How To Shave With Acne

For some, shaving is considered more of an annoyance than anything; the act of scraping a sharp object across your face often results in razor burn or ingrown hairs. For those with acne, shaving can sometimes be even worse.

However, it has been proven that shaving doesn't make acne any worse, and it's probably not worth avoiding completely (unless you're shaving your chest). Those with acne may be more likely to get razor burn, ingrown hairs, or even infected acne due to shaving. Knowing how best to shave can significantly reduce the adverse effects of shaving for those with acne.

What You Need Before Shaving

Shaving cream/gel

There is some controversy surrounding shaving creams and gels; it has been said that applying products to your skin before shaving will clog up the pores, causing more problems than not using them at all. However, this also includes water which creates an issue when no product is present. There are two options: use a shaving cream or gel, or don't.

If you're shaving without anything present on your skin, be aware that it is more likely to result in ingrown hairs. This doesn't mean shaving creams and gels are always the solutions; for some they may aggravate acne even further.

Shaving brush

This is not essential, but it helps create a lather with shaving cream or foam, which can help remove dead skin cells before you shave. For this article, any sort of soft brush will be suitable.

Shaving razor

Any sharp object will do for shaving, provided that it doesn't have rose thorns on the end of it. However, there are some advantages to using a specific type of razor for shaving with acne, such as double edge safety razors or specially designed razors for acne sufferers.


This is a personal preference; aftershaves contain astringents that help close up the pores. For those with acne, this can be counter-productive; you don't want to close your pores. However, it may be necessary for some people to avoid ingrown hairs and irritation after shaving; in this case, an astringent is required.

Clean towel

This is important; you don't want to dry shave, resulting in further irritation if you're not careful. Using a clean towel after shaving reduces the risk of infection from bacteria that you might get from dirty towels.

How To Shave With Acne

Shaving with acne is similar to shaving without acne, but some precautions must be taken. Shave as usual, starting from the bottom of your face working up (the opposite of how you would shave your chest). Don't press too hard with the razor; use short strokes, creating more surface area to easier clean the razor between each stroke. Rinse the blade every few seconds in case of excess hair clogging it up.

When you reach your jawline, continue shaving down your neck but keep in mind that this is where you're most likely to get ingrown hairs. If you do happen to find any, apply a small drop of baby oil and massage it into your skin with your fingers and leave it for a few minutes before continuing shaving the rest of your face.

When you've finished, wash off all the excess hair and shave cream/gel with cold or warm water - do not rub, as this will irritate the skin.

Tips For Shaving With Acne

  • Use a gentle cleanser before shaving.
  • Put on a layer of shave gel or cream and wait for it to absorb into your skin. Then put on another layer and shave carefully and slowly. Go over the same area again and again until all the hair is gone.
  • Wash off excess gel/cream with cold water or rub ice on the shaved area.
  • Apply an astringent after to close pores and act as an antiseptic.
  • Moisturize afterward.
  • Shave no more frequently than once every other day to prevent skin irritation due to over shaving. If you must shave more often, exfoliate (gently scrub the skin) to remove dead skin cells before shaving.
  • If you get acne breakouts after shaving, try using alcohol-free aftershave balm or witch hazel. Also, apply benzoyl peroxide frequently to prevent acne outbreaks along the shaved area. An astringent is good for preventing clogged pores; if your skin is easily irritated, use an alcohol-free balm or witch hazel instead.
  • If you have a beard, always keep it closely trimmed; this will help prevent acne along the jawline and neck. Also, wash your face with an antimicrobial cleanser before shaving to remove excess oil and sweat.

Common Issues And Solutions

Red bumps/rashes/irritation after shaving

This is more than likely ingrown hairs. Apply a drop of baby oil and massage it into your skin to get rid of them. Wash off after a few minutes and then moisturize.

Razor burn

This is caused by excessive shaving or not using enough shave gel/cream to lubricate the skin before shaving. This can be solved by following all of the above instructions for shaving with acne.

Itchy red bumps on legs

These are likely spider veins, especially if they're in a linear formation. If they appear on your chest, it may be a sign of cellulitis. In either case, you need to see a doctor as soon as possible for the correct diagnosis and treatment.

Dry skin

This is an issue many people with acne have; using moisturizer is the best solution. If you feel moisturizing after using an astringent is counter-productive, try using a light face scrub before moisturizing to get rid of dead skin cells.

Clogged pores

If your issues are more with clogged pores than acne itself, it may be worth looking into facials or dermabrasion. However, for most people with acne, these should only be used as a last resort and in conjunction with other treatments such as isotretinoin or Accutane and benzoyl peroxide.

How often you shave

This is mostly a personal preference thing; you could shave every day if you wanted without issue, and some people need to shave twice a day. However, shaving too frequently can irritate the skin and make acne worse; more than once a day is not recommended unless it is necessary.

Razor brands

There are many good razor brands out there, but with so many types of blades available, they're really a matter of personal preference. Gillette, Schick, and Bic all make good razor brands; you may need to experiment with different types of razors until you find one that works best for you.

Patch testing

If your skin is excessively sensitive or if it does not respond well to new products, perform a patch test before putting the product onto your whole face - apply a small amount of product to a small area of skin and see how it responds.

Post-shaving care

In some cases, shaving can lead to clogged pores if proper post-shaving care is not used, especially if you use an aftershave and shave cream/gel. In this case, it may be best to remove the hair and forego aftershave simply. You could also try an alcohol-free or witch hazel based aftershave.

Removing facial hair

Men should always use a proper beard trimmer instead of shaving with a razor if possible; this can be cheaper and, in many cases, will remove the problem of acne. Women should consider electrolysis; this is more expensive, but it removes the hair permanently and can often be done at dermatologist offices for a relatively low cost.

If you have a beard

Wash your face with an antimicrobial cleanser first to remove grease and sweat from your skin. Make sure your beard is dry before applying shaving cream/gel - wet beards do not hold the lubricant. Shave with a good razor, slowly and carefully. Wash off excess shave gel or cream afterward.

Can shaving cause acne?

Shaving does not cause acne, but it can cause razor burn and cuts, both of which cause breakouts. A few precautions can prevent these sorts of issues from occurring: wash your face with an antimicrobial cleanser before shaving, moisturize afterward and use a good quality razor with plenty of lubricants.

How often should you shave?

If you need to remove facial hair more than once every other day, or if your skin will not respond well to shaving, you should use an electric beard trimmer instead of a razor.

Women can get rid of their facial hair with electrolysis; this is expensive, but it lasts for years, and the results are permanent.

What is the best shaving cream for acne?

If you need to shave more frequently than once every two days, consider an electric beard trimmer instead of a razor; this will remove the hair without irritating the skin as much as shaving does. If you must use a blade, use plenty of lubricants and go over each skin area more than once to eradicate the hair.

Avoid aftershaves with alcohol or witch hazel since these can irritate already sensitive skin. Also, avoid products that contain salicylic acid if you are prone to getting razor bumps - this ingredient is acceptable for some people, but it can irritate others.

What happens to skin after shaving?

After you shave, your skin looks red for a few hours. Then it becomes dry and flaky as your skin cells regenerate. It takes a day or two to heal completely, after which the hair will start growing back. You may not notice new hairs growing in for a few days; this is normal, so do not shave until you can see those hairs.

What should you do if your skin becomes dry?

Moisturize skin after shaving to keep it from becoming dry and irritated.

Use a moisturizer with an SPF of at least 15, especially if you will be out in the sun; this prevents sunburn, which can add to your problems. Wear sunscreen on exposed areas of skin as well.

What are the risks of shaving with acne?

The most significant risk of shaving is cutting yourself. Always use a sharp blade and shave slowly, especially around delicate or bony areas like the knees and ankles. For women, shaving can cause severe irritation because most razors are designed for men and do not fit well in a woman's hand. Also, the skin on a woman's legs is far more delicate than a man's skin, so shaving with a razor can lead to lots of nicks and cuts. This increases your risk of developing acne.

An electric beard trimmer tends to be gentler on the skin because it pulls the hair out rather than cutting it. It also does not leave behind stubble, leading to painful ingrown hairs.

What are some razor bump remedies?

Wash your face with an antimicrobial cleanser before shaving to remove excess oil and sweat that may clog pores. Use an aftershave balm or witch hazel instead of alcohol-based products, reducing dryness and irritation. For sensitive skin, apply a little tea tree oil to any ingrown hairs to help them heal quickly and prevent infection.

Never shave over inflamed acne lesions; it is best if you wait until the swelling has gone down before shaving.

Possible remedies include:

  • Use an electric beard trimmer instead of a razor to remove facial hair.
  • Use an aftershave balm to soothe skin after shaving.
  • Avoid products that contain salicylic acid, which can irritate some people.
  • Always use a sharp blade when shaving and shave slowly.
  • Moisturize your skin after shaving to keep it moist and healthy-looking.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I shave with acne?

If you have acne, look for a maximum lubricity product. This will reduce friction and keep the blade from tugging on your skin as it cuts. Rinse off your face before shaving to remove excess grime that could clog pores. Shave lightly around affected areas and rinse the blade after every few swipes.

Never try to shave over inflamed areas of acne.

Should I use shaving cream with acne?

You can, but it is not necessary. Shaving creams may help prevent irritation from shaving; however, many men prefer using an aftershave balm or witch hazel instead of shaving cream.

How do I prevent razor bumps?

If you are prone to getting ingrown hairs, use an electric beard trimmer to remove facial hair. This will reduce the chance of having ingrown hairs after shaving because it pulls the hair out rather than cutting it under your skin.

You can also apply a little tea tree oil to ingrown hairs with acne. This will help prevent infection and reduce irritation.

Final Thoughts

Shaving is one of the most popular ways to remove excess facial hair. When done with care, shaving can also help reduce acne by keeping pores unclogged to heal more quickly. However, men and women who shave their faces are at an increased risk of developing razor bumps if they don't take proper precautions. Use a sharp, lubricated blade for best results and shave lightly around acne lesions.

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