While many men are prone to irritation and redness post-shaving, quite a few develop razor bumps that are sometimes quite painful. Though these may be, at times, dismissed as part-and-parcel of the regular shaving ritual, it might as well lead to a chronic shaving bumps condition called Pseudofolliculitis Barbae or PFB.
PFB refers to persistent irritation on the face triggered by shaving. PFB is characterized by small painful papules that can sometimes progress to scarring. So, it is best to nip the issue in the bud by following a proper shaving routine that can help one avoid those little red, irritable razor bumps. Before we dive deeper, let us first know the difference between razor rashes and razor bumps and what causes these razor bumps.
Razor Rashes vs Razor Bumps
Though the two terms are used synonymously, they are separate conditions. Razor rashes, also known as razor burns, can cause redness, create that itchy feeling, and make the skin tender. On the contrary, razor bumps are ingrown hair caused by the cut hair strands that curl and grow inwards, resulting in small red bumps resembling a pimple.
What Causes Razor Bumps?
The razor, the way you shave, and the type of your skin have all got a connection with razor bumps. For instance, using a dull blade or not moisturizing the skin before a shave (especially if you have dry skin), etc., can aggravate razor bumps formation.
So now that you know the connection between shaving and razor bumps, here are some tips for you on how to shave properly and avoid these bumps:
Cleanse Before You Shave:
It is essential to prepare well before a shave. Cleaning the face before a shave releases the dust and impurities that may otherwise trap the hair from emerging. The cold water many men use to cleanse their face before a shave might actually trigger a breakout.
This is because cold water clogs the pores and traps the dust and hair follicles inside. Shaving immediately after you come out of a warm shower is ideal, as the steam in the shower opens up the pores, softens the beard, and paves the way for a smooth and less irritable shave. If you cannot afford a hot shower, wrapping the face with a warm towel for a few minutes before shaving might as well do the trick.
Prepare Well - Moisturize Your Face Before a Shave:
A dry skin shaft makes it difficult for the razor to move smoothly and cut with ease. As a result, one has to keep pulling the skin whenever he shaves. This not only makes the shave uncomfortable but also causes the hair to get cut at different angles and grow inwards towards the skin later.
This also increases the chances of getting razor bumps. Wetting your face with water makes the hair become soft and helps prepare for a smooth cut. Using a shaving cream after patting your face with water can help hold water in the hair for that smooth shave.
Adopt a Proper Shaving Technique:
Not following the right shaving technique can also cause razor bumps. Many men either shave too fast due to time constraints or pull the skin too much while shaving. If you shave too quickly, you are prone to making mistakes, for it requires repeating the process to get it right and often results in the hair getting cut underneath the skin. Use controlled strokes and slow down when shaving in order to minimize the chances of bump formation.
To Shave With or Against the Grain?
To shave with the grain direction or against it is a commonly asked question. While there are pros and cons for both approaches, it all boils down to knowing your face type. Certain men are lucky to have a hair pattern that permits them to shave in any direction.
In general, shaving against the grain helps in getting the closest shave, but if your facial hair is tricky, it can also cause skin irritation and ingrown hair leading to bumps. Shaving with the grain helps in getting a less irritable shave though one cannot attain a close shave through the process. Most professional barbers, if you have noticed, would first shave with the grain and then work again against the side.
So, the answer to the above question would be to first determine the direction of the hair growth by rubbing your hand across the face. One can also slide the edge of a credit card across the face to see in which direction the hairs are getting lifted up and in which direction they are getting layered down. The path in which the strands are lifted is the direction against the grain, and the one in which the hairs are layered down is supposed to be in line with the grain.
Avoid shaving against the grain as much as possible because if you shave against the grain, you may have to use force, which may result in the hair getting cut very close or possibly even underneath the skin leading to bumps. Having said this, it may not be easy to shave in the direction of the grain all the time, because the hair may grow in different directions on different parts of the face.
So, try to find the direction of the hair growth at various levels and decide accordingly. For instance, many men, when shaving below the neck, tend to use upward strokes against the grain and follow a downward stroke when shaving from the cheek. Try to pay attention to the grain when shaving and go along the direction of the grain as much as possible.
The Major Culprit- Your Razor:
Quite often, razors can be the bad guy causing your razor bumps. While razors with multiple blades are popularly advertised for getting that close shave, they may be too close and turn into a precursor for getting bumps. When you use multiple-blade razors, this is what happens: the first razor pulls the hair out, while the second and the third cut the hair pretty close to the skin or even underneath the skin. The series of shaving attempts makes the hair curl under the skin resulting in razor bumps. Ideally, the solution is to reduce the number of blades and try with a single blade, especially if you have sensitive skin. You may not get that pretty close shave, but you may very well reduce the number of razor bumps.
Follow a Proper Shave Care Routine:
Use a facial scrub two to three times a week to remove the dead skin cells which clog the pores. Take proper aftercare when you shave. Use a non-alcoholic toner immediately after a shave and follow it up with a moisturizer that soothes the skin and helps reduce any irritation.
So go ahead to have that proper shave and be the king of your skin!