With so much information available around the benefits and ‘how to’ of healthy skincare for women, it is equally important to keep our menfolk up to date on exactly how best to take optimum care. Bumps and rashes are a long time and seemingly regular consequence of many men’s daily shaving routine.

Dr Mathobela, a leading specialist dermatologist and OXY’s resident skincare expert, shares a few suggestions and insights around this common complaint.

Busting some myths

In the majority of cases, it is not acne that is caused by shaving but rather a condition known as pseudo folliculitis barbae (aka shaving bumps). This is the result of ingrown hairs. Patients usually develop papules, pustules and post inflammatory hyperpigmentation. The onset is precipitated by hair removal (especially close or clean shaving) in genetically predisposed individuals. After a close shave, sharp-tipped hairs from the hair follicle grow back into the skin or parallel to the skin. This causes a foreign body reaction leading to papules and pustules, often worsened by:

  • Stretching the skin during shaving or shaving against the grain;
  • The use of blunt blades;
  • Dry shaving (not moisturising the hair prior to shaving);
  • Making use of a razor with multiple blades.

 How can shaving worsen a pre-existing acne vulgaris?

The use of ‘irritating’ products can lead to inflammation of the skin, potentially worsening an existing acne condition. Therefore, always look for, and make use of, gentle products as far as possible.

It’s important to note though that shaving can lead to traumatic folliculitis (commonly known as razor burn). Although its appearance can look a lot like acne, it is not acne and will usually clears up within 24 to 48 hours.

Some useful tips and suggestions

  • Practice some pre shaving care: This can be done making use of warm water or other pre shaving products to improve the hydration of the hairs.
  • Post shaving care:
    • Rinse off the pre shaving cream with warm water.
    • Follow the above with cold water to constrict the blood vessels and reduce inflammation.
    • Pat the skin dry with a towel. Do not rub in order to prevent irritations.
    • Follow this by applying a post shave cream, gel, lotion or balm. After shave products are antiseptics and can therefore help prevent infections (after shaving) from minor trauma. They are also moisturising and soothing. This helps to reduce dryness and irritations. Please note: Some after shave products may contain alcohol. It is therefore advisable for people with sensitive skin to avoid those.
  • Avoid shaving when you already have pimples or nearby lesions of acne vulgaris as this will increase irritation that will further aggravate and possibly worsen an existing acne condition.
  • Choose your face washes carefully, making use of products containing keratolytic properties (such as salicylic acid) and alpha hydroxy acids (such as glycolic acid) that help to reduce perifollicular hyperkeratosis (thickness of the skin around the follicles).
  • Whenever possible, stop shaving completely to allow any existing condition to gradually improve over time.
  • If possible, make use of an electric hair clipper that is associated with minimal development of ingrown hair. It is recommended to leave approximately 1mm of hair behind.


In severe cases, your doctor may prescribe an oral antibiotic. For less severe instances, remedies could involve the use of topical treatments such as benzoyl peroxide, retinoids, clindamycin as either monotherapy or a combination.

In the case of a few trapped ingrown hairs, your doctor might manually be able to dislodge them making use of a sterile needle and possibly recommend the use of salicylic or glycolic acid chemical peels that work as an exfoliant (discussed above). Glycolic acid is also thought to reduce the curvature of the hair, thus reducing the tendency to curve back into the skin.

For those unwelcome dark spots left behind by lesions – chemical peels, azelaic acid and depigmenting agents can, once again, be prescribed by your doctor.

Definite treatment involves the destruction or removal of the hair follicle mainly by laser.