The Cause of Razor Bumps  and Recommendations for Beard Care

Razor bumps, usually found on the neck and caused by ingrown hairs, are a common shaving problem encountered by curly-haired men. The problem can often be solved by not shaving so close, and by shaving with the grain of the whiskers.

We haven't forgotten you. Just because you're not shaving every day doesn't mean you don't have to take care of your facial skin. If you don't wash your face and beard daily, dandruff-like flakes of skin can build up. Shampoo your beard in the shower, at the same time you lather up your hair. Otherwise, wash it daily with facial soap.

According to legend, Albert Einstein came up with some of his best ideas while shaving. But for many men, this morning ritual is hardly a relaxing, contemplative experience. Instead, shaving is a frustrating endeavor that leaves their skin feeling scraped raw, smarting from razor burn, and speckled with nicks. What good is having a face free of stubble if your chin is covered with patches of crimson-stained toilet paper and your neck looks like hamburger?

The following home remedies will help you make peace with your razor and put an end to the morning madness in front of the mirror. Of course, women who shave their legs are not immune to these discomforts, so while this article is primarily geared toward men, the home remedies offered can help women get a softer, gentler shave as well.

Get ready. Proper preparation is the key to a good shave. That means moistening and softening your face before you even apply the soap. For the best results, do it with a warm, moist towel or washcloth held to your face. At the very least, splash warm tap water on your face. (Women should try soaking in the tub for a few minutes before shaving their legs.)

Follow the grain. Shave with the grain; that is, move the razor in the direction that the hair grows. Generally, that means shaving down on the face and upper neck and up on the lower neck.

Shave in the shower. It's the perfect place to shave, because the steam and hot water soften and moisten your skin and beard. Shaving your face as your final shower duty makes good

sense for your skin.

Cut up your credit cards. If you're old enough, you may recall an old shave cream commercial

in which an actor scraped a credit card against both sides of his face after he had shaved using two different products: a gel on one side and a foam-style shave cream on the other. The gel side made nary a sound, suggesting a close, smooth, desirable shave. The foam side, on the other hand, made a scratchy sound as it ran over remaining stubble, supposedly indicating a shave that was less close and therefore inferior.

Well, don't believe it. Shaving is rough on the skin, say dermatologists, and when it comes to discomfort, the closer the shave, the greater the pain. Try trimming back your daily growth a little less closely to spare yourself a lot of discomfort.

Stop playing doubles -- and triples. Many dermatologists think razors with double and triple blades are overkill and do more harm than good. That's because after the first blade pulls up the skin around hairs, the following blade or blades shear off the nubbin of skin. Try a single-blade disposable razor instead.

Froth your foam. Many men think that foam out of a can is moist enough to apply directly to dry skin. Not quite: You need added moisture, or it will almost be like shaving dry skin. Splash water on your face liberally before adding the foam.

Be sharp. A dull blade can scrape your skin, so don't try to get too many shaves out of one razor or blade. Some men's beards are so coarse that a razor will be effective for only one shave.

Go electric. Electric razors don't shave as closely as a double-track razor, so they may be less likely to irritate the skin.

Use a quality aftershave. Alcohol is the main ingredient in cheaper brands, which is why splashing them on freshly shaved skin causes stinging torture. A good aftershave should refresh the skin and cleanse it of bacteria, plus heal it from the shaving. Read labels and look for aloe vera or other natural healers as included ingredients.

Try a sunscreen. Another home remedy is to skip the aftershave altogether and smooth on some sunscreen after shaving, instead. The lotion will guard against skin cancer and keep your face looking young.

Heal thyself. If you have razor burn, use an over-the-counter hydrocortisone lotion as your aftershave, which will make your skin heal faster.

Quit shaving. If you need to be clean shaven on the job, how about putting away your razor for the weekend? Letting your beard grow just a quarter-inch can make razor burn and bumps disappear. When it's time to shave again, don't shave too close, or the irritation will reappear just as quickly.

Say styptic. Ask for it at the drugstore and keep it handy in the bathroom so you can use it when you nick yourself. You can get a styptic pencil or styptic powder. Dab it on the nick, press down momentarily with your finger, and the bleeding should stop. Alum contained in the pencil or powder draws the skin up to seal the wound. Rinse off any residue, and you're ready to face the world -- without the patches of toilet paper.

For more information about shaving discomfort and how to combat it, try the following links:

David J. Hufford, Ph.D., is university professor and chair of the Medical Humanities Department at Pennsylvania State University's College of Medicine. He also is a professor in the departments of Neural and Behavioral Sciences and Family and Community Medicine. Dr. Hufford serves on the editorial boards of several journals, including Alternative Therapies in Health & Medicine and Explore.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.