How To Prevent (& Treat) Wet Shaving Nicks & Cuts
No matter how long you’ve been in the wet shaving game, there comes a time when you slip - get forgetful, get startled, get lazy. And BAM, a nick, a cut, a rash, a burn. While wet shavers are generally in this game precisely because so many of these issues can be ameliorated, no one is perfect. And eventually you are bound to find yourself with a weeper. But have no fear, you don’t have to endure a T.P. covered mien. Here are a few tips on preventing & treating wet shaving nicks & cuts.
Since an ounce of prevention equals a pound of cure, let’s start by looking at what you can do right in your shaving game. Tackling these steps will keep you from bloodletting.
How to Avoid Wet Shaving Nicks and Cuts:
- Wash. Clean skin is less likely to develop rashes and infections if you do cause a small cut. Shaving after a shower is a great idea as the steam of the shower will soften the bristles and skin. Like a professional barber will use a hot towel before a shave, a shower can have a similar effect.
- Preshave. Using a preshave oil to prepare the skin can reduce the chance of nicks & cuts. Applying an oil to the skin before the lather provides another lubricating layer between your skin and the blade.
- Lather. One of the most important ways to eliminate nicks when shaving is an adequate lather. Use a high quality soap or cream and lather it well. A well-hydrated and whipped lather should resemble the consistency of yogurt - thick, stable, long lasting. Applying lather with a shaving brush also serves to lift the whiskers, readying them for the blade and a smooth, nick-free shave.
- Less pressure. This can’t be stressed enough. Let the weight of the razor do the work. Adding additional pressure is asking for trouble - redness, irritation, burn, ingrown hair. . . yep, trouble.
- Blade choice. Find the blade that works best for your razor and hair type. Sometimes a blade can be too sharp and you end up with razor burn and rash. This is especially true if you haven’t created a good lather (see #3) or are using too much pressure (see #4). And never shave with a dull blade either. When the blade has served its time, toss it. An overused blade tugs, pulls, results in additional passes, and might even have build up that can cause infection.
- Slow down. When you hurry, you are more likely to nick yourself. You take shortcuts, get sloppy with your technique, push a little harder, and - ta da - nicks & cuts. Take your time. Many wet shavers have found this to be one of the things they most enjoy about classic shaving. It becomes a meditative process - lathering, prepping, shaving - is a bit of me-time in the day. Not to be hurried or rushed. This can lead to an all around better experience, including fewer nicks & cuts.
How to Treat Wet Shaving Nicks and Cuts:
- Aftershave. Most aftershaves, particularly the alcohol-based ones, provide antiseptic properties. The reason why these splashes can burn like #$%^ is the same reason they are working. Any microscopic nicks and cuts you might have acquired during your shave will sting when in contact with alcohol. But that alcohol will also kill any bacteria that might be introduced to your face during the grooming process. A clean visage is less likely to become irritated, red, or even infected.
- Balm. After coming out on the losing side of a battle with the razor, you might not be receptive to an alcohol-burn or maybe you just prefer a gentler approach. If you want the moisturizing and cleansing benefits of a splash without the Macaulay Culkin drama, then reach for a balm. These alcohol-free post shave options are gentler and more soothing to an abused face. Many are witch hazel based. This powerful remedy is known to soothe sensitive skin and reduce inflammation, but it does so much more. It suppresses erythema (skin reddening caused by irritation). It may fight acne by killing acne-causing bacteria and contracting pores. And it is rich in tannins with antioxidant properties and antiviral benefits. Smooth on a balm to counteract that rash, redness, and irritation.
- Styptic pencil/Alum. If you’ve really done it (and who hasn’t occasionally?), don’t reach for the toilet paper. Grab a styptic pencil or alum block instead. Hold the pencil or block on a bleeding nick or small cut and it will magically stop bleeding (ok, there is a science behind it but it feels a bit magical). It might sting like the devil, but it is worth it. Alum is a hemostatic agent (or antihemorrhagic) that works by contracting tissue to seal injured blood vessels. A stypic pencils is alum that is ground and pressed into a lipstick size and shape. This makes it easy to store and apply. Alum blocks are bigger than a stypic pencil and can last for years. While alum is great for cleansing and tighening, it can also be a good indictator of your technique. Rubbing an wet alum block over your face after a shave will reveal areas of too much pressure or rub by leaving a tingling/stinging sensation.
Whether you’re a new or seasoned wet shaver, what can you share about your experience in preventing and/or treating nicks and cuts?