Last updated on August 15th, 2018 by Garrick Dee
Having a good clean shave has a lot of benefits.
It helps you with job interviews, close out deals and if you’re lucky, you might even score a date with that girl of your dreams, unless of course she prefers men with beards.
But when you use dull blades with improper technique, the results can be an itchy and terrible looking rash that can last from a few hours to a few days, it’s called a razor burn.
While nearly all men go through this, you don’t have to endure this very itchy ordeal if you know what to do to avoid it.
What you will learn here
- What is a razor burn
- How to prevent it
- How to treat the symptoms just in case you have one
What is a razor burn?
The process of shaving scrapes off the topmost laer of skin. When done properly, it will help greatly in terms of exfoliation and will reveal a new layer of skin.
But improper technique or a bacteria-filled dull razor can be a source of irritation.
Razor burn, ouch!
A razor bump looks much worst.
Razor burn is a consequence of that and it is characterized by a rash on the face and neck area. This rash is itchy and very uncomfortable.
In its mildest form, it will go away after a few hours but severe razor burns can last for a few days and may eventually lead to razor bumps. Razor bumps is basically ingrown hair that looks like a pimple. African-American men are more prone to ingrown hair because of the curly nature of their hair.
What causes razor burn?
- Not properly prepping the area to be shaved
- Using dull blades
- Not properly cleaning blades = source of irritation causing bacteria
- Using the wrong type of shaving cream or aftershave
- Using the wrong shaving technique
How to prevent razor burn?
Pre-shave preparation is king
What you do with your skin prior to shaving is as important as using the proper technique. Most important step would be washing your face (or the area that’ll you’ll shave) thoroughly with hot water and a gentle soap.
Soap removes any excess oil and dead skin cells that could possibly clog the blade. Using the right type of soap is important that has the right pH balance so it doesn’t dry out skin.
A better way is to have a hot shower. The steam coming from hot water actually hydrates and softens hair follicles that make it very easy to cut. Experts even recommend rubbing hair conditioner on the beard to make it as soft as a baby’s bum.
Exfoliation isn’t only for women, men also need to exfoliate. Fortunately for men, we don’t need to buy expensive products for this, a $4 facial wash is all we need.
Exfoliation removes dead skin cells to expose a fresh layer of skin.
A side benefit to exfoliation would be preventing ingrown hair or hair trapped under a layer of skin.
Make sure to buy a product specifically formulated for men since our skin tends to be oilier as we have larger sebaceous glands that produce more oil.
The next product will exfoliate our skin in ways women only dream about.
Buy a shaving brush
A shaving brush is more than just a tool to apply shaving cream. When used properly it helps exfoliate and coat every strand of hair. It also helps hair stand up, making it easier for the blade to cut.
Old school folks would prefer to use a badger brush because in the long term it will remain soft and pliable.
Use the right shaving cream
A good shaving cream will protect your skin direct contact from the razor. It should provide enough moisture and lubrication so the blade “glides” over the skin, cutting hair off cleanly instead of tugging on it. This minimizes any irritation cause by direct blade contact.
Try to stay away from canned shaving creams because these products contain chemicals that could be a potential starting point of an irritation.
Another side effect of using aerosol based creams is it dries the skin over time.
The rule of thumb shared by a lot of experts is to choose a cream that has glycerin because these creams provide more moisture and lubrication preventing the skin from drying out while you shave.
Avoid using a cartridge razor
The blades in these razors are fixed and you can’t change them and while this may work for some individuals, not all our faces have the same contours, the blade angle provided by a cartridge razor may not work for everyone’s needs.
And with the design of multi-bladed razors, it can be a source of ingrown hair.
Nick Shaves explains.
What’s the alternative? Why not consider using a safety razor. Safety razors works in the principle of cutting facial hair in phases, this virtually eliminates the chances of irritation because your skin does not have to deal with 5 blades simultaneously grating your skin.
Shave with the grain
To get as close a shave as possible in the shortest possible time a lot of men choose to go against the grain. Doing so opens the risk of nicking up your skin that can lead to razor burn and bumps.
Shaving with the grain reduces the risk of irritation because you’re shaving in the direction the hair is growing. There is very little risk of ingrown hair because you’re not shaving too close against the skin.
A safety razor won’t be able to shave everything at once. It’ll take 2 or 3 passes but the results will be worth it.
Make sure the blade is sharp
One of the major causes of razor burn is a dull blade.
Dragging a dull blade across your will will just spread infection. It also pulls and tugs facial create, irritating the skin even more.
As a result of not cutting, you put more pressure on the razor which causes even more irritation. It is a bad cycle.
This is one of the major reasons why a safety razor is the preferred choice of men because blades are cheap you can replace them more frequently without hurting the wallet.
Only short and gentle strokes
Number one rule to a razor burn free face is using a light touch and letting the blade do all the work. When you use longer strokes, the tendency is to put more weight on the blade so just use short strokes. It will take longer but the results will be a smooth shave.
Make sure to rinse the blade in hot water before, in between and after shaving. Hot water helps in lubricating the blades and removing accumulated hair, cream and dead skin that can clog the blades. A hot blade also cuts through hair faster.
One more thing, when rinsing blades rinse it in running water and not in a filled sink for sanitary purposes. You don’t want gunk in the water going back to your face right?
How water will not kill bacteria but it helps for lubrication and removing gunk.
After you shave don’t forget to…
Wash off excess shaving cream
After shaving you’ll need to wash your face and neck area with facial soap (preferably with tea tree oil and witch hazel) and water to remove any excess shaving cream.
Rinse with cold water
Cold water closes down the pores of the skin and reduces chances of ingrown hair or bacteria from going inside open pores.
After rinsing with cold water, pat dry with a clean towel – avoid rubbing, this is another source of irritation.
Apply aftershave moisturizer or balm
The process of shaving will leave your skin exposed to bacteria. And it’ll need a layer of protection to protect it from infection and irritation.
This is where an aftershave comes in.
An aftershave moisturizer will replenish lost moisture and soothes the skin screaming for some relief.
Avoid getting aftershave products with alcohol in it because it tends to dry out the skin rather than adding moisture.
One product that offers great post shave protection even without an aftershave is a shaving soap. These products function like a shaving cream but offers better lubricity and moisturizing properties that protect the skin even from sharpest blades.
Men prone to razor bumps, apply a razor bump cream
If you are prone to ingrown hair or razor bumps, try applying a bump cream to prevent razor bumps from forming.
Dry the blades and brush
Dry the blades using a dry towel, this ensures that the blade stays sharp and it will last longer. Also apply some alcohol to sanitize the blades and prevent bacteria build up.
Make sure to rinse the brush well to remove excess shaving cream and skin gunk then hang it over a holder to air dry. A wet brush is an ideal breeding ground for bacteria that you’ll be using to lather up your face the next time you shave.
How to treat razor burn?
Just in case you’re unfortunate enough to have razor burns or bumps don’t worry, here are some things you can do to treat it.
- Apply some witch hazel on the affected area. Witch hazel is an antiseptic that helps reduce inflammation and redness caused by razor bumps. Avoid witch hazel products with any alcohol content as these will dry the skin even more causing more irritation.
- For added moisture, apply aftershave balm on the razor burns or bumps to sooth that itchy feeling.
- Aloe Vera is nature’s default option when it comes to treating skin irritations like razor burns. If you don’t have any aloe vera plant at home, buy the aloe vera gel. Just make sure it does not have any artificial coloring or scents.
- If you don’t have any of the options above, try using a cold compress by soaking a towel in a bowl filled with water and ice then wrap it on the area affected area for a few minutes. This will help soothe that burning feeling and reduce inflammation.
- Avoid shaving for a few days to allow skin to heal. Shaving on irritated skin will only worsen the condition.
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.