[Updated July, 2020] I recently wrote about the new Gillette SkinGuard razor and how it’s designed to reduce the chance of razor bumps. But there are other ways to help prevent an outbreak. Here are five things you can do to address the problem.
For The Prevention Razor Bumps
The best way to deal with razor bumps is to…not get them. This means using some specific routines before, during, and after your shave.
1 – Shave Preparation
Start with rinsing with generous amounts of warm water and a cleanser specifically designed for the face (even if you’re shaving something other than the face). That will not only help clean the skin of pore-clogging dirt and debris but it will also make the hair up to 25% more elastic, easing the hair out of its follicle (so you won’t really need a “lift and cut” razor blade system) and making it easier to cut.
Think twice about using a pre-shave oil. Although they can be good for increasing the lubrication of the skin, if the oil is too heavy it can clog pores and help create circumstances favorable for razor bumps. Read the ingredient list carefully and if necessary use sparingly.
You also want to use a really good shave product to properly lubricate and cushion the shaving area. You should also consider using a shave brush for a more effective lather. Let it sit on the skin for a minute or so before starting to shave.
As part of their shave “preparation” some people find it beneficial to use an exfoliation product once every seven-to-ten days to keep the complexion clearer, But since the act of shaving is exfoliation in itself, over-exfoliation can cause problems, too, so be careful.
2 – Use The Proper Razor With A Fresh Blade
As I mentioned in that previous article, the modern multi-blade razor cartridge can be a major factor get getting shave bumps. Retreat from “the razor blade wars” by using a razor with a single blade. Yes, it may require unlearning some bad habits (though if you like the convenience you can even get a pivoting head razor with a single blade), but the long-term benefits will probably outweigh the short-term inconvenience of relearning the simple skill of shaving.
In any event, make sure you are shaving with a blade or cartridge that has not getting dull. Resist the temptation to get one more shave out of it.
3 – Practice Good Shaving Technique
No matter what razor you use, the way in which you shave can have a huge impact on avoiding problems like razor bumps.
First, understand how your hair grows. Hair can grow in several directions in different areas. Lightly rub the tips of your fingers along the area to be shaved from different directions. You will find that one direction feels smoother and rougher from other directions. The direction that feels the smoothest is referred to as the “grain” of the beard.
Always shave with the grain, at least initially. If you feel you need a closer shave, rinse with warm water, re-lather, then shave across the grain (the direction 90 degrees away from the grain). Closer still? Try another rinse and relather, and shave across the grain from the opposite direction.
Second, pay close attention to the amount of pressure you’re putting on the razor. The razor should just rest on the skin: let the weight of the razor itself do the cutting. Do not press down on the razor or over-stretch the skin as you’re shaving. Ideally you want to make the skin just taught enough to flatten the skin for an even cut.
Finally, make the effort to shave efficiently. Don’t repeat the same stroke over the same spot again and again. If there isn’t any lather there, don’t shave that spot.
4 – NEVER Shave Against The Grain If You Are Plagued By Razor Bumps
Technically this is part of the technique section above but it’s important enough to deserve its own section. Just don’t do it.
5 – Finish The Shave The Right Way
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After shaving it’s also important to avoid conditions that might predispose you to razor bumps. Start by rinsing with generous amounts of warm water to remove any lather residue that might remain on the skin and clog pores. Some find it helpful to soak a cotton pad with Witch Hazel and wipe down the area to catch any last bits of residue.
Then rinse with cool water and apply a small amount of aftershave balm. Applying balm while the skin is wet will not only help hydrate the skin but will also cover more evenly (and you’ll need less balm, too!).
I normally recommend using aftershave products that don’t have high amounts of alcohol. But this is one particular circumstance where it might be unavoidable. There are products specifically made to address shave bumps and many of them use alcohol as a “carrier” ingredient. The two most widely known are Tend Skin and Bump Patrol.
Practice these strategies and you may be spared from inconvenience, itching and pain, and even scarring.
Do you have razor bumps? What else has worked for you? Leave a comment below so others may benefit!