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Here’s Why You Should Exfoliate Before You Shave

Exfoliation should be a part of any man’s comprehensive skincare routine.

But like any skincare product, when and how you use it can provide different results.

Here we’ll discuss whether you should be exfoliating before or after shaving and why it’s important to exfoliate in the first place.

Should you exfoliate before or after shaving?

When using an exfoliator, it is recommended by dermatologists to exfoliate before you shave. While shaving with any razor is a form of physical exfoliation, when you exfoliate before shaving, you remove dead skin cells, loosen sebum oil, and slough away bacteria that may be clogging your pores. By doing this, you can get a closer shave and reduce the risk of ingrown hairs and razor bumps.

So, should you exfoliate every time you shave?

No, you aren’t required to exfoliate before shaving every time. Since exfoliating and shaving are rather stressful on the skin, over-exfoliating will lead to dryness, redness, and general irritation. In general, you should only be exfoliating two to three times per week for normal to oily skin types. Now, if you have dry skin, you’ll want to only exfoliate about once per week.

Some men with dry or sensitive skin have opted to skip using an exfoliator altogether as it may irritate the skin.

What about manscaping?

The skin on the body is thicker than the skin on the face, so it can handle a bit more rigorous activity. So using a physical body scrub before shaving your body is perfectly fine. But, of course, you’ll always want to take note of any irritation or dry skin and adjust your routine accordingly.

A good skincare routine to follow when shaving

When taking care of your skin, you want to first give it a thorough wash with warm water and a mild cleanser; then, you can exfoliate afterward.

When using an exfoliator, you’ll want to follow these guidelines:

  • For a physical exfoliator, you’ll want to set the water to lukewarm, moisten your skin, and apply the exfoliator in a circular motion for about 20 to 40 seconds. After the time is up, you can rinse off and pat dry with a towel.
  • Chemical exfoliators work a little differently as they are generally left on the skin for an extended period, allowing them to penetrate and work their magic. Simply apply the exfoliant after cleansing, leave it on for the designated time and rinse off before shaving. Some skincare experts recommend leaving the exfoliator on for at least 30 seconds, whereas others recommend at least waiting up to 30 minutes.

Once you are done exfoliating, you can go in with shaving cream and shave accordingly, using a light and even pressure. Once you finish shaving, rinse your face and apply an alcohol-free aftershave balm to soothe the area. If you don’t have an aftershave balm handy, your daily face moisturizer will do just fine.

Edge cases why it may make sense to exfoliate after shaving

As we covered, for optimal comfort and results, prior to shaving is the way to go when exfoliating, one edge case where it may make sense to exfoliate after shaving is for men with oily or acne prone skin. After performing a deep physical exfoliation through the use of your preferred razor, your pores will be open and your skin may be more susceptible to the beneficial properties of chemical exfoliators.

In these cases, a chemical exfoliator with ingredients like salicylic acid or glycolic acid can be used right after shaving as part of a treatment for stubborn acne. Of course, for this approach to work, you’ll want to use a hydrating and nourishing aftershave balm in order to provide some level of protection and nourishment to your skin.

When testing this routine, be sure to see how your skin reacts and adjust accordingly if needed.

Adam Williams

As the lead editor of Tools of Men, Adam loves men's grooming products. Particularly of interest is managing facial hair and perfecting the art of the modern man's skincare routine. His work has been featured or quoted in several publications, including New York Magazine, Vice, Sharpologist, MIC, Elite Daily, and more.

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