Shaving Can Be Hazardous For Your Skin

Shaving Can Be Hazardous For Your SkinWhen it comes to good health, feeling the burn isn’t always a good thing. Many men would agree the burn associated with shaving facial hair and the aftermath of shaving can feel much like they are depicted in TV ad campaigns for shave products. Plunge your face into your breakfast cereal’s cold milk or a sink of ice water — anything to soothe the burn. Part of the problem may be shaving is such a common, basic hygiene practice it’s not given much thought.

The art of shaving was once practiced primarily in barbershops. In the 1930s, barbers did nothing but shaves. In the 1950s, proper shaving technique was part of a barber’s education. Blades are now so advanced — double and triple blades — you can get a comparably close shave at home. Still, being able to do-it-yourself doesn’t mean it will be done correctly.

The main problem most barbers see today is that men don’t soften their beard. Trying to shave a beard which has not been softened enough can lead to skin irritation. A traditional barber’s shave includes several applications of hot Turkish towels, a mixture of medicated skin cream (such as Noxzema) and shaving cream. For men without chronic skin irritation issues, most barbers recommend applying a hot towel or hot water to the face before shaving. First, go with the grain of hair growth, then against it. Don’t continue to go over the same spot repeatedly. That removes the cream lubricating the shave and can allow the razor to damage the skin. If possible, shave in the shower, where the steam and hot water make the beard soft. After a shave, apply an alcohol-based after-shave. It seals the skin and has antiseptic properties. Talc applied in the final step cools the burn and soothes the skin.

One of the most common skin conditions associated with shaving is pseudofolliculitis. For men suffering with this condition, hairs (most typically along the front of the neck) become ingrown. It is particularly a problem for men with dark, coarse, curly hair. The hair grows back into the skin and causes a foreign-body reaction, as if you had a splinter. Men experiencing pseudofolliculitis are advised to modify the way they shave and shave less closely. Do not shave against the grain (of hair growth). Still, shaving “with the grain” doesn’t allow for as close a shave. Some men may have to accept leaving their facial hair a little longer, growing a beard or turning to electrolysis or laser hair removal to eliminate the need for shaving.

Although some depilatory creams can be helpful for hair removal, they sometimes cause irritation. The same goes for using an electric shaver. It may be worth trying because it won’t shave as closely as a blade, but still might not eliminate the problem. There are also “bump saver” razors, which have their blades set back farther to prevent shaving too closely. For chronic pseudofolliculitis, topical and/or oral antibiotics may be prescribed to settle down the inflammation.

Everyone, at some time, experiences a nick or cut while shaving. Most after-shave products really serve cosmetic purposes and can sting or irritate. Applying bacitracin antibiotic ointment is a good way to treat cuts. Another common shaving obstacle can be flat warts, which may develop on the face and can be spread if nicked during shaving. The warts can be brownish, red or flesh-colored and are caused by a virus. Most dermatologists say that it’s best to shave the areas near the warts last and use disposable razors which can be thrown away after each use. In addition, men with acne should shave as lightly as possible and may want to try using an electric shaver.

There are certain shave-related skin issues which are best addressed by consulting a physician. If a spot repeatedly bleeds when you shave and won’t heal, that could be an indicator of skin cancer and should be evaluated.