How to shave when "closeness" isn't an issue?
September 22, 2008 2:50 PM   Subscribe

I don't care how "close" my shave is, I just want to save my skin. What should be my approach?

I have sensitive skin. When I shave my face with a conventional razor (e.g. Mach 3, etc.), it is painfully irritated for days after.

The thing is, I don't care how close my shave is or how smooth it leaves my face. As long as I get rid of the vast majority of the hair, a tiny amount of stubble isn't a problem for me. I don't want to have any visible length of hair on my face, but some roughness is okay. Lets say < 1 mm.

Is an electric my best bet? I've never used one before, so I don't even know how they work (do you need to use any cream/gel?) If so, recommend me one. A brand, a model, whatever advice you feel like imparting. I don't really want to spend more than $40 or so.

Ease of use is another big plus. It would be perfect if I could just buzz off my long stubble from the weekend in 2 minutes on monday morning.

If it makes a difference, my facial hair is not incredibly thick or dense. Fairly average I guess.
posted by TSGlenn to Health & Fitness (31 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
FWIW - I have sensitive skin too but I find if I shave downward with a brand new razor each time (along with shaving gel) I do okay.
posted by ian1977 at 2:58 PM on September 22, 2008

Transitioning from disposable to electric left me with acne for two weeks or so. My electric razor still irritates patches of my neck from time to time. No cream or gel involved, though, and I have shaved in my car on the way to work at stoplights.
posted by infinitewindow at 3:03 PM on September 22, 2008

I've become a convert to the single-blade safety razor. I have a particularly tough beard and I find it gives me an amazingly close shave.

Your situation, it seems, could also benefit from the single-blade safety razor. They offer much less irritation (dragging one blade across your skin, as opposed to 3, 4 or 5 at a time) and the blades are infinitely cheaper.

If you aren't ready to swap your cartridge in, just yet, I'd at least highly advise you to start using a brush and shaving soap to lather up your face. The brush will help the hair on your face to stand up and shave easier (as opposed to lathering with your fingers and matting your beard down) AND you'll have the added advantage of being able to start using higher quality shaving soaps, which will make a tremendous difference, even with a cartridge razor.

Plus: you'll have the advantage of actually looking forward to shaving, instead of dreading the irritation to come. I used to use an electric razor and I found that it irritated my face much more than the wet-shave ever has. Trust me when I tell you: a quality soap will really make an ENORMOUS difference in the amount of irritation you experience while shaving, and if you are sensitive (and don't even know it) try a good glycerin soap with a brush. You'll see a world of difference.

Me-mail me with any specific questions or if you need any recommendations.
posted by indiebass at 3:03 PM on September 22, 2008 [2 favorites]

This metafilter post changed my shaving life forever. I use a splash of hot water and a mach-3 or whatever it is with a good rinsing after ever stroke. I now shave in >1 minute, never get cuts, and haven't dropped a dime on shaving cream since then. As with most things YFaceMV, but I swear by this article.
posted by allkindsoftime at 3:05 PM on September 22, 2008 [2 favorites]

I use a norelco "7864 XL", one of those typical three-blade electric razors. It's 3 or so years old, and still going strong; about a week and a half before it needs recharging. I find that it does what you are describing, where it doesn't give a really close shave, but removes most of the hair. The one thing about this kind of razor is that it works significantly faster if you use it every day. When I go two or three days, I have to do many passes to get everything back under control, but if I do it every morning it goes very quickly. Overall, I would say I use 1/4 of the time I would if I used a regular razor and shaving cream.

The one last thing I would say is to spend a little extra and get one that looks like it is good quality. Judging by one my friend had the knockoffs are no comparison.
posted by nnevvinn at 3:09 PM on September 22, 2008

My wife bought me a 5-blade "Fusion" and while I scoffed, it is one smooth shave. Not in terms of perfection but it just feels different from my previous razor. I can even dry-shave with it and it's amazingly comfortable for a dry shave.
posted by GuyZero at 3:30 PM on September 22, 2008

Mach 3 Turbo + King of Shaves gel, in the shower, with the grain only, FTW.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 3:33 PM on September 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

I have sensitive skin and thick facial hair. If you don't want a lot of fuss, go electric. You won't get as close a shave as with a blade (I need to shave twice a day with an electric to look clean shaven), but in my experience, the chance of irritation is much lower. I do my electric shaving with zero preparation, and it's problem-free. I've heard that with some people, their skin gets irritated the first few times they shave electric, so you may have a break-in period.

I use one of the cheaper Braun electrics.

If you want to use a blade, read on.

Many of the close shave techniques I've tried (I do want a close shave) also work to reduce or eliminate irritation.

The easiest route IMO is a cartridge razor (for example, the Gilette Sensor) combined with enough hot water to soften the skin and beard, and enough soap to lubricate the razor. Shave in the direction the hairs after soaking the area with water that's as hot as you can take, and soaping up. I find shaving right after a hot shower works best.

I've also tried safety razors and find that they give a closer shave than disposables. I use Feather-brand blades. Safety razors are larger, so it's harder to maneuver them around the edges of mustaches, but they also seem to do a better job of snipping the hairs close to the skin. With a safety razor, and a bit of patience, I can get a much closer shave than with a cartridge razor, and with no irritation.
posted by zippy at 3:33 PM on September 22, 2008

One big thing for me was learning the grain of my beard. I used to think that I needed to shave "up" on my entire neck, when in fact the grain of my beard only grows in that direction for a few centimeters towards the very bottom edge and more on the left than the right. Once I started shaving (using small strokes and rinsing the razor frequently) in the right direction in the right places, the irratation was really reduced.

My suggestion is to build up two days worth of stubble, lather up like you're going to shave, then really feel around your face with your fingers to get a lay of the land. A wet, soapy/lathered face will make the grain of your beard feel very apparent.
posted by JulianDay at 3:36 PM on September 22, 2008

Nivea Shaving Balm saves my neck from irritation every day. I apply it even if I skip shaving for the day, because it keeps my neck from breaking out in a post-shave rash.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:43 PM on September 22, 2008

Use good shaving cream and HOT HOT HOT water. By "good shaving cream", I don't mean the stuff that costs $5 at Walgreens as opposed to the $1.99 stuff.

I use Anthony Logistics but I've also had good luck with Billy Jealousy - they're both fairly costly, but I'm just now getting to the end of the tube of Anthony Logistics I bought in March (I shave 2-3x a week), so one purchase lasts several months.
posted by pdb at 3:55 PM on September 22, 2008

What is your technique? Are you ever shaving up or "against the grain?" If so, just shave downwards. I also recommend only shaving after a shower and splashing hot water on your face a few times first. Top it off with a gel shave cream.
posted by damn dirty ape at 3:58 PM on September 22, 2008

Seconding indiebass with a recommendation for a safety razor and a shaving brush. I switched 2 years ago as a result of years of painful shaves with the multi-blades. Never looked back, much smoother shaves, no irritation and the razor blades are lot cheaper.

There is an element of skill involved in learning how to shave with a safety razor, but well worth the effort.
posted by arcticseal at 3:58 PM on September 22, 2008

Certainly try an electric... from reading people's responses, it looks like mileage may vary, but personally I experience a lot less irritation with my cheap Panasonic than with my old Mach-3.

And no, you don't need gel or shaving cream with an electric. The biggest difference is that it's not a "one pass" kind of thing --- to shave with an electric, you just rub the thing around your face until your skin is smooth, and usually that takes several passes over any given patch of skin.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 4:02 PM on September 22, 2008

If you really don't care how "close" you get, and the primary goal is to save your skin, you might want to try growing a beard.

Otherwise, go with the grain and don't put pressure on your face. Don't use alcohol-based aftershave (put a little Bay Rum on your nuts if you must). You can take care of most everything with an electric trimmer (not razor), but it can take a little work to look like you've actually shaved (rather than just having the three-day stubblies).
posted by klangklangston at 4:05 PM on September 22, 2008

I don't have much more to offer than what has been said, and I only get a mild irritation from shaving, but I do have a couple of points:

1. Try changing the blade more often. A bit more expensive, but the sharper the blade the better.
2. Use a moisturizer afterwards.
3. Shave at night, so the rash isn't so prominent during the day.
4. Shave less often, if your workplace tolerates.

I don't have any experience with electric razors, but I'm under the impression that many of the good models allow you to set the length, so you could go with a permanent stubble if you so chose.

Also, seconding the reduction in blade number. Even for me, the Mach 3 was pretty damn irritating, while 2-bladed razors were fine.
posted by kisch mokusch at 4:18 PM on September 22, 2008

Maybe try this:

1. In a hot shower, give your face a good, thorough cleaning
2. Exfoliate
3. Apply shaving oil
4. Apply shaving gel/cream (preferably with a brush)
5. Shave with the grain
6. Shave ACROSS the grain
8. Rinse with cold water
9. Apply a toner/astringent
10. Apply an after-shave balm of some description
11. Moisturize

Sure that's about eight or nine steps more than people might be willing to take, but it's made a pretty big difference to me, as I used to get absolutely awful pimples and ingrown hairs, particularly on my neck, and this process has mitigated that significantly, as well as giving me a closer and more comfortable shave.
posted by turgid dahlia at 4:21 PM on September 22, 2008

Ditto allkindsoftime and the MeFi post he linked to. Like any new habit, it takes a little time to get used to but as flaky as it sounds it was worth it.

Ditching the cream hugely improved my quality of shave. My skin got WAY better, my shaves got faster, closer and more enjoyable. All I need now is a razor (any kind will do) and a sink (any temperature of water will do).
posted by quarterframer at 4:25 PM on September 22, 2008

If closeness really isn't an issue then you could just do what I do--use a beard trimmer without a guard. This gives the non-beard portions of my face (neck, upper cheeks) a "slightly unkempt" (as opposed opposed to "totally slovenly") appearance.
posted by bdk3clash at 4:57 PM on September 22, 2008

I am in your situation exactly and have always used the cheapest phillips electric. It isn't the closest but it saves the skin.
posted by canoehead at 5:38 PM on September 22, 2008

with a brand new razor each time

Wow, that's commitment.

1. Get in shower.
2. Wash for 5 min or so
3. Wash face
4 Apply shave gel
5. Shave with grain
6. Apply more shave gel
7. Shave against the grain
8. Exfoliate

I do this every other day
posted by mpls2 at 5:41 PM on September 22, 2008

Go to a Kiehl's shop or the Kiehl's counter at Nieman's and talk to someone. Problems will be solved forever.
posted by Zambrano at 6:04 PM on September 22, 2008

posted by Zambrano at 6:05 PM on September 22, 2008

Electric. At least until you grow a beard. JOIN US
posted by OrangeDrink at 6:43 PM on September 22, 2008

Thirding allkindsoftime. Twin blade, sharp. Hot water. That's it.

It's quite counterintuitive, but I have no more cuts, no rashes, no dry skin. If your skin is extremely sensitive, it may take a couple of weeks to adjust to this minimalist regimen, but it's worth it.

However, you might not want to go this far.
posted by Urban Hermit at 7:13 PM on September 22, 2008

I too have a heavy (not thick, but tough) beard and sensitive skin. After battling the problems of shaving with multi-blade razors for nearly 20 years, I tried el-cheapo, no-lubricating strip, no-gimmick generic supermarket twin-blade cartridges. Bingo! Smooth shave, no irritation!

Heartened by this, I tried a good ol' single-blade safety razor. Even better!

Unfortunately, the local supermarkets stopped carrying safety razor blades and non-lubricated generic cartridges, so currently I shave using a cheap Phillishave electric. Whilst the shave isn't as close, it irritates even less than a blade.

I've come to the conclusion that, for me at least, multi-blade razors with added extras are just nasty.
posted by Pinback at 7:14 PM on September 22, 2008

My husband uses a beard trimmer - like a small version of hair clippers, similar to this. It avoids the "blades" route altogether, and leaves behind a sub-milimetre amount of stubble.
posted by hibbersk at 2:02 AM on September 23, 2008

I am totaly bone-idle when I comes to shaving. I'd leave it a week or more and then try and hack through with a razor, which I hated and therefore postponed the next one as long as possible.

Then my mother-in-law bought me a beard trimmer much like the one in hibbersk's post and thats what I use day-to-day. If I need to really take it off for special occasions, then I revert to wet shaving AFTER trimming it.
posted by handybitesize at 5:14 AM on September 23, 2008

Have you considered a depilatory? Something like "Magic Shave"? Just something to think about.
posted by Citrus at 6:21 AM on September 23, 2008

Electrics are Satan's tool: they hurts. Use a blade. I too have sensitive skin and faced (har) the same problem. Since you don't care about baby's butt smooth shaves, just go once with the grain.

Use a good blade (like zippy's Feathers, my own preference) in a safety razor, or a disposable if you must. Shower before shaving so your skin's soft & moist, and lather up with either a good cream (cheap: Kiss My Face or Body Shop; more expensive: Crabtree & Evelyn; most expensive: Talyor's/Trumper's/etc.), or shaving soap (cheap: Williams; more expensive: see above; best ever: Mitchell's Wool Fat Shave Soap). You can use a brush to make better lather, which should cushion your face more. Follow up with nothing, or cheap Corn Huskers Lotion [guar gum & glycerin].

Total shaving nerddom: You can ask there about stuff before you try it, or buy samples of blades, soap, and cream from other shavers (or from small crafters like Sue at St. Charles Shave, or Emily of Em's Place). Also, there's a post there with contact information for obtaining samples from the manufacturers.

Some products make my face sting, but I have had good luck getting samples and trying them. A lot of the newer lines (Anothony's Logisitics, and that Man Jack junk from Target) are rubbish with extra marketing. Avoid them in favor of stuff that's been around for more than, say two years.
posted by wenestvedt at 9:12 AM on September 23, 2008

A good electric doesn't hurt (well, not for me at least), as long as you use it every day. And it will save your skin. I am completely unable to shave with a manual razor without drawing blood. I spent years using a manual, trying all different kinds with just about every possible shaving cream. I don't know why it took me so long to try an electric, but once I did, I never looked back. I started with an inexpensive Braun and now use a Philips (Norelco). Both worked well.
posted by klausness at 9:31 AM on September 23, 2008

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