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How to Prevent Razor Burn

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You might be able to pick up the basics of shaving from TV commercials and a little bit of advice from your father. But knowing how to prevent razor burn only comes from personal experience—or some in-depth research. As far as the research goes, we can help.

Nothing looks and feels worse than turning fiery red after shaving your face. You willingly and happily went for a baby-smooth finish, only to be punished for it. Not only that, but by the time the razor burn heals, new stubble will already be sprouting—so, really, what was the point?

We’re not knocking the act of shaving. In fact, we’re all for it….when it’s done correctly and safely. Razor burn is entirely preventable. More often than not, it is the result of a shaving regimen that is hasty or careless. Even guys with sensitive skin can avoid it.

There are specific steps you must follow to protect and nurture your skin, especially if you are susceptible to irritation, ingrown hairs, and razor burn. Here are those steps—that is, how to prevent razor burn—in their precise order.

1. Prepare the skin properly

First things first: You need to warm up your skin—literally—for that sharp razor. Take a hot shower, or wash your face thoroughly with warm water. If you skip this initial step, your skin is less resilient, and your stubble more stubborn. By having soft skin and hair, you lessen the likelihood of the blade dragging and tugging the skin, and improve the razor’s ability to cut the hairs cleanly and quickly.

After the warm water cleanse, you should apply a pre-shave oil or cream. This forms a thin, nourishing base layer over the skin, to shield it from the blade without compromising the closeness of the shave itself. It also further softens the hairs, so that you can mow without resistance.

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2. Turn up your razor hygiene (and maybe turn down the blade count)

Razor hygiene is essential in preventing burn. If you aren’t replacing your razor regularly, then it might be time to sign up for a razor replenishment program like Dollar Shave Club or Harry’s. They’ll top you up so that you never use a dull or dirty blade. You need to be shaving with a sharp, clean blade. But you don’t need to toss the cartridge after each use. You should get multiple uses out of one razor head.

The rule of thumb for razor replacement: Never use a razor more than 8 times. And never use it more than 3 weeks. Replace the blade at either of those intervals—whichever one comes first. At that point, it’s either too dull or has collected too much bacteria and dust, even if you’ve been storing it properly. (That is, stored upright in a cool, dry space after shaving. And with a plastic cover over top between shaves, after it’s dried.)

If you have sensitive skin, you might also consider using a razor with fewer blades, to minimize the number of sharp objects dragging over your skin. This is why lots of guys switch to a safety razor. Or, you could try a 3-blade razor, like Gillette’s Mach3.

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3. Consider using a badger brush

If you’re shaving hairs that are more than a few days old, you might be able to lift them up away from the skin by applying your shave cream with a badger brush. You simply wet the brush in warm water, poke a hole in the center with your finger, then fill it with cream, before applying it in circular motions against the grain on your face. This builds a creamy lather while also pulling the hairs up and priming them for a nice, gentle shave.

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4. Loosen your grip, and shave against the grain

If you’ve done everything correct until this point—the moment you begin to shave—then you should trust the process. There’s no need to apply lots of pressure to the blade, as you’ll only shear off extra cells or trim some hairs slightly below the surface of the skin. Lighten your grip, and let the blade glide over top your pre-shave layer and the shave cream. You shouldn’t require multiple passes, either. Again, if you’ve done everything right, then everything should go smooth.