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The Grooming Manual

How to Prevent Razor Burn, Razor Bumps, & Ingrown Hairs

Tips how on to prevent post shave irritation

Nothing feels or looks worse after a good shave than an irritated face and neckline. What causes these unsightly issues though and how do we prevent them?

What Causes Shave Irritation?

There are two main layers of skin. The top layer is made up of old, dead skin cells, while the bottom layer is newly formed skin cells. When you shave, you naturally exfoliate the face, removing the dead skin. Razor burn and razor bumps occur when improperly preparing your face for a shave, and thus, irritate the newly formed skin.

Razor Burn: Razor burn occurs when you’ve irritated the skin by shaving. This can happen for many reasons – you’ve irritated skin by too many razor strokes, bacteria from your razor has infected the skin, or you just have sensitive skin.

Ingrown Hairs and razor bumps: Ingrown hair and razor bumps occur when hair doesn’t fully grow beyond the skin’s surface and instead, coils back into the skin, creating bumps, irritation and potentially infection. African American men often have major issues with ingrown hairs since their hair is predominately curly, meaning hair grows right back into the skin.

How to Prevent Shave Irritation

  1. Steam open your hair follicles and thoroughly wet your face – Take time in the morning to take a hot shower, which opens up the follicles and softens the hairs. Make sure you never shave without thoroughly wetting your face or beard. Wet hair is dramatically weaker than dry hair, allowing for it to be cut more easily.
  2. Exfoliate – Using a face scrub for men on the hair areas you’re going to shave will loosen up hairs, allowing for a cleaner shave. Exfoliating (scrubbing) also helps remove the top, dead layer of skin on the face allowing the blade to cut the hair closer at its base.
  3. Always use a sharp, new blade – Never use a blade more than 4-5 uses and keep it disinfected by pouring some alcohol on it before shaving (make sure to rinse after disinfecting with alcohol). One of the biggest causes of skin irritation is bacteria coming from your blade. We highly suggest using a single blade option as well – like a safety razor.
  4. Shave with the grain of your hair, gently – Always shave with the grain of your hair and do not press your blade into your skin. Pulling the skin tight to get a “closer shave” causes you to cut the hair underneath the skin, causing the hair to grow into the skin, not out of it.
  5. Rinse the blade off between strokes- This prevents men’s shaving cream, whiskers, and dead skin cells from building up on the blade and ultimately preventing a close shave.
  6. Use a natural, non-lathering shave cream – The best shaving cream for men is one that doesn’t lather. The ingredients used to create lather are very irritating to the skin. Picture this: Every time you shave, you’re creating microscope cuts in the skin, to only then let irritating chemicals seep into the skin. This creates the perfect opportunity for irritation to occur. Just say no to foam or lather.
  7. Use an alcohol free aftershave – The best aftershave lotion for men is one that doesn’t contain alcohol or menthol. Instead, use a men’s aftershave balm that contains natural Alpha Hydroxy Acids such as sugar cane, sugar maple, and orange peel. These natural anti-septics help the skin repair itself without infection or red bumps. While you may think alcohol or menthol will help disinfect the skin and prevent bacteria from causing zits and bumps after a shave, it’s the complete opposite. Alcohol in men’s aftershave lotion will irritate the skin causing not only discomfort, but ugly irritation. All the rinsing, rubbing, and scrapping from shaving drys out the skin which creates an environment for irritation. Make sure your aftershave lotion contains an abundance of aloe vera, hyaluronic acid, and Vitamin E. These powerful natural ingredients restore lost moisture, allowing the skin to repair itself faster.

Are you a man with sensitive skin and loathe shaving? You'll want to check out our Shaving for Men with Sensitive Skin article. If you're a black man, make sure to see our Shaving Tips for Black Men guide.

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