If you asked this question in the days of antiquity, the answer would be a resounding "yes." In the Roman Empire, men would remove hair from their faces by basically scrubbing it off with pumice stones. Prior to that, if cave drawings can be trusted, it seems that men used seashells and shark's teeth to either scrape or tweeze the hair off their mugs. Neither method would have been very skin-friendly.
But in these days of quintuple blades, lubrication strips and vibrating razors, have things really improved? The answer, as with so many of life's profound questions, is that it depends.
More specifically, it depends on using proper shaving techniques to go from scruff to buff. In fact, if you employ the right shaving techniques, the act can actually be good for the skin, both increasing collagen production and acting as an exfoliant by removing dead skin cells. Shave improperly, though, and a range of problems can arise, as we'll see on the next page.
Shaving is meant to make our faces look better, not worse. But improper shaving techniques can lead to a host of problems that are both uncomfortable and unattractive.
Chief among these -- as any man who's ever gotten caught with an empty can of shaving cream on the night of a big date can attest -- is razor burn, a condition in which the skin becomes irritated from the friction of the blade scraping across the skin. Normally, time, a cold-water compress and some alcohol-free moisture is enough to soothe the angry facial skin.
If redness, itching and small, white-headed pimples develop, this can indicate another shaving-related problem: barber's rash or folliculitis. This occurs when the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus penetrate the hair follicles. The condition generally goes away on its own, especially if the irritating factor is removed. However, persistent cases may require topical or oral antibiotics.
Folliculitis is not to be confused with razor bumps, or ingrown hairs, another dastardly depilatory condition that can develop from poor shaving practices. Ingrown hairs occur when a shaved whisker curls and grows back down into the skin. Ironically, multiblade razors can help contribute to this condition because after the first one, subsequent blades pull hair up and out before snipping. When the hair snaps back, it's actually below the skin's surface. This might make for a very close shave, but when the hair is deeper in the follicle, the chance of it becoming ingrown is even greater.
Fortunately, nearly every skin irritation brought on by the razor can be eliminated by following the simple shaving routine you'll find on the next page.
So, it seems pretty simple. Shave your face correctly every day and the practice can be beneficial for your skin, even to the point of making you look younger -- especially if there are some grays in your beard! Shave poorly, though, and you're facing discomfort. To keep things going smoothly, and to avoid the prickly skin conditions you just read about, try this simple routine the next time you bring blade to skin:
- Before shaving, wash your face with warm water or apply a towel that's been soaked in hot water to help soften your beard. Another option is to use a fog-free mirror and shave while in a hot shower.
- Apply a moisturizing shaving gel (shaving cream can clog the pores) and let it sit on your face for approximately three minutes before beginning, which will further soften the hair. If you have a particularly tough beard or sensitive skin conditions, consider applying a layer of shaving oil underneath the gel.
- Use a sharp, clean razor. If you're using a disposable, toss it out after three or four shaves. If you experience skin irritation on a regular basis from shaving, consider using an old-fashioned, single-blade safety razor. This won't cut the hair beneath the surface of the skin (which helps keep ingrown hairs at bay), and it requires only light pressure (which helps you avoid razor burn). Rinse the razor frequently.
- Shave using short strokes in the direction in which your hair grows. Going against the grain can lead to ingrown hairs.
- When you're done shaving, rinse your face with cool water to close your pores and pat -- don't rub -- the skin dry.
- Apply an alcohol-free moisturizer, and you'll be ready to present your smooth, nonirritated, younger-looking skin to the world!
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- Mayo Clinic. "Folliculitis: Treatments and drugs." Oct. 6, 2009. (Jan. 3, 2011)http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/folliculitis/DS00512/DSECTION=treatments-and-drugs
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- Trex, Ethan. "Shaving history begins with shark teeth." CNN Living. Aug. 17, 2009. (Jan. 5, 2011)http://articles.cnn.com/2009-08-17/living/mf.shaving_1_king-camp-gillette-razors-blades?_s=PM:LIVING