I’m not the foremost shaving expert in the world, but I do shave three or four times a week. What facial hair I do grow, while not a full beard by any means, is relatively thick, so it’s not something that I can just haphazardly hack at with a razor. I actually didn’t realize how much I take shaving into consideration in my skincare routine until I started drafting this article. I don’t go through an elaborate ritual in regards to shaving my face, but the steps I do take into consideration are things I stick to at all costs.
Say No to Exfoliation
I know it may not immediately fall into the same category, but shaving is an aggressive exfoliation of the skin. It doesn’t matter how moisturizing your shaving cream claims to be or how gently you use your razor—you’re dragging a sharp piece of metal multiple times across your skin that’s cutting hair and scraping off skin. This is a process that can be very irritating at best and on the other side of the spectrum, can break skin and draw blood. Even if your skin doesn’t look particularly red or angry doesn’t mean you haven’t compromised it a bit via shaving.
Taking this into consideration, I stay far away from any type of exfoliation when I shave. I’ve gotten way too arrogant in the past and gone in with acid exfoliants because they were “gentle” after I’ve shaved and seriously regretted it. The keywords I’d use to describe the aftermath would be inflamed, burning, and peeling. I’ve gotten to a point where if I shave in the morning, I can use an exfoliant that night and vice versa, but that’s only if there is absolutely zero razor burn or visible redness and inflammation.
This also applies to any face masks or wash-off products that have any type of acid, fruit enzyme, or even ingredients like clays that are meant to be “clarifying” or oil absorbing. Your skin is plenty exfoliated and dried out after shaving so just let it recover.
This particular point has a lot of nuance due to there being so many different types of retinoid products out there, but the varying strengths, variations, and even product formats all play a factor when considering retinoid usage and shaving. I’ve caused a ton of extra irritation and pretty intense peeling by getting too daring with using tretinoin (read: the most intense retinoid) immediately after shaving, so I’ve learned my lesson.
The only time that I use retinoids in the same routine as shaving is when I use a gentler, non-prescription skincare product. For those of you who are not new to retinoids, I’m talking less than 0.25 percent of retinol in a product I apply at the end of my routine. If I’m using anything that’s considered “moderate strength” or beyond, I make sure I either shave the morning I’m planning to use said product (I only use retinoids in my night routine), or I move either the shave or retinoid to a separate day.
Avoid Vitamin C
This was an unexpected discovery that I made one morning, and as someone with a pretty high pain tolerance, let me tell you: This was painful. Vitamin C products are generally a pretty low pH to keep them effective and happy, which can lead to some stinging upon application. Even when vitamin C is in a formula that doesn’t contain water, you can still feel stinging/tingling when you use them. Vitamin C products tend to end up in my morning routine. Can you see where this is going?
Here I was minding my own business one morning, thinking I was taking the proper steps to ensure a pain-free shaving experience, and after I slapped an L-ascorbic acid serum directly onto my freshly shaved face, it stung so bad my eyes literally started to water. Since then, I’ve stayed far, far away from using any type of vitamin C skincare immediately after shaving. This is basically the same protocol that I have for my exfoliating acid products, but I wanted to highlight this separately because of how unexpected the irritation was and how it didn’t even register as a possible problem in my head.
Banish the Bubbles
I think anyone who shaves is likely aware to do it after you shower/after your skin has been “steamed” for a while to soften up the hairs, but it took me a really long time to figure out how much of an impact the product I use to shave has on my skin. I use a standard razor with four blades and was alternating between using a shaving foam in an aerosol can and a thick cream that lathered up. I also was experiencing consistently dry skin around my mouth (the only area I grow thick facial hair). My oily-combo-skinned existence has never included consistently dried out skin really ever, so I was very confused.
After eliminating common things like exfoliating that area to even going as far as to change my toothpaste and mouthwash, I figured out it was my shaving products. I am not one to have strips around to test the pH of my products, but I would be willing to bet money that all the foaming products I was using to shave combined with the act of shaving itself was leading to some majorly dried out skin.
This has led me to use exclusively non-foaming shaving lotions and gels, and when I tell y’all that there was an immediate difference when I stopped using bubbly shaving products, I mean it was literally night and day. All that foam can make it harder to see what you’re actually shaving and potentially missing anyway, and squeezy tubes take up less room than aerosol cans, so it’s a win-win situation for me.
I know it’s a bit more of a niche or less discussed topic, but I hope my blurb about shaving and skincare gave some insight to y’all out there that is helpful to your personal routine or can help you steer someone you know away from unwanted irritation. Hope y’all are having a great week!