When it comes to managing and preventing acne, one stumbling block for many is the process of shaving facial hair, which—if not done correctly—can make the condition worse. But don't worry! Below you'll find dermatologist insights and recommendations on shaving to prevent breakouts, those pesky ingrown hairs, and skin irritation.
Does shaving cause acne?
Shaving the wrong way and with the wrong tools can cause or worsen acne breakouts as well as cause other irritation—especially for those who are acne-prone and have sensitive skin. In fact, in many cases, "pimples" on the jawline neck can often be confused with acne when they are in fact, something entirely different called. "folliculitis". This is irritation of the skin caused by inflammation around the hair follicle—often an infection of the bacteria Staph Aureas.
So whether you're dealing with shaving-induced folliculitis OR just trying to figure out how to get a smooth shave on your acne-prone skin without making things worse, you'll want to follow the shaving tips below;
Is it OK to shave if you have acne?
If you already have acne, it is totally possible to shave acne-prone skin without causing or worsening existing breakouts. However, shaving must be done with caution, care, and the right tools. Otherwise, it can cause irritation, spread bacteria, and lead to a worsening of the acne condition.
For some people, when done the right way, shaving (or what's called "dermaplaning" in skincare) can actually help prevent future acne breakouts by sloughing up dead skin cells that can otherwise build up and clog pores.
How to shave to avoid acne, folliculitis, and razor bumps:
The way you shave as well as using the right shaving products and tools make a big difference. Check out these tips;
1. Start with a warm shower
Heat and humidity will soften your beard and make your shave smoother and less irritating. If you can, plan to shave after washing your face with warm water. Even better, take a hot shower first as the steam will help prep the skin. Pro tip: do not run your face under excessively hot water as this can cause irritation to the skin. When it's time to cleanse your skin, turn the dial so the temperature is warm but not hot, or wait to wash your face in the sink.
2. Cleanse your skin
Use a facial cleanser with medicated anti-acne ingredients such as salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide. Preferably customized to your skin type, acne severity, and sensitivities (click here to take our quick quiz and find the right cleanser for your skin).
3. Invest in a high-quality razor blade
Shaving with a high-quality razor will pay dividends in the long wrong. Not only will they provide a better, closer shave, but they also tend to last longer than cheaper options. Using a standard, multi-blade razor or single-blade razors (aka "safety razor" — those vintage looking metal tools) is preferable to using electric shavers. Electric razors have a tendency to crush the hairs of the beard and may penetrate and wound the skin. Use a multi-blade razor like this one that has blades spaced closely together. The closer the blades, the less opportunity for skin to get caught between the blades.
Here are some brands we love!
Best razors to prevent acne:
- Harry's - Truman Set ($15)
- Rockwell 2C - Double Edge Safety Razor ($30)
- Bevel Safety Razor Starter Kit ($29.95)
- Gilette Skin Guard Men's Razor ($9.99)
4. Use a sharp, clean razor blade
Ensure you are shaving with a fresh razor blade that isn't dull, rusted, or full of bacteria. Now that's setting the hygiene bar pretty low...if you really want to prevent breakouts and irritation, you should really be using a fresh blade at every shave and keep fresh lades in a clean, dry, environment. Make sure that your blade's good and sharp. A dull blade is more likely to nick pimples. So if you feel tugging or discomfort consider swapping your blade out for a new one.
5. Look for creamy, moisturizing shaving cream
Standard shaving creams found on your drugstore self are frequently comedogenic (clog pores), contain alcohols, and can be extra drying...this is a recipe for disaster for acne-prone skin as it can cause an increase in the production of sebum and ultimately pimples. Higher-quality shaving creams can also be a bit pricier but trust us, this small investment upfront is totally worth it if you want clear, acne-free and ingrown-free skin. Here are a couple of non-comedogenic options we like!
Best shaving creams for acne-prone skin:
*Note: pre-shave oils seem appealing and can work great for some folks. However, they're not the best idea for acne-prone skin as they can clog the pores and lead to breakouts.
6. Allow your shaving cream to set on your skin
Leave your shaving cream, on your face for a minute or so (preferably 3-4 minutes!) before beginning to shave. While waiting you can brush your teeth, do your hair....or check Instagram.
7. Always shave with the grain rather than against it
Shave in one direction: from top to bottom with the grain (i.e. the direction of hair growth). Shaving in two directions goes against the grain of the beard and can cause the tips of the hairs to penetrate and wound the skin and grow back underneath the surface the skin (i.e. difficult to treat ingrown hairs!)
8. Do not rush your shaving - take the time to be careful and precise
Consider the process of shaving a morning (or evening) ritual in self-care. And if that doesn't resonate with you, just trust us when we say that going slowly and treating your skin gently will help prevent those breakouts, ingrown hairs, and irritation we all want to avoid.
9. Use less of your aftershave or scented after shave creams (or ditch them all together!)
Aftershave balms and lotions can actually be irritating for acne-prone skin. Use these infrequently (if ever) and stick to moisturizer
10. Hydrate your skin
After shaving, do not forget to hydrate your skin. A good moisturizer will leave skin soft and smooth and help maintain the skin's natural moisture barrier. You can use an oil-free moisturizer (preferably one with active, acne-ingredients) and/or a good oil-free face sunscreen to protect and hydrate your now freshly-exfoliated skin.
We're biased, but these are our favorites