Nothing looks and feels worse than turning fiery red after shaving your face. You willingly and happily went for a baby-smooth finish, only to be punished for it. Not only that, but by the time the razor burn heals, new stubble will already be sprouting – so, really, what was the point?
We’re not knocking the act of shaving. In fact, we’re all for it...when it’s done correctly and safely. Razor burn is entirely preventable. More often than not, it is the result of a shaving regimen that is hasty or careless. Even guys with sensitive skin can avoid it.
There are specific steps you must follow to protect and nurture your skin, especially if you are susceptible to irritation, ingrown hairs, and razor burn. Here are those steps – that is, how to prevent razor burn – in their precise order.
1. Prepare the skin properly
First things first: You need to warm up your skin – literally – for that sharp razor. Take a hot shower, or wash your face thoroughly with warm water. If you skip this initial step, your skin is less resilient, and your stubble more stubborn. By having soft skin and hair, you lessen the likelihood of the blade dragging and tugging the skin, and improve the razor’s ability to cut the hairs cleanly and quickly.
After the warm water cleanse, you should apply a pre-shave oil or cream. This forms a thin, nourishing base layer over the skin, to shield it from the blade without compromising the closeness of the shave itself. It also further softens the hairs, so that you can mow without resistance.
Proraso pre-shave cream, $13 at Amazon
2. Turn up your razor hygiene (and maybe turn down the blade count)
Razor hygiene is essential in preventing burn. If you aren’t replacing your razor regularly, then it might be time to sign up for a razor replenishment program like Dollar Shave Club or Harry’s. They’ll top you up so that you never use a dull or dirty blade. You need to be shaving with a sharp, clean blade. But you don’t need to toss the cartridge after each use. You should get multiple uses out of one razor head.
The rule of thumb for razor replacement: Never use a razor more than eight times. And never use it more than three weeks. Replace the blade at either of those intervals – whichever one comes first. At that point, it’s either too dull or has collected too much bacteria and dust, even if you’ve been storing it properly. (That is, stored upright in a cool, dry space after shaving. And with a plastic cover over top between shaves, after it’s dried.)
If you have sensitive skin, you might also consider using a razor with fewer blades, to minimise the number of sharp objects dragging over your skin. This is why lots of guys switch to a safety razor. Or, you could try a three-blade razor, like Gillette’s Mach3.
Gillette Mach 3 razor, $6 at Amazon
Vikings Blade safety razor, $29 at Amazon
3. Consider using a badger brush
If you’re shaving hairs that are more than a few days old, you might be able to lift them up away from the skin by applying your shave cream with a badger brush. You simply wet the brush in warm water, poke a hole in the center with your finger, then fill it with cream, before applying it in circular motions against the grain on your face. This builds a creamy lather while also pulling the hairs up and priming them for a nice, gentle shave.
The Art of Shaving badger brush, $60 at Amazon
4. Loosen your grip, and shave against the grain
If you’ve done everything correct until this point – the moment you begin to shave – then you should trust the process. There’s no need to apply lots of pressure to the blade, as you’ll only shear off extra cells or trim some hairs slightly below the surface of the skin. Lighten your grip, and let the blade glide over top your pre-shave layer and the shave cream. You shouldn’t require multiple passes, either. Again, if you’ve done everything right, then everything should go smooth.
And remember: Shave against the grain of your hair growth. This is the best way to ensure the closest shave. Plus, if you’ve done everything right (not to sound like a broken record), you shouldn’t have to worry about ingrown hairs. If you are susceptible to ingrowns, however, then you might consider switching it up, and shaving with the grain. You won’t get as close of a shave, but for that exact reason, you will minimise the threat of trapped hairs.
Oh, and rinse the blade with warm water between each stroke. There’s no reason to drag your dead skin and hairs across the rest of your skin.
5. Cool and calm the skin once you’re finished
Just as you opened the pores and relaxed the hairs before your shave, you need to close everything back up after the fact. Simply rinse some cold water on the face after you shave, to remove debris and, more importantly, to close the pores. I like to do this with a cleanser, too, to benefit from a refreshing wash. Or you could splash cold water on the face, and then apply a post-shave toner to disinfect and cleanse the pores, especially if you’re hyper prone to redness.
Thayers witch hazel toner, $8 at Amazon
Then, apply a post-shave balm, which nourishes the skin with vitamins as it rebounds from the entire procedure. Balm is dense, and thus protects the skin like a shield, preventing anything from clogging itself inside your pores.
Anthony aftershave balm, $24 at Nordstrom