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 - Using the Right Razor
Fewer blades is better, one blade is best. 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 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 Shark brand blades — they are made with a softer steel that won’t last for many shaves, but that softness is better for not irritating the skin.
Straight razors are the unchallenged king of mild shaving. It shaves at a very gentle angle, even more mild than the safety razor. Straight razors require absolutely no 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 taking care of their faces with it one day!
2 - The Shaving Brush and Shaving Cream
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.
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 a numbing agent which prevents you from feeling your skin’s response to the shave. 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.
3 - Pre-shave Care
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 has opened its pores, helping expose more of the hair and making it 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. 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.
4 - The Shave
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 half an hour to 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.
Don’t use any pressure. You don’t have to push the razor into your skin, you should just let the weight of the razor sit on your skin gently. Shave with 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 (my hair all grows straight down), while others have hair that grows in different directions on different parts of their face, or body. You may find it helpful to draw a ‘map’ with arrows indicating which direction your hair grows on different areas.
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 oil, 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.
5 - Post-shave Skin Care
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 that has no alcohol. Some balms and lotions have alcohol as a disinfectant, which is fine for most skin, but anyone with sensitive skin will want to avoid this. A couple of aftershave products eschew alcohol altogether in favour of witch-hazel, a natural astringent. This has the disinfecting benefits of alcohol, while not drying the skin. Usually it is supplemented with aloe to moisturize. Here 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 great option comes from Calgary-based company Midnight & Two, which also uses a witch-hazel/aloe blend, but has more aloe, and therefore is more moisturizing. If your skin is especially dry, this may be the brand for you.