With winter approaching, and many of us spending a lot more time at home than we did prior to the pandemic, it’s possible—likely, even—that you’re shaving less. And while there’s nothing wrong with keeping it natural, your skin’s going to be more sensitive to a blade the next time you do shave. Which means it’s also going to be a little more prone to razor burn.
Razor burn is a term you’ve probably heard since you were a tween. It’s not so much a burn in the literal sense of the word as it is a catchall for any kind irritation that occurs after shaving, including, most commonly, cuts, scrapes, and little hive-like bumps.
Folliculitis (inflamed hair follicles) can also be counted as razor burn. An ingrown hair is something different, though it’s also often a byproduct of shaving improperly. How, then, should you be shaving? And what can you do to soothe the sting of razor burn? Read on.
First things first, some important things not to do: shave on dry skin, use a dull razor, or shave against the grain. Instead, apply a shaving gel or cream to wet skin (moisturizing body wash will do in a pinch) and use a clean, sharp razor to gently shave in the direction of your hair growth.
Contrary to popular belief, warming up your skin pre-shave will swell the hair follicles and make it harder to get a close shave without irritating the skin. That’s why many shaving creams and gels are formulated with cooling ingredients.
After each stroke, rinse your razor, and make a point to replace it regularly. Exactly how often will depend on the size of the area you’re shaving, but it’ll probably need to happen around seven to 10 uses. If you have sensitive skin or you’re especially prone to razor burn, switch your razor even more frequently.
Right after toweling off, slather body moisturizer all over. Around the area you just shaved, apply a little more than you normally would. That can help prevent and soothe razor burn. Ideally, you should be using an unscented moisturizer that contains humectant, occlusive, and emollient ingredients because it will be better absorbed by your skin.
It’s also a good idea to exfoliate between shaves with a glycolic or salicylic wash that’s gentle and moisturizing. It’s one of the best ways to ensure your next shave will be smooth sailing.
To treat razor burn, aloe vera and colloidal oatmeal, both of which are over-the-counter topical ingredients, can be quite soothing. Aloe vera, while touted more often for its after-sun skin-care benefits, can also calm the inflammation associated with razor burn and improve redness and irritation. For serious cases, try aloe in 100 percent, cold-pressed gel form.
Over-the-counter, one-percent hydrocortisone cream, often marketed as an anti-itch cream, also effectively cuts down the inflammation that can stem from razor burn and can even minimize its development if you apply it right after shaving.