A smooth close shave makes you look and feel good. Unfortunately, it's all too easy to get the dreaded "razor burn" side effect from improper shaving. Not only does it create that itchy stingy feeling, it looks terrible.
What is Razor Burn?
Shaving can remove up to two layers of skin. Normally, that's a good thing as this exfoliation takes away the dull looking outer layers and promotes fresh new skin growth. It's one of the keys to healthy looking skin. (think of the billions women spend on cosmetics that help with exfoliation - guys don't have to do that - shaving naturally exfoliates.) But where it all goes wrong is when one or more components of the shaving process is done incorrectly or skipped. Razor Burn can look like a small red rash, feature bumps or even cause infected pimples or blisters. Razor burn can also itch severely, making the skin very uncomfortable for several days. Mild cases can result in a couple of hours of discomfort and reddish skin.
The 5 Key mistakes that cause razor burn:
With the proper plan of attack, razor burn and razor bumps can be prevented.
A Shaving Brush is a great tool to help fight razor burn
One of the best tools you can use to help prevent razor burn is a shaving brush. A shaving brush does a couple of things. First, it helps raise the hair so that a closer cut is possible. Second, it helps create a rich creamy lather with the shaving cream that stays close to the skin. And, finally, it helps remove dead skin cells (exfoliation) which reduces the chance of blemishes, & razor bumps. Always look for a shaving brush with bristles that have the right balance between softness (to create a rich creamy lather that stays close to the skin) and resistance to raise the beard (making a closer cut easier!)
Apply the shaving cream using the brush in a circular motion ending in an upward stroke to help lift the beard up and away from the face.
Proper Pre-Shave Prep is Where the majority of the Shaving Battle is Won or Lost!
Depending on the toughness of your beard, change the blade somewhere between every three and every ten shaves. Regardless of the number of shaves, if the blade becomes dull, ditch it.
What's the best razor to use to prevent razor burn and skin irritation?
As to which brand of razor to use - we think you can't go wrong with any of the Gillette Mach series. However, we think the mach 3 series if fine, the later line-up is over kill (where does it end? 7 blades? 12 blades?)
If you still get razor burn and skin irritation after following all the steps outlined here, you may want to try a Safety Razor. Many guys swear by double-edge safety razors for finally solving their razor burn and skin irritation issues. The single blade provides a clean cut and is not followed by multiple blades that many claim can chew up your skin while cutting your whiskers. And, the blades are cheap (around $.40 a piece for the highest quality blade), so changing them frequently won't make you cringe at the expense like mach cartridges can. These razors typically have a nice weight, so the key is not to press at all, but let gravity do the work as you lightly hold the razor. In the beginning, there will be a learning curve and experimentation to tilting the razor to get the right blade angle that feels comfortable to you. The Merkur razor is a favorite of wet shavers - you can buy one new or find them on e-bay for a fraction of the cost.
Ideally shave in the direction of the beard growth ("with the grain").
Start with the sides, then the moustache area and last the chin. The chin hairs are the toughest, so this allows them the most time to soften under the shave cream.
Shaving against the direction of hair growth gives a closer shave, but has three drawbacks:
A. It's a good way to donate bloodTo avoid these shaving problems & skin irritations, again, shave "with the grain" (that is, in the direction your hair grows). Each person's facial hair has its own growth pattern. If you are unsure of the direction of your beard, let it grow for a day or two and you'll see it.
B. It's the leading cause of razor burn, skin rash & skin irritation, and
C. You run a high risk of cutting off a hair below skin level, causing an ingrown hair (razor bumps) - the whisker grows into the surrounding tissue instead of out of the pore, resulting in inflammation and possible infection.
Do not apply too much pressure & use short strokes
Let the razor do the work- do not press too hard. The weight of your razor is sufficient to cut the hair. You should also try using shorter strokes to help prevent you from pressing too hard (as guys sometimes do when using long strokes).
Rinse the blade frequently
Rinse your blade under hot water before you begin to shave and after every few swipes. This removes the accumulated shaving cream, whiskers, and skin gunk that could interfer with making a clean cut. The use of hot water here is to help lubricate, has nothing to do with "killing bacteria."
Do not over shave the same area
After the first pass, you may want to reshave certain areas - but be cautious. Too much shaving over the same area is a contributing factor to razor burn. So here's what you do if you want to achieve an even closer shave: apply some more lather from your brush (add more cream if necessary) to the areas you wish to shave again. Keep everything moist. This is one of the extra advantages of using a brush. For most guys, re-shaving certain areas with the grain should do the job. Professional barbers, by the way, usually first shave with the grain, and then re-shave going sideways.
Rinse the blade thoroughly before you put it away. (The water temperature isn't going to have any impact on bacteria; you're rinsing the blade to get rid of hairs, shaving cream, oils, and gunk, not to kill bacteria. You'd need to boil the razor for that or rinse it in alcohol, which is not necessary.) After rinsing, shake the razor, but do not wipe the blade with a towel or tissue - that will just make it dull faster.
Rinse with cool water
Rinse with the coolest water that is comfortable to help close the pores and pat dry with a clean towel. (Don't rub! Just pat)
Finish off with an Aftershave Moisturizer.
Shaving can remove up to two layers of skin. There is no other regular activity that does this, which is why it is so important to use a good quality moisturizer after shaving. An after shave moisturizer, designed as an after shave balm and moisturizer in one, is the ideal way to replace lost moisture and soothe the skin. And, be sure to use one made just for guys - these formulas are designed so that they are not greasy, absorb quickly and dry with a matte finish so that your face doesn't look shiny. Typically mositurizers made for women are too greasy as men tend to have not only thicker skin but also oiler skin than women due to men's larger sebaceous glands. The best aftershave moisturizers not only replace lost moisture and soothe, but also have ingredients that will cool and refresh the skin.
If you're reading this because you currently suffering from razor burn and want to learn about remedies to treat & cure it for relief, here's what you need to know and do:
For More Shaving Tips, Read: Shaving Tips & Techniques - How to get the Best Shave
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After all, what is the point of a bad shave?