Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP, MD
Written by Apostrophe Team
Last updated 2/1/2023
Lucky guys: compared to 22 percent of adult women who regularly struggle with acne, only about five percent of men do.
But that doesn’t take into account random pop-up events, like pimples after shaving, which can be quite frustrating, painful, and common.
Acne from shaving acne is especially common if you shave daily.
Read on to discover how to save face and take care of your skin to prevent acne after shaving — yes, even if you have sensitive skin.
Contact dermatitis, the scientific name for skin irritation triggered by an allergic reaction (say, to a fragrance that doesn’t work with your skin type) or external exposure to something sharp (like razor burn), is a painful yet avoidable skin condition.
Shaving-related dermatitis can be caused by everything from a dull razor blade to a less-than-optimal water temp, to even using the wrong products for your specific skin conditions.
It can lead to everything from folliculitis (the scientific term for a hair follicle that becomes inflamed and looks like a razor bump), to razor burn, to ingrown hairs, or even pimples after shaving.
Even though men with curly hair struggle most with ingrown hairs that can look like shaving acne, this skin problem can happen to any guy — after all, even if you don’t have curly hair on your head, we’ve all shaved our pubic hair at some point, right?
Teenage acne is also common, which is exacerbated by shaving over those pesky pimples.
So, does shaving cause acne? It can. But acne caused by dead skin cells in a clogged pore can also already be on the skin, and shaving with acne is a challenge in and of itself.
If you already have zits and are shaving with acne, it can actually make that acne worse.
If this is the case, experimenting may be the best solution. Try shaving with both an electric razor and disposable blade razors to see if one leads to fewer pimples after shaving, and be sure whatever razor you use is sharp.
Also, don’t forget to be gentle and move slowly for optimal skincare and a smooth shave.
It’s also worth reminding everyone that shaving with acne can also lead to bacterial infections and other skin issues.
The only certain way to avoid razor bumps or acne after shaving is, well, to skip shaving altogether.
But if you’re not sold on rocking a beard, follow these do’s and don’ts to steer as clear of pimples after shaving as possible.
Time it right. The best time to shave is post-shower, since your skin is warm, damp, and clear of grime and dead skin cells that can get lodged in your razor. If you choose to shave sans-shower, try a warm compress (place a clean, warm, and wet washcloth on your skin to soften dry skin and open up the follicles).
Lather up. If your skin isn’t quite moist enough, splash it with warm water, then apply a shaving cream, oil, or gel that matches your skin type. If you have sensitive skin, be sure to seek out a shaving cream that’s gentle.
Follow directions. Shave with the grain, or in the direction of hair growth — not against it. This will help you avoid both razor burns and pimples after shaving.
Wash up. Rinse the razor clean after each and every swipe. After you completely finish shaving, clean the razor with hot water once more and store it in a dry location so the blade itself can dry completely between each shave.
Replace parts regularly. If you own a disposable razor, change it every five to seven shaves to limit potential irritation or acne after shaving. Subscription services can make it a breeze to stay on track if you tend to forget.
What you do the other 23.75 hours of the day also makes a big difference in your risk of developing pimples after shaving.
Aim to wash your face — including the area with facial hair — twice daily (morning and night) with gentle skin cleansers.
For instance, an exfoliator, a topical anti-acne medication, or a customized acne cream may be just the ticket to prevent pimples after shaving — or pimples any time.
As children, we all have that moment. We see our dads shaving in the mirror one morning and we think, “Man, I can’t wait to shave, too.”
But it’s not easy. Especially if you’re not shaving properly or taking improper care of your skin.
Using a warm wet towel before you shave (or shaving fresh out of the shower) when your pores are open is ideal.
Experiment with electric and traditional razors to see which irritates your skin less. Keeping your clippers and blades clean of bacteria and debris. Taking care of your skin.
These are all helpful tips in your fight against post-shave pimples. To learn more, you can read our article on chin acne.
Tanghetti, E., Kawata, A., Daniels, S., Yeomans, K., Burk, C., Calendar, V. (2014, February) Understanding the Burden of Adult Female Acne. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3935648/
Litchman G, Nair PA, Atwater AR, et al. Contact Dermatitis. updated 2021 feb 7. In: StatPearls internet. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK459230/ Acne-Like Breakouts Could Be Folliculitis. (n.d.). American Academy of Dermatology. Retrieved from https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/a-z/folliculitis
Hair Removal: How to Shave. (n.d.). American Academy of Dermatology. Retrieved from https://www.aad.org/public/everyday-care/skin-care-basics/hair/how-to-shave
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