I think you already know this:
Shaving with sensitive skin can be tricky.
You get all these rashes on your skin, and it’s hard to find the right combination of razor and cream that isn’t going to make you look like you’ve just spent a week in the New Mexico sun.
Or worse, you might even have reactions to the cream you’re using or the way in which you shave. It’s no joke, and I know how hard it is to find something that’s suited to your unique skin “type”.
(Although sensitive skin isn’t really a type, I’ll use that term throughout this article. I’ll explain later)
There are enough guys out there shaving with sensitive skin that it warrants some discussion about the issue. I want to clarify some misconceptions, right some wrongs, fix your mindset, and steer you towards the smooth, clean shave you’ve always wanted.
I’m going to break down what sensitive skin actually is, and the best ways to prepare your face for the harsh reality of dragging a sharp blade across it.
I also want to show you that you don’t have to compromise on your razor or your shaving cream to get the shave you (and your partner) have always wanted. You want baby smooth? I’m going to show you baby smooth.
And lastly please don’t be offended at this:
I want to talk about how to shave.
I can hear what you’re thinking:
Alright, ‘Dad’, what am I doing wrong?
No, I’m not your Dad, and no, I don’t want to highlight all the ways you’ve been screwing up in your shaving life.
Instead, I just want to touch on the best way to get a smooth shave, which applies to everyone including those of you with sensitive skin. It shouldn’t have to hurt, and should never have to be something you avoid.
Like my grandmother would always tell me, “If you want to be a man of the night, you’ve got to get your shaving right”
(She didn’t actually say that. She actually just told me that I should open my mind to Fig Newtons and coffee cake. Blech, no thanks, Grandma.)
What Is Sensitive Skin?
A while ago, I did a whole article on skin types, and I had to mention sensitive skin as one of the types of skin that men usually have.
It pained me to write that.
I don’t like that the cosmetic and beauty industry have been lying to you for years now. Sensitive skin is not a type.
Don’t believe them. Don’t believe the labels. Don’t listen to Gwyneth Paltrow sell you a new cream formulated for sensitive skin types. (Besides, I hear Goop isn’t that great of a brand)
Sensitive skin is technically a condition. It can be something you’re born with, a reaction to the foods you’ve been eating, the products you’ve put on your face, or simply where you live.
Simply put, sensitive skin is really just a skin that can react easily to anything from harsh chemicals in your shaving cream to too much chocolate or alcohol the night before.
The best way to counteract the effects of sensitive skin is to be diligent. You need to be aware of the types of products that cause irritation or flare-ups on your face.
You also need to know what foods you’re eating and if it’s a particular season that makes your skin prone to problems. Too many chemicals or synthetic additives make finding the right product hard to do.
But before I go into products and techniques, I have something to tell you…
The Good News about Shaving with Sensitive Skin
Yes, I’m here to share the good news with you:
You might not even have sensitive skin.
Yes, that’s right. Your skin might not be the problem at all.
If you’ve experienced rashes or irritation, let’s not jump to the conclusion that your skin is the main culprit and the source of all your problems.
In fact, you might be the problem…
…and that means you are also the solution.
If you’re not practicing proper shaving technique, you’ll most likely develop the same symptoms as someone with sensitive skin. Before you go buying brand new razors and creams, let’s see if this can fix the problem.
Remember, just like in the kitchen, it’s the dull blades that do the most damage.
Get yourself a fresh blade, and change it often. I know it’s hard to remember to go to the store, find the over-worked under-paid 17-year-old to open up the razor cartridge cage (because buying razors is somehow borderline criminal), and buy the right blades.
What’s the number one shaving mistake I see most men make?
Shaving against the grain.
I remember watching Carson Kressley give advice to one man, Carl, on Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. (Yes, I watched. And yes, I enjoyed it) He was getting ready for a date, and despite getting advice from the guys, the dude goes right ahead and shaves against the grain.
Carson just does this big, over-exaggerated moan and whines that he was supposed to go with the grain. With the grain, Carl.
I feel your pain, Carson Kressley.
Guys, get to know your beard hair, and more specifically, how it grows. Shave with the direction that it grows for the first pass. This will reduce the irritation, and it will actually remove the stubble cleaner and smoother.
As tempting as it is, do NOT use shaving gel if you’re concerned about your skin.
Gel, while being convenient and perfect to travel with, doesn’t do you any favors for your skin.
It’s loaded with chemicals and denatured alcohol. That’s just going to dry out your skin, the exact opposite of what you need your skin to do after a fresh shave.
Instead, try these options:
- Shave soap – It lathers up with a good brush, makes you feel like a man for owning a shaving brush, and moisturizes your skin really well.
- Shave Cream – The latherless kind is great for clearly seeing where you’re shaving as well as giving you a nicely lubricated glide across your face.
- Shave Butter – Shave butter is usually a more natural and face-friendly product that contains minimal synthetic products. I would start here if I was concerned about my skin. Natural products are great for your face.
You should be using these shaving solutions at any rate. No matter what you choose, steer away from fragrances as that’s yet another trigger that could flare up on your skin while you’re trying to determine what’s causing your sensitive skin condition.
The Best Razors for Sensitive Skin
I know what you’re thinking:
I have sensitive skin. I know it. There are so many options out there for razors. So, how’s a guy to choose?
Hey, I consider myself pretty up-to-date on the topic, and even I’m confused by some of the razor choices out there. I will say though, definitely don’t buy this one.
So, let’s look at what razors work for sensitive skin.
Okay, if you’re shaving with the classic disposable razor from 1974, you’re scraping the bottom of the barrel. I really can’t find enough good to say on the topic of disposable razors.
I’ve always heard that it’s better to say not say anything if you have nothing nice to say.
In light of that saying, when it comes to disposable razors, the best part is that they are disposable. (Hint hint)
We’re starting to find a better solution with a good, classic cartridge razor. However, I do want to point out one problem:
Cartridge razors have multiple blades. That just means that every time you pull across your face that’s 4, 5, or even 6 blades passing over the same part of your skin. That could be a recipe for trouble.
I don’t even want to think of pulling 6 blades across your skin against the grain. Yikes. Carson Kressley would be rolling in his grave…if he was dead.
If you want to find the right blade for your sensitive skin, you need to be diligent about the number of times you’re going to pull a sharp blade over it. Otherwise it’s just a recipe for disaster.
Now we’re heading in the right direction. I happen to be a ‘yuuuuge’ fan of the safety razor. There’s no bigger fan than me. If anybody knows safety razors, it’s me. Believe me, I’m the absolute expert on safety razors. I know them. I love them. I probably have a hundred of them. I’m going to build a whole wall with all my safety razors.
So, it’s no secret that I’m going to champion this blade. I find that it gives me the best shave and a great experience as well.
It also happens to be perfect for men with sensitive skin. The single blade provides enough security against repeated passes, and it doesn’t require excessive usage.
Here’s the thing:
It will take some practice. Shaving with a safety razor isn’t an intuitive process. It takes practice, learning a new technique, and probably a little bit of blood.
If you’re new to it, I’d recommend reading this article before going further.
Some of the benefits include:
- Cheaper replacements – Single blades can be swapped out easily and affordably. I find that the cost alone is enough incentive to buy plenty of blades.
- Easy to maintain – The entire blade and head can be cleaned easily. A clean blade is an effective blade. If you’re going to use a safety razor, you never have to worry about cleaning out clogged blades. A simple rinse usually does it.
- Single Blade Passes – A good shave should only require two or three passes. Compare that to dragging 5 blades across a particular spot over 5 times. That’s 25 blades over your skin. Even that big rock-looking guy from The Fantastic Four would get sensitive skin from that many blades.
- Blade Control – With safety razors, most guys love the control they get over their shave. You control the angle of your blade, the speed of your pass, and the amount of pressure you apply to your face. If you have sensitive skin, you need to have more control over the blades you’re putting next to your skin.
I would recommend taking the time to work on your blade technique and experimenting with what type of blade works best for you. That’s the beauty of a standard safety razor. You can test out different blades without charging your credit card into the red.
While technically called a razor, I’m not certain you should use this on a sensitive face.
Electric razors are put out for men who need the convenience of a quick shave and travel around. The closeness you experience with a safety or cartridge razor just can’t be achieved with a standard electric razor.
The electric variety shavers can also irritate your skin just as much as a normal razor might.
Okay, this isn’t actually a razor at all. That is true. I simply want to present this as an option for those who were wondering.
The beard trimmer can take your stubble down to mere millimeters. But there’s the problem:
It’s still stubble. You can’t expect a good shave that leaves you smooth with a beard trimmer. Unless you’re going for stubble, stay away from the beard trimmer for sensitive skin shaving.
Shaving Techniques for Sensitive Skin
It’s time to prepare your face for the inevitable onslaught of blades, chemicals, creams, and friction. Sensitive skin hates all those things, and it’s not afraid to let you know it.
But before you even pick up the blade, there are plenty of things you can be doing today to prepare your face for a good shave.
You Should Be Moisturizing…No Seriously
I know what you’re thinking:
Did I accidentally click on ToolsOfWomen.com? No, you didn’t. We’re all still guys here. Moisturizers do plenty to prepare your face for shaving. I’m not talking about immediately before a shave either. I’m talking about a routine moisturizer that you apply to your face to alleviate the sensitive and raw skin.
Your face is already subject to rain, pollution, wind, sun, and fragrances. You need to soothe your skin against all these elements that could be doing you damage.
Moisturizing your skin also makes you look (and therefore feel) younger. I’m talking about having your wife and/or girlfriend being jealous of your youthful, hunky skin.
You could even use a face cream with a built-in SPF sunscreen to really protect your skin from the harm of the elements and the sun.
Before I move on, let me say this:
Please, please, please don’t skip this step. I don’t throw this tip out lightly. I recommend moisturizer because it does a lot of protection as well as rejuvenation to your skin. This one tip could solve your shaving problems on its own.
That’s how much I believe in it.
Cleaning Your Face Properly
Before you shave, you should make sure your face is actually clean. Not just rubbing out all the dirt from your ears and neck.
I’m talking about getting a full clean under hot water, loosening up the sebum in your pores, removing any dirt from your face, washing off all the pollutants that stick to your skin.
To further clean your skin, I would recommend using an Alpha Hydroxy Acid or Beta Hydroxy Acid to wash out your pores and do a deep clean all over your face. Exfoliation gets rids of the dead skin cells as well loosening up all that gunk that could trigger a reaction from your sensitive skin.
Pre-Shave Oil For Additional Comfort
I’m not going to say this is the silver bullet for shaving with sensitive skin. But I’m also not going to knock it. It’s perfect for those guys who need an extra layer of lubrication between the blade and their skin.
If you live in a dry climate, or somewhere that can get very cold, try using a pre-shave oil to add an extra layer of protection and moisture on your face.
Go Gently With Your Razor
I Googled it. There’s no such thing as razor races.
Shaving isn’t a sport, so there’s no need to go fast. Guys, even Usain Bolt takes his time when shaving. (I don’t actually know this to be fact, but I’m assuming that’s correct)
A good shave should take you 10-15 minutes. You need to prepare your face, lather up the cream, do at least a couple passes (if you have longer hair) and give your face a good aftershave balm.
All of this takes time. If you’re trying to rush your shave, you could be at risk of doing damage to your skin and irritating the crap out of it. So, slow down because there’s no prize for fast shaving. The only prize is a smooth, sexy face.
Post Shave Essential: Aftershave Balm
The key to this game of shaving with sensitive skin is to add moisture. Moisture adds just another layer of protection against all the things that could be affecting your face.
It also soothes your skin after a rough, harsh blade pulled across it. Aftershave balm also protects the widened pores from the bacteria you could have introduced with your razor. Did you change the blade? No? Then you might have just brought in more harmful bacteria. That’s what aftershave balm can do for you.
If you continue to have issues with your shave, start with the assumption that it’s not sensitive skin at all. Make a few adjustments to your routine to see if that helps.
If not, be as diligent as you can with the razor you use, the cream you shave with, and the aftershave balm you apply.
Your sensitive skin CAN be managed. You just have to use extra care, and you’ll get the smooth, sexy face your partner has been craving.