unnamedThere are two things that dull razor blades: (1) water, and to a lesser extent (2) simply using the blade. What causes the most damage is oxidation from water, but blades also get microscopic nicks in them from the act of shaving itself.

I’ve been experimenting with methods of keeping my razor blades dry for about a year now. I’ve tried keeping them dry by rubbing them on a towel after I’m finished shaving, rubbing them several times against denim like a few YouTube videos suggested, and always keeping the razor in a sunny window so it stays dry.

Nothing works. My razor blades still get dull after about two weeks.

Last week, my friend’s cousin’s husband came over to the office to say hi. Good ideas can come from the most interesting of places ;) He pulled me aside and said he’s been putting his razor in jojoba oil after each shave and his razor blade is staying sharp for months at a time.

I started doing this a few days ago. I don’t know if it’s going to work yet, but the shave itself is extra nice with jojoba oil coating the entire blade. Have any of you guys tried putting your razor into oil (jojoba oil or any other oil)? If so, how has it worked for you?

What is an ingrown hair?: Ingrown hairs occur when a hair grows sideways, staying below the skin surface instead of properly exisitng the skin surface. They are common in areas that are shaven, and tend to affect men in their in their 30s and beyond to a higher degree. Ingrown hairs commonly occur on the chin, jawline, or sideburn area. These ingrown hairs can easily masquerade as zits because they are inflamed mounds that hurt. However, they tend to come out of nowhere, seemingly overnight at times, and tend to be painful as well. If you get a sudden, painful “zit” out of the blue, consider the fact that it may be an ingrown hair.

Proper treatment: For many people, ingrown hairs are a seemingly unsolvable conundrum. However, it turns out they can be successfully treated in much the same way as a severe acne lesion. Ingrown hairs respond to benzoyl peroxide and alpha hydroxy acid extremely well, as long as you catch them early. At the first sign of a reddish or painful lump, gently cleanse the skin, wait for your skin to dry, apply 2.5% benzoyl peroxide, wait for the benzoyl peroxide to dry, and then apply 10% alpha hydroxy acid on top. In other words, apply the Acne.org Regimen with the addition of AHA+.

Generally, when an ingrown hair is medicated during its very early stages, it will subside to nothing in a day or two. Benzoyl peroxide helps kill the bacteria that is growing under the surface, and alpha hydroxy helps turn over the skin more quickly, thus releasing the impaction.

Prevention: Most people find that applying the Regimen on a regular basis to ingrown hair prone areas will prevent ingrown hairs from developing in the first place. Regular adherence to a proper benzoyl peroxide regimen should be enough to prevent ingrown hairs without the addition of alpha hydroxy acid. If you are irregular with your benzoyl peroxide use, alpha hydroxy may be needed when an ingrown hair threatens.

Removing/Popping an ingrown hair: If you catch it too late, an ingrown hair can grow larger and more painful. The lesion can come to a white head, in which case you can carefully pop it and squeeze out the offending hair. Absolutely do not attempt to squeeze out the hair unless the lesion has come to a head.

Dermatologist help: In rare cases, ingrown hairs can get out of control, and the lesion they create can expand to several centimeters or even inches long. In this case, promptly see a dermatologist. He/She can administer a cortisone shot and/or remove the hair entirely, thus preventing too much scarring.

Over-the-counter creams/gels: Ingrown hair creams or gels tend to disappoint. I have personally never come across one that works as advertised. For best results, apply 2.5% benzoyl peroxide and a high quality 10% alpha hydroxy acid instead.

Pros: The one blade “trimmer” on the back is nice to have for perfect sideburns, although I did cut myself with it once.

Cons: Very irritating, tons of drag, expensive, doesn’t fit in usual razor shower caddy.

Bottom line: For all the talk of “thinner blades” and “less irritation” and “less drag”, I was expecting much more. Honestly, I didn’t notice much of a difference between this razor and Gillette or Bic’s previous 5 blade razors. They are all extraordinarily irritating. The 2 blade Sensor Excel or the two blade Trac II Plus are far less irritating and give a much more pleasant shave. I still would highly caution against these multi-blade razors and recommend strongly that people go with the Sensor Excel or Trac II Plus.

Recommended: Absolutely not.

I got an email from an acne.org member encouraging me to try this electric razor. It has a head which rotates extremely fast and the makers advertise that it cuts hair up to 270 times a second. It is a wet shaver that you use in the shower with shaving cream, or in my case, lather from Acne.org cleanser. I tried it for three days, hoping to give it a little time to get used to it and nail the technique. Unfortunately, it never worked well for me. No matter how hard I pressed it didn’t provide anything near a close shave. I prefer a close shave. Otherwise I end up feeling kinda gross toward the end of the day. Also, it took a while to complete the shave–quite a bit longer than with a 2-blade razor. It felt more irritating than a 2-blade as well. While it was not the most irritating electric I’ve tried, it did still have the feel of an electric. In other words, horrendous. I am pretty much giving up on trialing electrics at this point. I’ve tried probably a dozen of them and none have come even close to producing the low irritation and close shave of a 2-blade razor. Lastly, I got some obvious irritation on my neck, as electrics are wont to do. You can’t see it well in the picture, but it was pretty gross lookin’ for a day or two.

Bottom line: When comparing the rotoshave to 2-blade razors, and the Gillette Trac II Plus in particular, it is no contest. The Trac II Plus wins hands down. Every electric razor I have ever tried is irritating. This one was no exception.

One potential use: For people with lots of pustules and very bumpy, irregular skin, who prefer a shave that is not very close, this shaver may be worth a try. Since it does not offer a close shave, it may be less likely to nick very bumpy skin with lots of active acne.

[Acne.org's guide to shaving]

I got an email from a member who wanted to let everybody know Dollar General is selling Gillette Trac II Plus cartridges for $1.25 for 6 blades. That’s cheap! He says they’re the real thing too.

The Trac II Plus is my favorite razor. The blades don’t come with the handle though. You need to get that separately. You can find out where to get those at the bottom of the recommended products page. I am totally unaffiliated with any of the companies that make the handles by the way.

For more info on all things shaving, check out the guide to shaving.

Trac II Plus razor cartridges

safety razor

In my neverending quest to find the least irritating shave, I recently tried a safety razor. Safety razors are seriously old school. They are heavy metal contraptions into which you put an actual double edged razor blade. Since I read on a couple of shaving web sites that safety razors provide the least irritating shave, I decided to try one.

It was a horrible shave, and terribly irritating–one of the most irritating shaves I’ve ever experienced. I couldn’t even finish one shave with it. It felt like raking something sharp across my skin. Yuck.

People online say it takes some practice to achieve the skill needed to get the best shave possible with these things, but I felt quite clearly after my first shave that no amount of practice would change this frog into a prince.

I tried the Merkur brand because it was most highly recommended from people who use safety razors. It was quite expensive, but I figured if it worked out I’d save money on blades, since the regular double edged blades are so inexpensive. But alas, I’m just out the money I spent on this thing. I’d highly recommend saving your money and just sticking with the Gillette Trac II Plus or the Gillette Sensor Excel.