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12 Skin And Shaving Questions For A Dermatologist

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Through the courtesy of Dove Men+Care I was given an opportunity to interview San Diego-based dermatologist Dr. Jeff Benabio.  With the help of some Sharpologist (and forum) readers we came up with some questions to ask him.

•         First, how do you shave yourself?  What kinds of products and techniques do you use, both when you have some leisure time for shaving and for times you’re in a hurry?

For a close, comfortable shave, you don’t need 5 blades; you need good technique:

  1. Warm your face with water. Shaving after showering is a good idea. Massage Dove Men+Care shave gel and let set for 1-2 minutes before you start.
  2. Shave it the first time – one stroke. Rinse your blade between every swipe.
  3. Sharp blades cut without pulling hairs; change your blade often.
  4. Pull the skin taut for a closer shave, let it relax for a more comfortable shave.
  5. Always shave with the grain of the hair.
  6. When you’re done shaving, rinse your face and apply Dove Men+Care post shave balm to relieve irritation and moisturize skin after shaving

Plan ahead so you have enough time. If you don’t have enough time, then don’t shave.

I recommend 1-2 blades over 3-5.

•         Does “sensitive skin” really exists or is just a marketing creation?  It seems like every other bloke thinks they have sensitive skin.

Yes, sensitive skin exists. Sometimes it’s allergic or irritant dermatitis from products. Sometimes it’s from bad shaving habits. Sometimes it’s from inherited conditions such as eczema. Products designed specifically for sensitive skin, such as Dove Men +Care sensitive shave gel, is gentler and tolerated better by men with sensitive skin.

•         Shaving preparation: what exactly are we trying to accomplish at this stage?  Warming the skin? Softening the whiskers? Something else? What preparatory steps would you recommend for those times when a full-on hot shower is not practical?

I recommend warming your face with water if shaving after showering is not practical. Then massage Dove Men+Care shave gel and let set for 1-2 minutes before you start.

•         Pores–do they really “open” with hot water and “close” with cold water?

To some extent, yes. For example, unclogging pores works best after showering since the skin is soft and the pores are more opened.

•         What is your professional opinion is on the single blade vs multi blade debate?

Sometimes multi-blades can be too good, meaning that they shave too closely, which can lead to razor bumps and ingrown hairs. I personally prefer a two-blade razor.

•         Is there is a difference in what you should pay attention to while shaving in either summer or winter?

Wintertime poses more problems for most men because their skin is dry. Using post shave balms, such as Dove Men +Care’s hydrate+ Post Shave Balm helps moisturize and protect, leaving skin soft and comfortable.

•         With all the areas for detritus to build up in a cartridge head, how often would you recommend changing the head in order to avoid infection?

Once a week.

•         What about the use of alum (Potassium Alum) in general, and particular after shaving. How exactly does it work? Who should definitely avoid it? Which patients should use it or avoid it? Rinse it off or leave it?  What about styptic pencils (Aluminum Sulphate)?

Alum bars and styptic pencils both help stop bleeding. You can also simply dab some deodorant on the nick to stop the bleeding. You can leave it on the skin.

•         What soap/balm/aftershave ingredients (particularly fragrances) are known to cause skin irritation and should be avoided?  What about your opinion on parabens?

Regular soap is notorious for causing dry skin. You have to use a moisturizing wash such as Dove Men +Care Hydrate+ Face Wash, which is both cleansing and moisturizing. You want to avoid products high in alcohol that can cause dryness and irritation. The level of parabens in over the counter products are safe; harmful doses are generally a hundred times higher in concentration.

•         What should people should do when they notice an adverse reactions to shaving?

It depends on the adverse reaction. If it’s intense itching, then they might consider trying a different shave gel. If it’s razor bumps or ingrown hairs, then they should consider using a razor with fewer blades. If it’s burning after shaving, then consider using a skin-calming balm such as Dove Men +Care hydrate+ Post Shave Balm.

•         What is the effect of layering (using several products sequentially, particularly aftershave products)?  How good is it to combine a bunch of products in your routine–can the positive effects of individual products be canceled out when used together?

Using more than one product doesn’t necessarily negate the effects of the others. However, it significantly reduces the likelihood that people will adhere to the regimen. Also, the product that you apply first to your skin will have the most effect. Whatever is layered above that is unlikely to penetrate and won’t be as effective.

•         Can you give us some insight of the meaning of the word “natural” in shaving products?  Ingredients like Witch Hazel, tea tree oil, and Aloe Vera seem to be considered “magical” by some but are they really “better” than synthesized products?

Nope, they’re not better. In fact, some products labeled as “natural” can be more irritating than the products that are designed specifically for our skin. Tea tree oil is closely related to turpentine, after all.

•         Finally, would you rather fight 100 duck size horses, or 1 horse sized duck.

1 Horse-sized duck. 100 duck-size horses equals 400 duck-size legs that can administer 400 duck-size kicks which can hurt like hell. So, I’ll take my chances with the big, bad duck.



Shave tutor and co-founder of sharpologist. I have been advocating old-school shaving for over 20 years and have been featured in major media outlets including The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and Lifehacker. Also check out my content on Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest!View Author posts

13 thoughts on “12 Skin And Shaving Questions For A Dermatologist”

  1. I’m sorry but I tuned out after the corporate shilling began. Seriously, no one can take this ‘interview’ answers as anything more than another chance to drop the name of a company paying him.
    Dr K’s reply above has so much more information and credibility than the interview,and shows just how agenda driven the answers are.
    And seriously, Dove? Really? Does anyone here really use expensive, inferior supermarket-grade shaving products?
    I love this site, but this is way, way below it’s standards.

  2. As an aside to this, I would like to address the issue of skin infection as it relates to shaving. Before switching to DE razors, I’d used all kinds of cartridge razors and electrics. Sometimes taking frugality to an extreme, I would use the same cartridge for weeks on end (even Gillette now advertises extending use of cartridges for 5-6 weeks). Using a dull razor blade in such a manner may lead to some pretty bad shaves and irritated skin, with nicks, shave bumps, and the like, but serious skin infections from face shaving are extremely rare. I’ve been a dermatologist since 2000, and I’ve yet to see one. So spending time, money, and effort to prevent skin infections related to shaving is not a productive endeavor. Sure, there are any number of skin infections that can affect the face, such as impetigo, folliculitis, erysipelas, fungal infections, and many others, but most of these have nothing to do with shaving. Cuts and nicks can impair the skin’s protective barrier, and potentially create a portal of entry for microorganisms. However, in actuality, it’s an extremely rare event when you consider how many men shave their faces daily and don’t have any infectious issues related to this practice. And this despite their use of razors and blades, creams and soaps, brushes, water, and sinks that are far from sterile. It’s important to keep in mind that just because you develop a pustule on your face does not mean that you have an infection. Most pustules that result from shaving are inflammatory in nature (typically follicular based, due to shaving too closely or exerting excessive pressure), and would not grow any bacteria if their contents were cultured. Even with severe acne, which can and does manifest with pustules, bacteria (P. acnes) is only one of multiple etiologic factors, and acne can and does persist even when the bacterial element is eliminated.
    I’ve read a lot of fear-mongering shaving posts where people are freaking out about brushes that aren’t completely dried, cartridges with infection-promoting gunk (including this interview), alum as antiseptic, etc. It is tremendously overblown. If you use cartridges (I don’t), change them because dull and clogged blades make for a bad shave. I wouldn’t recommend putting a soaking wet brush in your Dopp bag when traveling, but you don’t need to take a hair dryer to it either– dry it out as best as you can with a towel, and when you reach your destination, take it out and let it air dry. And use alum if you like the way it feels, or to seal small nicks from shaving, but don’t use it thinking that you’re saving yourself from a horrible infection.
    If you already have impetigo, tinea faceii (ringworm on the face), gram negative folliculitis, or an abscess on your face, of course you need to be careful shaving over that skin out of concern that you may auto-inoculate other areas of your face. But otherwise, please don’t lose any sleep over this.
    Finally, regarding “sensitive skin” and irritation from shaving, shave bumps, etc. Take it from a dermatologist that most of this is common sense. There is no one-size-fits-all approach here. Some products will cause irritant or allergic reactions in some people. Most anyone can claim to have sensitive skin at some time in their life. There have been times when my skin has been very sensitive. And yet, I’ve used dozens of different shave products, and very few have caused any problems. There have been a couple that I’ve used that have caused burning or redness every time I used them, and I get rid of them. Everyone needs to find out what works for them and what doesn’t. Regarding your technique, any number of factors (blade too dull, blade too sharp, for example) can cause shave bumps or irritation, but I’ve found one universal truth here. When you try to shave too closely, you’re going to cause more problems. If you always find yourself getting redness, irritation, or shave bumps after shaving, once you’ve eliminated any potentially offending products, switched blades, reduced pressure etc., consider cutting down on the number of passes (avoid going against the grain, for example) or even the frequency of your shaving. Generally the closer you try to shave, the higher your risk of irritation. Better to have a reasonably close, irritation-free shave, than a BBS shave that makes your face red, raw, and bumpy an hour later.
    This comment was brought to you courtesy of me. No charge. No conflicts to disclose.

    1. What’s Up Doc! I appreciated your comments about brushes, as I often wondered if wet ones were unsanitary. Glad to learn they aren’t. Also pleased you qualified your suggestions with the typical caveat: YMMV. I tried the Dove Line and it stung the hell out of my face. I don’t think it is a bad line; it is likely one of the better drugstore lines available. It just doesn’t work for me. I have the highest regard for dermatologists, having had a melanoma removed five years ago. Besides, you are the only doctors encouraged to make rash decisions. Best regards.

  3. This is no better than the AoS sales people trying to make commission off of you. Is there even anything left to discuss that hasn’t been discussed already? We’ve beaten the topic of wet shaving to death.
    Why do we have to shave the way others do anyway? So some guys prefer shaving ATG, instead of XTG, big deal. Wasn’t the whole point of wet shaving to not be drafted into the “one man army”, where everyone does everything accordingly to what everyone else is, so to speak?

  4. Pingback: 12 Skin And Shaving Questions For A Dermatologist | rasage

  5. Regardless, if the guy uses Dove or not, the interview was very short.
    Simple one line answers form a Dr who should literally have days of stuff to say on the subject.
    No mention of skin physiology, no mention on parabens or other chemically-thingy-mi-bobs that he could have been well placed to comment on.
    Really, shower after shaving was the best he could manage?
    Disappointed 

  6. Guess he’s been bought and paid for by Dove Men+Care …… such not the most objective product recommendations in the world…LOL!!

    1. Perhaps in the future printing corporate press releases should be labeled as such for the readers lest they believe they are getting unbiased product recommendations. This obviously is not the case here. As Justice Brandeis once commented about full disclosure in a US Supreme Court decision … “Sunshine is the best disinfectant.”

  7. “Through the courtesy of Dove Men+Care” announces that this is advertising copy, and that’s just how it reads. It should be labeled as such; it’s certainly not a feature story. I’ll wait and read what Mark’s take on this is, but it doesn’t sit well.

  8. At least as of last year, Dr. B has been a paid advisor to Dove. And this is not the first interview where he drops the D word multiple times. (On his blog he claims to use Neutrogena cleanser, himself). I don’t believe anything nefarious is going on, but would agree his affiliation should be noted in the interview.

  9. Only 7 product endorsements? Guess they must have cut back on the professional consulting fees. Mantic, you could have answered those questions as well or better yourself. That comment is not to criticize Dr. Benabio, but as a dermatologist, I can assure you that the time spent discussing shaving-related issues during a typical dermatology residency could be measured in minutes. There are a few worthy comments here related to general skin care, but most of those don’t require a medical doctorate to answer. Some of your more interesting questions, for example those relating to Alum, and what one is attempting to accomplish with shaving preparation, were simply ignored.
    I would suggest that you disclose whether the subject of your interview is a paid consultant for a company that may present a conflict of interest. It seems obvious here with 7 product mentions (and for what it’s worth to your readers, this dermatologist commenter uses no Dove products at all), but an obvious bias exists when a corporation is paying you to endorse their products. Most medical associations consider it unethical for physicians to recommend products to their patients that they have a vested financial interest in without disclosing that. At most medical conferences, physician speakers are required to disclose any consultancy, ownership, or other financial relationships that may present conflicts, sometimes even if you’re not speaking about any of those products.

    1. Words of wisdom spoken by Dr. K.
      It is significant that medical training spends little time on shaving and related issues. The dermatologist I go to has asked me many questions about traditional DE shaving after he examined my skin and was surprised at how good it looks despite my age.

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