There we are having a great shave, thinking about what you are going to eat for breakfast, maybe what you have to accomplish at work today, or the hot date you have tonight. Your mind wanders for just a moment and it happens. You end up cutting yourself. Maybe you hit that scar or mole that you are usually so careful about, or you didn’t notice the pimple that formed overnight. Don’t be ashamed, we have all done it at one time or another. Make no mistake, you will at one point or another end up cutting yourself when you shave. This can be a bigger issue for people who are hemophiliacs or take blood thinners for medical reasons. However, if you know how to deal with it before hand you are already halfway to solving the problem.
How bad of a cut is it?
There are two classifications of shaving cuts; weepers and an actual cut. A weeper is when you see a spot of blood but can’t readily identify the source. There is no obvious open wound and the blood seems to slowly “Weep” from the affected area. Not surprisingly the other kind of shaving cut is an actual cut. This is an open wound that can be seen by the unaided eye. These can be a gash or a flap of skin. Weepers are easily dealt with and not uncommon. Actual cuts are bound to happen once or twice while learning, but can happen at anytime due to inattentiveness. Actual cuts can be minor in nature or can result in scarring.
How to stop the bleeding
Minor cuts and weepers are easily dealt with and can be resolved using one or more of the following techniques:
- Cold water: Run your faucet as cold as it will get and wash you face with cold water. This will cause your skin to tighten and contract and will stop many weepers all by itself.
- Use a mild astringent. Use of an alum blockor witch hazel will introduce a coagulant to the wound and help encourage clotting. Many people use these as a normal part of their shaving routine to help with the occasional weeper.
- Use of a stronger astringent. Try using a styptic pencil or styptic powder and apply it directly to the wound. These astringents are made up of a different alum salt and introduce a stronger astringent to the wound site to promote clotting. These astringents will sting a bit when applied to the wound and can often form a crusty “cap” on the application site. Do not immediately scrape the “cap” off. Wait a little while and use water to wash it off. If you are too rough you will re-open the wound. [Update] Along with styptic pencils and styptic powder there is apparently astyptic gel on the market by Proraso and Clubman. Thanks for the tip Jason!
- Use tissue paper. If you still have a little bit of blood leakage, tear the corner off of a piece of tissue and apply it to the wound. If it bleeds through to quickly then try folding the corner over on itself and applying it to the wound with a little pressure. As stated above, don’t remove the tissue in a rough manner. Wait awhile and use a bit of water to loosen the tissue and remove it gently.
If you have a larger cut, then you can try one of the following:
- Pressure: It’s simple but it works. Apply firm and steady pressure to the weeping area. Use a tissue if needed. Use a good amount of pressure, don’t be shy. Remember the time you cut your finger and squeezed the wound shut so it wouldn’t bleed on everything you own? Not quite that hard, but close. Hold the pressure for a few minutes, remove your hand and see if it is still an issue. The tissue can help promote clotting. If it’s still bleeding, apply pressure again. This may take a few minutes to stop the bleeding.
- Super Glue: Some ingenious individuals have used super glue to stop wounds from bleeding. This is particularly helpful for sealing up a flap of skin on your fingers if you tried to catch a falling razor (which is a BAD idea). If you think you need to use super glue then you should seriously consider going to a hospital and getting professional help. If you don’t want to go to a hospital (or can’t) here are some recommendations on how to apply super glue.
- Hardware store superglue is ethyl-cyanoacrylate. The improved medical super glue is butyl-cyanoacrylate. You can purchase cheaper versions of medical grade super glue by looking at veterinary supply stores. Ordinary super glue (ethyl-cyanoacrylate) works for small cuts and is fine if it is all you have on hand. Super glue is known to be a skin irritant, but its ok for small wounds
- It needs to be a small wound, less than an 1/4 inch deep and no longer than two inches.
- Make sure the wound is clean.
- Dry the wound and make sure you’ve stopped the bleeding. Apply pressure for a couple minutes. A small amount of bleeding is ok, but you can’t have blood streaming out of the wound you’re trying to fix.
- Use your fingers to bring the two sides of the wound together and place glue along the cut. Try to be as neat as possible and do not use more glue than needed.
- Some glue will come into contact with the exposed wound even when bringing both sides together. Its not a problem. As the wound closes it will expel that bit of glue and eventually will peel off.
- Once glue is placed all along the wound, keep both sides together until the glue dries.
3. Stitches: If you are contemplating stitching yourself up then you are beyond the scope of this article. I would advise going to a hospital to minimize the chance of infection and scarring.
Once the bleeding has been stopped and you have cleaned up any mess you may have made, make sure and take a few precautions. Unless you plan on doing this everyday, don’t shave over the spot you just cut! Give you body a bit of time to heal up. Skip a day or two of shaving or shave around the affected area.
If you used something to aid in clotting, leave it alone as long as possible. When you need to remove it, try wetting it. This will cause the substance to break down a bit, allowing it to be gently removed. Tearing it off will break the wound back open, while gently removing the substance will have a better chance of not breaking the wound open. Whenever I shave and cut myself the first thing I do is apply pressure. This, along with an astringent or tissue, will solve 99% of your shaving cut issues. If you have a scar or a mole you may find that over the years you gradually whittle it down or smooth it out. You may want to consider having the mole or scar removed it it is a frequent problem.
By the way, here are a few hints and tips on how to avoid some of the more common situations where you can slice up you mug. While having a scar on your face may make you seem tough, lets make sure you don’t have to tell them you cut yourself shaving by doing something silly.
- If you happen to have the razor slip from its resting place on the shelf or out of your hands… do NOT try and grab it! I know you are concerned that your new pride and joy could be injured but grabbing a razor blade can flay the skin on your hand to the bone. It’s not worth it. This is also a good reason not to shave naked…
- If you are shaving and feel the urge to sneeze, burp, fart or any other bodily function then remove the razor from your face. Any of these bodily functions can cause you to twitch your hand or head.
- A lot of us will get up close to the mirror for a better view while shaving. I actually know a guy who kept getting a little closer… and then bumped the razor against the mirror while it was against his skin. He peeled up a nice flap of skin that took weeks to fully heal.
- While it may seem obvious, try not to shave in high traffic areas. Wives, girlfriends, kids, dogs, and significant others have all contributed to people cutting themselves. Don’t stand behind doorways in the bathroom, don’t shave and hold a conversation at the same time, don’t let the wife reach around you to grab “that one very important thing I only realized I have to have now that you are using the sink”. I know this isn’t always possible (I have one small bathroom in my house and I share it with my wife and twin 3 year old boys) but do what you can to minimize the danger.
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Have a great day and a smooth shave!