Ouch! Help me shave bloodlessly.
November 3, 2005 11:38 AM   Subscribe

How can I avoid cutting my face when I shave?

It's not as though I'm new to the whole shaving thing. I've been doing it for over a decade, though with a non-electric for only the past three years or so.

I use a Gillette Mach III and a decent shaving gel, usually after showering. I generally nick myself twice or more. What am I doing wrong?
posted by killdevil to Health & Fitness (28 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The Straight Dope's seminar on shaving is some of the most awesome whisker-related advice you'll ever read.
posted by Plutor at 11:40 AM on November 3, 2005

Try the AskMe archives.
posted by Popular Ethics at 11:44 AM on November 3, 2005

rinse your blade after every stroke and use HOT water. go slow and be more careful. use your free hand to pull the skin on your face taut. make sure your blades are sharp - they will dull after about 3-4 uses and, as any chef will tell you, you're far more likely to cut yourself with a dull blade than with a sharp one.

also, the mach 3 is engineered to be easy to use and minimize cuts, and as such it tends to encourage sloppy shaving. a longer-term solution would be to get one of those old-school safety razors with the disposable double-sided blades. it'll force you to be careful and you'll develop better shaving habits. good luck! (:
posted by sergeant sandwich at 11:46 AM on November 3, 2005

Sloooooooooooooooooooooooow down.
posted by letterneversent at 11:51 AM on November 3, 2005

When I cut myself, it's because I'm either pressing too hard (essentially digging the blade into my skin), or I'm accidentally moving the razor sideways (slicey slicey) on my face without noticing it.

Try a lighter touch. It's surprisingly how you can apply almost no pressure, just gliding the blade along the contour of your skin, and still get a good shave.

Make it a conscious point to only move the razor in the proper direction (perpendicular to the blade), and make a big thing out of completely removing it from your face between strokes. See if that makes a difference.
posted by chrismear at 11:54 AM on November 3, 2005

(It's surprisingly how I can preview eight times and still make mistakes.)
posted by chrismear at 11:55 AM on November 3, 2005

I second chrismear's advice about not pressing too hard -- and that's actually connected to the sharpness of the razor. If you keep using a blade after it's become dull, you'll notice that it doesn't cut as well and for some reason the first impulse is to push harder. That's what leads to cutting yourself. Or at least, it's what used to lead to ME cutting MYself.
posted by rkent at 11:58 AM on November 3, 2005

use tweezers.
posted by delmoi at 12:00 PM on November 3, 2005

Second the advice to change your razor frequently so that you're always using a sharp blade. I've noticed over the years that SO's who went through razors like they were going out of style almost never had cuts, while the ones who could make a pack of razors last six months were frequently emerging from the bathroom with the little TP bits stuck to their jaws.
posted by scody at 12:06 PM on November 3, 2005

Despite needing to shave in at least three directions on each part of my face, and despite using blades for months at a time, I haven't cut myself in about 10 years (the last time I did was because I slid sideways -- ooch, never again).

I have a fairly light, inconsistent beard, so maybe my experiences aren't average, but:

I shave in the shower. I use soap (I know, I know... nothing else seems to have the same friction-reducing qualities). I use a Mach 3. I hold my face and the razor under the hottest water I can stand for 30-40 seconds prior to commencing the shave.

Now, when I say I haven't cut myself, that's not to say I don't get occasional razor burn (that's when the blades get tossed). And, perhaps I do cut myself occasionally, but perhaps the shower stops my noticing.
posted by o2b at 12:08 PM on November 3, 2005

use a brush or really lather and rub in the shaving cream with your hand. the idea is to do it enough that the cream gets underneath the beard and then raises it up a tad so the blade can cut it instead of your skin. Oh and hot water helps loosen up those pores so when it does pull it comes out a little easier.
posted by any major dude at 12:13 PM on November 3, 2005

Shave after your shower without any shaving cream, seriously try it.
posted by pwally at 12:17 PM on November 3, 2005

I've shaved for most of my adult life with a similar blade, no use of shaving cream at all. There's a few things that have helped me.

First, hot water. This is best during a very hot shower. Make sure your entire shaving area is well saturated and feels notably warm to the touch. Get it as hot as you possibly can, and it should be dripping wet if you aren't in the shower. Otherwise, the shower should be spraying right on your face.

Second, careful how hard you press. If you don't shave for two weeks, you can't just hurry a shave in five minutes. If you find yourself the least bit impatient during a shave, you're going way, way too fast. Don't worry about pressing, let the blade do its work. Even a cartridge after five or six shaves will remove all but the last bit of stubble. At that point, I typically shave against the grain, which induces razor burn sometimes. A sharp blade does the job best. This is one reason double-edge and straight-edge razors are so well liked, they enforce a light touch and a wickedly sharp blade.

Really, to reiterate, you want to shave like it's a sauna. Extremely hot, and take your time. The last time I got impatient when shaving, I managed to cut off a chunk of skin larger than a dime, including thickness. Needless to say, it left a mark for a few weeks and bled for hours. When I used to use shaving gel, I would cut myself as well because my face wouldn't be drippingly soaked and hot to the touch. The hot and wet towels barbers would use are worth considering if you want to limit water usage. Make sure it's as hot as you can stand though, and fully soaked.
posted by Saydur at 12:32 PM on November 3, 2005

I've had this problem forever. To some extent it will always be with you, but the #1 change you can make is to shave in the shower. Buy a fog-free shower mirror and give it a try. This will make a huge difference.
posted by BackwardsCity at 1:20 PM on November 3, 2005

I seem to almost always cut myself with at least a nick. Try showering after shaving. The minor bleeding always disappears after a shower and no-one will ever be the wiser.
posted by JJ86 at 1:41 PM on November 3, 2005

I too had this problem forever... then while reading an askme thread on "what I've learned from the movies" someone posted that when shaving, use the hot water etc, but rinse the blade in COLD water. apparently the hot water has a tendency to warp the blade ever so slightly, causing nicks and cuts. I haven't cut myself shaving since. God bless MeFi.
posted by Hanover Phist at 1:46 PM on November 3, 2005

I forgot to mention: while shaving in the shower, I do not use a mirror.

Try it -- You don't need a mirror to tell you where your face is for the big parts, and your fingers are a much better guide than your eyes for locating the unshaven bits.
posted by o2b at 1:47 PM on November 3, 2005

Magic Shaving Powder. Works everywhere I put it, no bumps, no cuts. Smells like the fermenting inside of a duck.
posted by majick at 2:23 PM on November 3, 2005

Perhaps your face is too close to your kiwis during shaving.
posted by found missing at 3:02 PM on November 3, 2005

Gillette and co. make a big deal about having n+1 blades on a cartridge is going to revolutionise the world. Every 10 years or so they increase n by 1, patent a new design and rake in enourmous amounts of money (razor blades are pretty much the highest margin item you will find in your general store/supermarket).

What they don't mention is that having lots of blades together with special design to try to shave "smoother than ever" increases the chance of cutting yourself. I used to find this but since switching to an old fashioned double edged razor (from the 60s, bought from Ebay and quite beautiful) I have stopped the bleeding. The blades are also way cheaper and longer lasting.
posted by rongorongo at 3:14 PM on November 3, 2005

Kiehls White Eagle shave cream + Mach 3. Trust me.
posted by vronsky at 3:21 PM on November 3, 2005

Do like me, a radical departure from the American default of the shower: Bathe. During your nightly hot bath, lean back, submerge your head, and shave away, constantly feeling your face with the free hand for remaining rough patches. Simple and effective, been doing it that way for decades, the result: baby's bottom smooth.

(And I've never understood the American default of the morning shower -- you mean, you go to bed wearing the day's filth? Is that what pyjamas are for, to protect the bed linens?)

posted by Rash at 3:26 PM on November 3, 2005

sharp razor and hot water are inversely proportional. add foam but re-adjust the equation as necessary.
posted by Frasermoo at 4:31 PM on November 3, 2005

I'll second the move to a double-edged classic razor, the type where you unscrew it, put that shimmering little steel razor blade in, put it back together, and shave like yer old man used to.

I'd be lying if I said the shave was as close as a my (previously) trusty Gillette Sensor Excel. But I have fewer nicks - honestly. The difference in closeness of shave is minimal - only my girlfriend has really noticed, and we're talking microns here. I also think it's just a question of technique, and the closeness will improve as I hone mine (it's only been 6 months since I switched).

Plus, with a double-edge blade, you can recycle the things! And that sure beats chucking those plastic cartridges away. And the blades are a lot cheaper.

Shaving in the shower is good. I haven't done that in ages, I must try again. I did it without a mirror for a few months, worked a treat after I got used to it. I used oil instead of foam or cream, although I didn't really notice much difference.

As for using the same blade more than once, this must be for people with beards of the finest gossamer, and skin like leather ;-)
posted by ajp at 4:37 PM on November 3, 2005

Ye gods, the mere thought of "pressing" while shaving gives me razor burn. Use a light touch! If you aren't ready to commit to the old-school double-edge, I must say that I have found the Schick equivalents of the Gillette products to be superior.
posted by Triode at 4:38 PM on November 3, 2005

Try using a Sensor/Excel/SensorIII, or something with a fixed head instead of the Mach III. The Mach III has a pivoting or hinged head that I find can catch on uneven skin.

Older style Gillette razors wont hinge up and down or catch as much as a Mach III, in my experience. It makes for a steadier stroke.
posted by generichuman at 4:48 PM on November 3, 2005

This long post contains everything I've learned about shaving. Regarding your particular problem, I recommend for a start to use short strokes and very light pressure. Read at the link for more info.
posted by LeisureGuy at 3:24 PM on August 5, 2006

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