How To Prevent (And Treat!) Razor Burn In 9 Easy Steps

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woman shaving

Laser hair removal and waxing exist, but even with many options, most of us still are shaving. And why not? Shaving with a razor is quick, easy, and very cost-effective. Plus, it works!

Of course, shaving has its potential disadvantages, like ingrown hairs, irritation, and, of course, razor burn.

What is razor burn?

Razor burn is a skin condition many experience after shaving. It's essentially a rash from the razor irritating your skin.

Razor burn occurs as a result of how your blade interacts with your hair and skin. There are tiny little cracks in your epidermis the blade can get caught in and irritate, causing a loss of hydration that leads to razor burn.

The most common causes of razor burn are dry shaving, shaving too aggressively, or shaving with dull blades.

But razor burn is different from razor bumps; razor burn happens immediately after you shave, while razor bumps appear once your hair starts growing back. Ingrown hairs are when the hair gets trapped under the skin.

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Preventing razor burns means not using waterless razors.

According to Dr. Debra Jaliman, a board-certified NYC dermatologist and author of the book "Skin Rules: Trade Secrets from a Top New York Dermatologist," “Even if they have some sort of ingredient that is released while shaving, you will usually get some discomfort after you have shaved.”

To help you combat this painful after-shaving occurrence, there are a few things you can try.

How To Prevent Razor Burn

1. Exfoliate beforehand.

Exfoliating is your new best friend if you are prone to razor burn.

Exfoliating is a good way to unclog your pores and lift your hair follicles to make shaving easier. It also removes dead skin cells while stimulating the skin's cell turnover process. This is when your body sheds dead skin cells and produces younger cells to take their place.

You’ll want to invest in a good exfoliant scrub and add it to your shaving routine.

2. Use a razor with multiple blades.

Why should you do this? Well, the more blades, the better the shave.

With more blades on your shaver, the higher the chance of getting all the hair in one or two passes. This lowers the risk of irritation of the skin, which leads directly to razor burn and other shaving-related conditions.

Even Dr. Jaliman agrees, adding, “This helps with the number of times you’ll have to pass the razor on your skin, reducing chances of irritation.”

Look for razors that have three or more blades, as it allows for the blades to be packed tighter and thus making the razor glide more easily across your skin.

3. Shave while bathing.

Try shaving while you're in the shower or taking a bath. This keeps the hair follicles and your skin hydrated while you pass the razor over it.

It's also always best to shave while your hairs are soft so there is less friction or resistance when cutting through. Also pay attention to the temperature of the water you're using while shaving.

“Use warm water. It opens the pores making it easier to shave,” Dr. Jaliman encourages.

4. Prep the area beforehand.

Prepping the area you wish to shave will help bring the hair completely out of the follicle.

A good way to prep your skin before shaving is to wash it with a non-comedogenic cleanser. These are cleansers that don't contain ingredients that will block your pores.

Always apply a moisturizing shaving cream when you shave and apply it as you go. If you run out of cream on your skin and still need to shave, reapply the cream before passing your razor over again.

5. Practice post-shaving care.

Once you have finished shaving, you must keep the area soothed to avoid irritation. This will prevent bumps from forming, and causing you irritation.

Run your skin under cool water to soothe the skin from irritation. This also helps to tighten pores, moisturize, and treat ingrown hairs.

Witch hazel also works against irritation and reduces the risk of bacteria growing in the hair follicles.

6. Use a cold compress.

Just like the aftercare process of shaving, you can always use a cold compress to soothe the skin and keep it calm. This will stop any irritation you may have inflicted while shaving before anything can come of it.

Simply lay the cold compress on the area you shaved for about 5-10 minutes.

7. Apply aloe vera.

Aloe vera is another great way to soothe your skin. Studies show that certain enzymes in the aloe vera plant reduce inflammation when applied to the skin.

Think of it like preventing a sunburn from forming after you spent the day in the sun.

8. Adjust your technique.

Instead of doing long strokes while shaving, use short strokes. Also be sure to rinse your razor after every stroke.

This reduces the chances of you pressing too hard. It also stops your razor from getting gunked up with cream, gel, and hair so you have a clean shave with each swipe.

9. Shave with the hair.

Another way to prevent razor burn is to make sure your hair has grown enough to be caught by the razor blades, but not too long before it gets tangled. The rule of thumb is no more than 1/4 of an inch.

Make sure you shave in the direction the hair grows. Shaving against it will only lead to irritation.

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Now that you know how to prevent razor burn, there are a few different natural and over-the-counter remedies to alleviate the irritation.

How To Treat Razor Burn

1. Soothe the skin.

The best way to soothe your skin when you have razor burn is to put something cool on it. This includes running it under cool water, taking an ice bath, or using a cold compress.

Just like prevention, this is a good way to treat the burn as well. Another great ingredient is the cooling and healing effects of aloe vera.

2. Try a home remedy mixture.

A common home remedy to treat razor burns is a mixture of apple cider vinegar, witch hazel, tea tree oil, and water. This mixture is often used to reduce inflammation and soothe irritated skin.

Swipe the mixture over the affected area twice a day until healed.

3. Use over-the-counter creams.

If home remedies aren't quite working, go to your local drugstore and find an OTC cream to apply to the burn. Look for hydrocortisone cream, as it is your best bet against treating razor burn.

If you can't find cortisone cream, look for creams that have aloe vera, Benzoyl peroxide, or colloidal oatmeal in them. Read the instructions for treatment care.

4. Apply lotion.

You have razor burn because the skin is irritated and dehydrated. This means you need to hydrate the skin in order for the sting to heal.

Use lotion to moisturize the area daily until it feels better. Steer clear of anything scented or with alcohol in it, as it will only make the irritation and discomfort worse.

Pro tip: Put your lotion in the refrigerator to make it cooler and soothe the skin while moisturizing.

5. Use coconut oil.

Coconut oil has been proven to be a safe and very effective way to treat all kinds of burns, including razor burns.

The oil has anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties that alleviate razor burns when used correctly. All you have to do is apply a thin layer of organic, expeller-pressed coconut oil to your irritation daily until it goes away.

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Aly Walansky is a NY-based lifestyles writer who focuses on health, wellness, and relationships. Her work appears in dozens of digital and print publications regularly. Visit her on Twitter or email her.