Last updated on August 18th, 2018 by Garrick Dee
You’ve been through this stage – puberty. It’s a time of rejoicing because you’re crossing over from being a child to becoming a man. During this stage, hormones are raging and there’s one bad side effect – Acne.
Shaving in itself without cutting your self takes time and practice, now imagine how tough it is to shave with acne all over the face and neck.
But with the right prep, a sharp blade and gentle enough product (that won’t irritate the skin), it is possible.
One option would be to grow out your beard and hide the acne (make sure to follow these beard grooming tips) but when that is not an option follow these tips for a clean shaven, irritation free face.
Shave Every Day
Acne.org recommends that if you’ve decided to go the shaving route, it will be best to shave once per day because if you let your facial hair grow, there is more pull when you drag a razor across your face.
Pulling and tugging will irritate acne.
Preparation Is The Most Important Step
Preparation is the most important part of shaving even with a clear skin. When you have acne this is an even more important part of shaving that you cannot skip or you’ll end up with an irritated face and lots of razor bumps will make your face look worst.
Take A Hot Shower Before Shaving
The best way to prep your beard area for shaving would be taking a hot shower because steam from hot water will soften facial hair and open up the pores of your skin.
A hot shower also helps rid the face of excess oil thus minimizing the risk of bacteria spreading during shaving.
Some people take it as far as shaving in the shower. That will be personal preference, if you’re comfortable shaving inside the shower by all means do so.
If a hot shower is not possible, make sure to wash your face with hot water and/or apply a hot towel on your face and leave it on for around 3 minutes or so. That’s what the professional barbers do.
Use A Gentle Soap
While having a hot shower make sure to wash your face with soap formulated for sensitive skin.
These products have the right amount of cleaning power to remove excess oil without drying out the skin.
Some of the recommended facial cleansers I found include Acne.org cleanser, the Olay foaming facial wash and CeraVe’s foaming facial cleanser. These three products are liquid soaps but if you prefer a hard soap try using the Cetaphil Gentle Cleansing Bar or Neutrogena’s Transparent Facial Bars.
I’ve read some discussions in Reddit that you should use glycerin based soaps that contains vitamin E such as the Clearly Natural Glycerin Bar Soap. This soap would be great for people with oily skin but don’t over use it because it can dry out the skin making shaving painful.
Pop Those Zits
Before shaving check your pimples and see if there are whiteheads that are ripe for popping, pop them before you shave.
Doing this lessens the risk spreading the bacteria through the blade but before popping it make sure you know how to do it or you’ll only make your pimple worst. I’ve found detailed guides on safely popping a pimple here, here and here.
Don’t Forget The Neck Area
If you have pimples on the neck area, don’t neglect washing that area with hot water and gentle soap. The neck area is more sensitive than the facial area so take extra time to prep this area.
Do not scrub pimples with a coarse wash cloth. In fact avoid scrubbing all together. It will only worsen acne.
Apply Pre-Shave Oil
There is some debate on using pre-shave oil. Proponents say that applying this adds lubrication, softens facial hair and improve the way the razor will glide on your face.
While others like the Sharpologist don’t recommend using it because it can worsen acne. If you still want to try, go with something labeled non-comedogenic so it won’t clog pores.
Don’t Use A Shaving Brush
If you have acne, use of your hands (make sure they’re clean!) to lather and apply shaving cream on your face because a shaving brush might pick up bacteria and spread it to other parts of the face and make acne worse.
Don’t Use A Razor With More Than 2 Blades
When you watchGillette’s video, they recommend you use a multi-bladed razor that is spaced closely together – in the video you’ll see the man using a 5 bladed razor.
But when you read the forums, most men would not recommend using cartridge razors because it causes irritation. And since a sharp blade is a must, you will need to change more often. That means you’ll spend more on cartridges.
Also, expert shavers like the Sharpologist say that using multi bladed razors on acne is a bad idea because it can “break pimple heads and spread bacteria”.
Acne.org recommends a 2-bladed razor like the Gillette Sensor Excel and Gillette Trac II over a one blade razor because it provides the best compromise of a close shave without irritating the skin.
These razors are hard to find and can cost more down the road because you’ll need to replace them more often.
A more cost effective solution would be using a safety razor because after the initial investment, you can replace the blades for as low as 10 cents a pop compared to the $1.3 – $4 per cartridge of a Gillette.
These cartridges are very expensive and the costs will add up.
These blades are way cheaper.
The best razors for acne are the least aggressive ones that don’t expose too much of the blade. Some examples include Weishi Safety Razor and the Merkur 34C. The latter has a 5 adjustable settings depending on how close you want your shave to be, obviously you’d to set it at the least aggressive setting.
Use A Very Sharp Blade
Here’s the bottom line, a dull blade will irritate the skin more because instead of cutting hair, it will tug and pull thus creating more friction. And since you’re working with a dull blade, you will tend to put more pressure which will create more friction – not good for acne.
If you need a sharp blade then these brands are good choices. It will slice through the coarsest beards with little to no pressure.
Don’t Use Old Towels
If you have the habit of using day old towels to save on laundry costs, don’t do it. Old towels can be a breeding ground of bacteria than you can reintroduce to your face. Always use new towels that way you’ll be sure that there no bacteria that can make your acne worst.
You can use an ordinary towel or use what barbers use – barber towels. There are lots of options in Amazon, depending on the quality and brand, it’ll range between $10 and $40++.
Always Go With The Grain
Going with the grain simply means shaving in the direction the hair grows, doing this will cut down on irritation because there will be less pulling. Also, it will lessen the risk of ingrown hair that also looks like acne.
Avoid Putting Too Much Pressure
To piggy back on what I said about using sharp blades, you must not put too much pressure when shaving. In fact, don’t use any pressure at all, use the weight of the razor to your advantage and let it glide smoothly on your face.
If Possible Avoid Shaving Directly Over A Pimple
If you have a severe case of acne, shaving over it may break the whitehead (that contains bacteria) and spread the puss on the exfoliated part of the face.
Rinse The Razor Often
Shaving not only cuts facial hair but dead skin cells and these contains bacteria.
Make sure to rinse the razor often with hot running water so that bacteria from the razor doesn’t go on the exposed facial skin.
If You Pop A Pimple With A Razor Rinse Immediately
Just in case you pop a zit with your razor, stop shaving and rinse that razor under hot running water immediately.
Rule of thumb is to not rinse it in a bowl of water. Rinsing it under running water is a better option.
Make sure to stop the bleeding before shaving again. You can use a clean facial tissue to clean the area and absorb as much blood as possible. User “Raimundo” in the Acne.org forum recommends using a styptic pencil to stop the bleeding and prevent bacteria from spreading
Disinfect The Blade With Alcohol
After shaving make sure to rinse the blade with alcohol to kill any bacteria present.
If you’re using safety razors, you can take off the whole blade and use a cotton ball to wipe both sides of it. Make sure to do the same before shaving.
Make sure to wipe the blades dry before storing them so rust doesn’t form.
Rinse Your Face Well
After shaving, your face will have shaving cream residue. Don’t just wipe it off with a towel. Make sure to rinse it off well with warm water so that it doesn’t clog the pores.
After rinsing with warm water apply cleansing toner or witch hazel aftershave using a cotton ball.
Rinse again with cool water to close down the pores.
Some old school shavers recommend applying alum block to disinfect. Since this is a disinfectant, it will have a stinging sensation.
Don’t Forget The Aftershave Protection
After applying alum block, wait around a minute then apply a shave balm to hydrate and protect the skin from further irritation. Some of these products contain Aloe Vera that moisturizes the skin and has antimicrobial properties that help fight acne.
If you have acne try to avoid aftershave because these products contain alcohol that can dry out the skin’s natural oils.
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.