March 10, 2010

Care for the Face that Hates to be Shaved

When I first abandoned bleach and tweezers and turned to wet shaving for my face, the results of the switch were encouraging. I loved the clear smoothness of my jaw and chin, how close I could get to the skin compared to the bleach, how few follicles would get infected from the incessant tweezing and stretching, and scorned the fear that had kept me from trying it sooner.

But over time--I'm talking years, here--it began to take its toll. The skin dried out, grew red and sore and flakey. I would nick ingrown hairs again and again, making it hard for them to heal. And shaving at least every 24 hours meant not a lot of the hairs were breaking through the skin by the time I was trying to hide them again, so I was shaving more skin than hair.

I'd get a cold or flu and be in bed for a week without shaving, and I'd see how a break from the razor and foam restored my skin to normality. I began to see that I couldn't ignore the abuse I was giving my face--if I was going to do this, I had to take better care of my skin. So I set out trying to find ways to moisturize, soothe, and heal between shaves.

Compared to two years ago--or even a year ago--my face has been doing much better. Not perfect, of course, but the improvement is noteworthy enough to share. Sometimes, I wear my hair tucked behind my ears. That is significant.

I've said before that I wouldn't recommend medicated cleansers because they help dry out the skin. And I've also mentioned that I have come to prefer shaving oils to foams and creams. It also helps immensely if you can afford not to shave every day. I know many of you can't. If I still worked full time outside the home, I couldn't do that. But taking a day off now and then, giving the hair time to actually emerge, has put a bit of a damper on my social life, but it makes the start of the next day much better. And right now, having confidence the next time I'm in the office or for the next big event is more important to me, personally.

So here are a few of the things I've tried to care for the skin after the shave:

  • Aloe Vera
+ Soothes
- Doesn't moisturize well

Aloe vera is recommended often for the treatment of skin burns and irritation. I've always loved the topical gel for a sunburn, but when it comes to using it after shaving, I'm not sold. I don't find aloe vera has exceptional moisturizing properties, not for skin as dry as mine. I found a gel that has an added 1% lidocaine (an anesthetic), which soothed and took away a little of the redness. Trying to apply make-up or even a better moisturizer over top of the aloe tends to cause the aloe residue to ball-up all over the skin. So for me, this was not the best solution.

  • Bikini Zone
+ Soothes even better, dries out pimples
- Stings and isn't moisturizing
I picked up Bikini Zone for use on the bikini zone, originally. After seeing the commercials for the medicated gel I was curious. It really does take down the irritation right away, and I didn't get nearly as many bumps. Their website does say that it is safe to use on delicate skin everywhere, but even so, I never considered using it on my face until another lovely young woman on one of the forums I visit asked about it. I will tell you this: it stings! But it does help with redness a bit, and it is designed to dry out infected follicles. Of course, if dryness is also your problem, like me, this might not be your best solution either.

  • Vichy Thermal Spa Water
+ Stops the stinging of razor burn
- Expensive, and doesn't take down the redness exceptionally well
I almost forgot this one. My mother once spoke of my problems to a woman at the Vichy counter in a drugstore when I wasn't present. The woman recommended, among other things, their Thermal Spa Water to soothe razor burned skin. The mineral water is apparently bottled at Vichy's own private volcano, and can be used anywhere, on the face, in the eyes, even on sore throats. It really is quite pleasant to use--it cools and I was surprised to find my face felt a lot better after shaving. But considering it's price tag and the fact that I still need to moisturize heavily and hide as much redness as always, I didn't think it was worth it to buy it again.

  • Vitamin E Oil
+ Moisturizes and promotes quick healing
- Expensive, hard to apply, can cause breakouts
I admit, I already loved this stuff for its healing properties. (A less jargon-y article on its benefits for the skin here.) It is wonderful on scars. I could show you a deep second degree burn on my finger and there is no evidence of it anywhere. I keep meaning to try it on very old scars and stretchmarks because I hear all the time that it can reduce their appearance, too. The trouble is, even a small bottle is expensive. After you shell out more than $20 for 28 grams (in Canada, anyway), you want to use it sparingly.

It is a very viscous (think maple syrup) unscented oil that is not easy to spread, and it takes a while to soak into your face. But after a time I could see the skin was healing faster and staying softer. Applying make-up was a little bit easier. Eventually I realized I should be letting it work its magic overnight, too, especially since the benzoyl peroxide I use for spots is so drying. I switched to using it at night over top of the benzoyl peroxide cream, which also lessened the little breakouts I would get from using the oil. I still needed a pretty heavy moisturizer after the shave in the morning, as a base for the make-up, but the whole routine gave me better results overall than anything else I'd tried so far.

  • Jojoba Oil
+ Moisturizes, doesn't clog pores, absorbs faster
- Doesn't speed healing as well
I was quite happy with the vitamin e oil, expensive though it was, but in my reading I began to notice recommendations for jojoba oil. It got my attention, and I began hunting for it. Eventually I found a bottle in my favorite local handmade soap shop and began introducing it slowly into my regimen. It's a much thinner oil, like mineral oil, so it doesn't feel like you're pressing and pulling your skin to apply it, and a drop goes a long way. It soaks in faster as well. I noticed no sharp "green" smell as some places have mentioned, though perhaps that's just the particular kind that shop bottled. It's been very nice on the face in the morning and at night, and causes absolutely no spots. I'm considering trying it as a shaving lubricant as well.

I notice it doesn't promote quick healing like the vitamin e oil did, though, so I'll often dab a bit onto a certain area if it's needed. But for the price of a bottle of vitamin e oil, you get ten times as much jojoba oil. Still, I think I might try to buy it online next time, where it seems to be much cheaper, even with shipping.

Does anyone else have a favorite after-shave treatment? I heard someone somewhere once recommend diaper rash cream, which I'm reluctant to try for the smell alone. But it's important to be willing to try things when you're part of a relatively small group of women who shave their face, because there's so little support information out there. So feel free to leave your suggestions in the comments.


Sophie said...

i cant remember what i wrote exactly in my original comment but most probably i was praising two products: Dermalogica and Lycogel. Dermalogica is ( )magic for the skin, its marketing has nothing to do with shaving but i got samples from my laser lady and they were miraculous. Really helps the skin to breathe and to heal when needed and to look "ok", generally. All their products are great.
Lycogel ( ) is a make up I was given by the same lady after laser treatment. Oh my, it was amazing. It concealed EVERYTHING without looking thick and dodgy. It apparently has some healing qualities, too but i paid most of my attention to my new found spotless face. Sad part: both of them cost a fortune and insurance doesnt cover it so I can forget about buying them regularly... if at all... ...

Allerleirah said...

Thanks for those links, Sophie! Very interesting. Is the dermalogica product for sensitivity and redness?

Sophie said...

For sensitivity and redness, if you want to hide it, the best would be lycogel. Whereas dermalogica works more on getting rid of the reason for redness (eg. no aliens coming out of ingrown hair, skin getting more "defensive" against harshness but it doesnt become harsh itself). These ones were designed for sensitivity and redness:

Allerleirah said...

Very cool. I am looking for places I can find some. I'm curious how much it will be in Canada...

Sophie said...

ask in laser clinics. they only post specific shops on their main website but you can find it everywhere, just hidden. its more "medical" than "commercial".

Allerleirah said...

Good to know. :) It's a shame, though, that something that might work so well is not marketed to the general public. Probably because of the price point, of course...

Sophie said...

actually, a little update: it seems to be in all laser salons around me. i went to amsterdam yesterday and there are plenty hair removals "stations" there and a lot of them had dermalogica signs on. i think they dont market it as a commercial product, more like something "medical", but of course, without insurance coverage...