Shaving rash is always an unfortunate occurrence that can leave you red-faced in more ways than one. When dragging a razor blade across your skin it is easy to cause irritation. This is often caused when you’re in a rush or your mind is elsewhere and you press too hard or shave against the grain.
The resulting irritation is painful – not to mention unsightly. You’ll notice red patches and a burning sensation, hence its other name of razor burn. This is especially likely if you have sensitive skin, although anyone can get it accidentally despite years of shaving experience.
All it takes is being a bit late for work or your mind to be occupied elsewhere for you to lose concentration and rush your shave.
Thankfully with a few easy considerations and supplies, you can easily prevent shaving rash happening again and treat it quickly if it does.
What Causes Shaving Rash
Shaving rash is generally caused by shaving too aggressively or with dull blades. A lack of lubrication is another cause as the common theme of these is friction. You also don’t normally see or feel razor burn start for a few minutes and so you don’t know you are doing the damage.
How to Prevent Shaving Rash
Double Edge Safety Razor
Thankfully, a single blade safety razor can actually reduce your chances of razor burn. As you use the natural weight of the safety razor rather than using your arm to drag a plastic cartridge across your face you use less pressure overall.
A single sharp blade can shave cleanly without multiple passes. It is quite possible, if not necessarily ideal, to shave with a safety razor with nothing more than hot water without causing shaving rash.
Making sure you use a new sharp double edge razor blade can also help by giving you the optimum performance. When a blade gets blunt after a few uses to tend to work harder to shave, which isn’t good for your skin.
Of course, if you use a double edge razor then you probably take advantage of the best shaving soaps. These provide both lubrication and anti-inflammatory properties to prevent shaving rash.
An even better option for sensitive skin is shave butter. This uses plant butters like coconut and shea to soothe and nourish your face as you shave. Plus it’s transparent so you can focus more on how you shave rather than obscuring your face with soap.
Make sure to prepare thoroughly. You should hold a hot towel to your face for a minute as the very first step of shaving prep. Next you should prepare your lubrication thoroughly, whether that’s a shaving brush and soap, cream or oil.
Importantly, always start shaving with the direction of growth. So if the bristles in one area grow downwards then you should shave downwards. For the closest and cleanest shave you can go back later and shave perpendicular to the growth but this is not a good idea for the first pass.
After shaving, a final step to minimise the risk of razor burn is to apply aftershave. This disinfects the skin and acts as an astringent – something that reduces inflammation.
- Hold a hot towel to your face that’s as hot as you can safely stand
- Apply shaving soap or similar generously
- Shave in the direction of growth without putting pressure on the blade
- Apply post-shave balm and/or aftershave
How To Treat Shaving Rash
Of course if you are reading this then the chances are you have already been afflicted with razor burn. This normally goes away within a couple of hours but you can arm yourself with a few products to make future incidents easier. If you don’t have any of these then a touch of concealer can help cover more severe shaving rash.
The alum block was the original aftershave used by the Ancient Egyptians. It too is an antiseptic and astringent. This means it is great for stopping shaving cuts bleeding and cures shaving rash before it even starts.
However, a full alum block is milder and can be used almost like an aftershave to sooth the skin and is also used as a natural deodorant.
To unlock the soothing properties crystallised in alum, all you need to do is wet the block and rub it against the skin. It can sting a bit so you only want a little bit.
You can read our full guide to the best alum blocks here.
A styptic pencil is made of the potassium alum that you find in an alum block that is crushed and bonded with wax to create a lipstick-like stypic pencil.
While an alum block for shaving cuts can be bulky and cumbersome to apply, a styptic pencil is a much smaller and more convenient.
Find our favourites here.
A milder cure for shaving rash is the witch hazel plant. This anti-inflammatory extract features in a wide range of aftershave balms so keep an eye out for it.
I’m on a mission to help millions of people around the world ditch expensive and wasteful plastic cartridge razors and switch to traditional safety razors that are far better for the planet.
I discovered the joy of traditional shaving when I was just 14, less than a year after I even started shaving at all. I loved the time-honoured ceremony, precision and quality of soap, brush, razor and aftershave.
My double-edge safety razor from Merkur is still the same one I use every day, although I’ve enjoyed experimenting with a range of models over the years.
Paradoxically I have also been through a long list of interesting facial hair styles, but have never stuck with a full beard. Instead I am normally sporting very intricate mixes of sideburns, moustache and goatee that makes a good shaving system essential.