01 July 2008

How to avoid razor burn

Call it payback for not having to wax your legs. Most men like to feel clean-shaven, but aren’t partial to having to shave, thanks to the seemingly inevitable razor burn.


Call it payback for not having to wax your legs. Most men like to feel clean-shaven, but aren’t partial to having to shave, thanks to the seemingly inevitable razor burn and ingrown hairs. Here’s how to minimise your misery.

You’re a strong bloke. You carried crates of beer at varsity and can benchpress your own weight at gym. You can even move large amounts of currency with a single mouse-click. But your skin lets you down – it’s sensitive, given to feeling red and sore after a good shave. It produces that tender, burning, itching sensation that precedes razor bumps and ingrown hairs. Not fun. Luckily, there’s hope, in several easy steps:

  • Consider alternating between electric shaving and wet shaving
  • .
  • Consider not shaving every day. Unless you’re a marine, you might be able to get away with a day’s growth, giving your mug a rest.
  • Try using a single-blade shaver for a while, or alternating between single- and double-blade shavers. Your shave won’t be as close, but there’ll be less irritation.
  • Don’t shave as soon as you wake up. Give yourself at least 20 minutes, about the time it takes to make some tea or coffee, scan the morning paper and do some handy morning stretches. That way you’ll be more awake and less likely to cut yourself. Also, it gives your facial muscles time to tighten up, partly thanks to all the good news in the paper causing you to break out in a broad grin. This causes the beard to stand erect, away from the skin.
  • Now hit the shower. Wash your face last, giving the skin the opportunity to soften amid the steam, the warm water and Pavarotti imitations (Showers have really good acoustics). Use a good, mild facial scrub on your face. The exfoliating action will remove some of the dead skin and sebum that would clog the razor, as well as keeping the beard erect. Spend at least two minutes (That’s “La donne è mobile” sung at a good, measured pace), paying attention to your neck and throat.
  • Complete your shower and run a basin full of warm water. It should be marginally hotter than blood temperature, but not scalding. Water that’s too hot can cause infections.
  • Take a large facecloth and wet it in this warm water, then hold it over your face until it begins to cool. Repeat this several times. Now apply shaving cream. You don’t need an inch-thick layer, but massage it into the skin. Give your skin around a minute to soften some more, but it shouldn’t cool, or the shave will hurt.
  • Take up your razor. At this point you should stop singing. Opera stars often sing while holding swords, and many operas end in tragedy. It’s time to concentrate. Shave your cheeks, upper lip and jawline first. Perform whatever facial contortions are needed to stretch the skin on your face.
  • Rinse your razor repeatedly, clearing it of stubble, shaving cream and skin, all or which will irritate your cheeks. Shave with the grain of the beard. You see blokes on TV shaving upwards on their necks, but this is silly. That’s just the advertiser saying “See how mild and smooth our razor is.” The male model is thinking “I hate this job,” but he deserves no sympathy because of the female model in the dressing gown who comes in to admire his smooth, chiselled jawline.
  • Then shave the neck and lower lip, finishing with the chin, where the beard is always the roughest – your partner might have pointed this out to you during amorous early morning consultations about the best way to start the day.
  • Resist any temptation to shave over the same spot more than once. You’ll just remove successive layers of skin and irritate it.
  • Let the basin run out, run fresh warm water and rinse your face thoroughly. Repeat this until you’re certain there’s no residue of shaving cream or beard, as this will only act as an irritant, leading to road rage while you drive to work. Any residue in the basin will irritate your partner, so clean that out too.
  • Run some clean, warm water and repeat the procedure with the facecloth, steaming your freshly shaven mug. When it feels tingly and calm, pat it dry gently. Some blokes with sensitive skins use each disposable razor once before discarding it. This leads to landfills being filled with them, but luckily not the destruction of the rain forests where the noble disposable-razor trees grow. Razors are a renewable resource and your face will benefit from the razor being, well razor-sharp.

We can’t emphasise this enough: do not, under any circumstances, splash on after-shave. Just like Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone, you’ll scream from the sting. This could ruin your mellow tenor, because the Old Spice that your aunt Jessie gives you each year contains alcohol, which dries the skin and irritates it. Rather use a moisturiser. Any of the expensive lines of men’s toiletries has one specifically for shaving.

Alternatively, you can try a bit of olive oil with a few drops of tea tree and lavender oil. This is fantastic stuff. It soothes and lubricates the skin, and the tea tree acts as an antiseptic. Two words of caution. If you get it on your pristine white shirt, it’ll stain. Also, the essential oils smell quite strong, so spare a thought for the members of your lift club. - (William Smook)

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