Whether we epilate, pluck, wax, thread, laser or shave. It doesn’t matter if it’s our legs, armpits, bikini line, back, toes or our faces, one thing is almost certain - many of us spend a lifetime dealing with unwanted hair.
Sure, there’s those who embrace all of their body and facial hair, and we salute you for never having to worry. We can only celebrate the fact that we’re well past having to be clean shaven for an interview or to meet the new in-laws. And we love the normalisation of underarm and pubic hair on females. But for those of us who do prefer to have fuzz free skin, it can be a challenge.
Not least because the most popular method of hair removal, from anywhere, is shaving, which comes with a whole host of side effects. Most of which are probably more unwanted than unwanted hair.
Leaving the body aside for the purposes of this article, this week we’re going to have a look at the effects of using a razor to shave away facial hair. In particular, the effects on our skin. So here we go, with nicks, cuts, shaving bumps and razor rash galore.
What Harm Can Using a Razor Cause to Our Facial Skin?
Using a sharp blade to remove hairs from the delicate skin of our face, whilst leaving the delicate skin that said hairs are attached to, intact, is no mean feat. I’s almost certain to end in tears, when you think about it.
Here’s all the skin complaints that we can develop as a consequence of shaving:
- Razor rash
- Ingrown hairs and skin bumps
- A worsening of acne symptoms
- Redness, irritation and inflammation
And, of course, cuts...
Also known as razor burn, a rash from shaving is caused by shaving with a blunt razor, shaving dry skin or using your razor too hard or fast.
Then, if you shave regularly, such as everyday or every other day, you’re going over the same irritated skin, causing it to become even more irritated. This can happen even if you then use a clean, sharp razor.
Ingrown Hairs and Skin Bumps
Ingrown hairs and bumps under the skin are referred to as pseudofolliculitis barbae. They’re also otherwise known as barber’s itch. They can be caused by any form of hair removal, not just shaving, and they’re annoying, uncomfortable and can become angry and red.
They’re more common in people with curly hair (which is also why they’re very common in the genital area - since the hair here is almost always curly).
Ingrown hairs occur when a hair grows back from a follicle after it’s been shaved, waxed or plucked away. The nature of curly hair is that it grows in a corkscrew fashion, and can therefore grow back on itself and become trapped under the skin.
A Worsening of Acne Symptoms
One of the main causes of acne is an excess of the natural skin oil, sebum. Sebum helps to protect and moisturise the skin, but if we produce too much, it can block the pores and lead to acne breakouts.
Although shaving can strip this oil away (see below) it can still cause acne related problems by disrupting the delicate layers of skin.
Also, if you shave over spots and pimples, you can cause them to open up and take even longer to heal. This can also cause infections within the pores, and lead to worse spots and scarring.
Redness, Irritation and Inflammation
The act of shaving can cause sensitive skin to become even more sensitive, but can also cause non-sensitive skin to become red and irritated.
This is down to the simple fact that shaving is actually quite harsh for our skin. But in addition to that, shaving can strip the skin of it’s protective sebum layer, leading to dryness and irritation.
However, what you use to shave with can also cause skin irritation and inflammation. This doesn't just apply to your razor, but your lubrication too.
Harshly scented shaving foams, soaps and oils and those with lots of artificial, chemical ingredients can also cause your skin to react, especially so when it’s under stress from shaving.
Pretty self explanatory, and there probably aren’t many people who have used a razor and not experienced a nick or two. (My brother still talks about the time I cut my leg shaving years ago, and came running out of the family bathroom with a two inch gash and copious amounts of blood.)
Using a blade on the skin needs to be done with caution (I learned all those years ago), a steady hand and most definitely not a blunt razor. It might seem counterintuitive, but a sharp razor will result in fewer cuts since it will glide over the skin more easily and will only require one pass over the skin to remove hair.
What About Females Who Shave Their Faces?
We might think that shaving our faces and the impact on our skin is just a problem that affects males - but facial shaving isn’t just for the men among us. Plenty of females also shave their faces.
This can be because female facial hair is a very real thing and some women would prefer to remove it. Or it might be because of a new trend for female facial hair removal for reasons of smoother skin that’s then a blank canvas for applying skincare products and makeup.
Yep, that’s a thing right now! So, rather than removing more visible facial hair, this new part of our beauty routine is a type of at home dermaplaning (which is usually done, to a deeper extent, in salons and skin clinics).
Dermaplaning helps to even out the texture of the skin by removing the peachy, fuzzy facial hair that many of us have normally along our jawline. It also helps to remove dead skin and small bumps, all of which helps to smooth the skin, allowing for a more flawless look with or without makeup.
If you decide to dermaplane, there's no need to use fancy, multiple blade razors - a single blade ‘basic’ razor will work, just make sure each time the blade is clean and sharp. There are also razors available that are purposefully for dermaplaning that actually resemble a scalpel. (Yes, I know, a scalpel - use with caution!)
All of the consequences of using a razor to remove facial hair listed above, also apply here. Therefore, think razor rash, ingrown hairs, bumps, acne, skin inflammation and cuts.
So, what can we do about it? Stop shaving? Or are there skincare tips and products that can help?
How Can We Avoid Razor Rash and All the Other Effects of Shaving?
If the point of shaving is smooth skin, then if your skin suffers, you may wonder what the point is at all. But you can help your skin by following our top tips for shaving effectively in a skin safe way...
- Always use a sharp, clean razor that’s free from old hairs and soap scum
- Press lightly with your razor - if your razor is sharp, there’s no need to press down too hard against your skin
- Avoid shaving over the same area again and again - if you need to, your razor may be blunt
- Shave slowly - this isn’t part of your skincare routine to be rushed!
- Make sure that you shave in the direction of hair growth, that is, the way your hair would lay if it was long enough and flat against your face
- Use a natural foaming face wash or specific shaving foam to help guide the razor without the skin being too dry
- Moisturise after shaving using a hydrating, nourishing moisturiser, such as the Sönd Calming Hydration Day Cream
- Never share a razor - you literally don’t know where it’s been!
- Exfoliate your skin at least once a week (twice if your skin isn’t too sensitive) to help prevent ingrown hairs
- Avoid shaving over cuts, spots, sensitive skin and rashes
- Try to limit the number of times a week that you shave