Whether you have razor bumps, folliculitis, or full-on acne, shaving can be a painful mess. There's nothing more panic-inducing than the thought of running a razor over an already irritated and broken-out complexion. It's enough to make anyone think about trying out the lumbersexual look. But even with imperfect skin, it's possible to get a good-looking close shave.
1. Cleanse and soften skin.
The best shaving prep is to start with a shower to warm your hair follicles. If there's no time for a shower, use a gentle cleanser to wash away bacteria and debris and hold a towel soaked in warm (not hot!) water to your face for a minute. But don't scrub! This step is meant to soften not exfoliate. If you're in a rush and can't shower, a warm washcloth has the same heating effect on your skin.
2. Use a shaving oil.
Applying a preshave oil before your shaving cream will soften your hair and allow your razor to glide smoothly, minimizing the chances of irritation, nicks, or cuts. Use your shaving oil sparingly — eight to 10 drops is all you need for a full beard. Massage the oil in gently against the way the hair grows. This is the only time going against the grain is OK, and it should be done with care. So take your time! Look for oils with natural ingredients like jojoba, argan, or tea tree. Oftentimes acne sufferers are scared of oils, thinking they'll cause more breakouts. This isn't true, and keeping skin moisturized is an important step to having a healthy complexion. Just be sure any shaving oil you use is noncomedogenic, meaning it won't clog pores.
3. Find an alcohol-free shaving cream.
You want to use a shaving cream that doesn't contain alcohol or any other drying ingredients. Those foamy lathers we saw our dads use aren't going to cut it for skin that needs a little extra care. Look for shaving creams that don't contain a lot of synthetic ingredients and instead use natural oils or emollients. Always apply shaving cream with clean hands. As charming as shaving brushes are, they can build up bacteria, which you're then applying directly to your face. Have one in your bathroom for looks if you want, but your freshly washed hands are the best tools for applying your shaving cream.
4. Choose the right razor and shave with the grain.
Even though multiblade razors are beloved for their ability to give a close shave, the shave they offer is too close for problem skin. Multiblade razors lift and cut, making them a terrible idea for anyone with acne. The more blades a razor has, the more likely those blades will break pimples and spread bacteria. Try a single-blade razor instead. Your dad got it right with this one. While single-blade razors aren't as widely available and take a little patience to master, your skin will thank you for it. And it'll look great with your ornamental shaving brush.
Always, always, always be sure to shave in the direction your hair grows. This is a must! A lot of times guys think you get a closer shave by going against the grain, but this is a recipe for disaster even with perfect skin. Going against the grain increases the possibility of nicks and opening breakouts. Shaving with the grain ensures that you're not disrupting the hair follicles, which can lead to clogged pores and more breakouts.
5. Keep it clean.
After you're done shaving, rinse your razor head in rubbing alcohol. Now this might feel like an extra step, but it ensures that you will start each shave with a clean, bacteria-free razor.
6. Rinse and hydrate.
After you've cleaned your razor (which you're doing every time, right?), it is important to wash all the shave oil and cream off of your face so the residue doesn't linger and clog pores. Use warm water to thoroughly rinse skin. Water is enough here; there's no need to cleanse again. Follow up your rinse with a soothing moisturizer to calm and hydrate skin. Pick a lotion with SPF, so you can protect that perfectly groomed mug!