How to Shave With Acne

Learn the best practices on shaving with acne as part of your skincare routine to prevent further breakouts.

Having acne in your adult years can be annoying. You’d think that only pre-teens and teenagers will experience breakouts. But the truth is 41.3% of adults aged 25 up suffer from acne problems, 15% of them are male. And what can be more frustrating is the need to shave even if you have acne.

There’s no fun in gliding a razor across a bumpy acne-riddled skin. What should be a painless process is now fraught with danger and potential nicks and cuts with every bump, further irritating your skin. After each shave, your face feels raw and painful. To make matters worse, If you break the skin of your pimples, you risk having the bacteria spread onto other parts of your skin, making your breakouts worse.

Even though shaving with acne may seem painful, with a little TLC, it’s still possible for it to be a comfortable and pleasant experience. You just need to focus on following these 3 main stages: Pre-shave, Shaving, and Post-shave.

Stage 1: Pre-shave

Whether you have acne or just oily skin, you have to be extra careful about what you use on your face and how you prep your skin. In fact, doing a proper pre-shave routine is as important as the shaving process itself. This is necessary to minimize the risk of further skin irritation.

Choose the right equipment

The right razor is essential for a good shave.

If you choose to go with a safety razor, avoid the multi-bladed ones. With more blades running across your face, shaving with multi-blade cartridge safety razors can be damaging to the skin.

The first blade slightly pulls the hair up so that the second blade can cut it. The other blades just repeat the actions of the first 2 blades to ensure a cleaner shave. But as more blades repeat the actions, they create more friction on your skin. This could ultimately lead to irritation, popped pimple heads, bacterial infection, and ingrown hair. So use a single-blade safety razor instead.

Single-blade safety razors can cut through facial hair at multiple angles, giving you a much closer and smoother shave. With only one blade, single-blade safety razors don’t collect dead skin particles and oil from your face. This prevents the accumulation of bacteria that can lead to infection and skin irritation.

If you have a serious acne condition or if your daily life allows for a scruffier look, electric razors are a good alternative. An electric razor pulls your hair up before cutting it, reducing blade-to-skin contact. While you won’t get a close shave, it definitely won’t cause cuts and irritation either. This might be a worthy tradeoff for the time being until your acne clears up.

Wet your face with warm water and a gentle cleanser

Washing your face with warm water softens the hair and cleans the skin. A softened beard is less resistant to shaving, which makes up for a more comfortable experience. So hop into a warm shower and let the steam warm up your skin. Alternatively, if you have some time to spare, pamper yourself by placing a warm wet towel on your face for a couple of minutes and relax while it does the job.

Oil- and dirt-free skin also makes shaving easier by not clogging up your razor. Cleansing your face with a gentle low-pH cleanser helps to balance the pH level of your skin and keeps the spread of bacteria to a minimum.

Use a shaving solution

The right razor does best with a good shaving solution.

A shaving solution lubricates the bearded area for a cleaner and smoother shave. There are a variety of shaving creams and gels you can choose from. Use a shaving solution that’s suitable for acne-prone skin.

But remember to check the ingredients first before you buy. Look for a shaving solution that does not include comedogenic ingredients like mineral oil and denatured alcohol as they can worsen breakouts.

Stage 2: Shaving

Shaving with acne, especially with severe breakouts, can be challenging but definitely not impossible.

Do your best not to shave directly over the pimples to reduce the chances of breaking your skin. A broken skin delays your skin’s natural healing process that may lead to permanent scarring. A broken pimple containing infected pus can spread bacteria causing worse breakouts.

If your breakouts are too severe, consider using a beard trimmer instead and consult a dermatologist.

Always use a clean blade

You can do this best with a clean, sharp blade. Older and duller blades cause you to use more pressure to shave, thus tugging more of your skin and increasing your chances of nicks. Furthermore, if you don’t change blades frequently, your razor has probably already collected a lot of debris from your previous shaves. This includes dead skin cells, hair, leftover shaving solution, and bacteria. Now imagine all that debris coming into contact with your broken skin.

Sadly, rinsing your blade with water is not enough to thoroughly clean it. You need a separate disinfectant to sanitize your razor. To be extra safe, rinse the razor head in rubbing alcohol or use an alcohol wipe on the blades before and after you shave.

Be gentle and go with the grain

Use light pressure when shaving to minimize skin and hair tugging. Remember to go slow around the bumps to make sure you don’t end up nicking the skin. While it can give you a closer shave, shaving against the grain of your hair growth can also cause skin irritation, razor burn, and ingrown hairs. So shave along the grain instead to prevent aggravating the skin.

Stage 3: Post-shave

Shaving can sometimes leave your skin feeling itchy, painful, and irritated. We certainly do not need razor burns to add on to our problems. That’s why a post-shave routine is needed to soothe the skin.

Use an alum block/styptic pencil

Alum blocks are crystal-like blocks made of natural potassium alum, a compound with antiseptic and astringent properties. These properties make them useful for aftershave treatment. Using an alum block helps heal nicks and razor burns.

Using an alum block is pretty simple. First, you need to wet your face and alum block with cold water. Then rub the alum block on the shaved skin. After that, rinse off with cold water and pat your face dry with a towel. Also, don’t forget to completely dry your alum block before storing it away or else it will start to dissolve.

Another aftershave treatment product with similar properties is a styptic pencil. Just like alum blocks, styptic pencils are sticks made out of alum used to help quickly stop bleeding from small cuts and nicks from shaving.

What’s better between the two really depends on your situation. If you’re just after relieving a razor burn or soothing your skin after a shave, use an alum block. It’s a cost effective measure too as a block can last you up to 2 years even with daily use. If you need a quick fix for your nicks and bleeding cuts or looking for something more portable, use a styptic pencil.

Both alum blocks and styptic pencils are helpful as aftershave treatments. But do be cautious in using them as alum has a drying effect. Overuse can lead to skin irritation, so be sure to monitor your skin condition and stop if necessary.

Witch-hazel and alcohol splash aftershave

If you don’t have an alum block, witch-hazel and alcohol are popular choices for aftershave astringents. However, there are some downsides with using them, so approach with caution.

Witch-hazel can treat acne by drying them out, which risks excessive skin dryness. Excessively dry skin may trigger your oil glands to produce more sebum leading to more breakouts.

Rubbing Alcohol has antimicrobial properties that can fight bacteria. But it also has a drying effect that makes it a choice for acne-prone skin in removing excess oil and dirt. Just like witch-hazel, it may end up aggravating your breakouts too.


While shaving cannot cure acne, it can minimize the damage and irritation caused by breakouts.

Shaving will always be an indispensable part of men’s skincare routine. Remember, by keeping clean and gentle, you can still remain well-groomed and achieve a comfortable shave despite your acne problems.


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