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Common Reasons For Skin Irritation After Traditional Wet Shaving
Your Blade is Dull
The same rule of safety applies to blades as it does to knives. Sharp is safer than dull. When cutting a fruit or vegetable on a cutting board, a dull knife will require quite a bit more pressure than a sharpened, honed knife that is better equipped to accomplish its task. With increased pressure by the handler, the risk for slipping is also increased. Similarly, when shaving, increasing the pressure you put on your skin due to the dullness of the blade can result in overcompensation by the arm. This can result in immediate cuts as well as prolonged razor burn after shaving is complete.
The Lather is Too Thick/Dry
Yes, we all want a nice thick lather that doesn't run off our faces when we apply it. But when it becomes difficult to spread it on with the brush, that is a clear signal that it is too dry. After a few times of working your cream into lather, you will be able to tell in the bowl even before you brush it on to your face. The lather needs to be sufficiently wet to be able to apply, thin enough to not clog the razor too quickly, and keep your face sufficiently wet to provide proper glide across the skin.
The Lather is Too Thin and Watery
While later being to dry inhibits its effectiveness, lather that is too thin will also render the same outcome. The lathered cream must be thick enough to hold its body in order for it to be able to hold the water on your face. A runny lather will result in an insufficient lubricating surface to keep the razor from abrading your skin.
Your Razor is Too Wet
As you well know, after a few passes your razor will become clogged with hair, and it will be necessary to rinse it out. Whether you do so by filling your sink with water and swishing the razor in the sink, or by running it under the faucet, if you put it right to your face for the next pass too quickly, it may have too much water on it, and the water may start to run down your face and make the cream directly underneath the line of the next pass too thin and partially run off, thus basically rendering the above mentioned problem of too thin of a lather. It is not necessary for the razor to be extremely dry, but it shouldn't be so wet that it has a substantial amount of water still dripping when you put it to your face. This problem can be remedied very simply by shaking the razor a few times in air after rinsing.
You are Shaving in the Wrong Direction
Knowing which direction your beard grows in all areas of your face and neck is essential to prevent not only bumps, but burn as well. This aspect is probably one of the largest culprits due to the fact that a lot of people do not realize that their beard is zoned, and does not uniformly grow in one direction. See my hub Traditional Wet Shaving - Correctly Zoning Your Hair about how to remedy this problem.
A few things can happen when you are impatient. You can inadequately prepare your beard before shaving. If you do not have your face and neck wet for a sufficient amount of time, the condition of the hair and skin will not have enough hydration to be able to take a blade being run across them. In addition, hair that is not softened will make the blade wear out much faster. The easiest way to avoid this is to shave immediately after showering. On days that this is not possible, my personal strategy is to wash my face and neck first, and not dry it. I leave it wet while preparing my cream, then I wash it again, then I begin shaving.
Another thing that can happen as a result of impatience is giving in to the temptation of running your blade across your bare skin after making a bad pass with the razor. Bad passes will happen, even experts make them. Remember, traditional wet shaving is about gradual beard reduction until you are clean shaven - not attempting to yank and pull it out in one pass. If you make a bad pass, be patient. Get it on the next lather, do not go back over your bare skin. This temptation can be amplified if you are pressed for time. It is important enough to leave yourself enough time to complete your shave before beginning. Having a very slow growing beard myself, I am fortunate. I can shave at night and still have a clean shave through the next day. I am never confronted with having to rush to get my shave done in the morning before work. For those of you who must shave in the morning, if you wake up late and don't have time to get your shave done correctly, I would recommend skipping a day if at all possible, rather than rushing. Rushing can result in both irritation and cuts, and if there are cuts, you will have to tend to them and you will end up losing time anyway.