I love getting emails from customers. In fact, it’s one of the highlights of running this business because I get a real chance to connect with you and learn about what’s important to you. One of the most popular conversations I have - especially with those new to wet shaving, is the topic of sensitive skin.
Normally the email goes something like this. “Hi Jonathan, I’d love to start wet shaving but I have sensitive skin. Do you have any recommendations?”
I’ll start by saying that I am not a dermatologist and I am not even an expert on skin care. I like to think of myself as a wet shaving enthusiast....not a wet shaving expert. Truth is, there are lots of people out there with sensitive skin. However, I think there’s a good number of people out there who think they have sensitive skin when in fact they do not.
No matter your skin type, anyone and everyone can get skin irritation. It doesn’t mean they have sensitive skin. For example, there are essential oils or fragrances out there that can irritate the skin no matter who you are. Soap makers must be very careful about the ingredients they use in order to make sure that the soaps don’t hurt you.
I was told by my parents, as a baby, that I had bad skin allergies. This meant that materials such as plastics in disposable diapers or even bandages gave me a bad rash. So I grew up thinking I had a skin allergy because these things caused irritation. When I began shaving, with a multi blade cartridge razor and shaving cream (goo in the can- as some of us like to call it) it wasn’t uncommon for me to get red in the face. The irritation was so bad at times that I thought my face was on fire. I came to the conclusion that this was due to my skin “sensitivity”. I began to stock up on “sensitive” friendly shaving creams but saw very little improvement. I’ll never forget a trip to Calgary where I had shaved that morning and by the afternoon my face was still red. A good friend of mine noticed my skin irritation it was so embarrassing. I started investing in more products like after shave balms that would heal my skin. By this time, I absolutely hated shaving. At the time, beards were not permitted at work and so I suffered through EVERY SINGLE shave.
In 2014, when I officially picked up wet shaving, I immediately discovered a significant change. I wasn’t getting the irritation that I was getting before. What was going on? I attribute this change to 3 things in my new shaving routine: pre-shave oil, a good quality shaving cream and the razor.
In a previous blog I talked about pre-shave oil. There’s ample debate out there about its effectiveness. However, I will say this- if you believe you have a skin sensitivity or you’re looking for an added level of comfort to your shave- consider a pre shave oil. I still use these from time to time- and often use it on my neck or chin where I find there’s more sensitivity. Visit a barbershop for a hot shave and most will use some form of pre shave treatment besides a hot towel. Think of it as pampering yourself.
The shaving cream I picked up for wet shaving wasn’t in a can. This was a BIG thing. Aerosol cans have propellants and have added chemicals that aren’t needed to make shaving cream. Furthermore, these chemicals dry your skin. When I switched to a shaving cream in a tub, I noticed my skin wasn’t left feeling dry. The new shaving cream I used had essential oils and this particular one had Lavender which is excellent for sensitive or dry skin. By the way, Lavender isn't really a floral scent at all- but has nice earthy notes.
Both the pre-shave oil and the shave cream were packed with goodness that was making my skin feel great.
Finally the razor itself can make a difference and I’ll go out on a limb and say it might make the biggest difference. Why is that? Newer cartridge razors have multiple blades- often 3 or more. However, a conventional double edge safety razor has one blade. Ask yourself why 5 blades are better than one blade? Giant corporations and their clever marketing departments will tell you that you’re getting a closer shave. Are multiple blades really necessary? If you want my opinion, this is where most of the skin problems occur. Why do you need multiple blades when one blade can do it all? I believe this is why guys assume they have a skin allergy. The multi blades are unnecessarily irritating the skin. In case you're wondering, my very first DE razor was a Merkur 23 and an Astra blade (I still occasionally use both today)
So if you shave with a multi blade cartridge razor, and you think you have a skin sensitivity, you might want to consider making the jump to a DE razor and see if it makes a difference. It just might make a difference and open opportunities for you that you didn’t think you had. You’ll be able to try a variety of amazing shave soaps and creams from around the world with incredible scents and performance.
Until Next Time! Shave On!