For many people, shaving is a regular part of a monthly, weekly, or even daily hygiene and grooming routine. Whether you're trimming your beard or going for a full clean shave, hair removal can be a tricky process. Tampering with hair follicles can have some unwanted results, like razor bumps, ingrown hairs, and the dreaded post-shave breakout. Pre-existing pimples can make shaving even more complicated.

If you're wondering how to shave with acne, or how to prevent acne after shaving, read on. This is what you need to know (and do) before, during, and after to help minimize discomfort and reduce breakouts.

How to Shave with Acne

Acne is a very common skin condition, so if you're struggling to shave with acne, remember that you're not alone. Up to 50 million people in the U.S. live with acne, and it's especially prevalent in young adults and adolescents.

Existing breakouts shouldn't prevent you from shaving, but you should take extra care. Here's how to shave with acne:

  1. Start with a clean face. Wash your face with a gentle cleanser, such as the EltaMD Foaming Facial Cleanser, to remove dirt and bacteria.
  2. Apply shaving cream or gel to wet skin. If you have sensitive skin, it's best to use a gentle formula. Shaving on bare skin can increase the risk of nicks and irritation, so it's important to apply a layer of protection to reduce friction.
  3. Use a sharp blade to shave in the direction that hair grows. Shaving against the grain can aggravate skin, increasing the likelihood of razor bumps and burns.
  4. Rinse the blade under water after each swipe. This will allow the blades to come in close contact with your skin by getting rid of any buildup of hair, dead skin cells, and shaving cream on your blade.

While shaving, avoid pulling on the skin. It may seem intuitive to create a taut surface for the blade to run along, but this can increase irritation. Similarly, avoid swiping over the same area twice, as this creates more friction.

When you're done shaving, allow the razor to dry completely and store it in a dry place to prevent it from rusting. Exposure to moisture can also cause bacteria to form on the blade, which could further increase the risk of acne. Blades inevitably get dull, so be sure to replace your razor frequently.

Black man towel on shoulders standing in bathroom look in mirror washes face touch skin after shaving or applying cream aftershave lotion feels satisfied, morning routine, personal hygiene, skincare

Can Shaving Make Acne Worse?

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, individuals who have acne should take extra care while shaving to prevent worsening breakouts. Shaving can increase skin irritation, which could exacerbate existing acne. Pressing the razor firmly against your skin in an attempt to shave off acne can make matters worse—so if you have acne, shave with light pressure.

While shaving isn't an inherent cause of acne, it can be a contributing factor. Acne is caused by hair follicles or pores that become clogged with sebum, bacteria, and dead skin cells. Certain shaving habits can create an acne-friendly environment, such as shaving unclean skin, using pore-clogging grooming products, and shaving with an old razor blade.

Post-shave acne can also be confused with razor bumps, which are caused by ingrown hairs. Shaving has short-term results, so it's a hair removal method that you'll have to repeat regularly. Sometimes, hair penetrates back into the skin as it grows, and the result is inflamed, pimple-looking bumps.

Acne Prevention Tips

Preventing acne is the same for people of any gender, and the same rules also go for those who do and don't shave. Treating and preventing breakouts usually means unclogging pores and getting rid of acne-causing bacteria on your skin's surface. Still, the road to clear skin isn't the same for everyone.

Here are some skin care tips to prevent acne outside your shaving routine:

  • Wash your face regularly. Aim to wash your face one to two times a day. Always cleanse your skin after a sweaty workout.
  • Avoid comedogenic (pore-clogging) skin care ingredients. Stick to gentle, non-comedogenic formulas.
  • Use acne treatments. These include cleansers and toners formulated with Salicylic Acid or Benzoyl Peroxide, which are both ingredients that kill acne-causing bacteria and unclog pores.
  • Prevent skin damage and acne scarring with broad-spectrum sunscreen. The EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46 is suitable for acne-prone skin.

How to Avoid Razor Bumps After Shaving

If razor bumps are a problem after shaving, there are some things you can do to help. You may think you should reduce the frequency of shaving—but it's actually the opposite. Waiting long periods of time between shaves gives hair more opportunity to grow inward, so shave daily or every few days for the best results.

To prevent razor bumps, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends applying a cool compress and soothing aftershave once finished. Look for an alcohol-free aftershave product that is specifically formulated to reduce razor bumps and irritation. Contrary to popular belief, aftershave shouldn't sting, so if it burns, try a new one. Take these tips into account and, above all, make sure to keep consistent with your routine. That's the best way to prevent breakouts and care for your skin.


  • Lacey Muinos

    Lacey is a Southern California-based freelance writer who combines her passions—fitness, health, and a vegan lifestyle—with her work to help readers feel and be their best. Her work has been featured in Healthline, Livestrong, Verywell Fit, Eat This Not That, KinderBeauty, and more.