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6 Tips for Shaving Skin With Acne

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Whether you’re a guy with curly facial hair that causes razor bumps or if you’re like me and prone to acne, shaving over skin imperfections can be a painful mess. But a few quick tips can help you get bumps and zits under control—and make shaving something you actually enjoy.

1) Shave after showering

A warm shower makes shaving more comfortable. For years, I resisted because I like to rinse the mess of shaving off in the shower. But once I got into the habit of the post-shower shave, I realized that a few minutes under the warm water makes a big difference.

When in the shower, I suggest doing very little to your face. I rinse with warm water and leave it at that. Avoid hot water, washing your face with soap, harsh cleansers, or exfoliating products with grit. And don’t use a washcloth.

2) Use a shaving cream that you enjoy using


By the time I left my job in the headquarters of one of the world’s largest cosmetics retailers, I had tried dozens of shaving products. Few made much of an impression and most were loaded with ingredients that I didn’t love.

 But there’s one product I buy with my own money over and over again: the Birch, Spruce & Juniper Shave Lotion from Heliotrope. For me, shaving often hurts and this product is the most soothing of any I’ve tried. Plus it has a big dose of zinc, an ingredient that creates a calming, non-greasy texture and is thought to have anti-acne benefits. This product definitely costs more than the cheap foaming stuff at the supermarket, but it improves my shaving experience so much that I consider it well worth the price.

3) Shave with a safety razor and fresh blade

Multi-blade razors are promoted with impressive ad campaigns—but the close shaves they deliver are too close for guys with problem skin.

After a shave with two, three, or more blades, the hairs retreat under the skin and as each grows, it struggles to push its way out. Often the hair gets stuck inside the follicle where infections can take hold.

So what razor should you buy?

If you go to a drugstore in the United States, the only single-blade razors you’ll find are attached to disposable shavers. But do not buy them. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Americans throw away 2 billion disposable shavers each year. Even if you’re not about to join a Greenpeace protest, its hard to ague that these products are anything other than an enormous waste of resources and an unnecessary source pollution.

That leaves safety razors as your best option and it’s easier to transition than you might think. Once I decided to make the leap, this blog and a couple of YouTube videos helped me get started and I’ve never looked back. If you’re in the market, here’s a detailed list of safety razors available on Amazon.

4) Stop the bleeding.

Even with a warm shower, a great shave cream, and a fresh safety blade, you’re likely to end up with the occasional nick. The classic styptic pencil stops bleeding but they’re messy. When I discovered the Nick Stick from Pacific Shaving, I was more than happy opt for this cleaner, more portable option.

5) Follow shaving with a sunscreen moisturizer.

Whether you’re black, white, or anything in between, you should apply a bit of a sunscreen facial moisturizer to the face, neck, and hands, every morning. I compare moisturizers to Gatorade: just like athletes perform better with hydration and key nutrients, your skin is better able to repair itself when it’s not dehydrated and damaged by the sun.

 The CeraVe Facial Moisturizing Lotion AM is a great drugstore product that I recommend for all skin types. It features ingredients that may benefit aging and acne concerns, too. If your skin gets oily, check out the Oil-Control Mattifier from Murad.

6) Get your acne under control.

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If you have severe acne, talk to your doctor or see a dermatologist. For mild to moderate cases, over-the-counter products often work well.

After a long struggle with acne that hit me in my beard area when I was in my mid-20s, I founded Arithmetic, a skincare company focused on helping adults with problem skin. We developed our Acne Control Complex specifically for persistent adult acne.

If you’re interested in buying the product, we’re offering $5 off readers of this blog. Use the coupon code SHARPOLOGIST through December 8.

Andy Bosselman is the founder of Arithmetic, a skincare company focused on helping adults with problem skin.


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2 thoughts on “6 Tips for Shaving Skin With Acne”

  1. While I don’t have an acne problem, I do have curly facial hair that has a tendency to get ingrown without careful prep, quality products and attention to technique. And I also have a mole which can cause some issues if I get sloppy.
    I think most of this is pretty good advice—at least as a start to try to figure out what works best for any given individual. Finding AOS unscented products in the late 1990’s was the first major improvement in my shaves, and subsequently my face. I use many other products now, but if I hadn’t walked past that AOS store day-after-day I may still sport a full beard, due to poor shaving experiences.
    As for the right time to shave, I think shaving before or after a shower is a trade-off, to a degree. I typically had better experiences shaving before my shower, but with an extended pre-shave prep (how towels and such). I now shave IN the shower, and I think it is the best of both worlds. It might not be for everyone, but I suggest getting a cheap shower mirror and giving it a shot. If you are worried about water waste, you can get a shower head with a shut off switch.
    And while it might be different for pimples, I find a spring loaded cartridge like a Fusion ProGlide can be used right over my mole with ZERO irritation or fear of blood. Now that I use a DE razor, I have to be a lot more careful around that mole. Also I find the carts and the DE to both shave to the same degree of closeness. It just takes a bit of practice, an additional pass, and/or some touch-up, with the DE.

    1. Why creams only? What about soaps?
      I feel like the best results were when I stopped stuffing my skin with moisturizers. It’s not that they clogged my pores but my skin wasn’t able to produce the antioxidants to calm the squalene-induced acne.

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