Here’s a deadly combo: You shave every morning, but you have sensitive skin. As a result, your face is chronically plagued with dryness, razor bumps and ingrown hairs. But you (and your face) don’t have to live like that. Equipped with these tips from dermatologist Anthony Rossi, you can shave every single day without looking like you bobbed for apples in a vat of hydrochloric acid.
Steam Your Face
Hop in the shower, or apply a hot, moist towel to your face for at least 30 seconds. According to Rossi, this softens up your whiskers and open your pores, making it easier for the razor to glide smoothly across your face and effortlessly slice through the hairs. This is vital for preventing irritation: The less pressure you apply while shaving, the less likely you are to end up with a face covered in razor bumps.
Choose the Right Blade
Rossi says less is more as far as blades go: “Three-blade razors cut much closer to the skin, and while that makes for a cleaner shave, it also increases irritation if you shave every single day,” he explains. (Multiple-blade razors are great options for those who shave less frequently, of course.)
Rossi also recommends changing your blade often. An old, dull blade can cause cuts to happen more frequently: As your razor ages, water and pressure combine to corrode its finely honed edge, leaving it blunted and uneven, so rather than distributing its pressure uniformly, these tiny sharp crags and grooves on the razor act like a serrated knife on your skin.
Avoid Alcohol-Based Formulas
“I prefer shave creams to alcohol-based foams and gels, since they provide moisture, which can help reduce irritation,” Rossi says. The type of cream you use is down to personal preference: Shave lather is traditional for a pillowy, smooth shave, but those who want to be able to see where they’re shaving more clearly—if, for example, they’re experimenting with some different beard styles—may want to try a soft, transparent shave butter instead.
Shave with the Grain
One of the simplest ways to drastically cut down on irritation is to always make sure to shave with the grain—that is, to shave in the direction that your hair is growing (as a general, more simplified rule, you want to shave with downward strokes on your face and upward strokes on your neck). “This also helps reduce ingrown hairs, since shaving against the grain creates sharp angles that get stuck underneath the skin,” Rossi explains.
Execute Proper Aftercare
A shave isn’t over when you put the razor down—proper aftercare soothes your skin to prevent irritation, according to Rossi. Since shaving is a natural exfoliant, make sure you always apply a gentle alcohol-free post shave-cream afterwards to put back what you took out by shaving. This will help to soothe, nourish and hydrate your skin.
If All Else Fails, Stick to Trimming
“If shaving irritates your skin no matter what, then use electric clippers that don’t cut right at the surface of the skin,” Rossi says. “This will keep your beard neat and trimmed without excessive irritation.” Or, you know… try shaving every other day.