A: Shaving for men is a necessary evil in life. On the one hand, it looks good—who doesn’t want a close, smooth shave. On the other hand, you have to scrape steel blades across the curvatures of your facial skin, all without causing irritation, gashes and cuts. What’s more, men are more prone to pseudofolliculitis barbae, or razor bumps, than women because of thicker, coarser facial beard hair. The good news is that men’s skin is 30% thicker than women’s skin, which makes it more rugged to withstand the punishment on a daily basis.
First, choose the right blades. It is true that multi-blade razors reduce drag on the skin, resulting in less discomfort and fewer nicks and cuts. However, this is a double-edge swore because it can also lead to more shaving bumps. “If you are prone to razor bumps, consider going to a single blade razor. Multi-blade razors cut too close to the skin, triggering ingrown hairs”, says Vorteil board-certified dermatologist Ryan Goerig, MD, FAAD. If you are comfortable with the multi-blade, go for a high quality unit that has individually spring mounted blades and a pivoting head. These features make the razor more flexible for gliding along the contours of the face.
Make sure your blades are kept in pristine shape, which can extend the life of them from 2-3 days to one week. For example, don’t mercilessly smack the razor against the sink after every stroke. This can bend the blades and take them out of alignment, which can set the stage for nicks and hair tugging. Instead, gently rinse the blades with running lukewarm water. After, dab the blades with a dry towel and store it, blade side up, in a mug or razor stand. The goal here is to expose the blades to circulating air, thus preventing rust. Try not to store the razor in a medicine cabinet or a drawer, as the metal blades can quickly corrode.
As the proverb goes, it you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail. Same goes with shaving. It turns out the best time to prepare is the night before a shave. This is the time a ceramide based moisturizer can deliver nutrients to the skin during its recovery phase (ie: sleep). CeraVe or Cetaphil brand moisturizers, available over-the-counter, work well for this purpose.
The best time to shave is immediately after the shower, as the steam from the hot water softens facial hair and preps the skin. Preshave oil helps to lubricate the whiskers and reduce friction resulting in less force needed to cut through the hair. Look for sunflower seed oil on the ingredient list, as it tends to be less irritating on the skin than olive or coconut oil. A word of caution to men that are acne prone—preshave oil can get into the pores and break you out.
After the preshave oil, slather on a shaving gel (not cream). Gels bind to the skin more readily than creams and allow for a more even shave. Look for one without any dyes or fragrances, which can cause allergic reactions in susceptible men. When shaving, hold the razor with your thumb, index finger and middle finger. Use a light grip with short, smooth strokes that are with the grain. Avoid pushing down too hard on the skin, as this can lead to more nicks and cuts. Let the weight of the razor do the work for you.
Lastly, shaving scrapes off some of the protective, dead cell layers of the skin. This makes it more susceptible to the sun’s damaging rays and other environmental elements. Vorteil recommends to skip the aftershave (which can dry out the skin) and apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen instead. Look for one with micronized zinc-oxide, as this ingredient protects your skin against both anti-aging and anti-cancer rays the best.
Vorteil’s Bottom Line: Shaving can wreak havoc on the skin. Follow these tips from the board-certified dermatologists at Vorteil and it will be smooth sailing.