Shaving is a fast way to remove unwanted hair. It’s also notorious for leaving behind patches of irritated, inflamed skin known as razor burn or bumps known as ingrown hairs. This may occur anywhere you shave, from your legs to your underarms.
Razor burn and ingrown hairs are common. Most people who shave have experienced it. Some people get it every time they shave.
If you get razor burn or ingrown hairs, you can take several steps to soothe your skin and prevent it from happening again.
Razor bumps are a type of skin irritation that’s often associated with shaving. It leaves behind itchy, painful, puss-filled bumps on the skin as the hair starts to grow back.
Razor bumps are more common in those who have coarse or curly hair.
How is it different than razor burn?
Razor burn is a type of skin irritation that occurs right after you shave. Razor bumps develop once the hair starts growing back in.
Razor burn is commonly a result of dry shaving, using old razors, or shaving in the opposite direction than the hair grows.
Is it different than ingrown hairs?
Razor bumps and ingrown hairs are the same thing.
Razor bumps occur as the hair starts to grow back after shaving. Instead of growing up and out of the skin’s surface, it curls inward, becomes trapped, and causes an ingrown hair to form.
The terms “razor bumps” and “ingrown hairs” can be used interchangeably.
Many remedies for razor burn and ingrown hairs are folk remedies backed by anecdotal evidence. There aren’t any scientific studies to support them.
However, some studies have been done on herbal remedies for burns in general. It’s important to note that many of these studies are older, though there aren’t any newer studies on these topics. More up-to-date research is needed.
Here are some tips that may help you find relief.
Aloe vera is known for soothing and healing burns. Evidence from 2007 supports the potential of aloe vera for healing first- and second-degree burns.
To treat razor burn, apply a thin layer of pure aloe vera gel onto the affected area.
Aloe vera gel is available in most pharmacies. You can also harvest it from an aloe plant.
Coconut oil is used in cooking, but it’s also great for your skin.
To treat razor burn, apply a thin layer of organic, expeller-pressed coconut oil to the inflamed area.
Sweet almond oil
Sweet almond oil is made from dried almond kernels. It’s super emollient and a great natural moisturizer.
Try applying sweet almond oil to your skin after shaving. You may also apply it directly to inflamed skin as needed.
If you’re allergic to almonds, don’t use sweet almond oil.
Tea tree oil
Tea tree oil shouldn’t be used undiluted. Mix it with a carrier oil, such as sweet almond oil or coconut oil. Use 1 to 3 drops of tea tree oil per 1 teaspoon of carrier oil.
Even diluted tea tree oil may cause an allergic reaction or further skin irritation in some people. It’s a good idea to do a patch test to see how your skin responds.
Witch hazel is an astringent and anti-inflammatory, thanks in part to its tannin content. It’s used as a natural remedy to:
- soothe burns
- relieve pain
- treat minor skin irritation
Apply to razor burn with a cotton pad as needed.
Baking soda paste
Baking soda has a cooling effect on the skin. It’s thought to draw out heat and pain, although there’s no scientific evidence to support this theory.
To make a baking soda paste, add baking soda to filtered water until a thick paste forms. Apply the paste to your skin, leave on until it dries, and rinse thoroughly.
Cold and warm compresses
A cold compress may help relax irritated skin. If you’re prone to skin bumps or ingrown hairs, applying a warm compress to your skin before shaving may help open pores and loosen the hairs.
Colloidal oatmeal bath
Colloidal oatmeal is made by grinding oats into a fine powder.
For razor burn relief, soak in a colloidal oatmeal bath once daily for 10 to 15 minutes.
Calendula cream is an herbal remedy made from calendula flowers. It’s used to reduce inflammation, heal rashes, and promote wound healing.
To help soothe razor burn, apply a thin layer of calendula cream to the affected area once or twice per day.
If you experience ingrown hairs, try exfoliating with over-the-counter (OTC) skin care products that contain salicylic acid or glycolic acid.
These exfoliants help keep dead skin cells from clogging hair follicles. Keeping the hair follicles open helps prevent the hair that’s growing back after shaving from getting trapped again.
Use these products only as a preventive measure, since they can irritate existing razor bumps.
Applying this type of acne treatment helps remove bacteria and dead skin cells that can clog your pores and lead to razor bumps. It can also dry up affected areas of the skin and reduce discoloration.
You can find it as an OTC cream, gel, or cleanser.
Hydrocortisone cream is a topical steroid that’s used to reduce irritation and inflammation. Low strength formulas are available without a prescription. Use hydrocortisone cream as directed by the manufacturer or your doctor, usually once or twice daily.
If you experience any side effects or worsening inflammation, discontinue use.
If you don’t take steps to prevent razor burn and ingrown hairs, you’ll find yourself stuck in a vicious cycle. As you continue to shave over irritated skin, these problems will only get worse.
Even so, there are several steps you can take to help prevent both razor burn and ingrown hairs.
Start by adjusting your shaving routine with these steps:
- Allot plenty of time so you’re not rushed.
- Lather up with shaving cream before shaving.
- Shave in a warm shower or bath to soften hair.
- Exfoliate before shaving.
- Stick with short, light strokes.
- Shave in the same direction hair grows.
- Don’t go over the same area more than once.
- Rinse the blade regularly between strokes.
- Rinse off the area completely after shaving.
- Don’t shave every day.
- Don’t use old razors. Switch to a new blade after every 5 to 7 shaves.
- Keep your razor clean. Dry it off and store it in a dry place.
- Keep your skin moisturized between shaves.
Some shaving creams and aftercare products contain chemicals that may irritate sensitive skin. Before using a new product, do a patch test to check for sensitivity.
Outside of shaving itself, avoid wearing tight-fitting clothing or irritating fabrics near freshly shaved areas. This can help prevent skin irritation.
With proper care, most cases of razor burn usually clear up in a few days. If possible, take a few days off from shaving to give your skin time to heal.
If razor burn is a problem for you, even after you’ve taken prevention steps and tried home remedies, contact your doctor.