Help me get the best shave a man can get.
August 1, 2006 9:26 PM   Subscribe

Acne/skin irritation related to shaving...

After almost every time I shave my face, I experience mild to severe skin irritation above my chin, under the corners of my mouth. For whatever reason it occurs more often on the right side of my face. It looks like acne, basically a bunch of small whiteheads that become inflamed before they eventually just go away.

I know I should just go see a dermatologist but before I do, does anyone have any shaving creams or razors they could recommend that might help? Would an electric razor do the trick or might that make it worse?
posted by Venadium to Health & Fitness (28 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
hmmm... i just had the same issue the other day happen to me for the first time. my theory was that I had perhaps scraped too hard with the razor and did not clean my face afterwards well enough. Do you scrape with a lot of force? If so you might be taking off too much skin, which could be causing the problem. Try using a lighter touch with the razor and two or even three passes with it, rinsing your face well and reapplying shaving cream each time.

Oh, and never, EVER shave up. Always shave down.
posted by perelman at 9:45 PM on August 1, 2006

I just went to the dermatologist today for my acne.

If you're using a cartridge razor, make sure you're replacing the blade regularly. The dermatologist reccomended a replace every three or four shaves. Also make sure you aren't shaving against the grain, as it can cause irritation. Shaving Gels seem to be a little better than foams, and never use soap and water.

Electric razors came highly reccomended. I ended up picking an electric razor today out of the dermatologist's praise of them.

Hope this helps, best of luck.
posted by phr4gmonk3y at 9:49 PM on August 1, 2006

I used to get this all the time using a Mach 3 and the Gilette shaving foams. I still use the Mach 3, but switched to a shaving soap (Burt's Bees bay rum shaving soap) and use Cetaphil on my face afterwards and I very rarely get those whiteheads. The occasional use of an alcohol-free skin toner after shaving helped in my case, too.
posted by DakotaPaul at 9:49 PM on August 1, 2006

Sorry, I was using shaving gel, not shaving foam.
posted by DakotaPaul at 9:50 PM on August 1, 2006

This happens a lot less to me than it used to. I exfoliate regularly with Jack Black face buff, and I use a shaving brush and a Merkur double-edged safety razor. Much less irritating than when I used to use cheap shave gel and a Mach 3. It's hard to say which part is most important, though. Exfoliating definitely seems to help. Moisturizing, too. And of course I go against the grain. I don't know what kind of facial hair you guys have if you can get a decent shave without doing so.
posted by ludwig_van at 9:57 PM on August 1, 2006 [1 favorite]

1. Take a hot shower
2. Shave quickly with sharp razor (never use a dull razor)
3. Pat face down with cold water
4. Apply a shaving balm, like Nivea Aftershave Balm, religiously after each shave

Hot showers open the pores and soften the skin, making a shave less irritating. A balm keeps the skin less irritated after the shave and gives it time to heal.

I don't work for Nivea, but I once had the same problem as you (rash and whiteheads) — especially during the summer — and I swear by the stuff.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:07 PM on August 1, 2006

Have you considered not using shaving cream? After I stopped, I no longer get skin problems from shaving. I know it's counterintuitive but it's worked for me so far (three months now). Just hot water and my Mach 3.
posted by evariste at 10:37 PM on August 1, 2006

I have this problem, too, as a result of having sensitive skin. I use a shaving foam with aloe vera to moisturize coupled with a Mach 3 razor. I sporadically use an aftershave, and when I do, it has no alcohol and is non-comedogenic (won't clog pores).

Just to provide another perspective, though, I cannot use a fresh razor - I dull mine first before using it. For whatever reason, a fresh razor destroys my skin and I find that I get a better shave with less irritation with a slightly dull razor. Like anything, people swear by their methods, and I know some shaving enthusiasts would cringe to hear my words, but it works for me.

One other thing - this problem is more noticeable in the summer due to increased sweating. I get the best success with frequently washing my face during the summer months, even more than during my regimen for the rest of the year.

This is a fairly common and non-serious problem. Just make sure you take care of your skin and keep it clean, and follow the shaving practices that work best for you. Don't be afraid to try lots of different products and methods. Most department stores would love to give you samples of all sorts of creams and lotions to try in the hopes that you find one you love.
posted by galimatias at 11:24 PM on August 1, 2006

I have really fair skin with really dark facial hair. A few years ago it got to a point where I looked like I had a day of growth only an hour after I shaved. I attempted to go against the grain in order to get a closer shave, and used to end up with a bloody upper lip and chin every time I tried. This was with Mach3 blades and generic Gillette/whatever shaving gel.

For the last few months I've actually been enjoying the act of shaving. My breakthrough? treating myself to a better razor, and using better shaving cream and using a brush to apply it.

I thought that there was no way the Gillette Fusion could be better than the Mach3, but I notice a clear difference. The extra blade on the main razor makes shaving the majority of my face a breeze, plus the extra blade on the back works great for the upper part of my
'stache, under the nose.

Regarding shaving cream, the stuff they sell at the corner drugstore in the US is garbage that doesn't prepare your face nearly as well as it should. Treat yourself to some of this, and pick up a badger hair brush to get wet and apply the cream. I recently ran out of good cream and had to use some Nivea crap for a few days, and sure enough, my shaves weren't close enough, and my face would start to bleed if I tried to go closer, even with the Fusion.

Whether I go against the grain or not, my shaves are noticeably closer with less irritation using this combo of good cream + brush + Fusion razor.
posted by adamk at 11:48 PM on August 1, 2006

A lot of Black people, because of the way Black hair often responds to these goddamned new triple/quadruple/quintuple blades (i.e. extremely poorly, causing ingrown hairs), use that depilatory powder stuff.

The smell is unpleasant, you have to mix it yourself, and it takes some getting used to, but it might get rid of your ingrown hair/ postshave acne problem.

It looks like this.
posted by dihutenosa at 11:57 PM on August 1, 2006

Oh, I forgot - another advantage is that the irritation should be nonexistent, as you simply put the powder/cream mixture on, then remove it with a "spatula" (e.g. the dull side of a butterknife). No blades involved.
posted by dihutenosa at 11:59 PM on August 1, 2006

I stopped shaving because of this. I didn't like having a beard though, either. So I just use hair clippers with no guard. If a shadow is OK at 5 O'clock, it's OK anytime, I say. (Plus, with the new movie, Miami Vice is currently "retro." The Don Johnson look will be ironic/cool for oh, at least another 30 seconds.)
posted by nonmyopicdave at 12:39 AM on August 2, 2006

I have an acne problem. It wasn't an idea of my dermatologist, but I switched from a Gilette Mach3 to an electic razor. It's much better for my skin! I think it's worth the try. Good Luck.
posted by donut at 12:52 AM on August 2, 2006

i get this sometimes around the throat - in my case it helps a lot to simply splash on a LOT of very cold water right after shaving.
posted by sergeant sandwich at 1:02 AM on August 2, 2006

King of Shaves solved the problem for me. Looks like they'll send you a free sample if you can't find it locally. Being an oil rather than a gel or foam, it's a little odd until you get used to it.
posted by hmca at 2:15 AM on August 2, 2006

1. Give your face a break of 48 hours at least every two weeks. Don't shave during these two days, do a Friday through Sunday if you can manage it.

2. The Secret Knowledge:

I'm ashamed to post this here, since it is as close to Secret Knowledge as I've ever received. But, I'm committed to Meta... so here it is.

a) Before showering, cover your face in the thickest hand lotion you can find. Really gob the stuff on there. Use twice as much as necessary.

b) Take a hot shower, do not wash off the lotion.

c) During the shower, much of the lotion may just drip off your face, this is fine. After the shower, don't rinse, lather up. Shave down first, and if you have a big meeting or a hot date, you can shave up in a second pass.

d) Shave slowly. Treat your face like a woman.
posted by ewkpates at 3:43 AM on August 2, 2006

Tendskin did nothing for me.

My problem (which may or may not be yours) was that, because I have a fairly coarse beard, I had to apply extra pressure (or extra passes of the blade) in order to achieve a good, clean shave. Unfortunately, this removes the top layer of skin from said regions. The skin heals itself (grows back) faster than the hairs, ergo, ingrown hairs. No amount of aftershave or magic lotions is going to change that.

I've been using an electric in the interim, because I can't justify the expense of disposable razor blades for a freakin' face, even if it is mine. I also have a beard and moustach trimmer that I'll use every so often when I don't feel like shaving properly. It evens out the beard to a uniform, short stubble. Don Johnson would be proud. Some day I may just have all my neck hairs laser-removed.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:25 AM on August 2, 2006

I used to get those on my legs until I switched to Aveeno shave gel and a Mach 3.
posted by amber_dale at 5:23 AM on August 2, 2006

I used to have this problem a lot. At the time, I was using Edge shaving gel and a Mach III razor, on which I changed the blade regularly. I was also using an alcohol-based aftershave.

After getting fed up with the skin irritation, I made a complete switch in shaving styles. I bought a Merkur double edged safety razor from here. It takes some getting used to, but is soooooo much better than the Mach 3, plus the blades are hella cheap. I also switched to using a badger hair brush (very important for both exfoliation and beard prep) and to shaving soap and a moisturizing aftershave from here. When I first made the switch, I also used the artofshaving "ingrown hair" cream, which helped. Since then, I've also starting using their facial wash as part of my routine.

Since making those changes, I very rarely get any redness/irritation or acne from shaving. I will not go back to the drugstore razors or shaving creams.

(Also, I shave WITH the grain, making two passes. I have a very dark and coarse beard, and you CAN get a close shave this way with much less irritation)

Good luck!!
posted by GregW at 7:10 AM on August 2, 2006

You might be reacting to chemicals in the cream or in the razor's lubricating strip. I was. Now I shave with regular glycerin soap and a cheap disposable shaver. Seems to work.
posted by futility closet at 7:41 AM on August 2, 2006

If you just want a relatively simple solution, here are a couple tips.

-Change blades frequently, rinse well after use.
-Try a better quality, sensitive skin gel. (It's worth a shot, before you buy all sorts of weird razors, brushes, and soaps).
-Wash your face in a hot shower just before shaving.
-If you switch to an electric, get one that has the base with the cleaning fluid cartridges. Every time you use it, the razor will clean itself.

I use Neutrogena Razor Defense Shave Gel. It's not super-expensive, and you can find it at Target. I also wash with Neutrogena Oil-free Acne Wash. Some folks recommend trying a moisturizer as well, although it seems counterintuitive. I use Neutrogena Triple Protect. (I don't work for Neutrogena, but their stuff is relatively inexpensive and easy to find).
posted by MrZero at 7:48 AM on August 2, 2006

I get similar acne outbreaks on my throat when I shave with a blade. I habitually shave with an electric (the flat rectangular type) but occasionally I skip for a weekend, and then on Monday I use a blade. I tried several different types of blade/foam combinations, but none of them had as much impact on my acne as using a great moisurizer after rinsing and patting my face dry. I use Aveda, which is a little pricy, but a $32 pump bottle lasts me a year. Good luck!
posted by squirrel at 8:08 AM on August 2, 2006

I get similar outbreaks every once in a while -- I have attributed it in the past to a dull blade, but I'm not sure.

Slghtly OT: I'd like to ask those of you who proclaim "dont shave up, shave down!" as holy writ to consider this:

Hair, anywhere on your body, grows in different patterns. Where hair may grow pointing down for you, it may grow sideways for someone else.

The corollary, "shave with the grain!" doesn't work for many people either.

I personally have to shave in 3 directions on each quadrant of my face -- my whiskers just don't all grow in the same direction on any part of my face, and if I don't use redundant strokes in varying directions, I get a very poor shave.
posted by o2b at 9:00 AM on August 2, 2006

I read the article about skipping the shaving cream/gel bit entirely. Thought I would be extra manly and give it a whirl. I'm using a Mach 3. Am horrible about changing the blades. This was several months ago. I have noticed a slight improvement in after-effects of shaving (bumps and the throat irritation). But the biggest improvement for this is exfoliation. A friend a while back said she got the straight dope from a couple strippers. They seem, to me, to know how to avoid razor bumps on sensitive skin. Scrub harder!
posted by bastionofsanity at 12:25 PM on August 2, 2006

my whiskers just don't all grow in the same direction on any part of my face

These are cowlicks, which normally occur on top of your head, but many people get them in shaving-areas and have to shave in a million directions in order to follow the "don't shave against the grain" rule. Lasers are your friend.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:14 PM on August 2, 2006

I've had the same problem. Here's what solved it for me:

1) Switching to a wet electric razor.

2) Shaving in the shower, using shaving oil. Pacific Shaving Oil is my brand of choice.

It basically came down to the fact that a dry shave was irritating my skin, and the Mach 3 razor was cutting apart my face. Give it a shot.

posted by donguanella at 6:20 PM on August 2, 2006

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