as much as a multi-bladed cartridge and it’s actually cheaper to use in the long run.
Related: If you’re looking for a razor, you can check this article I wrote about the best razor deals right now for products like the safety razor, cartridge razor and much more. Get the best deals for yourself or buy it as a gift.
We’ll look at this closely and other options (yes, that includes cartridge razors) in this guide.
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.
Gents, before you going rushing to the nearest Walmart or Walgreens, please read this part carefully.
Buying a five or six blade razor may not be your best option even if manufacturers say otherwise.
These five blades will cut close but at the risk of irritation and razor burn. It is important to buy a good quality razor from a reputable brand.
Yes, this is not the time to skimp on cheap, poor quality knock-offs, you’ll thank me for it later on.
Here are a few things to consider when buying a razor and have sensitive skin.
1. Choosing between a cartridge or safety razor
Cartridge razors are the default option of most men (and women) because it’s available in just about every grocery, gas station or pharmacy out there.
Don’t have a razor?
No problem, just head out to the nearest gas-station or supermarket and chances are they sell it.
Yes, it is still a good option for men with sensitive skin because it has a very shallow learning curve. These products are designed to be almost idiot proof thanks to the pivoting head and lube strips.
First time shavers definitely benefit from using a cartridge razor first before a safety razor just to get them up to speed with technique.
Safety razors on the other hand require more skill since it has a fixed angle head with a single blade.
There are no lube strips so you’ll need to use some sort of lubrication such as a shaving cream or soap.
Another downside to using a safety razor would be the time requirements to do a proper shave. It can take at least 10 minutes if you’ve got the technique down and longer if you’re still learning.
But the results will be worth it because it will cut close minus the irritation since it only uses a single blade.
Cost is another benefit to using a safety razor because the razor itself will last years.
The only thing you need to replace would be the blade and it’ll literally cost pennies to the dollar if you compare it to cartridge refills.
You can check out this infographic where I compare the cost of using a safety razor versus a cartridge, disposable and straight razor.
2. Shaving head
Cartridge razors have flexible heads that pivot back and forth and the Gillette Fusion – from side to side. This gives us the ultimate flexibility on what angle works best.
Cheap disposables and safety razors have stiff non-pivoting heads with a fixed angle. These shavers will require a different technique and grip. With safety razors you’ll have to be mindful of technique because using the wrong one will result in cuts.
3. Number of blades
This is an instance where you have to practice the “less is more” principle. Using a 5 or 6 blade razor may not be the best idea if you have sensitive skin.
A good compromise would be using a 3 blade razor that has more space in between blades which makes it easier to clean. Less blades also equate to less irritation.
If you’re willing to learn wet shaving, your best option would be using a safety razor that has only one blade.
In most cases you’ll get what you pay for. Buying something cheap and you’ll get something made from cheap quality plastic and blade.
These may work for two, three or four shaves, after that you’ll notice that the blade becomes dull and unusable. The thicker and faster your beard grows, the more disposable razors you use.
Cartridge razors are cheaper initially versus a safety razor. But in the long run as you buy more refills, you’ll end up spending a lot more. Safety razors are cheaper long term because DE blades don’t cost as much. Even if you change it after every use, you still won’t spend as much.
5. Does it have lube strips?
Lube strips are strips of lubrication found in a lot of cartridge razors like Gillette and Schick. These strips provide lubrication and some protection from nicks and cuts. Variants that are marketed for sensitive skin contain ingredients like Aloe Vera that works well for sensitive skin.
With that said, unless you have a light beard growth on the upper lip and chin area, these lube strips won’t be enough. Men with heavy beard growth need more than just lube strips to protect their skin. You can read this article on how to shave with sensitive skin to get more detail.
Handle is another important feature to look at because this is where you hold the razor. Look for something with a good enough ergonomic design that it doesn’t slip yet still comfortable to grip.
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.
Thank the vloggers
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.
Choose your own blade
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.
More extensive initially but…
On the interim DE razors would be more expensive. Buying something decent would cost around $30 in Amazon.
Steeper learning curve
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.
Takes longer to shave
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.
The first three razors featured here are safety razors. I’ve outlined my reasons above on why this is the best option.
1. Merkur 34C HD
Hands down the Merkur 34C or the classic 2-piece razor 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.
Great any facial hair thickness
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.
Good build quality
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.
- Uses only a single blade so it will not irritate skin
- 2-piece design make it easy to clean
- Not very aggressive so beginners can use this
- Will take a little longer to get a close shave
- Steeper learning curve
The bottom line
Wet shaving experts like this blade and highly recommend this to men regardless of skin type. Load a smooth shaving blade and this razor is fully capable of shaving your sensitive skin minus the irritation.
2. Feather Stainless Steel AS-D2
If you’re willing to splurge just a little bit and value longevity over anything else, the Feather AS-D2 is worth a look.
All stainless steel construction
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.
Blades are secure
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.
- Stainless steel finish will last a lifetime
- Feather blades that come with this are sharp and will shave close
- Grip is excellent – it will not slip
- Very expensive
The bottom line
3. Merkur Progress
The Merkur Progress blends old school and new school technology. It’s one of the few adjustable razors that looks like a traditional safety razor. One thing that separates this from the other two options above is the adjustable feature.
This feature allows you to adjust blade exposure depending on how mild your aggressive you want it to be.
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.
Steeper learning curve
But there is a learning curve when using an adjustable, particularly in terms of assembly and grip.
- Adjustable feature makes this very versatile
- You can go as aggressive or mild as need be
- Steep learning curve for beginners
The bottom line
This is the best adjustable razor in the market right now because of the price, size and performance. It will work on a variety of beard types from wiry to fine as well as sensitive skin, you just need to find the right setting.
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’re not willing to learn how to use a safety razor or don’t have time then this is a great compromise for time and closeness of shave.
1. Gillette MACH3 Turbo
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.
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.
Two lubricating strips
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.
The bottom line
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 guide.
1. Braun Series 7
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.
More expensive but
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.
Different shaving modes
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.
The bottom line
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
A styptic pencil something that shavers use 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.
To wrap up
That’s a wrap for this review and comparison. I hope you got a lot of value from it and please consider sharing it with your buddies if you know someone who has sensitive skin looking for a razor. We love to hear from you. What razor do you use for your sensitive skin? If you’ve tried any of the razors here please let me know below.
Garrick spends his days researching and writing about grooming. When he’s not in front of his computer, you can find him hanging around with his wife and son.