The resurgence of styptic pencils has many guys adding them to their shaving kit. The problem is that most know how to use them, but not when.
Here’s a telling quote from a popular shaving forum of one man’s experience with his styptic:
“Today I tried my first wet shave. I did manage to cut up my chin a little bit, so I grabbed the styptic pen. I picked it up, and realized I have no idea if my timing was right.”
Poor guy was well prepared, but not well informed. And he’s not alone!
So when do you really need to use a styptic pencil?
The styptic pencil is best used after the shave rather than immediately after a shaving nick. They should not be used mid-shave because it could affect the quality of your shave when you try to avoid the spot. Even worse, going over a cut that has stopped bleeding could open it right back up.
After you’ve finished your shave, rinse your face with cold water, pat it dry, and inspect for any blood spots. Treat the spots with your styptic pencil, and then sit it aside to dry. Our friend from the shaving forum at least had the right idea. Notice he said “cut my chin a little bit” and not “sliced my face open.” These nicks and cuts will happen more often if you’re transitioning from a disposable/safety razor to a single or double edge razor.
If the cut is so bad that you can’t finish your shave without blood getting everywhere, it’s probably not a styptic job. Medium sized to larger sized cuts may need to be clotted with toilet paper and possibly covered with a bandage. If you’re simply looking to reduce irritation, look into alum blocks which have less-intense astringent for soothing rather than spot treatment.
So instead of wondering if your timing is right, just remember to wait until after your shave to break out your styptic pencil. You should only have to press it on your cut for a few seconds. If it’s not working, 1) apply a bit more pressure and 2) get better at shaving. Just saying!