Cuts with Shaving

As you can imagine, sliding a sharpened blade across any amount of skin carries with it an inherent risk of injury. Shaving cuts are an unfortunate side effect of the practice, but they also tend to be quite shallow and easily dealt with, often only bleeding for 10-15 minutes, but even so not particularly heavily unless you have a blood clotting disorder or are on blood thinning medication.

Why do I cut myself shaving?

A smooth shave is all about moistening the area to be shaved and clean strokes with your razor because of both the sharpness and the blade and the use of shaving cream or foam as a lubricant. You get a cut when this smooth motion is disrupted for any reason. A blunt or nicked razor blade will catch against your skin, resulting in a jagged motion and hence a cut. Similarly, shaving against the grain (the direction in which your hair grows) involves more resistance against the blade, also potentially causing a cut.

Dealing with shaving cuts

Unless on a blood thinning medication like aspirin or if you suffer from a blood clotting condition like haemophilia, shaving cuts will bleed briefly, meaning that dealing with them is a matter of cleanly stemming blood flow until your body’s natural clotting mechanism kicks in. A common method is to tear off a small piece of tissue or toilet paper and placing it against the cut, upon absorbing some blood this make shift wound dressing will adhere to your skin until you’re ready to remove it. Some people choose to dab or press the cut with alcohol by means of a cotton bud or swab, however this can sting and may not be the method of choice!

After your bleeding has more or less stopped, applying petroleum jelly or lip balm to the site of injury prevents the formation of an unsightly scab. A chemical called aluminium chlorohydrate can have a similar effect. This substance is often found on stick deodorants which can irritate freshly shaven skin. Applying an aftershave balm is a good way of cleaning and soothing freshly cut skin, some of which contain a small quantity of either petroleum jelly or aluminium chlorohydrate for the aforementioned reasons.

How can I avoid shaving cuts?

Healthy shaving practices developed through experience of your own skin are the best way to avoid shaving cuts. Always use either a sharp or fresh razor clear of nicks and corrosion. Shave with the grain of your hair, which means to move the razor against your skin in the same direction as your hair growth, as this minimises the friction between blade and skin and hence the likelihood of cutting. Always shave in the same direction.

Taking a cold shower before shaving, or even shaving in the shower, is a good way of avoiding any unwelcome injury. Low temperatures cause blood vessels to constrict (a process called vasoconstriction), reducing blood flow to the skin and hence minimising bleeding. One final point to make is that while not always possible, try and keep your skin smooth and spot free for easy shaving. If your skin does have any irregularities or bumps, shave the area carefully if at all.

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