There are two types of men in the world: men who shower after they shave, and dirty, clean-shaven liars.
Now that’s out of the way… Your first shave is a rite of passage. Most young men can’t wait for the day when they can start to shave, but the novelty wears off quickly: shaving’s a chore most of us could live without. But just because it’s a pain in the arse doesn’t mean it has to be literally painful.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, shaving is one of the leading causes of skin irritation for men. Whether it’s razor burn; overly dry or greasy skin; nips and cuts; ingrown hair, or breakouts – shaving can be a source of real frustration.
Plus, there’s so much conflicting advice out there. Some people say old-fashioned straight razors or safety razors irritate your skin less, and others say you should buy the most expensive cartridges with the most blades. Others tout electric razors. And do you need to ‘wake up’ your skin before shaving? Are you shaving all wrong?
DMARGE spoke exclusively to Melbourne-based specialist dermatologist Dr Alexander Gin, who gave us some no-nonsense tips about how to get that perfect shave.
“Shaving can be traumatic to the skin,” Dr Gin relates.
“Razors often create microscopic abrasions on the skin causing ‘irritant contact dermatitis’, the medical term for razor burn. This appears as general skin redness and sensitivity after shaving.”
“The other common problem men encounter is when the hairs are cut too short they can retract beneath the skin, causing ‘pseudofolliculitis’. This is commonly known as ingrown hairs or ‘razor bumps’. This is more commonly seen in people with curly hair, where the hairs bend back and re-enter the skin. It can lead to red bumps on the skin that can be tender and itchy. Sometimes an infection can develop around the hairs forming pus-filled pimples, or ‘folliculitis’.”
Shaving with a dull razor is one common way of giving yourself razor burn or folliculitis, as is shaving without cleaning your face properly first.
“Wash before shaving with a fragrance-free, soap-free cleanser and warm water,” Dr Gin recommends.
“Shaving after a shower can help with this. Be liberal with the shaving gel or foam to lubricate the skin and prevent microscopic cuts in the skin.”
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Settling The Razor Debate
“Both razors and clippers are ok,” Dr Gin relates.
What’s far more important is keeping blades sharp and clean.
“Using a razor with a single blade or electric clippers that allow the hair to be kept long can help prevent ingrown hairs. Avoid infection by using disposable razors. Look for electric shavers can be cleaned with alcohol spray and wipes.”
“Shave in the direction of hair growth i.e. the way that the hairs are pointing. Avoid stretching the skin too tightly… a 5 o’ clock shadow may help. Aim for a short stubble length of few millimeters. Shave every second day rather than daily, if possible.”
“Avoid picking, plucking hairs and scratching the skin. This will only irritate the hair and skin more and may result in scarring. After shaving, apply a fragrance-free moistursing lotion to help protect the skin from damage.”
Dr Gin’s last piece of advice? If you’re really struggling with ingrown hairs, take advantage of social distancing and working from home to grow out that stubborn stubble.
“In severe cases, you may need to allow the beard to grow out over a month or so to eliminate ingrown hairs. The pandemic isolation beard may not be such a bad thing for your health after all!”
Stay sharp, fellas.