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Top 5 Tips for Shaving with Sensitive Skin

by Nathan Gareau Last updated: July 22, 2021 0 Comments

It’s a fact of life; some people have more sensitive skin than others. The reasons are varied, but luckily the solutions to make shaving easier on sensitive skin are quite simple. Shaving with sensitive skin will require one to take a little more care and to slow down, but the challenges are easily overcome. Everything below applies to sensitive skin anywhere - whether you struggle with sensitivity on your face, legs, head, or tail. 

#1: The Best Razor for Shaving Sensitive Skin

Fewer blades isbetter, one blade isbest. We cannot stress this enough. Your skin — sensitive or not — does not love having sharp steel dragged across it. So drag the least amount of steel possible, and switch to a single-bladed razor. These come in two styles: the safety razor (sometimes called a double-edge, or DE razor), and the straight razor.

A quality safety razor, matched with the right blade, will give you a close shave with no irritation!

A safety razor takes disposable blades that come in a variety of steels: you will find that you like some blades more than others, so it is important to try a few different brands. For sensitive skin I like to recommend Kent of Inglewood Mild Blades — they are made with a less aggressive edge and are thicker than most mild blades, allowing them to last longer.

Straight razors are the unchallenged king shaving. You can dial your angle in very close to the skin, even more mild than the safety razor, and straight razors require very little pressure against the skin. Because you strop your razor before every shave, it will always have an incredibly sharp edge. Another excellent advantage of the straight razor is that it is a tool that will be useful for the rest of your life — and beyond. Your children’s children may well be shaving with it one day!

#2: Using a Shaving Brush and Lather 

Lathering with a shaving brush softens up your hair considerably, reducing drag during the shave. A badger hair shaving brush is going to provide the most comfort to your skin, as opposed to horse or boar hair, which tend to be stiffer. Badger hair is soft and will gently spread the cream over the area you are shaving. It also exfoliates without being too abrasive or ‘scrubby.’ Using a shaving brush also helps to lift the hair, making it easier to cut. If you don't want to shell out for badger, synthetic bristle is soft and lathers well but does not have the exfoliating power of a badger brush.

A minute or two spent lathering with your brush will make a world of difference to your shave!

When we talk about shaving cream, we’re discussing a cream that is lathered with the brush, not the foaming cream from a can many people are used to. Those creams tend to dry out the skin, and usually contain other ingredients that sensitive skin doesn't respond well to. When you have sensitive skin, it’s important not to dry it out, and to be aware of how it’s feeling. Seems obvious, no? The creams we carry have high quality ingredients, compared to the aerosol cans, and go a lot further. Shaving soap is also an option, however it tends to be a thinner lather — offering less ‘cushion’ in shaving terminology — which doesn’t protect the skin as nicely.

There are dozens of brands of shaving soap out there, and it can be overwhelming. It can feel like you’re going to have to try again and again and again before you learn what works. But don’t fret! We are here for you. We’ve done the testing for you and our favourite recommendation for sensitive skin is Castle Forbes. Their Lavender Oil or Cedar and Sandalwood shaving creams are both phenomenal at caring for sensitivity. Lavender oil is a mild disinfectant, and can be useful on skin prone to acne. Cedar and Sandalwood oil are both anti-inflammatory agents, so if your sensitivity includes razor burn or redness it is an excellent choice.

A good preshave protects the skin and helps your razor glide more smoothly.

#3: Preparation for the Shave

Skin needs a little attention before your shave, as well as during and after. If you take care to prepare your skin before shaving, it will respond healthfully.

First, make sure your skin is warm and wet. Warm skin is more pliable, reducing nicks and scrapes while warm hair is easier to cut. If you apply your shaving products to wet skin, you have a little extra lubrication. Before you apply your shaving cream, apply a pre-shave oil or gel. This will help your razor glide more easily and gently. For me personally, this step is essential in eliminating razor burn. We carry a large variety of pre-shave oils, and can help guide you to the right choice. Many also have essential oils, like lavender, cedar, or eucalyptus - some of these have additional benefits to the skin, such as the aforementioned cedar and lavender, while others are there for the lubrication, and provide a pleasant fragrance, like the eucalyptus oil. My personal favourite is our own Kent of Inglewood Preshave Gel, which softens hair even further and gives your razor a super slick glide.

#4: How to Shave with Sensitive Skin

Now we’re into it: shaving! When you are shaving with a safety razor or straight razor, slow down. Take your time. If you’re not a morning person, set aside fiften minutes to half an hour in the evening, pour yourself a small (or large) drink, and make it a bit of a ritual. Shaving doesn’t have to be a hassle, painful, or rushed. It can be a meditative experience, a few quiet minutes in the day where you can focus on a single activity without distraction. Slow and smooth — that’s what we want out of our shave.

Making an initial pass with the grain of your hair shortens your stubble, so you can get a close shave without irritation!

Use very gentle pressure. You don’t have to push the razor into your skin, you should really just let the weight of the razor sit on your skin gently. Shavewith the direction of the growth of your hair. Stroke your stubble - if you feel it ‘push’ into your fingers, that is the opposite of your hair’s natural growth direction. If your fingers slide along easily, that’s the same direction as the growth. Some people have hair that all grows in the same direction, while others have hair that grows in different directions on different parts of their face, or body. If you can gradually build a mental map of that direction, it'll help you follow it more effectively.

If your shave isn’t as close as you’d like it, or you missed a spot or two, do a second pass: re-apply water, pre-shave, and shaving cream, and shave again — slowly and using no pressure. The second pass should also be in the direction of your hair growth. If you have sensitive skin, it is unlikely it will ever tolerate an ‘against-the-grain’ pass without reacting poorly. You may want to try a pass across the grain — that is, shaving perpendicular to your hair growth. This is gentler than shaving against the grain, but will provide a closer shave than only going in the direction of your hair’s growth. An across-the-grain pass should always be done second, after a with-the-grain pass.

We stock a variety of aftershaves, but balms are best for sensitive skin.

#5: The Best Post-Shave Routine for Sensitive Skin

Just as your skin needs a little care before you shave, you should give it some attention once you finish the shave as well. After you finish shaving, gently rinse off any remaining shave cream with a little cool water, pat your skin with a towel to dry it (don’t rub!), and apply an aftershave balm

Again I can’t recommend Castle Forbes highly enough. Their aftershave balms are perfect for sensitive skin, and again can be found with lavender, or cedar and sandalwood oils. Another favourite is our own Kent of Inglewood Aftershave Balm which also uses a soothing natural blend. It goes on slick and absorbs quickly, making it perfect for oilier skin types.

We made it! How does your skin feel?

Having sensitive skin can be a challenge, but shaving doesn’t need to be uncomfortable. It can be a relaxing way of actuallyimproving the way your sensitive skin feels by providing it with moisture and relief from irritation. Using the right tools, the right products, and treating your skin with a little TLC will go a long way in making your sensitive skin feel damned fantastic. Happy shaving!

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Nathan Gareau
Nathan Gareau

A famed cocktologist and axe man, Nathan opened the first Kent of Inglewood store in Calgary, and now spends his days writing most of what you are reading here and teaching straight razor shaving classes. Ask him about his world-famous Three Cherry Manhattan. In his spare time Nathan can be found sharpening his axe, making fermented foods, or practicing his amateur butchering hobby. He doesn't slur his words, he speaks in cursive.



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