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Does Shaving Cause Acne? Dispelling Commonly Held Beliefs

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After each shave, you may have noticed the appearance of red or raised bumps on your face, neck or legs that can look a lot like acne. But what are they really?

Most often, it’s actually not acne, but one of several other skin conditions. We’ll identify potential causes and take a look shaving with acne the dermatologist way to avoid irritating your skin. We also have some recommendations to keep your skin looking clear and smooth.

 

What are those red, raised bumps I get after I shave?

The reason why many believe they have acne after shaving is that it can leave behind an irritated, bumpy, and tender area that looks a lot like acne. In the vast majority of cases though, it’s not acne, but razor burn. Unlike acne — which happens when pores are clogged with dead skin cells, excess oils and bacteria — razor burn is caused by aggressive shaving.

Also known as razor rash, razor burn typically appears just a few minutes after shaving and can be caused by a number of things:

  • Shaving with a dull or old blade
  • Shaving against the way hair grows
  • Dry shaving (without water or shaving foam)
  • Pressing too hard while shaving
  • Ingrown hairs that have been shaved

 

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Razor burns shouldn’t be confused with acne, as they are caused by very different things and are treated with very different treatments.

Since razor burn irritates the skin, the remedies for it are all about calming the skin and restoring its hydration. Here are a few things you can do to help soothe razor burn:

  • Apply aloe vera gel or a gentle moisturizer that contains aloe vera
  • Soak in a colloidal oatmeal bath
  • Apply cold and warm compresses

With razor burn, the best treatment is prevention. There are several easy steps you can take to prep your skin before you shave and while you shave to help you avoid itchiness and irritation. Try these the next time you go hairless:

  • Shave in the direction your hair grows. If your hair grows in different directions, dermatologists recommend training your hair to grow in one direction. You can do this by gently brushing your body hair in one direction with a clean, unused soft-bristle toothbrush. Do this daily.
  • Shave more often—at least every two to three days
  • Use a moisturizing shaving cream and let it sit on your skin for one or two minutes before shaving
  • Shave slowly and gently
  • Change your razor blade after five to seven shaves
  • Store your razor outside of the shower. Wet showers are a potential bacteria breeding ground. Prevent bacteria from growing on your razor and potentially infecting your skin by drying it off and storing it in a dry place.
  • Apply a soothing aftershave

 

But What About The Dark Dots On My Legs?

Of course, the face is not the only part of the body that gets shaved regularly, with similar issues occurring when shaving your legs. Razor burn in this area can lead to something known as Strawberry Legs. This condition got its name from having the general appearance of strawberry seeds. It’s not something to be ashamed of at all – in fact, even big stars like Beyonce have shown off their strawberry legs – so you’re in good company!

You see, they’re simply the result of enlarged hair follicles and clogged pores that are exposed after you’ve shaved your legs. Containing a mixture of trapped dead skin, oil, and bacteria, the air gets inside and oxidizes the oil – giving it a darker color.

Not sure if you have strawberry legs? Well, you likely have it if you can see:

  • Pitted or dark spots on the skin of your legs
  • Darkened, open pores on your legs
  • The appearance of black or brown dots on the legs after shaving

This issue can point towards other skin conditions like keratosis pilaris and folliculitis, but not always. Unless there’s an underlying skin concern, you don’t really need to do anything unless they’re bothering you. That said, they can be dealt with easily through regular exfoliation and some products that contain hyaluronic acid and other hydrating ingredients.

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Can I Shave With Acne Safely?

Ok, so now we know that shaving doesn’t cause acne. But what about those who do have acne? Does shaving your face help with acne or does it make it worse?

It’s important to note that dermatologists recommend skipping a shave altogether if you have inflamed or cystic acne. Shaving with acne of this severity is just not a good idea, as it can cause more irritation and slow down the healing process. Wait for your PanOxyl acne wash and/or other acne treatments to work their magic and let things calm down.

For those with mild to moderate acne, before actually shaving, you should:

  • First, cleanse with a gentle exfoliating cleanser
  • Apply a non-comedogenic, acne-friendly moisturizer or warm washcloth to soften the hair follicles
  • Cover the area in a thin layer of shaving gel/cream

Then it’s recommended when shaving with acne that you use a clean, sharp multi-bladed razor. Try and avoid passing the blades over pimples, but if you have to, don’t do it more than once or twice…and only very lightly when you do so. Once you are done shaving, use warm water to wash your face, before using a suitable moisturizer to finish things off.

 

How to Clear Acne

Of course, sometimes it WILL be acne and when that happens, it may be time to have a chat with your dermatologist. They will almost certainly recommend products containing benzoyl peroxide like PanOxyl Acne Foaming Wash or Acne Creamy Wash. Benzoyl peroxide wash products like these really work and are clinically proven to treat and clear breakouts!

If your acne isn’t too severe, our 4% Benzoyl Peroxide Acne Creamy Wash is great for daily cleansing and maintaining clear skin. For a stronger benzoyl peroxide treatment to help with more severe acne, try our 10% Benzoyl peroxide Acne Foaming Wash. Treating the problem at its source by eliminating the bacteria that causes acne, PanOxyl products put the control back in your hands.

Another really useful option is PanOxyl Overnight Spot Patches which help speed up healing and help reduce the risk of scarring. These hydrocolloid patches work by forming a protective barrier that allows the healing to begin. They stop any additional dirt and bacteria from entering the breakout and can stop you from scratching at night too!