If you’ve ever tried to shave after a breakout and ended up with cuts or inflamed skin, you know that shaving on pimples can make acne worse. But you don’t have to skip shaving just because you have a rash.
Let’s talk about how to shave properly and safely when having a breakout or if you have acne-prone skin.
The first thing to note is that if you have painful or inflamed cystic acne, it’s best not to shave until the skin has calmed down a bit, or at least talk to a dermatologist first. But if you have mild to moderate acne or a breakout in one area, you can still shave. You will just need the right tools and techniques.
Here’s what you’ll need before you start:
- exfoliating cleanser
- lightweight moisturizer
- anti acne shaving cream
- close-set multi-blade razor
Before you shave
The key to shaving with acne is to prep your skin before you even pick up your razor. You’ll want to do this with an exfoliating cleanser. These cleansers can be physical exfoliants (think scrubs that have a gritty texture) or chemical exfoliants like AHAs and BHAs.
After cleansing, apply a moisturizer for acne-prone skin to your face. This will soften the hair and make it more supple. You can also warm up a washcloth and leave it on your face for a few minutes to soften skin and hair.
As you shave
Apply shaving gel or cream in a thin, even layer. It’s best to use a shaving cream or gel designed for acne-prone skin. These will contain mild, non-irritating ingredients and may also include anti-acne ingredients like salicylic acid or tea tree oil.
Then it’s time to shave. It is best to use a razor with several sharp, closely spaced blades. The closer the blades are, the less room there is for the skin to be pulled and, therefore, inflamed. Some razors have indicator strips that change color when the blade is dull. Make sure the razor is clean before use.
Shave in the most comfortable and natural direction for you. Facial hair doesn’t all grow in one direction, so you’ll inevitably shave against the grain, which is normal.
Avoid going over pimples, if possible. But if not, try only going over the active buttons once or twice and always use light taps. Even if your skin is not breaking out, use
After your shave
After shaving, wash your face with lukewarm water. Follow again with moisturizer, which can be applied to slightly damp skin. You may want to shave less often if you have acne.
If you have acne-prone skin, you should shave the same way you would if you had an active breakout (these steps are explained above).
If you don’t have an active rash but have oily, acne-prone skin, you might consider using a shaving brush to lather up the shaving cream. This will help the hair straighten so that it is cut at an angle rather than at an angle, which can cause ingrown hairs and irritation. However, shaving brushes can be irritating to people with rashes.
A study found that 41% of people who consider themselves to have sensitive skin said
If you don’t shave properly when you have acne, you risk making your breakouts more irritated or inflamed, which can make them take longer to heal. You could also unintentionally open a whitehead with the razor, which could cause acne scars.
If you shave too quickly or without properly preparing your skin, you could get razor burn or razor bumps, which are different from acne but have a similar red, bumpy appearance.
Can shaving cause acne?
Shaving does not cause acne, but it can cause razor burn that looks a lot like acne. Razor burn is usually caused by:
Razor bumps can also occur as a result of improper shaving. The bumps look like razor burn and can occur when you have ingrown hairs, which means the hairs are pushing into the skin instead of coming out, causing a bump.
Acne is usually caused by excessive sebum production. The pores get clogged with oil or dead skin, causing a blackhead or whitehead to form. Shaving shouldn’t cause acne, but it can irritate existing acne or cause razor burn.
You don’t have to not shave just because you have acne or breakouts, but it’s important to prep your skin and shave properly to avoid making acne worse.
Before you shave acne-prone or breakout-prone skin, wash and moisturize your face to soften the hairs. Then use shaving gel and a sharp razor to avoid nicking the skin. Follow with a moisturizer. If your acne is deep, painful, or open, consult a dermatologist before shaving.