Many of us at The Manual are proud and enthusiastic beard owners. That said, the heat of summer can make beard-growing an uncomfortable enterprise. If you’re like many men, you might be inclined to ditch the beard and feel the cool kiss of the summer breeze on your shorn face. Still, the fear of painful and unsightly razor burn causes many a man to feel trapped within a hairy prison of his own device. For some expert tips on how to prevent razor burn, we reached out to grooming expert and makeup artist Karen Lynn Accattato. Karen has offered her tips and services to many high-profile clients, including President Obama, the cast of TV’s Empire, and members of the Chicago Blackhawks, Bears, and Bulls.
1. Clean and Exfoliate Your Face
Most men are pre-programmed to shave after taking a shower, and with good reason. That, or placing a nice hot towel on your face will open up your pores and perk up the soon-to-be-shaved hairs. This makes your whiskers easier to crop, reducing the risk of dryness and ingrown hairs.
It’s also important to remove bacteria and dead skin cells from your face before shaving. Most body soaps will dry out your face in a hurry, which is exactly what the Razor Burn Gods want. Instead, you should opt for a hydrating, exfoliating soap. “My new favorite product by Dove is this amazing face scrub,” says Karen. “Not only does it deep-clean your skin, but it exfoliates all the dry patches and the dry skin cells. When you have a smooth surface, it’s going to help with everything, including shaving and locking in moisture.”
2. Swap Razor Blades Regularly
Some men have trouble letting go — a pattern that extends even to their old razor blades. Instead of holding onto dull blades, replace them as soon as shaving becomes uncomfortable. “A blade is dull once it starts tugging on the skin, when it should actually glide on your skin,” says Karen. “You kind of have to gauge your own hair. You can feel the blade getting dull, and you can see it.”
We love the Dollar Shave Club, through which you can receive a top-notch razor and a lifetime of blades for as little as $1/month. Better yet, you could embrace shaving with a straight razor. That way, you can trade one old-timey aspect of grooming (bushy beard) for another (straight razor shave). Whether you use a safety razor or a straight razor, be sure to store your blade in a dry place in order to prevent corrosion.
“I think the number one mistake men make when it comes to shaving is not using the right product,” says Karen. “The key is to have a hydrating shave cream. A lot of the products out there do not hydrate the skin.” Dryness is the life force of razor burn, and must be quashed at all costs.
Choose your shave cream very carefully, and make sure it will keep your face properly hydrated. “By hydrating your skin, you’re going to soften all that facial hair stubble, making it easier to get a smooth glide for the razor,” says Karen. “It’s going to give you a very close shave, and you’re not going to get any razor burn or ingrown hairs.” Karen is partial to the Dove Men +Care Pro-Moisture Shave Creams, which are available at most drugstores in the country at a low cost.
4. Use Aftershave Balm
Did we mention that hydration is important? Oh, we mentioned it like four times already? Well, it certainly bears repeating. Believe it or not, hydrating face cleansers and shave creams still aren’t enough. To extinguish any remaining coals of razor burn, you’ll need to finish with an aftershave balm or lotion. “You have to hydrate,” says Karen. “It’s going to prevent the dry patches and it’s going to prevent razor burn. If you’re not hydrating your skin, you’re going to end up with sandpaper.”
After you finish shaving, all you have to do is apply a small amount of aftershave balm or lotion to your face. Dove makes an excellent after shave balm and an Ultra Hydrating Cream to help make the post-shave process as comfortable as possible. Karen has one final suggestion for keeping your face free of razor burn: “After you shave, and there’s water on your face, put the moisturizer on top of the water and lock that moisture into the skin.”
While the above suggestions may seem like a bit of a rigmarole, they will make shaving a much more pleasant experience. “It takes a minute to add an extra step in your practice,” says Karen, “but it will keep your skin looking more youthful for the rest of your life.”
Karen Lynn Accattato, in case you haven’t noticed, is partial to Dove products. However, we suggest that you experiment with all sorts of face cleansers, shave creams, and aftershave balms until you find the ones that work best for you. Once you know exactly how to prevent razor burn, you might decide to leave beard-growing to the lumberjacks.