The Best Razor for Sensitive Skin: Top Picks for Men
For many men, shaving is a calm, centering routine that feels great. It’s a tranquil ritual that’s relaxing, introspecting, and pleasant.
For some of us, though—those of us who experience razor burn, or rash, or inflammation from shaving—the routine is kind of torturous. Nicks, cuts, bumps—for those of us who come away from a shave anticipating pain, the morning shave is a drag.
So in this post, we’re going to take a deep dive into models we think are the best razor for sensitive skin. None of them are “a sure thing”—everyone’s skin is unique, and reacts to different products in different ways—but we’ve good luck with the four models we discuss below, and we think they’re good picks. We also discuss one shaving cream we think is a good pick (well, two, actually), and one electric razor that makes our grade.
It’s a short list, but we’ve eliminated a lot of models we don’t like, and hopefully somewhere in our selection there’s something that’ll do it for you. Let’s jump in:
Sensitive Skin Razors for Men: Our Top Choices
Here are our picks. We’ll start with the disposables, because it seems like that’s what people want to see, but we’d urge you to read about the safety razors, because those are—in our humble opinion—the best razor for sensitive skin for men who shave their faces (and we’ll explain why below).
Gillette Mach3 Men’s Razor
This razor gets our vote for best cartridge razor
The Gillette Mach3 is an incredibly popular razor, and chances are if you don’t use it, you probably have a friend, roommate, or family member who does. And there’s good reason for that: it’s got an ergonomic grip that’s pleasant to hold, a skin guard that pulls your skin a little bit so that your skin is prepped for the blade, a lubrication strip that coats your skin to decrease the probably of shaving nicks, and most importantly, it has three blades at the head. For a simple cartridge razor, it includes all the features we would want.
It’s not a perfect shave—the straight razors below are more effective at removing whiskers—but as far as cartridge razors go, we consider it to be among the best you’ll find—and perhaps most importantly, it’s comfortable. The lubrication strip really does add a layer of protection—you’ll actually have to wash it off your skin after you use one of these puppies, because your skin will remain lubricated—and the blades do seem sharper than a regular disposable. Over the years we’ve used it, we’ve had fewer bumps and burns than with other razors.
If you’re used to disposables, this can be a nice step up in terms of comfort and closeness. When we don’t have time for a full shave with a safety razor, the Mach3 is our go-to, and they’re great to have in a travel bag or a backpack for when you find yourself travelling.
One other thing: this one is surprising popular with the ladies. In doing research for this post, we talked with a few friends, and all of their wives had adopted the Mach3 into their grooming routines, and ditched their previous razors. Good to know!
Schick Hydro 5 for Sensitive Skin
This ALSO gets our pick for best disposable for sensitive skin
So, it’s a tie: the Schick Hydro 5 for Sensitive Skin as another option we like for guys with sensitive skin. It’s one of the only razors we’ve found that’s been dermatologist-tested and created specifically for men with sensitive skin.
As far as features, it’s got a lot of things we like to see: a hydrating gel reservoir (that’s the line of white-ish rectangles above the blade head, that feature aloe and Vitamin E); a guard bar at the base of razor, to make skin taught and ready for the blade; a tilting head that eases back and forth to trace the contours of your skin; and one-two-three-four-FIVE blades, designed to really attack whiskers. If you think about it, each stroke with this razor features five blades going over your skin—that’s a lot, and we’ve found that this can be a good choice for guys who have both sensitive skin and thick facial hair. That can be a tough combo, but we’ve had some luck with this razor.
The Merkur Safety Razor
Our pick for best safety for sensitive skin
We’ll be honest: we run a website dedicated solely to shaving. We’re shaving nerds, and we love it. With that in mind, the Merkur Safety Razor may be our favorite razor in the world, and it gets our pick for overall best safety razor for sensitive skin for men.
Even before we get into the particulars of this razor, it’s a safety razor, and safety razors can be a fantastic pick for guys with sensitive skin, for two reasons:
They feature only one blade. The multi-blade craze is pretty much a permanent thing now, and there are some multi-blade razors that can be a good pick for guys with sensitive skin (and we’ve had luck with the two above). But for a lot of guys, multiple blades is the problem. Their skin doesn’t like being scraped with a razor, and three or four or five razors makes the problem worse. Safety razors only feature one razor, which you can reload as often as you want, and make sure it’s sharp enough for you.
You can FULLY clean the blade. If you look a disposable or cartridge razor, you’ll notice that the blades at the head are housed in plastic or rubber. When you scrape that razor over your skin, all sorts of material—dead skin cells, shaving cream, soap, sweat, etc.—gets caught in the razor head and between the razor blades, and it can be really difficult to remove, no matter how long you run it under water. When you reach for that razor for your next shave, you’re dragging all that gunk over your skin, and that can result in rashes, bumps, etc. With a safety razor, you can totally remove the blade and clean the head, so you’re sure that none of that gunk is getting scraped over your face.
The Merkur Safety Razor has only one blade and you can effectively clean it, so that problem of scraping bacteria-ridden gunk across your face is manageable, and the razor itself has a lot of fantastic properties: it has a heavy head, so you don’t need to use much force to get a close shave; it’s got a smooth safety bar, to gently trace the skin on your face; and lastly, it’s “mild.” If you’re new to safety razors, the Merkur is a “mild” razor, meaning that it’s less likely to nick you (an “aggressive” razor will provide a closer shave, but is more likely to cut you). We’re big fans, and this is one of the few razors we feel comfortable recommending for all shavers.
The Feather Double-Edge Razor
Our pick for high-end safety razor
If you’re interested in a safety razor, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the Feather Double-Edge Razor. Among shaving enthusiasts, Feather enjoys a reputation as having incredibly sharp blades, and the razor itself is sleek and streamlined: a broad head that houses the razor, diamond knurling on the handle (“knurling” is the three-dimensional design on the grip), and a generous safety bar to protect from nicks and cuts.
If you’re new to wet shaving with a safety razor, the Merkur we just discussed can be a good option; if you want to make a commitment to wet shaving using a safety razor, the Feather can be a nice investment.
The Panasonic Arc 4 Electric Razor
Our pick for a good foil shaver for guys with sensitive skin
Technically, we’re supposed to be discussing steel razors, but we know that some guys prefer electric razors, so we’ll point out the Panasonic Arc 4. It’s designed to be a wet/dry shaver (so you can use it with shaving cream or without), it’s got a super-thin layer of steel between the blades and your skin (that’s the actual “foil”) designed to cut whiskers without tugging at them (as that tugging can lead to irritation for a lot of guys), and it’s got a pivoting head, designed to trace the contours of your face as you shave. There aren’t too many electric shavers that are designed specifically for guys with sensitive skin, but this one has a lot of features that may be a good fit.
Plus—as most electric razors do—it features a lot of nice perks: it’s got a pop-up trimmer, an LCD screen that tells you how much juice it’s got left, and a rechargeable battery. Electric razors can get seriously high-tech, but the Arc 4 has a reasonable number of features, and each actually does something worthwhile—especially that pop-up trimmer. That’s a nice little tool for trimming sideburns, shaping mustaches, and so on.
Cremo Original Shaving Cream
Our pick for a good sensitive-skin shaving cream
So there you have it! Our picks for best razor for sensitive skin. But there’s one last thing we’d like to discuss before we move on. We’ve talked a lot about razors, and they can be a big factor when it comes to skin sensitivity, but if you’re having issues with your skin, you may also want to look into the materials you’re putting on your face, because they can be a factor in skin sensitivity, as well.
There are a lot of good options on the market, but we’ve had good luck with Cremo Original.
It’s got a lot of good stuff in it—olive leaf extract, papaya extract, macadamia seed oil, and aloe—but its real “design plus” is that it’s a little more dense than your average shaving cream. Most shaving creams have a lot of air in them, and that’s not great for a lubricant (and one of the purposes of a good shaving cream is to lubricate your skin, so that the razor passes over it with ease). Cremo has a pleasant thickness, and when activated with water, it’s SLICK. And, when it comes to shaving creams, slick = good.
By the way, we also like Neutrogena Men’s Shaving Cream for Sensitive Skin, but we figure we’d skip writing about it, because it has so much name recognition. We think Cremo is a great alternative, and it’s not as well-known.
Shaving Tips for Men with Sensitive Skin
Very often, it’s not only the kind of razor you’re using that affects your skin, it’s your daily routine—your shaving process, your grooming practices, and what you do before you even before you go into the bathroom to shave. All of that is important, and bad grooming habits can wreak havoc on sensitive skin.
So here we’ll take a look at some specific tips about shaving and some in-general tips about skin care, and discuss some “best practices” you can incorporate into your daily routine that might help your skin and make you a little less irritation-prone.
Lather Up (but Think Long-Term!)
Gels and creams are designed to create a buffer between razor blades and your skin, giving you a smooth and steady glide when shaving, but another one of their purposes is to lock in moisture. Shaving can release a lot of hydration from the skin, and shaving cream is designed to slow that release—so choose wisely!
If you can, look for products that are designed to help your skin stay soft and supple even after you’re done shaving. Natural moisturizing agents such as shea butter, coconut oil, olive oil, and beeswax can continue to work on your skin long after your shave is done, and provide extended protection.
Also, when applying shaving cream, the amount you use is important. Aim for a layer that’s thick enough to protect your skin, but thin enough that you can still see the hairs underneath. You’ll provide ample protection for your skin, while still ensuring you don’t miss any critical spots.
Sharp is Dangerous, Dull is…
We try to stay away from the word “always,” because everyone’s skin is different, and reacts to razor shaving in different ways. We’ll use it here, though, because we’re preeeeeetty confident of the following: sharp blades are an absolute necessity for a close and comfortable shave. They just are. Dull razors can scratch or pull at the skin, causing irritation and damage and cuts, and because they’re ineffective, you usually need to make multiple passes across your skin—and multiple passes can lead to some very sore, and very irritated, skin.
Not only that—dull razors are usually gross. The most common reason a razor would be dull is because you’ve used it too many times, and if you’ve used it too many times, they’re usually full of dead skin cells and other waste that gets caught between the blades. All that material—and we’ll call it “gunk”—can lead to infection. When you use and re-use and re-use an old blade, your dragging all that gunk over skin—and over pores you’ve just opened.
So change your razor blades or cartridge frequently for a smoother shave. If you only take away one bit of knowledge from this post, make it this one.
Two other things before we move on: 1) it’s also a good idea to keep the protective plastic cover on your razor when not in use to prevent rusting or mineral buildup, especially if you store it in the shower—there are a lot of compounds in water that was can’t see, and those compounds often end up on the metal of your blade, and 2) it seems obvious but it’s easy to overlook—a new blade is going to sharp, and you’ll need to be careful with it. A sharp blade is better than a dull blade, but you still need to pay attention.
Shave Both Ways… or Don’t
Unfortunately, hair doesn't just grow in one direction. While hair on the cheeks tends to grow downwards, hair on the neck and along the jawline is a little more complex, and may grow in a type of "spiral" or "swirl" formation. You may feel the need to make two or more razor passes over those areas in order to shave them adequately—usually one pass in one direction, and one pass in the other direction.
The only problem is that against-the-grain passes can result in skin irritation. So, if possible, try to make a number of "mini-strokes" that go with the grain. It's difficult, and it might take some practice, but it might help a little bit. Just try to avoid shaving the same area more than once, as that can lead to burns and bumps.
As with all these suggestions, you’ll have to experiment and see what works. As we mentioned, everyone’s skin is incredibly unique, and reacts in unique ways. If passes against the grain aren’t problem for you, awesome! If they are, switch it up and try something new.
Use Short, Smooth Strokes
We mention short strokes earlier, when we shared that they’re a good strategy for whiskers that grow in “swirls.” But there’s another reason they’re a good strategy: long strokes will clog your razor, making each stroke less effective. Shorter strokes of only an inch or so can help provide a closer shave, and require fewer passes. Just remember to rinse your razor with warm water between each stroke to prevent clogging the blade—you can be using the best razor for sensitive skin on the planet, but short strokes won’t matter if you’re not washing all that gunk out of the razor.
Be Cool, Man
While many of us like our showers in the “warm to hot” range, that’s actually a bad approach to shaving. According to Harvard Health, hot water can actually end up drying out skin and making it more difficult to use a razor, and it can leave the skin overly soft—opening up the pores to the risk of cuts and infection.
That said, cold water can also cause complications, and shaving over goosebumps can often lead to razor burn (and, even besides that, it simply feels unpleasant. Dragging a razor blade over bumpy skin is no fun).
So if you’re having skin sensitivity issues, aim for a “medium to warm”-temperature shower, so that your skin can adequately protect itself. Think, lukewarm + a little bit extra—a shower that doesn’t result in too much steam.
After you’re done shaving and showering, it can be a good idea to blast cold water for a minute or two to help close pores and prevent breakouts. It’s not always the most pleasant experience, but it does help some people protect their skin after their pores open up in the shower.
Keep It Taut
Loose skin can make shaving with a razor something of a challenge. The skin can get caught between the razor’s blades, and shaving over those irregular surfaces can lead to nicks, cuts, and irritation—both the physical and emotional kind.
So when you reach areas where the skin is feeling a little loose, use one hand to smooth it out and hold it taut when shaving. It adds an extra step and a little extra time to your shaving routine, but it can help a great deal. And, pro-tip: when it comes to the area beneath your neck, pull your head back and use your hands to pull skin tight. For many of us, the neck is the area that needs the most attention.
Prepping Your Face Takes Time, But Can Be Worth It
One of the easiest ways to avoid skin irritation from shaving is to prep correctly, and washing your face effectively can dramatically transform your shaving experience.
An unwashed face can be a tough environment for a shave. The natural oils that form on your face may collect and pool, while patches of dry skin may flake or peel a little bit. Cleansing your skin can remove an over-abundance of the oils on your face, moisturize areas that might be a little bit arid, and remove a lot of the dead skin cells that will clump up and clog your razor—making it ineffective.
So before doing anything else, it makes sense to wash your face with gentle soap and warm water. The soap helps to remove oily residue and dead skin cells that can dull a razor blade, while the warm water moistens coarse facial hair and makes it easier to cut. It’s also a good idea to use a (very gentle) facial exfoliant before shaving to buff away potential threats. Often times, rubbing a simple washcloth over your face is enough remove a lot of those dead skin cells, and can ready your face so that it can handle a razor blade.
Use Creams Designed for Sensitive Skin, and…
avoid soap. Soap may seem like an obvious substitution for shaving cream, but most soaps don’t make a good lubricant. In fact, according to the American Skin Association, many soap brands lead to dry, flaky skin, especially when it comes to sensitive areas of the face, which is the opposite of what you want. If you’re out of shaving cream, it might make sense to put off shaving for a day—it may make more sense to endure one day of whiskers than a few days of razor burn and irritation.
It’s best to use products that are designed to moisturize—that not only lubricate that skin, but moisturize the skin to prevent irritation—and the more natural the product, the better. Many mass-market shaving creams come in an aerosol form that contains a long-list of chemicals and preservatives, and while those chemicals do a have a purpose—very often they provide consistency to the product, or give it long-lasting properties—they can be brutal on sensitive skin. The more natural, the better. Seriously—even if you’re using the best razor for sensitive skin you can find, it might not make a difference if the cream you’re using is something that’ll dry out and irritate your skin
There are two more tips we’ll share before we move on: 1) if you like shaving gel over shaving cream, be sure to select the kind of gel you squeeze out of a tube, rather than the kind that shoots out of a cannister. The way that shaving cream companies get that gel to shoot out of the cannister is by including propane—yes, the gas in your BBQ grill—to pressure the gel and move it upwards. As you might imagine, propane isn’t great for dudes with sensitive skin, and 2) if you can’t find a cream or gel that doesn’t include a long list of insane chemicals, consider making your own. You only need three or four ingredients, and making it can be a pretty satisfying task.
Develop a Road Map
Make a “facial map” of your face’s most tender areas. For a lot of guys, that’s around the Adam’s Apple, the curve of the jaw from the check to the neck, and that dimple in the chin that some of us have. These areas need special attention, and you’ll have to commit to some experimentation to find out your best plan of attack. Take some extra time and careful, and…
Consider a Balm
After you’ve finished shaving, newly exposed skin cells are susceptible to chafing and drying out, and an aftershave balm can soothe and supplement skin after each session.
Notice we said “aftershave balm” and not “aftershave lotion.” A lot of aftershaves are loaded with alcohol, and that kind of make sense—alcohol has a ton of antibacterial properties, and that can be a good thing after a shave. The only problem is—it’s stings! Even for guys without sensitive skin issues, it can sting like crazy.
Aftershave balms, however, can be a nice alternative. Many are alcohol-free, contain a long list of moisturizers, and they can smell wonderful. Many are made with essential oils, so there are lavenders, lemons, mints, sandalwoods, and so on.
They’re easy to use, too: rinse away excess shaving cream with cold water to help close pores, then apply a modest amount of aftershave balm to the face and neck, and you’re good to go. If you find that your skin dries out soon after a shave—and that happens to a lot of us—a hydrating aftershave balm can be a nice option.
Shave Before Bed
While most men shave as part of their morning ritual, this may not be the best idea for those with sensitive skin. It can leave skin feeling dry and itchy during the workday. Shaving before bedtime instead gives your skin a chance to rehydrate and replenish natural oils as you sleep, leaving your skin feeling soft and moisturized during the daytime. Just make sure that your pillow is clean—lying your face on a dirty pillow, with all those pores opened and supple after shaving—not a great idea.
Use a Facial Cleanser
No matter what type of skin composition you might have, it’s essential that you clean your face once a day to keep dirt, debris, and natural oils from clogging pores, and different cleanser ingredients target different issues. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, skin that’s prone to acne can benefit from salicylic gel or benzoyl peroxide, both of which help to remove excess oil from the face. Dry skin, on the other hand, needs a gentler moisturizing cleanser such as glycolic acid. Skin with age spots or other pigmentation problems may benefit from a brightening alpha-hydroxy cleanser.
Avoid Product Overload
Most of us have a tendency to “overdo it” when we face a skin sensitivity issue—if we’re suffering from skin problems, we look at balms, lotions, creams, and so on. Too much is never too much.
When it comes to skincare, though, less is more. Fewer products means fewer chemicals on your skin, and that means fewer ingredients that can react poorly with your skin. If you stick to just two or three all-natural core products that you know work well for your skin, your chances of issues may decrease, and if one of those products is the problem, it’ll be easier to figure out which one is giving you issues.
So take it easy—even if that means using some self-discipline (because, as we’ve experienced first-hand—it can be difficult to lay off when you’re displeased with how your skin is feeling!).
Easier Said Than Done, But…
Avoid touching your face. Our fingers are like little Petri dishes, covered in oil, dirt, and bacteria. They’re out there all day, touching things and getting funky. When you bring those gunk-covered fingers and scratch an area of sensitive skin on your face, that can lead to irritation and inflammation, so if possible, make contact with your face as infrequently as possible.
But with that said…
It’s really difficult to avoid touching your face. According to some studies, including this one we found in the US National Library of Medicine / National Institutes of Health, the average person touches his/her face 15.7 times an hour. If you’re awake for 16 hours a day—meaning, you get eight hours of sleep every night, you lucky duck—you’re touching your face 251.2 times a day (15.7 x 12 = 251.2). In other words, you’re touching your face a lot, and it’s probably pretty darn tough to avoid doing so.
So, do your best.
Have a Post-Exercise Routine
In addition to washing your face once per day, you should also lap on some cleanser after a trip to the gym. Working out not only makes your face sweaty but increases blood flow to the surface and opens up pores, and if you’ve got bacteria sitting on your face, you may open yourself up to a reaction.
So if you can, wash your face after a vigorous workout using a gentle facial cleanser that won’t irritate your skin, and use lukewarm-to-warm water instead of hot water. Long, hot showers dehydrate your skin, and can mess with your skin’s balance of moisture and oils.
Easy, Man, Easy
This is one of those issues that we don’t talk about too much, because—hey, we’re men, we’re supposed to be able to handle ourselves, no help needed. That’s not always the best approach, and a LOT of men these days tend to bite off more than they can chew when it comes to balancing work, social, and home life. A stressful day is not only detrimental to your health but can also take a toll on your looks.
High levels of the stress hormone cortisol can lead to damaged skin, acne breakouts, and premature wrinkles. When you're starting to feel stressed, do a little self-care: take a break, relax, maybe meditate—do something that calms you. It’s tempting to keep attacking a problem, but a short break can relax you and refresh you, making it easier to address your issues.
Stress is bad for your skin, but smoking is way, way worse. You’ve probably heard this a hundred times, but don’t smoke. Every single cigarette contains thousands of chemicals, and studies have shown—again and again, over many years—that they wreak havoc on your body. We’d like to think that smoking is a thing of the past, but believe it or not, according to the CDC, 17.5% of American men smoke. That’s a lot—almost one in five. If you can’t quit, do a search for “smoking help.” There are dozens of sites that provide a solid gameplan to help you quit.
Stick to Simple, Unscented Products
Many men’s skincare products contain a long list of ingredients that may include harsh chemicals or other irritants, and if you’ve got sensitive skin, it can be a very good idea to read the label before trying out a new product. As a general rule of thumb, fewer ingredients = healthier product (although there are certainly a lot of exceptions to that rule).
If you have sensitive skin, you may want to stick to products containing natural and organic ingredients. Shea butter, cucumber seed oil, and even honey can all help to produce smooth and supple skin, and it’s important to look for products that are gentle enough for everyday use without causing irritation.
Those with oily skin should look for products labeled “oil-free” or “non-comedogenic” to avoid clogging pores. For men with sensitive skin, it’s also a good idea to look for unscented products. Many fragrances commonly found in cleansers, moisturizers, and deodorants can lead to irritation. If you do want something with fragrance, look for something scented with essential oils, instead of odd-sounding chemicals.
Eat Health, Exercise, and Stay Hydrated
What you put into your body has a huge impact on your appearance. An unhealthy diet can lead to sallow, sagging skin and premature aging, and whether you’re in your 20’s or your 80’s, exercising and switching to a diet rich in essential vitamins and minerals can improve your skin health. Seriously—there are studies that say regardless of your age, exercise and diet can help your skin.
So every day, get moving, work up a sweat, and try to eat right. Raw fruits and vegetables are great options—they’re loaded with antioxidants that can help to prevent age-related damage to your cells—and fish and shellfish are also good choices, as they’re rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which help to regulate oil production in the skin to prevent both dryness and acne. Vegetarians and vegans can get omega-3 fatty acids from foods such as tofu, soybeans, and many types of nuts.
Getting enough sleep at night keeps your body in working order, including the skin. Without enough sleep, your body experiences a rise in stress hormone levels, leading to dry skin and wrinkles. According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults generally need between seven and nine hours of sleep each night to function.
Your sheets also play an important role in the appearance of your skin. Dirty or unwashed sheets trap oil and bacteria, leading to breakouts and acne, while rough materials can irritate the skin. You should aim to fit your bed with soft cotton or sateen sheets that are washed at least once per week.
Man, That Was a Long Post
If you’re still here, we commend you. You really care about your skin, and that’s a wonderful thing. Hopefully there’s something in the article about that will help you, and if you feel like you’ve tried everything and nothing is working, hang in there. Keep experimenting, keep taking notes, and keep trying to find what works for you—chances are, if you keep looking long enough, you’ll find what works for you. Good luck!