Shaving Rash and How to Deal With It

With the release of the brand new Dark Stag Shaving Set we thought it was high time to confront the itchy red beast that all men are familiar with: shaving rash, or razor burn, depending on location, though how they missed out on the pleasing sounding razor rash is beyond me. Whether you use the Dark Stag products to shave your face, head, arms, legs, armpits or anywhere else, you have undoubtedly come across this pretty horrendous, aesthetically displeasing annoyance.

Man on plane with irritated skin from shaving rash

Poor fella is a good example of shaving rash

For those not in the know, shaving rash can look like a small red rash, although for some unlucky people with sensitive skin their entire throat can flare up, feature bumps or even cause infected pimples or blisters. Shaving rash can also itch pretty badly, making the skin very uncomfortable for several days. Fortunately, most cases are pretty mild and the symptoms will fade in a few hours, a day or 2 tops.

Where does it come from?

Back on topic, shaving can remove up to two layers of skin. Now I know that sounds like a pretty bad thing, but fortunately this isn’t Game of Thrones, as it is actually a good thing, as this exfoliation takes away the dull looking, dead outer layers and promotes fresh, new skin growth. For most men it is vital to healthy looking skin. Unfortunately for most women, they spend millions a year (collectively, not individually… obviously) on cosmetics that help with exfoliation. Where everything goes wrong, is when one or more of the components of the shaving process is skipped or, potentially worse, performed incorrectly.

What are these key mistakes, I hear you cry. Well there’s actually only 6 that you really need to be worried about and will significantly improve your home barbering experience, or for you barbers out there, the barbering experience you provide:

  1. A decent shaving set
  2. Proper pre-shave prep
  3. Using a dull razor or the wrong razor
  4. Using the wrong kind of shaving cream or lubricant
  5. Incorrect shaving technique
  6. Skipping important steps after shaving or using the wrong products

1) A Decent Shaving Set

The Dark Stag Shaving Set artistically displayed in a barbershop

A saucy looking bit of kit

The quality of the barber tools and equipment that you use are everything. And that’s not a hyperbole, cheap barber tools and equipment can basically ruin your face (or wherever else you are shaving). A cheap razor blade will not have the care and quality control that a more expensive one will give, and in this area, price really is quality. A cheap blade is more likely to be a dull blade, which creates a lot of resistance and drag, pulling and tearing whiskers instead cutting them cleanly. The Dark Stag Shaving Set not only includes the quality SR1 Safety Razor, it also comes with the Dark Stag Shaving Brush, which is a modern synthetic badger bristle.  It has the look of badger hair but is not absorbent so dries quickly.  We have utilised modern technology to design bristles that stimulate and raise the beard hair and prepare it for the perfect shave. Along with this comes the stainless steel shaving bowl, the perfect, easy to clean container for whipping up a rich lather from your soap, or even just to hold your shaving cream before application. All of this finished up with a lovely stand to hold the razor pre and post-shave, keeping the blades out of contact with any surface except your face, preventing any unnecessary dulling and chipping and extending the life of the razor blades. Really, this is your all in one!

2) Proper pre-shave prep

Young man showering and shaving simultaneously, cost effective or what?

Showering before a shave has been around forever!

One of the most common reasons for shaving rash is actually because people shave before they shower (or bath). If you suffer from shaving rash or any irritation caused by shaving (including in-grown hairs), spend some extra time to make sure your beard or ‘stache is wet. Facial hair will absorb moisture up to 30% of its volume, and hair swollen with water becomes quite weak and easier to cut. Therefore, showering before shaving is the ideal way to ensure your beard is properly moist (I know some people love that word). If a shower is not possible, rinse your face and then apply a warm moistened towel to your face for a couple of minutes, barbers don’t provide the hot towel shave for no reason! Never shave cold or apply products to a dry face as this is one of the leading causes of razor burn and shaving rash. There’s a reason it is called a wet shave!

So whether using your Dark Stag Shaving Set or any of our other products, such as the Dark Stag Cut Throat Razor, at home or professionally, do your face a favour, get it wet.

3) Using a dull razor or the wrong razor

A Dark Stag SR1 Safety Razor alongside a disposable

Which would you prefer?

Always use a good quality razor. Period. A cheap blade is more likely to be a dull blade, which creates a lot of resistance and drag, pulling and tearing whiskers instead cutting them cleanly. Think of it like this: have you ever cut a tomato with a dull knife? Instead of a clean cut, you end up tearing and mangling it. Now replace it with your face. Yikes. When using the Dark Stag SR1 Safety Razor or the Dark Stag SR+ Safety Razor you will need to use razor blades, luckily the blades are cheap, and the single blade provides a clean cut and is not followed by multiple blades that many claim chew up your skin while cutting your whiskers. Depending on the toughness of your beard, change the blade somewhere between every three and every ten shaves. Regardless of the number of shaves, if the blade becomes dull, ditch it. The same applies for barbers when using a shavette, such as the Dark Stag Premium Straight Razor. When using a straight or cut throat razor, such as the Dark Stag Cut Throat Razor, make sure to sharpen the blade on a strop (ideally with paste), such as the Dark Stag Buffalo Leather Strop, every 3 to 7 shaves.

4) Using the wrong kind of shaving cream or lubricant

Shaving creams and soaps that have a high concentration of lubricants and moisturizers are the ones to keep an eye out for. The best create a rich creamy lather and don’t foam up. The less foaming the better, as it is what is in contact with the skin and beard that matters. The more lubrication between your skin and the razor the better, it’s best if the razor just slips across your skin, gliding smoothly and effortlessly. The better shaving creams and soaps also lock the moisture into the hair, which as we know, is ideal for shaving. Less resistance = less irritation, less scraping and fewer nicks. Ideally you would leave the shaving cream on for at least a minute, to ensure the beard or moustache is as soft and wet as possible.

A Shaving Brush?

Dark Stag Shaving Brush whipping up a lather

Whipping up a lather

One of the best tools you can use to help prevent razor burn is a shaving brush, and fortunately we provide just that with the Dark Stag Shaving Brush. First, it helps raise the hair so that a closer cut is possible. Second, it helps create a rich creamy lather with the shaving cream that stays close to the skin. And, finally, it helps remove dead skin cells (exfoliation) which reduces the chance of blemishes, & razor bumps. The Dark Stag Shaving Brush is the perfect balance between softness (to create a rich creamy lather) and resistance (to raise the beard). Apply the shaving cream using the brush in a circular motion, ending in an upward stroke to help lift the beard up and away from the face.

Proper pre-shave prep is where the war on shaving rash is won or lost!

5) Incorrect shaving technique

The biggest and most commonly ignored technique?

Composite photo of a man demonstrating shaving technique. Editing courtesy of Samuel Kimble

A little visual guide for you all, 1905 style

Shave in the direction of the beard growth, “with the grain”. It’s the leading cause of shaving rash and skin irritation. On top of this, you also run the risk of cutting off a hair below skin level, causing an ingrown hair (razor bumps) – the whisker grows into the surrounding tissue instead of out of the pore, resulting in inflammation and possible infection. On the upside the NHS will love you for the donated blood. How do you do it right? Start with the sides, then the moustachio and last the chin. China hairs are the toughest, so this allows them the most time to soften under the shave cream. Sadly we can’t give the same advice to everyone, as each person’s facial has it’s own growth pattern.

As well as this, don’t apply too much pressure and use short strokes. Rinse the blade frequently, and don’t shave over the same area. When using a safety razor bear in mind that the key is not to press at all, but let gravity do the work as you delicately hold the razor. There’s a steep learning curve there though so expect a couple of nicks, when using one remember to keep relaxed and find the angle that works for you. Safety razors are all different and each user handles them differently, so get the one that best fits you (“the wand chooses the wizard mister Potter”), though I personally favour the Dark Stag SR1 Safety Razor.

6) Skipping important steps after shaving or using the wrong products

This one kind of speaks for itself.

After all this make sure to clean your face properly, rinse with cool water, and finish off with an aftershave moisturiser. Lovely jubbly.


If you’re here looking for help with the symptoms we’ve got that covered too, though I’m not angry you didn’t follow the advice, just disappointed. Here’s what you can do:

  1. Moisturise – a cooling, soothing after-shave balm will do wonders (in the short term). Avoid alcohol-based if possible, unless you like the burn.
  2. Consider not shaving for a few days. This will let the skin heal itself and avoid making the existing razor burn worse by continually shaving over it. Give your face a rest, then come back and shave the proper way, read above.
  3. Some people suggest using witch hazel as it apparently has soothing, healing properties,
  4. Have a hot date tonight and don’t want to look red and irritated? Sorry, nothing you can do, made your bed now lay in it, etc. Consider printing off a picture of your face and pray your date doesn’t notice the frozen expression…

Until next time

Dark Stag Team

All images displayed in this article are used from wikimedia commons.

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