We all know the burn. Put down the blade, step away from the basin and give it a second: you’ll feel that familiar heat creeping up under your collar, threatening to redden your skin and ruin your whole day.
Razor burn might be one of the most unpleasant sensations you can experience on an everyday basis – and it affects as many as 79 percent of men, according to a recent poll by the International Dermal Institute. It’s also unpredictable, coming out of nowhere despite your best efforts to keep the area cool and calm throughout your shave.
Shaving is not an exact science. Your skin is an organ, as National Geographic reminds us, with a wide variety of natural functions and processes. It’s also a sensory instrument, designed to tell your brain about each and every little stimulus – add a sharp blade to that equation, and that sensitivity can sting.
Unpleasant, unpredictable, and unavoidable? Don’t stress! The solution is (literally) at hand. Here’s how to shave without setting fire to your skin:
1. Start Sterile
Every time you shave, you’re scraping away not just hair and dirt but the topmost layer of your skin, too. Imagine yourself as a doctor, armed with a razor that’s a lot like a scalpel: is the area cleared for surgery? Are your utensils clean?
Using dirty tools on dirtier skin is a surefire way to spread bacteria. Keep your razor free of contaminants by cleaning and drying the blade after each shave, and store it in dry conditions – away from damp drawers or wet sinks, where it could develop mould or rust.
2. Wetter Is Better
While it is possible to be burnt even with the wettest skin, the damage will be way worse if your face is dry. Why? Your facial hair is so absorbent that just a few cursory splashes will do little to soften the follicles effectively – and your razor will have trouble hacking them out.
Tugging at your facial hair in this way will cause inflammation and swelling. You can ensure an easier ride for your razor by thoroughly wetting your whiskers with warm water, either in the shower or using a soaked, hot towel. Using a good quality pre-shave oil will also help soften your beard hair and stubble, making for an even smoother shave.
3. A Grain of Truth
Forget what you’ve read about running your blade against the grain. True, this technique might lead to a slightly closer shave, but at the expense of your skin’s health and happiness. By forcing your facial hairs to bend back against the direction of their roots, you’re pushing them to fight with your skin – and this will lead not only to irritation, but to red and painful bumps, too.
4. Cream of the Crop
Too many men reach for all the wrong things in the shower. Sure, soap works well to clean your skin of dirt and grime, leaving you looking scrubbed, polished and ready for the day ahead – but is it ready for a blade?
Rub a finger against your just-washed skin: if it squeaks, it’s clean. But if your finger squeaks, your blade will surely burn. Invest in a good-quality shaving cream that contains built-in oils to prepare your skin for shaving and protect it from reddening and rashes.
5. Take Time Out
Rushed shaving is rough shaving, and both will ruin your skin’s chances of living a healthy life. Hurrying through the process will lead you to make more strokes than usual, or harder strokes than necessary, as you go over and over the same spots to catch the hairs you keep missing – and the more strokes you make, the more your skin will become sensitive and inflamed.
Take your time and savor this manliest of moments – shaving your face is not a race.
6. Stay Hydrated
All done? Rinse your face in cold water, which will help your pores close up and shut out external irritants. Then apply a moisturizer or aftershave, to both protect it further and lock in your skin’s natural oils and keep it from drying out and rashing up.
We mentioned earlier that your skin is an organ. But did you know that it’s the biggest one you have? Depending on your height and weight, you could be carrying 22 square feet of epidermis. All of that skin has one purpose: to protect what’s inside you, and help you get an accurate sense of your world. Help it help you, with a shaving regimen designed to care for, not cut