How to Shave Like a Man and Combat Acne


This article is a continuation of our two part series: The Ultimate Guide to Shaving with Acne. This section covers the actual shave and post shave steps to help prevent new breakouts. Read part 1 here.

After excellent beard prep, it is time to actually shave. Having ditched the multi-blade cartridge, it is time to pick up your new straight or double edged razor and shave. Follow our advice below and you will combat new breakouts and have better skin.

The Actual Shave

Regardless of the source, all experts agree only doing a with the grain pass is recommended. Now, if you want a closer shave than this, don’t go further than across the grain. If you decide to forgo my advice, shave against the grain at your peril. A single pass is good enough for most teenagers. Adults with acne may decide to shave against the grain if you only have a few pimples. If you don’t know which direction your hair grows or what against/with the grain means, consult the below picture.

After the beard prep stage, it’s time to lather. If you decided to try wet shaving, you may think about lathering before you lather. Meaning, lather your face, wipe it off after five minutes, and lather again. This allows the lather to soak into the skin and soften the hairs even further. If your having trouble shaving comfortably or closely, then try this method.

If you only have a few pimples or a mole, then the simple solution is to not shave the area. Same goes for serious breakout areas. Just don’t shave it. See a dermatologist or wait for it to pass. The hard partof avoiding shaving pimples/acne is that the lather covers them up. The simple solution is to remove the lather in the area. If you use a straight razor, it’s as easy as rotating the tip of the straight razor like a drill on top of the area to remove the lather. If your using another method, your finger works too.

In planning the shave, some sources recommended shaving the moustache and chin last so the soap and water have more time to soften the hairs. Following this step should make shaving those areas a little easier. If you decide to wet shave and find that the lather dries out before you can get to these areas, don’t worry, just dip the very tip of the brush in some water and add it to the lather.

Shave Lightly and Only “With the Grain”

The actual shave is not too different than normal. But, as the section title says, shave lightly and only with the grain. Shaving lightly is recommended because it helps reduce cutting pimples tremendously. Using a straight razor and controlling the angle and pressure, you can actually shave right over acne without cutting pimples. This, however, takes a certain amount of skill with a straight razor. Not recommended for the uninitiated. Learn more about straight razor shaving here.

It is extremely important to not go over the area again. The more passes you make, the greater the chances of cutting pimples. Don’t try to get that one last hair. It’s not worth the extra time spent doing first aid when you do cut it. In addition, they always tend to flare up again, 10x worse if you fail to keep the area sanitized. Trust me, I am much more familiar with this subject than I want to be.

Shaving with the grain will leave you with stubble. Shaving is after all, beard reduction in phases rather than chopping off all the hair at once. Well, you could do it, but it’s extremely uncomfortable and your face will not like you. If a with the grain pass does not leave you with a close enough shave, then you can proceed with an across the grain pass (XTG). This means cutting the hairs perpendicularly. For example, if your beard grows downwards, across the grain means going from a left to right or right to left direction. Again, don’t use a lot of pressure to reduce the pimple cuts.

If a XTG pass is not enough beard removal for you, I highly recommend you stop and proceed to the post shave steps. However, if your job requires it, then proceed to the against the grain pass (ATG) with the following advice. If you do choose to make an ATG pass, then you must use a traditional shaving method. As mentioned in the first part of this article, a DE or straight razor gives you infinitely more control over the shave. In addition, the blades are sharper and will cut more and irritate less. Again, a straight razor is even better than a DE.

The same advice applies for ATG than all the other passes. Except that you *must* avoid pimples. Shaving ATG is a certain way to cut into any breakouts you may be experiencing. So, shave well and go lightly. If your using a straight razor, reduce the angle.

Post Shave

The post shave routine is even more important in preventing new breakouts. The first thing to do is wash off your face with cool water. This will help seal up the pores and prevent new irritants/infection. The next step is to kill off any bacteria left on your face. Sea Breeze acne astringent gets the best reviews and recommendations of any astringent I found. I personally don’t use an astringent anymore.

Many facial care providers try to sell you alcohol free antiseptic solutions for using on your face after you wash it. While these can help prevent breakouts, they’re pretty darn expensive. Never fear, our forefathers had that figured out too. After the shave, they used something called an alum block. An alum block is exactly that a block of alum. Alum is an antiseptic and anti-hemorrhaging agent. Thus, it’s great for both stopping bleeding and disinfecting your face. An alum block has the added benefit of sealing up your pores as well. There’s no reason alum block usage must be limited to your beard area.

If using an alum block is not for you, then use one of the following antiseptic products. Using an antiseptic is important because after the shave, your pores are opened up due to the hot water and lather. I suppose you could shave with cold water, but that’s just unnecessary pain.

Taylor of Old Bond Street Alum Block

7 reviews
Sea Breeze Astringent (3 Pack)

21 reviews

Moisturize. Men do it too.

After disinfecting, the next step is to moisturize. This is important because after you’ve washed your face and shaved, you have no oils. Your face will detect this and go into oil production mode. This is bad because oil + dirt + pore = acne. So, moisturize your face and tell your oil glands to chill.

Any non oil based moisturizer with SPF is recommended. While the SPF doesn’t exactly help prevent acne, it does protect your face from the sun and premature aging. It’s an investment into your future you want to make. Besides, if you’re going to use a moisturizer, might as well wear something with an added benefit.

My Recommendations

I’ve spent a lot of time researching how to beat acne. More time than I care to admit. All the sources agree that skin care is the basis of prevention. All sources also agree that only two products have been clinically proven to reduce active acne: benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid. Proactiv is easily the most widely promoted acne fighting system available. However, you can easily replicate the treatment at a much cheaper price. I’ll show you how in a little bit. But let’s take a look at how Proactiv works.

  • Step 1 is a daily cleanser. You’re supposed to use it twice a day.
  • Step 2 is a revitalizing toner. Again, use twice daily.
  • Step 3 is not really a step, but rather an acne spot treatment. They suggest twice daily usage.

Looking at how these items work, you’ll notice that the cleanser and spot treatment use benzoyl peroxide as the active ingredient. Now, all of these products use benzoyl peroxide as the active ingredient. As you’ve just read, benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid are the only two clinically proven treatments that work.

Okay, now that’s out of the way, let’s see how wet-shaving replicates and even surpasses the Proactiv treatment regimen.

Wash your face twice a day, no more, no less.

Use a gentle, oil free cleanser. Salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide in the wash will not hurt, but these products do dry out the skin. Over-washing the face is just as bad as under-washing. You have to remove the dead skin cells that clog your pores and the excess oil that helps trap dirt. But, you can’t remove it all. Your skin needs the oils and moisture to remain flexible and healthy. If you have a lot of oil in the middle of the day, I recommend washing your face with just water and pat drying with a towel. It’s important to wash your hands first and pat dry, don’t rub. Rubbing spreads oil and dirt.


Purpose Gentle Cleansing Wash

31 reviews
Cetaphil Daily Facial Cleanser For Normal to Oily Skin

15 reviews


Exfoliation is key. There’s no substitute. Your skin sheds layers upon layers of cells each day. These cells normally fall off and that’s it. But some become attached to oil and then clog your pores. Reducing the amount of skin cells on the surface helps prevent excess shedding and breakouts. Many facial scrubs are marketed to do this task. Don’t be fooled though, all exfoliation does is remove the top layer of skin. Think about that.

Shaving is a great exfoliant. If you don’t believe me, try shaving an area of skin without using lather or water. You’ll see a bunch of dead skin cells on the edge of the blade. That’s the razor exfoliating. Yup, you’re paying for a single use product when all you really need to do is run a sharp blade over your skin. That said, I’ll give exfoliating scrubs their due when talking about the other areas of your face. While shaving your forehead is possible, I doubt many people do it. And shaving your nose is just impossible. But there’s no reason to not shave the entirety of your cheeks.


Proactiv’s revitalizing toner is an astringent. It kills bacteria on your face, preventing new infections. Proactiv’s may contain other ingredients, I don’t know exactly what’s in it. Any alcohol free astringent will work. The goal of this process is to kill any surface bacteria. As I said above, an alum block will do the same thing. Of course, you don’t shave day and night, so an purchasing an astringent is a good idea. Sea Breeze is a good choice.

Taylor of Old Bond Street Alum Block

7 reviews
Sea Breeze Astringent (3 Pack)

21 reviews

Don’t pop them!

Bursting whiteheads is just plain asking for it. Not only are you releasing millions of bacteria onto the surrounding area, but you’ve just angered your skin. Not only is the pimple likely to come back bigger and meaner, but now you’re going to have to continually disinfect and treat the area to ensure proper healing. And don’t get me started on the scarring…. Now, all that said, I’m guilty of having done the very thing I advocate against. I hope you learn from my mistakes, but if you don’t and find yourself popping them, at least follow the following advice.

But if you do…

Sometimes, acne bursts due to normal washing or you nick it while shaving. Hopefully that means it was ready to fall off anyway. Either case, basic first aid principals apply. Step 1, stop the bleeding & disinfect. I high recommend a styptic pencil or alum block for this task. Not only will it quickly seal up the wound, but it serves as an antiseptic. Highly recommended. After that, seal up the wound using liquid bandaid. I use New Skin. Then, twice a day, disinfect the area with alcohol and reapply the liquid bandaid.

Clubman Styptic Pencil

8 reviews
New-Skin Liquid Bandage — 1 fl oz

5 reviews

Use Spot Treatments & Salicylic Acid

Benzoyl peroxide based products are the best I’ve found. The active ingredient is the same in most products, but I use either Glytone or Persa Gel. All sources agree that salicylic acid works. Most also recommend treating the entire affected area. Doing research, I found that all products contained the same % of salicylic acid. Neutrogena’s also moisturized. Added bonus. I’ve been using Acne Stress Control with good results for years now. It moisturizes, exfoliates (salicylic acid is the active ingredient in many exfoliating peels), and prevents breakouts.

Neutrogena Oil Free Acne Stress Control

39 reviews
D.R. Harris Almond Shaving Soap Refill

8 reviews

That’s it. Follow those recommendations and you will have better skin. I can’t guarantee an end to acne, but your skin will be healthier. My personal regimen is to wash my face in the morning, shave, then apply spf moisturizer. At night I was my face and apply the 3 in 1 Acne Stress Control. That’s it. I’ve had great success following this regimen. Of course, I’m not exactly 17 either.

I hope this article helps, share your acne fighting experiences below.

2 thoughts on “How to Shave Like a Man and Combat Acne

  1. Andrew


    Great article for those of us who suffer adult acne. Quick question, just want to make sure I understand, are you recommending the neutrogena product as your moisturiser?



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