How to Shave with Acne & Sensitive Skin - Complete Guide with Great Tips
There's no other way to put it.
If you're going through it, I've been there and I know exactly how you feel.
Although there's a lot to talk about when it comes to acne, in this article I want to talk about shaving with acne.
Shaving when you have pimples can be tough. If you’re not careful, you’ll end up with a bunch of little cuts and nicks that don’t look or feel nice and can also make your skin condition worse.
Don't worry, you've come to the right place.
Luckily, there are some tips and tricks to keep in mind if you’re trying to figure out how to shave with acne.
From my past experience and from research I've done, I’ve collected top techniques and critical factors to consider that are sure to help you get a painless, proper shave.
Causes of Acne
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, acne affects over 50 million Americans—making it the most common skin condition in the United States.
So, why exactly do we get those pesky zits anyways?
It can be a mix of things, but the main culprits stem from oil production, dead skin cells, clogged pores, bacteria, and hormones.
The reason I'm writing about the reasons and causes for acne is because I believe that if you understand the causes you'll be able to avoid doing things that may promote or make it worse.
1. Oil Production
Your skin naturally produces oil (a.k.a. sebum) to help you stay moisturized. Sometimes, though, the body kicks into overdrive and makes an excessive amount of sebum.
We have sebaceous glands all over our entire body, but these glands are larger and more prevalent on the mid-back and chin. Excess oil may lead to acne-flare ups because it sits on the surface of the skin and mixes with other debris that can clog your pores.
2. Dead Skin Cells
During a 24-hour period, we lose millions of skin cells. Ideally, dead cells will naturally fall off the skin without causing any disruption.
Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case though. Without proper exfoliation, old skin cells can remain on the surface of the skin. When mixed with the body’s natural oil production, a less than ideal combination of particles is formed that can lead to some severely clogged pores.
3. Clogged Pores
Excess oil, dead skin cells, and dirt can clog up your pores. When these substances collect in a hair follicle, a whitehead or a blackhead can appear. Even though clogged pores themselves don’t cause pimples, they can become infected with bacteria that can lead to major breakouts.
Propionibacterium acnes are the specific strain of bacteria we have to thank for causing those nasty zits to occur.
The severity of the acne that can appear depends on which particular strain of bacteria is present on the skin. Generally speaking, once bacteria mix into a clogged pore, hair follicles may become inflamed and infected which gives cue to pimple formation.
If the infection occurs deep down in the hair follicle, that is when cyst-like acne appears.
Preparing for a Shave
OK, so now after understanding a bit about the causes of acne, it's time to prepare for a shave.
before you even go to pick up a razor, there are a few important steps to take. This is to make sure that:
- Shaving with acne a will be a much more comfortable process.
- Shaving won't make things worse.
I’ve found that adding in some simple precautions to the usual shaving routine leads to some incredibly beneficial results. If you’re trying to figure out how to shave with acne, here are some things to keep in mind to make sure you are properly cleaning and hydrating your skin.
Whether you have acne or not, properly cleansing your face should always be the first thing you do if you plan on shaving. For all of the reasons I just went over above, it’s super important that you get rid of as much oil on your face as possible before picking up a razor.
Personally, I found that a quick hop in the shower before shaving may give good results. Because not only is it soothing and relaxing, but is also a great way to ensure that your pores are opening up and your facial hair is softening.
Regardless of if you hop in the shower beforehand or would prefer to just stand in front of the sink, I can’t stress enough how important it is that you use warm water to wash your face. Make sure not to heat the water up too much though. While warm water helps to stimulate the skin, hot water can strip away too much excess oil. Additionally, if you don’t plan on taking a shower, placing a warm washcloth on your face for a couple of minutes can help to get pores ready for shaving as well.
The goal of properly cleansing your face is to get rid of anything that could cause unnecessary friction between you and your razor and to reduce the risk of spreading around bacteria with your blade.
Choose a mild soap that is made for sensitive skin. Face wash that is appropriate for use on sensitive skin contains a mix of ingredients that can adequately cleanse the skin without causing dryness.
Cleansing your face is extremely important before shaving. Use products for sensitive skin with natural ingredients.
During the cleansing step, some guys may benefit from exfoliating as well, but this isn’t the right move for everybody.
If your skin is extremely sensitive, I caution against using too much exfoliation because it can only further aggravate your already irritated face. In this case, just cleanse the skin with mild soap by applying light pressure while scrubbing, splashing with warm water, and dabbing dry with a towel.
For some guys, though, thoroughly exfoliating before shaving is a great idea because it can help to slough of dead skin cells, which will create a smoother surface for the razor to glide along. Exfoliating can also help to lift up whiskers so that the blade has an easier time providing a close shave.
If you decide that exfoliating is right for you, just be sure that you’re still choosing an exfoliate that is appropriate for sensitive skin. You want to keep the exfoliation light. Some face washes can feel rough and gritty and washing your face with something like this before shaving will almost certainly lead to a painful experience.
Exfoliating is recommended, but how much is a personal decision. As a thumb rule, if you have a sensitive skin use a mild exfoliation, otherwise thorough exfoliation can be a good idea. As always try and see what works best for you.
3. Pre-Shave Oil
I know, after all of the talk about how bad excess oil is it can seem a little counterintuitive that I’m now recommending that you use pre-shave oil.
Here me out on this one though because, pre-shave oil can make for a much more pleasant shaving experience.
Applying pre shave oil on your facial hair before shaving helps your razor to smoothly glide along the face without painfully getting caught up on dry, rough surfaces. Proper lubrication helps to reduce the appearance of cuts and nicks and also reduces the chances that you’ll deal with irritation after you’ve completed your shave. Plus, not having to push down so hard on the razor can help to reduce the chances of razor burn appearing.
While there probably isn’t any reason to worry that using pre-shave oil will cause even more zits to appear, it’s still important to use this lubricant sparingly.
When using the oil, gently rub it into whiskers by going in the opposite direction that the hair naturally grows in. The goal is to lightly moisturize your face, not entirely saturate it with oil.
I like to stick to natural skin care products whenever possible, and find that essential oils like jojoba and tea tree smell great and have some favorable calming benefits.
Pre-shave oil works from within, makes your facial hair softer and moisturizes your skin.
Which in turn makes shaving process cleaner, easier and better. Use Natural products.
4. Use Non-Comedogenic Products
It’s important to keep in mind that you want to use skincare products that are non-comedogenic, meaning they get made with ingredients that aren’t likely to clog pores. A lot of medical professionals recommend using non-comedogenic products because they help to keep skin free of acne-causing bacteria.
Whether you are currently dealing with breakouts or not, it’s a good idea to consider using grooming washes, lotions, and balms that aren’t going to clog your pours.
Every man’s skin is different, but there are specific ingredients that are more likely to block pores than others. When looking for facial care products, be cautious of cleansers, oils, and moisturizers that use cocoa butter, isopropyl myristate, and artificial dyes. These ingredients often end up doing more harm than good.
5. No More Whiteheads
Growing up, my mother warned me of the adverse effects of popping a zit. When it comes to shaving though, go ahead and take care of those whiteheads. By popping your whitehead ahead of time, you’re decreasing the risk of your razor hitting it and spreading around bacteria.
Keep in mind; there is a right way and a wrong way to pop a pimple. Before going out and carelessly taking care of business, be sure you read up on sanitary ways to get the job done.
Now that you’ve adequately prepared your your face for the shave, it’s time to lather up.
Don’t be stingy when applying your cream, either. Having a thoroughly lubricated face is going to make this entire process a whole lot easier.
When selecting a shaving cream or gel, make sure that you are seeking out products that won't irritate sensitive skin. There are shaving creams that are better for acne.
Ideally, whichever type of cream you choose will serve as a layer of protection for your skin. The easier time your razor has gliding over your stubble, the better your shaving experience is going to be.
Try to find an alcohol-free shaving cream since it will lessen the chances of your skin drying out. As with cleansers, products with non-comedogenic ingredients are the way to go. Research suggests that repeated exposure to sodium lauryl sulfate can lead to some severe skin irritation, so avoid lathering up with this.
As a rule of thumb, seeking out a shaving cream that puts more emphasis on natural ingredients as opposed to synthetic additives will end up being less harsh on your skin.
Using a shaving brush to help lather up gets mixed reviews, but I tend to recommend using one due to the exfoliating benefits. A high-quality brush can help to thoroughly spread shaving cream, exfoliate, and even lift up whiskers. Try not to apply a ton of pressure when using one though, and always make sure that you’re taking good care of keeping your brush clean. A bacteria build-up on bristles can lead to some unwanted effects.
If you decide that using a brush isn’t the right fit for you, that’s okay. Just make sure to properly clean your hands before gently rubbing your foam or gel.
Good lather will help the razor glide smoothly on your face. Use a shaving cream for sensitive skin and without alcohol.
Picking the Right Razor
Picking the right razor is extremely important, let's go over the options.
Multi-blade razors have been wildly popular for a while now because of their ability to get extremely close to the skin, thus, providing a close shave. For guys who are dealing with acne-prone skin, a close shave isn’t always the best idea, though.
Multi-blade razors can provide a shave that is just too close for comfort for guys who are experiencing sensitive skin issues. These types of razors or designed to lift and cut whiskers in a way that can lead to irritation. The more aggravated the skin becomes, the more likely it is that new breakouts will appear.
Bottom line: It's less recommended to use multi blade razors.
Single/Double Blade Razors
When it comes to razors, my suggestion to you is to keep it old school. Avoid the fancy multi-blade razors, and instead, stick with either one or two blades. While single blade razors, are a viable option, there's a learning curve. For this reason, I suggest that most men with sensitive skin just stick with dual blades.
For men with problematic skin, having a little bit of a buffer between facial skin and the blades is a good idea, and dual-blades are great for this. This way, it’s possible to get a close shave without running the risk of causing skin damage.
Safety razors have a safety bar that is positioned in between the edge of the blade and the skin. This added level of space between the blade and the skin can be useful for guys with problematic skin because it helps to ensure that there is a little bit of room left between the razors and the areas where acne is present.
Using a safety razor can be a great option for men who are trying to figure out how to shave with acne. Not only are safety razors more eco-friendly than their disposable counterparts, but they may also save you some money since they don’t require you to purchase new, expensive cartridges continually.
When experiencing breakouts, some guys like relying on electric foil shavers that have dry/wet settings. The benefits of this type of razor are that they can provide a close shave without running the risk of causing some painful cuts that can damage skin and spread bacteria.
If there is a specific problematic area, the razor can quickly be adjusted so that it doesn’t get so close to the skin in that spot, which is a great option to have.
The dry/wet setting is also beneficial because it allows you to get the best shave possible based on your needs. It’s often best to avoid wet shaves when acne is present, but this can vary on a case-by-case basis.
For guys who are more comfortable with dry shaves, electric foil shavers do a remarkable job providing a quality, accurate shave. However, for some, it’s nice also to have the ability to bring the razor into the shower so that the warm water and steam can open up the hair follicles and softening the hair.
It's Time to Shave
The technique you use is just as important as the razor you choose. Practicing good form when shaving helps to minimize the occurrence of cuts and nicks, and also aids in keeping the skin as calm and soothed as possible.
1. Shave with the Grain
First and foremost, it is vitally important to always shave with the grain. Shaving with hair growth helps to prevent the likelihood of damaging hair follicles. Messing up hair follicles can lead to clogged pores. As I’ve mentioned before, clogged pores are an easy way to wind up with some nasty breakouts, so they’re best avoided at all costs.
A lot of guys assume that going against the grain is the best option because it provides for a closer shave. While in some instances this may be true, even if you have perfect skin, you should never shave against the direction of hair’s natural growth.
Moving the razor in the opposite direction that hair is growing in can cut the hair so short that a sharp tip forms and that can become embedded in the skin. Not only may this result out in razor bumps and ingrown hair, but it can also lead to the development of more acne.
Going with the grain pulls on hair less, thus delivering better outcomes. Every man’s hair has its own, unique growth pattern, but in general, when shaving your face, make sure to use downward strokes. When shaving your neck, make sure you know your growth pattern and use downward and upward strokes accordingly.
Use the following diagram as a reference.
2. Be Gentle
A gentle shave is also extremely important, so make sure not to apply too much force.
If you’re using a quality, sharp blade and have thoroughly cleansed your face, rubbed in pre-shave oil, and liberally applied shaving cream, there should be no reason to have to exert significant force when shaving facial hair. Especially when near pimples, try to avoid any jerking motions or harsh pulling of the razor and stick to short strokes.
3. No Need for Multiple Passes
It’s also not a good idea to do multiple passes back and forth because this can irritate the skin and increase your chances of getting a cut. Instead, if you’ve finished shaving and see that there are still some patches that need attention, go ahead and rinse off your face, reapply shaving cream, and go over those areas one more time.
4. Use Clean Blades
Be sure to keep blades clean so that they can provide the best shave possible. Dipping the razor into a bowl of water isn’t the best option thanks to the spread of germs; so instead, rinse the blade under hot water every time it picks up a decent accumulation of hair and shaving cream.
If you do end up nicking yourself, be sure to clean up any blood before continuing with our shave. Not doing so can result in the spread of bacteria and new zits popping up.
When shaving, remember to shave with the grain, be gentle and don't use force, avoid multiple passes and use clean blades.
After Shave Routine
Practicing good hygiene once you've finished shaving is another critical step in avoiding future breakouts.
1. Clean Your Razor
After use, the razor should be cleaned and sanitized. It only takes a few seconds, but disinfecting your blades with rubbing alcohol makes a significant difference. This step ensures that you’re killing off any germs that could be leftover.
After you’ve finished cleaning the blades, make sure to dry them so that rust doesn’t form thoroughly. It’s worth noting that dabbing your razor with alcohol before your next shave isn’t a bad idea either.
It’s also necessary to thoroughly rinse off any shaving oil or creams that might be leftover on your face so that they don’t end up clogging pores. There’s no need to rewash your face in this step, just merely splash with some more water, and you’ll be all set.
2. Apply Aftershave Balm
Last, but not least, apply a good quality balm to lock in hydration. Stick with natural-based moisturizers that are non-comedogenic.
Now isn’t the time for the harsh acne-fighting chemicals like benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid. Instead, stick with moisturizes that are designed to soothe and calm facial skin. Some balms have soothing antimicrobial ingredients like peppermint oil or aloe vera gel that can help to protect your freshly clean cheeks.
Trimming Instead of Shaving
If the thought of using a razor on broken out skin makes you uncomfortable, consider trimming your facial hair instead of shaving.
There are some excellent quality stubble trimmers out there that can get stubble incredibly short without requiring that you hold a blade up to your sensitive skin. Facial hair can cause excess oil production, so if you’re dealing with acne, you’ll want to make sure that you’re only allowing stubble to grow out to a few millimeters.
A lot of guys who have given up shaving to try trimming instead have reported a significant decrease in irritation compared to what they were experiencing when shaving every day.
Interested in trying out trimming? Just get your hands on a stubble beard trimmer and give it a few passes over your face. As far as hygiene goes, take the same precautions that you would if you were using a razor to shave. Cleanliness and hydration are always important.
By choosing this trimming method, though, it’s worth noting that you’re not going to obtain a silky smooth face. Instead, your face will remain a little rough and, at times, can feel quite similar to sandpaper. As a bonus, though, trimming can take less time than shaving.
Other benefits are, stubble can cover your acne which can make you feel more comfortable, according to researches made, women love men with stubble.
If you have problematic skin and figuring out how to take care of your facial hair has been stressing you out, don’t fear. Figuring out how to shave with acne doesn’t have to be as scary as it seems. Just follow the guidelines listed above and you’re well on your way to success.