TL;DR It’s unlikely that shaving is to blame for your acne breakouts, but it might cause razor burn, which looks similar to acne. However, using a dirty razor or not washing your face after shaving can cause acne or make it worse.
If you shave regularly and notice pimples popping up, it’s tempting to blame your razor for those brutal breakouts. But much like your college love life, your skin situation is complicated. There are dozens of factors that determine how clear (or not) your face is—and shaving only plays a tiny role.
Before you quit shaving and start rocking a Paul Bunyan beard, take a step back and consider what else might be triggering your acne breakouts: crappy cleansers, greasy lotions, the pillow case you haven’t washed in months…you get the point.
In this article, we’ll explore whether it’s possible for shaving to cause acne, how to shave if you’re in the middle of a breakout, and how to protect your mug with the ultimate post-shave routine.
Does Shaving Cause Acne?
Shaving itself won’t cause acne breakouts—assuming you’re using the proper technique. Acne is mostly caused by hormonal changes, poor hygiene, genetics, and skincare products that clog your pores.
That said, there are a few ways shaving may indirectly cause acne:
- Using a dirty razor blade: Old razors are full of nasty bacteria that can transfer onto your face when you shave, potentially causing acne.
- Oily shaving products: Greasy oils and butters can help your razor glide across your skin, but the excess oils can clog your pores, leading to acne.
- Not washing your face after shaving: Letting bacteria, shave gel, and dead skin cells linger on your face after shaving can cause breakouts.
Shaving can definitely irritate your skin, but the odds of it being the sole cause of your acne are super low. A lot of guys develop razor bumps or razor burn on their face and neck after shaving. These can look similar to pimples, but they’re different.
Razor bumps form when your hair grows into the hair follicles instead of out, causing red bumps. Studies show that razor bumps (called pseudofolliculitis barbae) typically go away 24-48 hours after shaving.
Acne, on the other hand, is mostly caused by excess sebum and dead skin cells that clog your pores, causing blackheads or whiteheads to form.
Does Shaving Make Acne Worse?
Whether you’re dealing with one problematic zit or a full-blown breakout, shaving can definitely irritate acne or make it worse. Here are a few reasons why:
- Irritation: Friction from shaving (especially with a dull razor or improper shaving technique) can irritate the sensitive skin on your face, making pimples more inflated and red.
- Microtrauma: Shaving can cause microtrauma to the skin, particularly if there are active acne lesions. This can spread bacteria from one area to another, making your acne flare up.
- Infection: If your razor is dirty, there's a risk of introducing bacteria into open acne lesions, leading to infection and further irritation.
How to Prevent Acne After Shaving: 5 Tips
If you want to minimize your odds of breaking out after shaving, follow these five dummy-proof tips:
1. Wash Your Face Before Shaving
Prep your skin by washing your face with warm water and an exfoliating cleanser. This will soften your facial hair, open your pores, and get rid of grime so your razor can glide more easily, reducing irritation.
2. Use a Shaving Cream or Gel for Acne-Prone Skin
If you have a history of breakouts, it’s worth investing in a shaving cream specifically designed for acne-prone skin. Ideally, it should be oil-free, alcohol-free, and fragrance-free with anti-inflammatory ingredients.
Pro tip: Look for shaving creams labeled as "non-comedogenic," which means they are formulated to not clog pores.
3. Use a Sharp, Clean Razor
Shaving with a dull, dirty razor is basically asking for a skincare nightmare. As a rule of thumb, you should use a new razor every five shaves to keep things clean.
4. Rinse Your Face with Cool Water After Shaving
The last thing you want to do after shaving is nuke your face with hot water—or worse, not rinse it at all. Instead, rinse your face with cold water to reduce inflammation and tighten your pores.
5. Apply a Gel-Based Moisturizer After Shaving
Specifically, you should use a gel-based moisturizer like Revival. Our dermatologist-approved formula contains clutch ingredients like niacinamide and hyaluronic acid that are specifically designed to stop post-shave irritation, especially for dudes with acne-prone skin.
Word to the wise: Don’t use aftershave. Many aftershaves are loaded with alcohol, which won’t do any favors for your acne (shocker).
How to Shave If You Have Acne
Shaving with acne can feel like navigating a minefield. Luckily, we’ve got tips to help you get a close shave without slicing any pimples open.
If you can, avoid passing over pimples with your razor blade. It’s unlikely for hair to be growing out of the same pore as a pimple anyway.
If you have multiple pimples that you need to shave over, try to only pass over them once or twice, using light, gentle strokes. A 2016 study found that heavy razor strokes are more likely to cause irritation, specifically razor burn.
Upgrade Your Post-Shave Routine with PrettyBoy
Since the 1800s, guys were convinced that aftershave was the best stuff to slap on their face after shaving. But it turns out a concoction of harsh alcohol and artificial fragrances isn’t ideal for a smooth, healthy complexion. Shocker, right?
We’re not here to roast your grandpa’s skincare routine—but we are here to help you upgrade yours. Revival by PrettyBoy is the ultimate insurance policy against post-shave problems like acne, ingrown hairs, razor irritation, and dry skin.
Save yourself some cash and consolidate your skincare routine into one idiot-proof product. Your future face (and your bank account) will thank you for it.