Razor Burns

Razor burn is a common condition in which irritation causes the skin to develop a mild rash soon after the area has been shaved. The rash usually appears within a few minutes of shaving, and although it sometimes disappears within a couple of hours, it can sometimes linger for days. The severity of razor burn depends on the severity of its main causes – using a blade that is not sharp enough and using poor technique while shaving. Men are the most common sufferers of razor burn, since a large proportion of them shave their facial hair, which is tougher to get rid of than most other body hair. However, razor burn can occur on any part of the body that is shaved. Both women and men who shave their underarms, legs, and pubic hair often experience razor burn in these areas. Recurrent irritation due to shaving can lead to a more severe problem known as pseudofolliculitis barbae or razor bumps. This however is usually the result of the hair being extremely curly, and therefore growing into the skin; blade quality and shaving technique therefore have only a minimal effect on this condition.

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Symptoms of Razor Burns

The main symptom of razor burn is the skin in an area that has just been shaved turning red and inflamed. The skin feels hyper-sensitive and stings, and may also itch a bit. These symptoms typically begin within the first five minutes after a shave. Razor burn may sometimes be mild and disappear on its own within a few hours. However, in more severe cases of razor burn the inflammation and the discomfort can last for several days.

Causes of Razor Burns

The fundamental cause of razor burn is irritation of the skin while shaving. There are two main reasons why this happens:

  • Dull Blades: Using a blade that is dull is a major cause of razor burn. A fresh, sharp blade does not require much force or effort, and is therefore less likely to scrape off much skin along with the hair that it is cutting. If, however, you use a dull blade, you need to apply a lot of force to get the blade through your hair. This usually means that along with the hair, your razor is scraping off a fine layer of skin too.
  • Poor Technique: Poor shaving technique can involve a number of different things. Not taking the time or effort to soften the hair that is to be shaved is a common problem. Hair that is tough and hard once again requires a lot of force to be shaved, leading to scraping and irritation of the skin. Wetting the hair allows it to soak up water, swell and soften, thus making it easier to shave. Shaving gels and foams also have the same effect. However, you need to allow some time for this to happen – slapping on the foam and immediately shaving can lead to razor burn, since the hair has no time to soften. However, remember that gels and other shaving products that contain alcohol can contribute to razor burn. Another technique that can cause problems is shaving against the direction of the hair growth. While this might seem to give you a closer, cleaner shave, the cost might be a bad case of razor burn.

Remedies for Razor Burns

For many people, razor burn is a recurrent problem. If this is the case with you, then before you get into razor burn treatment you need to look at prevention, which primarily involves improving the way you shave. Here are a few tips that will help you:

  • Trim: If the hair you are trying to get rid of is more than a few millimeters long, avoid taking a razor to it right away. First use a pair of scissors or an electric trimmer to get rid of most of the length. Once this has been done, shaving will be a lot easier, and quicker too.
  • Moisturize: Once you are done trimming (if you feel it is necessary), it is advisable that you wash the area to be shaved. In fact, it is often recommended that you bathe and only then shave. If you are shaving your pubic area or your underarms, it is usually best to do this in the bathroom, once you are done bathing. This gives the hair adequate time to soften. A hot bath will soften the hair even more, and will also open up your pores, so that you get a closer shave without hurting your skin.
  • Lubricate: When you actually get down to shaving, you should also use a shaving cream or gel – besides helping to soften the hair, this lubricates and makes the shave smoother, and also provides a fine layer of protection between the blade and your skin. You can reapply the cream or gel even as you shave, if you feel it is necessary.
  • Always Use a Sharp Blade: Discard blades as soon as you find them getting dull. This does not necessarily mean using a fresh blade or razor for every shave. Blades can stay sharp for up to seven shaves if you take proper care of them. Rinse your blade frequently while you shave, and once you are done shaving, wash it thoroughly. A final dip in alcohol will also help get rid of oils and bacteria than would otherwise remain on the blade.
  • Be Gentle: Resist the temptation to get that “perfect,” smooth shave. Use gentle force while shaving, and always move the blade in the direction that the hair is growing. Shaving “against the grain” may get rid of more hair, but it is much harder on the skin. If your skin is sensitive, you should also avoid the second shave – in fact, you might want to completely avoid running the blade over the same patch of skin twice. Instead, remember to hold your skin taut – this will allow you to shave closer while simultaneously keeping loose skin out of the razor as much as possible.
  • Be Careful with Shaving Products: A lot of shaving products contain alcohol and perfumes that tend to irritate sensitive skin. If you frequently suffer from razor burn, check the ingredients of the products you are using. Try switching to products without alcohol and perfumes and see if your shaving experience improves.

If you somehow end up with razor burn in spite of taking these precautions or perhaps due to haste or forgetfulness, don’t worry too much – while there is no cure for razor burn, here are a few simple home remedies for razor burn that will make you feel better:

  • After-Shave Gel: It would be best to replace your after-shave lotion with a gel. Lotions usually contain alcohol as their main ingredient, which burns and irritates the skin. Although the lotion will get rid of bacteria that could contribute to razor burn, they may irritate the skin enough to cause razor burn themselves. Most after-shave gels, on the other hand, soothe and moisturize the skin. Even if you feel the need to use a lotion, you should try following it up with a gel.
  • Aloe Vera: Aloe vera is one of the most soothing substances around, and is possibly the best razor burn home remedy. You can use either fresh aloe gel or packaged aloe gel at the end of your shave. Simply take a small amount and gently massage it into your skin.
  • Witch Hazel: You can also try razor burn remedies such as witch hazel, which is a gentle astringent. Like aloe, witch hazel will soothe the skin, and like an after-shave, it will also get rid of bacteria.
  • Tea Tree Oil: Tea tree oil is sometimes recommended as a cure for razor burn. However, tea tree oil is itself quite a harsh substance, and should therefore be used with caution. If you have never used tea tree oil before, you should start with a very tiny amount. If you notice any irritation or burning, you should probably avoid using tea tree oil for razor burn relief altogether.
  • Diet for Razor Burns

    Although there are no specifications regarding diets to be followed for razor burns, consuming foods rich in Vitamin C should help in restoring the skin quickly.

    Suggestions for Razor Burns

    There is not much that you can do about razor burn once it occurs, apart from soothing the irritation and ensuring that it does not get worse. The best approach therefore is to avoid getting a case of razor burn at all. In order to do this, you need to shave correctly: use a fresh blade, and be gentle on your skin. If in spite of this, you still suffer from razor burn, it might help to avoid shaving too often. Many men tend to shave daily, thus depriving the skin of a chance to recover from the previous shave. This can lead to almost permanent razor burn, and eventually razor bumps. Instead, try shaving every alternate day, or perhaps even only twice or thrice a week. People who suffer from very severe razor burn should in fact consider not shaving at all. For parts of the body other than the face, there or many other hair removal options, and a simple trim is sometimes the best.

    Razor Burns Treatments - more information
    Razor Burns - Frequently asked questions
    2 Razor Burns remedies suggested by our users
    suggested by BLAH! on Wednesday, December 12, 2007

    Found this one out accidentally while brushing my teeth in the shower after shaving, it burned at first but then my face felt amazing. arm&hammer with baking soda is what i use now every time after i shave, its like a listerine mouthwash for your face, it'll burn or tingle for those few seconds, but rinse it off and its cool and feels great. i've also noticed that it doesn't leave my face oily like aftershave/aftershave balms.

    razor burn
    suggested by william on Wednesday, October 17, 2007

    use hair conditioner it works for me