Shaving for Acne-Prone People

Follow These Steps for the Least-Irritating Shave

The Essential Info

When it comes to shaving, the name of the game is to reduce physical irritation because physical irritation of the skin can make acne worse.

To reduce irritation when shaving:

Shave every day: The longer you wait, the longer the hair becomes, and the more irritating the act of shaving becomes.

Use a 2-blade razor: The Gillette Trac II or Gillette Sensor Excel* are the two best I have found after trying them all.

Use the lather from a gentle facial cleanser as your “shaving cream”: Most shaving creams, gels, and foams contain irritating or pore-clogging ingredients and do not offer a better shave compared with a good facial cleanser.

Be gentle when you shave: Stay confident, but also try to stay gentle, and take extra care if shaving over, or near, active acne lesions.

* is not associated with Gillette in any way.

The Science

How to shave (text version)
Shave Every Day

If you are acne prone it is best to grow a beard and not shave at all or to shave every day. The more days you wait between shaves the longer the hair will become, and the longer the hair becomes the more drag it will produce when you shave. And since we know that irritation equals acne, it’s important to do everything you can to reduce irritation when you’re shaving.

Step 1 - Choose a Shaving Product

Most shaving creams and gels contain irritating ingredients. Instead of using a shaving cream, look for a gentle, non-medicated, foaming cleanser made specifically for the face, which does not contain sodium lauryl sulfate. This often works just as well or better than shaving cream and will not irritate your skin. If you must use a shaving cream or gel, be sure to check the label for the terms “non-comedogenic” and “for sensitive skin.”

Most shaving creams contain irritating and comedogenic ingredients


Step 2 - Choose a Razor - A Two Blade (Twin Blade) Razor is Best

Use a two blade – or twin blade as they are sometimes called – razor to shave. One blade razors tend to pull at the skin, and 3, 4, and 5 blade razors produce unnecessary irritation. The two best twin blade razors are the Gillette Trac II Plus and the Gillette Sensor Excel. These razors can be a bit hard to find, but it’s really worth the effort so you can achieve the least irritating shave possible.

Step 3 - Dispense a Generous Amount of Shaving Product


Step 4 - Work Into A Rich, Thick Lather


Step 5 - Very Gently Apply to Beard Area


Step 6 - Begin Shaving

Shave at the end of your shower when your skin is soft and wet. This will ensure that you get the least irritating shave possible. Dispense a generous amount of cleanser into your wet palm. Use a really good amount – about 6 milliliters, or a teaspoon and a half. When in doubt use more. This will help you to generate a nice, thick lather. Take your time and generate as thick of a lather as you can and then very gently apply it to your beard area.

Step 7 - Shave with the Grain (Direction of Hair Growth)

Now it’s time for the shave. When you shave, shave with the grain. The grain is the direction that the hair grows in. Use a confident, downward motion on your cheeks, upper lip, chin, and the top half of your neck. Since the hair growth tends to reverse on the bottom half of the neck, shave upwards in this area. Try shaving each part of your face only once if possible. If you miss a spot, no problem, go over it again confidently and keep moving, but try not to go over any area more than you need to.

Step 8 - Rinse Your Skin

Then rinse your skin and gently wash your nose and forehead.

Optional: Applying a pre-shave oil before applying the foam from your cleanser or your shaving cream will further soften the beard as well as assist with razor glide and offer more protection. Apply pre-shave oil to damp skin. You only need 8-10 drops for your full beard. Massage the oil into the beard, going against the grain very gently. Jojoba oil is a good choice. If you use any other oil, be certain that it specifically states on the package that the product is non-comedogenic (won’t clog pores).

Finding the right products

Finding a good razor and shaving foam/cleanser is a difficult task. I’ve put together a list of Regimen approved razors and cleansers. The options listed below are in recommended order.”

Dan Kern, founder

Finding a razor

Note: We are not associated with Gillette or any other brands on this page, and receive no compensation for links.

Gillette Trac II Plus

First released in 1972, it remains to this day the least irritating razor on the market. Does not pivot.


Trac II Razor handles no longer made by Gillette, but compatible handles are available from other brands.

  • Gillette 7 o’clock: A perfect option, albeit a bit harder to find and requiring online ordering. It holds the cartridges snugly and does not allow buildup of “goopiness” behind the cartridge. Kudos to the Gillette product design team. (Do not use cartridges that come with the 7 o’clock, just use the handle.)
  • Gallant II, Laser II, Super Max II: These are just like the Gillette 7 o’clock handle and can also be used. (Do not use cartridges that come with these razors, just use the handle.)
  • Chrome handle: A fancier, more expensive, heavyweight handle is also available here. It’s called the “Parker Twin Blade Chrome Razor.”
  • Bump Fighter: The most widely available and least expensive handle is made by Bump Fighter, but the Bump Fighter handle does not hold the cartidges as snugly as some other handles and due to its design tends to produce “goopiness” behind the cartridge. (Do not use cartridges that come with the Bump Fighter, just use the handle.)


The very first shave with any new razor cartridge will produce more drag. Do not be worried if the very first shave seems slightly rougher than usual. The shave will become less irritating with subsequent uses.

Gillette Sensor Excel Razor

Also a very low irritation razor. Pivots. Can be a little rougher on the neck than the Trac II, thus achieving 2nd place behind the Trac II in my list.


  • Razor handle and cartridges still currently manufactured by Gillette.


The very first shave with any new razor cartridge will produce more drag. Do not be worried if the very first shave seems slightly rougher than usual. The shave will become less irritating with subsequent uses.

Gillette Good News Disposable Razors

These razors work fine, but are not as low irritation as the Trac II or Sensor Excel. Try to use only in “emergencies” such as if you forget your Trac II or Sensor Excel while on vacation.

Finding a Shaving foam / Cleanser

Note: We are not associated with or any other brands and receive no compensation for links. Cleanser

Made specifically for The Regimen and shaving. Lathers well without any harsh ingredients. Ultra-gentle. Unscented.

Olay Foaming Face Wash (Sensitive)

Contains sodium laureth sulfate, a potentially drying and irritating ingredient, but as the 11th ingredient listed, so it is still within an acceptable range. Lathers well, but is a bit thick so be sure to use enough water to get a good lather going. The orifice on the tube version is very small, so squeeze hard to dispense an adequate amount. Even with all of this, overall this is quite a nice product for use when shaving. Unscented.

Clean & Clear Essentials Foaming Facial Cleanser

Lathers well. Gentle ingredients. Scented.

Purpose Gentle Cleansing Wash

Johnson & Johnson produces this identical cleanser to Clean & Clear Foaming Facial Cleanser and bottles it also in what they brand as Purpose Gentle Cleansing Wash. It is smaller and more expensive, however.

Basis – Sensitive Skin Bar

Liquid cleansers are gentler to the skin than bar cleaners and I prefer liquids over bars. However, this is by far my favorite of any bar. Unscented, gentle, lathers well.

Cetaphil Gentle Cleansing Bar

Lathers very well. Heavily scented. Gentle enough to be used every day.

Purpose Gentle Cleansing Bar

My least favorite of the acceptable bars. Less gentle than the other bars, and dries out the skin a bit more, but still fine to use every day. Lathers well. Scented.

Additional info

Alternative method

If your skin still becomes irritated despite following this guide, you could try using a beard trimmer (not to be confused with an electric shaver). A beard trimmer, as the name suggests, will only trim your beard and will not achieve a close shave. However, with the guard removed you can get your beard down to a close stubble.

Never use electrics

Never use electric razors. Based on extensive testing by our team, all brands and all models tend to be ultra-irritating no matter how strongly they are advertised to be “gentle” or “made for the neck.