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Seeing Red

Written by Advice Team on October 27, 2015

Nothing spoils a freshly performed shave more than razor burn but unfortunately it is a common occurrence and it’s thought that up to 50% of men experience this annoying irritation at one time or another. While electric shavers are generally much less prone to razor burn when compared to razors, it can still be an issue if you don’t use the proper technique.

Razor burn is a temporary skin irritation, usually identifiable by a rash on the shaved area, itchy red bumps and a burning sensation. Shaving rash can occur anywhere on the body but areas where the skin is already sensitive, such as the throat are particularly susceptible.

There are several main causes for razor burn, but skin sensitivity is often to blame. Fortunately, by improving your shaving technique, ensuring your tools are up to the job and spending a little more time and effort on your shave, you can reduce the risks - here’s how:

Use a Clean Razor with Sharp Blades This is a no brainer but it’s amazing how many men don’t change their blades often enough. Shaving with a dull blade, either with an electric shaver or a razor, is a recipe for pain, as the dull blades won’t cut cleanly through the hair and will drag and skip, pulling and damaging your skin.

Soften your Stubble A hot shower is the best preparation for a shave as the hot water and steam helps open up your facial pores and softens the hair, making it easier to cut. If you have a wet electric shaver you can even use it in the shower, cutting down on time. Whatever you do, don’t ever shave using cold water as this causes goosebumps on your face, which when combined with shaving, is a disaster waiting to happen.

Pre-Prep Products A good pre-shave product such as a shaving cream, gel or oil provides a protective layer between the blade and your skin, allowing the razor to glide which will help reduce razor burn and deliver a far more comfortable shave. Every man has a preference when it comes to pre-shave products so just ensure you choose one that suits your specific razor or shaver.

Use a Shaving Brush Always use a shaving brush to apply shaving cream, foam or soap rather than using your fingers. There are many valid reasons to use a brush but the biggest is that brushes get the product right down to the skin, creating the cushioning layer necessary to protect your skin from the blade. At best using your fingers deliver only a superficial layer of protection and at worst flattens the hair between the product and the skin making it impossible to cut.

Shave in the Right Direction As a general rule you should shave with the grain of your hair as shaving against the grain will pull the hair and irritate the skin. Don’t forget that different parts of your facial hair grow in different directions, so you can’t simply shave in one straight direction all the time. If you are wet shaving or want to achieve an especially close shave, perform a second shave upward against the grain this time.

Less is More The less the razor or shaver comes into contact with your skin the less likely it is to cause irritation so try to carry out as few passes as possible. The best way to do this is to take your time, move slowly and work methodically across your face. If you miss a spot, rinse, lather up again and get it on the next pass.

Under Pressure With a good foam and a sharp blade there is no need to press the razor against your skin which will simply scrape the skin and cause the dreaded burn. Go gently and smoothly and use a light pressure.

Rinse with Cold Water Always rinse your face thoroughly to remove any left over shaving residue, which if left on the skin can cause further irritation. Use clean, cold water to rinse as it closes the pores and pat your face dry with a soft towel or let it air dry.

Post-Shave Balm Apply an alcohol-free, fragrance-free post-shave balm or moisturiser to your dry face. Choose one containing aloe to soothe and hydrate your skin.

The Last Resort Once razor burn has appeared leave it alone as much as possible and avoid shaving the affected area until it has completely disappeared in order to prevent further inflammation. A cloth soaked in cold water and held against the affected area can help reduce the burning sensation and will soothe the area. If your skin is particularly sore a post-shave product containing tea tree oil is a great remedy as it is rich in antibacterial, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties.

Razor burn is the scourge of many men but follow these smart tips and you’ll reduce the risk of ever seeing red again.