How to get a close shave with no razor bumps?
July 4, 2012 8:18 PM   Subscribe

I'm a dark haired 26-year old guy, with what I assume to be a tough, bristly beard. How do I get past the 5'oclock shadow and razor bumps that have been starting to plague me as of late? (Details inside)

Hello all,

I'm a 26 year old guy with dark hair, and what used to be decent skin.

This problem started up around last year, in the winter. I discovered the joys of double-edged shaving about a half year before that (Switched from the gillette fusion because of razor bumps on the neck).

Before, I had a softer beard, so I could shave with my safety razor with the grain then across the grain and get a decently close shave. However, lately in the last half year or so my beard has been getting super tough, so that shaving wtg/atg still leaves a 5'oclock shadow. So I shave against the grain, which gets my face smooth but caused a razor bump problem on my chin which has stuck around for months now.

I have run the gamut of shave preps/shaving methods. I always shave at the end of a shower, use shave oil, a badger/boar bristle brush, quality shaving soap/cream and have tried different blades (my favorite is feather, which is easy to find since I am in Japan). But it doesn't give the same results I was getting when I started double-edged shaving. It's like my face is always dry/irritated/difficult to shave lately, the hairs don't come off as easily as they used to, the razor doesn't glide like it used to and I have to make several passes.

I finish up with post-prep (a cold wet towel + thayers witch hazel). I also use cetaphil moisturizer a few times a day. But with the problem getting worse, I recently switched over to electric.

Really, the only thing that doesn't super-irritate my skin or give me razor bumps is the phillips sensotouch. I tried braun's series 7 too, but gave me whiteheads so I sent it back. But I have a 5'oclock shadow immediately after using it.

This is an incredibly crucial time for me to look my best, as I am to be going through many interviews this month. I would love to grow a mustache, but apparently being clean-shaven is important for interviewing in Japan.

Can your beard really toughen up so much in the span of just one year? I mean, this time last year I always had a baby smooth face after shaving and now it is simply impossible to get that.

Anyone have a similar situation to mine? Any tips/advice on how to improve, or am I stuck with the razor bump vs 5'oclock shadow tradeoff? I'd like to just be able to shave and not have to do anything drastic like going to a dermatologist for hair removal or anything.

Thanks in advance!

PS: I have acne on my back from working out, and am taking acne antibiotics - I heard that can dry out the face, but am not sure if it has anything to do with my shaving problem. In any case, I've had the razor bump problem longer than the back acne.
posted by Kamelot123 to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (15 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
You say you work out. Are you drinking protein shakes or taking in a lot of protein? Because I do a pretty high protein diet and I've noticed since I switched, my hair and stubble grow faster and thicker.

I've heard Tendskin is good for the razor bumps.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 8:31 PM on July 4, 2012

I just started growing a beard, and I switched from electric razor and its multiple bumps and burns to a cheap disposable Bic and this stuff for my neck. I'm getting the closest shave in my life, with no irritation and no burn.

I usually use some of this before shaving the night before and after shaving. I also use conditioner on my beard and neck every time I shower (I don't condition my regular hair).
posted by infinitewindow at 8:44 PM on July 4, 2012

I'm a hairy dude with a super-rugged beard. When I shave I no longer have 5 o'clock shadow. This is my story.

I shave my face three times. That's my secret. Once with the "grain", once against it, and one more time in the direction the hair grows (i.e. with the grain). I re-apply shaving cream each time. I don't know why this works, but it does.

After you shave up, or against the growth direction, you absolutely have to very lightly run the razor over your face again with the growth direction of your hair. I suspect that pulls the hairs back into proper position inside the pore, but what do I know?

I swear by this technique, and regularly recommend it to the fellow-hirsute who are encountering the beard shadow/ ingrown hair dilemma. Give it a shot for a few days and see if it works. The final once-over should really just be a light pull over the skin, enough to clear the fresh coat of shaving cream off.
posted by Poppa Bear at 9:07 PM on July 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

Would it be possible to wax your beard off? That's what lots of women do with their facial hair. I know it's different since a beard covers a much larger area, and probably no guy has ever tried it... Still, it would let you escape this problem for a couple of weeks while you have your interviews.
posted by lali at 9:22 PM on July 4, 2012

I'll second Poppa Bear on the 3-pass method. Also, check that you aren't rushing yourself-- get your fingers on your face and stretch the tricky spots. And Feather blades have a reputation as being the absolute sharpest-- you might consider trying out some other blades like Shark, or Astra Super Platinum.

Also, I use shave oil too, but I'm not entirely sold on its softening powers sometimes.

Everything I know about wetshaving I learned via the subreddit Wicked_Edge, which is dedicated to Double Edge, Single Edge, and Straight Razor shaving. Search around and pitch your question there, too, if you haven't already. You can almost certainly find someone there with a blade surplus who wants to try the famous Feather blades.

As you know, the treatment for the bumps is to grow out the beard, but there are other remedial products out there. Maybe not so much in Japan, because the products are aimed primarily at black men, who are ethnically predisposed to have curly beards which make them more likely to deal with the bumps and ingrowns. Amazon or any online drugstore should be able to let you know what's out there.
posted by Sunburnt at 9:38 PM on July 4, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks guys. I'll try the 3-pass method. I've tried Astra as well, with the same problem - maybe it is my technique or prep.

But then again, when I first started DE shaving I was getting simply wonderful shaves (with just with/across the grain!

By the way I've tried bump patrol, and nothing is getting rid of these razor bumps. I have a patch on my chin that has been around for over 4 months now....
posted by Kamelot123 at 10:32 PM on July 4, 2012

As far as your face being dry, try a different moisturizer. When I was on anti-acne meds the only thing that would return my skin to normal was Eucerin cream. I'm sure other brands would work, and don't know what you'd look for in Japan, but the watery pump-bottle moisturizers practically did nothing. It was the thick stuff in the tub that did the trick (and I had bad dry skin - backs of my hands cracking, etc). It's kind of weird to put on, since it's so thick (kind of like crisco or butter), and it leaves you greasy for a minute or two... but it goes away fast and if you have really dry skin it may be worth a try.
posted by Lady Li at 10:52 PM on July 4, 2012

Argan oil -- 100% pure, not "treatments" or other synthetic crap -- helps quite a bit with moisturizing skin and softening facial hair. Unfortunately, using it regularly can get pretty expensive.

Also, I've seen this article on straight razor shaving recommended quite a bit:
posted by GnomeChompsky at 12:12 AM on July 5, 2012

I'm still working my way through a solution on this, but I have had some success with an electric razor and this. I rarely get ingrown hairs anymore (which was my primary bane). And if I take my time with the razor, I will only have a minimal shadow.
posted by ChipT at 4:15 AM on July 5, 2012

I'm female but have had many problems with razor burn and ingrown hairs on my legs. Said problems have gone down dramatically since using this homemade TendSkin regularly.
posted by nicebookrack at 4:21 AM on July 5, 2012

I get razor bumps if I don't shave with the grain only. I wind up with permanent five o'clock shadow, which I've gotten over -- and frankly is still perfectly professional in the States. If that's not cool in Japan -- if you have to look like a baby's butt to look professional regardless of what nature gave you to work with -- then I think you're going to have to try shaving against the grain. If you shave against the grain, shave with the grain first and re-lather with shaving cream before you do.
posted by J. Wilson at 6:30 AM on July 5, 2012

I would recommend getting a block of alum. [UK link, but should be widely available]

I also found it very instructive to go to a proper old skool barber for a shave. My nice lady barber gave me the play by play description of which way my beard grew. Which basically translated as I shave pretty badly as it was all over the place. If you can get some professional advice it might help you shave better.
posted by MuffinMan at 6:37 AM on July 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Consider embracing your true nature and growing a righteous beard.
posted by jeffamaphone at 7:38 AM on July 5, 2012

Go back to the "inferior" razors you were using before the double edged ones. They do not work well for people with tough beards and sensitive skin. My experience was that no matter what I did, the blades (*specifically* Feather!) took off a layer of skin. There was no middle ground of getting a nice shave without losing skin. And god help you if you DO have a little ingrown hair or pimple- the double edged blades will lop it right off and you'll be bleeding for a week.

Plenty of guys who need to be clean-skinned shave twice a day, also.

You can also switch to electric. Takes some getting used to, but might be worth it.

Razor bumps are also caused by some kind of fungus/bacteria (can't remember which). That's why classic aftershave has alcohol in it- to kill off those things.
posted by gjc at 7:57 AM on July 5, 2012

The last time I went to clean shaven from bearded I wanted to preempt the inevitable outbreak of ingrown hairs that comes for me in the first few weeks of it so I used a technique I learned from an ex-girlfriend and mixed some neosporin with a light cucumber/aloe lotion and applied it to my face after shaving.
posted by Matt Oneiros at 10:50 AM on July 5, 2012

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