Treating and Preventing Skin Irritation written by: Nicole Bippen
Nothing feels better than starting the day with a smooth, freshly shaven face. Your whiskers are all in order, your skin feels soft, you look good and you’re ready to face the world. Everything’s going great until your skin begins to itch and burn a little. No big deal at first, but within an hour your skin is crying for help. You check the mirror only to see that instead of smooth skin, you have a red patch covered in tiny little bumps. Nothing can kill your mood faster than skin irritation from shaving, but luckily there are some things you can do to prevent it from happening.
Skin Irritation: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
There are a few varieties of skin irritation that come as a result of shaving. Ingrown hairs, razor burn, allergic reactions, and mild irritation can all occur from shaving. Skin irritation is also not just limited to your face; it can also occur on your neck as well making it even more painful. Because allergic reactions can occur quickly and without remorse, it is recommended that you always test your products on your arm or wrist before applying them to your face. Using creams, soaps, and tonics with limited as well as natural ingredients will greatly reduce your risk of having a reaction.
Luckily, ALL of the skin problems listed are both preventable and treatable.
Razor Burn: The Bad
Razor burn is a rash that occurs after shaving and ranges in severity. For some men, it can be mildly irritating meaning they’ll have a small red area that itches slightly. For others, it can be a truly grating experience that also results in ingrown hairs. Regardless of its severity, razor burn is a pain.
Razor Bumps / Ingrown Hairs: The Ugly
Razor bumps look like tiny pimples on the face but unlike your teenage years, these will itch and sting like hell. These bumps are almost always associated with razor burn. However, some men won’t see or experience ingrown hairs on their face until the whiskers start growing back. This is because the whisker, which was likely improperly cut, is growing sideways into the skin or is curling under the skin. Unfortunately, African American males experience ingrown hairs more than others because of the natural curliness of their beards.
The Good News: Prevention is Possible and Easy
When it comes to skin irritation, there are a number of ways of preventing it from happening in the first place:
· Always wet shave- It can be tempting to dry shave since it’s a lot faster, but take the time to wash your face and lather it up. Even when using razors that claim they’re designed for dry shaves you still put yourself at risk for razor burn and ingrown hairs.
· Soften the beard first- Have you ever tried to cut thin copper wire evenly? If not, let me just tell you how hard it is to get a straight, even cut. Soft hairs are always going to be easier to cut than coarse hairs so take a hot shower first. The steam will open your pores and soften the hairs making it easier to shave.
· Exfoliate- You’ve probably heard your girlfriend swear by this word. Gone are the days when exfoliation was just for her; it’s for men too! Using scrubs and loofahs will help remove dead skin cells while also coaxing ingrown hairs out. It might feel funny at first but trust me it’s worth it.
· Use a sharp single bladed razor- Many men swear by four and five bladed shavers but the truth of the matter is that you only need one sharp blade for a great shave. Safety razors and straight razors are making a comeback not only because they’re stylish, but also because they offer great shaves and reduce irritation.
· Shave with the grain- Shaving with the grain not only lowers your risk of cutting your face to ribbons, but it also greatly reduces your chances of getting ingrown hairs and razor burn. Shaving against the grain has a tendency to “tug” at hairs, which aggravates your skin and can cause the hair follicle to grow sideways under the skin.
· Sanitize your blades- Before shaving you should clean your razor blades with rubbing alcohol. Bacteria left on blades is one of the biggest causes of skin irritation and razor burn so go to war with the nasty things and win!
· Clean your blades after each pass- Ideally you should rinse your blade after every stroke. The creams/gels and hair collected on the blade not only get in the way of a clean, smooth shave but they can also cause skin irritation.
· Use creams and tonics- Shaving dehydrates your skin regardless of how moisturizing your shave gel claims to be. Restore moisture to your skin, and prevent irritation, by using an after shave cream or tonic.
Treating Skin Irritation after it’s Already Occurred
We’ve all been there: we’ve done our best to fight the war against skin irritation, followed all the steps, pampered our faces as if they were at a fancy European spa, but razor burn or bumps happened regardless. Luckily, there are some treatments that can help soothe the skin until it’s healed.
Even though a lot of men swear by home remedies such as aloe vera or tea tree oil, I’ve found that the best treatments for razor burn and bumps is a lotion or tonic. Also spoiler alert but most of the after shave lotions and tonics on the market include natural remedy ingredients as well as science so you’re getting the most bang for your buck. Both work great and should be a staple of any man’s shaving kit. Both lotions and tonics work by: providing lasting moisture, soothing the skin, reduce redness and calm areas affected by razor burn, and soften ingrown hairs in order to coax them out of hiding. Which one you use is entirely up to your own personal preferences:
· After Shave Lotions- Lotions tend to be heavier and thicker than tonics. Don’t worry though- they won’t feel (or smell) like your girlfriend’s favorite Bath and Bodyworks products. After shave lotions are soaked up quickly by the skin and within no time at all you’ll feel soothed. This is because they typically contain antiseptics such as alcohol to kill bacteria as well as calming agents to calm your skin.
· After Shave Tonics- Tonics are liquid versions of lotion for men. Like the lotion, tonics are soaked up quickly by your skin and provide lasting relief for bumps as well as irritation. You can usually find a number of soothing ingredients included such as: antiseptics to kill bacteria, vitamin e oil to moisturize skin, witch hazel to calm and treat issues, as well as essential oils for scent and calming properties. Tonics also tend to have a stronger, longer lasting scent so if smelling like the woods all day is important to you, opt for this remedy over a lotion.
Regardless of preference, we highly recommend that you always use either one of these after every shave. After shave lotions and tonics make a world of difference when it comes to your face. Even if you don’t break out after your shave, we still suggest applying them regardless because they’re so good for your skin.
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