Shaving Rash - The Cruelest Cut

Esquire mag cover of girl shaving

We picked up this advice many years ago after discovering an army publication distributed during the Vietnam War. The military doesn't offer a choice - shave daily. No electric razors, no beard, no three day growth, no stubble, no exceptions.

In the tropical jungles of Vietnam a daily shave in river water with an old razor and no shaving cream meant a face full of pimples and an extremely irritating shaving rash.

Living in the tropics can throw lots of nasties at you. Ear and eye infections from water borne parasites, scratches that turn into festering wounds, foot attacking fungus, mites, lice, sandflies and other invisible biting monsters and as the military discovered - shaving rash. You can't do a lot about the insects but you can minimise skin irritation following a shave.

Of course lots of people suffer from shaving rash not just soldiers and those that live in the tropics. A sharp blade is a crucial tool in reducing the itch. Shaving rash is a mild to extreme skin irritation caused by using a blunt or dull razor and possibly not using a shaving lubricant i.e: shaving cream. Disposable razors are just that - disposable. They're good for two or three shaves and then need throwing away.

The Army's Method of Shaving
  • Wash your face with soap and warm water. Use a gentle soap that contains only natural perfumes. The soap removes bacteria which can infect the thousand of microscopic cuts you are about to make in your facial skin while the warm water opens the pores of your skin and softens the hairs. This is why old fashioned barbers lay a hot towel over your face prior to shaving.
  • Rinse the soap from your face, again with warm water.
  • Wash your face again and this time don't rinse the soap away leaving a 'lather' of soap on your skin.
  • Apply a well lathered shaving cream over the soap and onto your beard.
  • Using a sharp razor make a slow, smooth pass going with the grain of the hairs. If the hairs point down then pass the razor downwards also. Don't push the razor into the skin.
  • Wash the blade clean with each and every pass.
  • Attempt to make one pass only on any one section of your face.
  • Finally, thoroughly wash you face clean of any shaving cream and hair residue with cold water. The cold water shrinks the pores of your skin helping to keep out any bacteria.
  • Avoid using after shave lotion that contains artificial perfumes.

That's it. You're ready for a night on the town or some jungle warfare.


Sandflies are another irritating feature of hot or tropical environments. We take a look at the cure - Sandfly Bite Prevention

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