Because facial acne affects the smoothness of the skin and can be made worse by irritation through friction, shaving during an acne outbreak can be a treacherous proposition. Using the wrong razor can easily make a case of acne worse, but choosing your razor wisely and shaving with care can give you the clean-shaven look you want without aggravating or prolonging outbreaks.
According to Myriam Zaoui and Eric Malka's book, "The Art of Shaving", electric razors are the hands-down best for shaving acne-prone skin. What makes these shavers so gentle on blemishes is actually one of the most common complaints about electric razors: they just don't shave as closely as manual fixed blades. But if the goal is to avoid cutting pimples and further aggravating acne breakouts, a high quality electric razor will produce a reasonably close shave that has little to no effect on existing acne. Zaoui and Malka recommend an electric shaver with a foil-guarded razor and a separate beard trimmer. If you have longer or stubborn hairs, you can carefully trim them down to a very short length using the beard trimmer, then gently finish the cut by gliding over them with the smooth foil.
Single Blade Disposable Razors
If you cannot forgo the closeness of a fixed-blade shave, it's best to choose a single blade disposable razor, according to Acne.com. While this may seem counter-intuitive, since this type of razor is cheap and not known for its quality, one-time use razors may wreak less havoc on acne than high-tech, multi-blade versions. One key difference is that the single blade of a disposable razor tends to cut just along the surface of the skin, whereas multi-blade razors actually cut hairs below the skin's surface. This can cause significant irritation to existing acne, and makes it more difficult to avoid slicing open blemishes. Additionally, by throwing away a razor after each use, you can be assured that the one you're using is always sharp. Shaving with a dull blade is another easy way to aggravate acne, and this is more likely to happen when you use a more durable razor that needs occasional blade replacement.
While choosing the right razor is a big part of avoiding acne irritation during shaving, proper preparation and technique is equally important. Carefair.com recommends exfoliating regularly with a gentle solution designed for acne-prone skin, which clears away accumulated dead skin cells and allows for a smoother shave. It is also important to shave with the grain of your hair, as shaving against the grain increases the likelihood of irritation and cuts. If you use a manual blade, be sure to shave with warm water and a soothing shaving cream or gel. Shaving in the shower may help with this. Moisturizing regularly and applying skin toner after every shave will also help the skin to rebound from the stress of shaving.