What exactly is razor burn?
Razor burn can affect any person who shaves part of their body. If you’ve ever had a red rash after shaving, you were likely experiencing razor burn.
Razor burn can also cause:
- a burning or hot sensation
- small red bumps
You can experience these symptoms anywhere you shave, such as your face, legs, underarms, or bikini area. Razor burn is usually temporary and will go away with time.
If your symptoms are causing your discomfort, there are things you can to find relief. Keep reading to learn how to treat razor burn and prevent it from happening in the future.
How to treat razor burn
Treating razor burn is often as simple as waiting it out and using gentle methods to reduce your symptoms. You should avoid shaving the affected area again to allow it to heal.
To soothe heat or itching: Applying a cool washcloth to the affected area can calm your skin. Aloe or avocado oil are both cooling and can be safely applied directly to the skin.
To relieve dryness or irritation: If symptoms are appearing, rinse your skin and pat it dry. Be careful not to rub the affected area, as this may further irritate the skin.
Once the skin is dry, apply an emollient. This may be a lotion, aftershave, or other moisturizer. Avoid products that contain alcohol because they can cause irritation. If you’d prefer to go the natural route, coconut oil may help hydrate your skin.
To reduce inflammation: When it comes to treating inflammation, you have your pick between home remedies and over-the-counter (OTC) options.
Popular home remedies include:
- apple cider vinegar
- equal parts tea tree oil and water
- witch hazel extract
- oatmeal bath for up to 20 minutes
If you prefer to go with an OTC option, look for a topical cream containing hydrocortisone. This can help reduce any swelling and calm any redness on the skin.
To treat small bumps: If you experience razor bumps, avoid shaving the affected area until any sores and bumps heal. This may take up to three or four weeks. In the meantime, you should use a topical cream like cortisone to treat any related inflammation.
If the bumps develop signs of infection, consult your doctor. Symptoms of infection include welts and pustules.
If the area is infected, your doctor will prescribe an oral antibiotic. Your doctor may also recommend products to prevent future razor burns or bumps. For example, you may be prescribed a product with retinoids to exfoliate your skin and reduce the buildup of dead cells on the skin’s surface.
How to prevent razor burn
Prevent razor burn by practicing good shaving habits.
Tips and tricks
- Regularly exfoliate your skin to remove dead skin cells.
- Before shaving, apply a lubricant, such as soap or shaving cream.
- Avoid the temptation to pull your skin tightly while shaving.
- Shave in the direction that the hair grows.
- Shave with light and short strokes.
- Rinse your blade frequently during the shaving process.
- After shaving, rinse your skin with cold water or apply a cold washcloth to close pores.
- Replace your razor or blade frequently.
- Try using an electric razor or another safe hair removal method.
You may find it beneficial to switch up your shaving routine. You may not need to shave as frequently as you currently do. If your skin is sensitive, you may find relief by replacing your daily shave with a shave every other day or just a few times a week.
What causes razor burn?
You can develop razor burn for a number of different reasons. There isn’t any one specific thing — such as a type of razor or shaving lubricant — to avoid.
The following can lead to razor burn:
- shaving without using a lubricant, such as soap and water or shaving cream
- shaving against the direction of your hair
- using an old razor
- using a razor that’s clogged with hair, soap, or shaving cream
- shaving a single area too many times
- shaving too quickly
- using shaving products that irritate your skin
It’s important to remember that your razor is a tool that must be maintained and replaced as needed. Even if you’re using an appropriate lubricant and shaving in the correct direction, a dull or clogged blade can cause you to develop razor burn.
Is razor burn the same thing as razor bumps?
Although the terms are used interchangeably, razor burn and razor bumps are generally considered different conditions. A razor burn is caused after you shave, and razor bumps are the result of shaved hairs growing back and becoming ingrown.
Ingrown hairs may look like raised bumps or even acne. This may occur when you remove hair through methods such as shaving, tweezing, or waxing. When the hair grows back, it curls into your skin instead of away from your skin.
Similar to razor burn, razor bumps can cause tenderness, inflammation, and a red rash.
Razor bumps are more common in people with curly hair, because the hair is more likely to curl back into the skin. A more severe version of razor bumps is known as pseudofolliculitis barbae. This condition occurs in up to 60 percent of African American men and in others with curly hair. In severe situations, this condition may require your doctor’s advice and treatment.
In most cases, razor burn will clear up within a few days without treatment. Razor bumps may take longer to clear, and you should avoid shaving while bumps are present.
If the affected area appears to be infected, or doesn’t clear up within reasonable time frame, consult your doctor. Chronically occurring razor burn or razor bumps should also be treated by a doctor.
In some cases, your rash may not result from razor burn or razor bumps. If you suspect you have a rash unrelated to shaving or that a product you used to shave caused an allergic reaction, contact your doctor.