You can’t win, right? You’re getting yourself all spiffed up. You’ve cleared off all that unwanted hair. You’re looking good, girl! And then, oh, no, unsightly razor burn! Not only unsightly, but itchy and a little painful.
Despite the oh so many ways to remove hair these days, razors remain the most popular due simply to its easy availability, affordability and lack of learning curve.
But it comes with a catch: the blade scrapes off the top layer of your skin, twisting and pulling the hair follicle in the process. Little wonder that you are left with an inflamed, irritated and stinging rash. Sure, it’ll go away in a couple hours, or a couple days. But how much better it would be if you didn’t have to deal with it at all.
Razor burn is a reddish rash that appears a few minutes after shaving (as the hair starts growing through the pores). It’s caused by not shaving properly and ranges from a bit of sensitivity to a mild rash to painful bumps. It’s a common problem, particularly among those with sensitive skin.
The good news? You can save yourself the discomfort and frustration by making a few adjustments in the way you shave. Here’s how to prevent razor burn!
Choose the right razor
The type of razor you use can either help or hinder. If you’re using a multiple-blade razor and keep ending up with irritation and razor burn, you need fewer blades scraping across your skin.
For sensitive, razor burn-prone skin, triple and quadruple blades can be too much. Going with one simple blade that does the job is a smart way to eliminate skin irritation while getting a good shave.
So go ahead and make the switch back to what our forefathers used: the good old safety razor.
Whichever type of razor you use , a dull blade is one of the major contributing factors to razor burn. Think of it this way: The last time you cut anything, let’s say a piece of raw chicken, with a dull knife, there was a lot of resistance and drag; the meat was mangled and ragged instead of a nice clean cut. It’s the same with your skin. No wonder it gets irritated.
Replace the blade every six or seven uses so that it glides across your skin. If you tend to forget, don’t worry. The blade will start making more and more nicks in your skin to remind you. Feel the pain, see the blood—oh, yeah, I need a new blade.
Besides being an irritant, a blade that has been used too long can also be dirty, to make matters worse.
If you are really in dire straits, without a new blade to use, at least sharpen the one you have. You don’t need any fancy tools – you can sharpen it on an old pair of jeans. The jeans will remove the burrs and irregularities from your blade much the same as the leather strop did for straight razors.
Keep it clean
Of course, don’t shave with a rusty razor. But even if your razor shows no signs of visible rust – it still needs to be kept clean.
Rinse the blade under hot water after every pass so that it does not accumulate shaving cream, hair and dead cells off your skin. When your razor is bogged down with all that, you need to put more pressure on the razor as you shave and take more passes, both of which contribute to irritation and therefore razor burn.
Do not use a razor you might find in the rubble under your sink. You have no idea what’s been happening to it—it’s been months since you’ve seen it, right? We don’t need to tell you not to use someone else’s razor, do we? You could be asking for more trouble than razor rash. Like a staph infection that shows up as painful boils. Or a fungal or yeast infection. Or ringworm. (Ew! Too much information?)
Use only a sharp, clean razor.
Exfoliation seems to be the cure for all the “evils” of the skin. It’s at the top of the must-do list. You have to get those dead cells off your skin or else your razor is going to bump along like a car on a rutted dirt road, and that’s irritating.
And not only can exfoliation help you avoid razor burn – it can even save you from ingrown hairs. You see, dry hair is more likely to trap the hair below the surface, causing those annoying ingrown, razor bumps we all know and hate. A regular exfoliation regimen is a super simple way to remove that dry skin layer.
So exfoliate with a face or body scrub, an exfoliating glove or a loofah. If you’d like your legs to look and feel super-fabulous, exfoliate with a do-it-yourself sugar scrub before shaving. You can also use products that contain alpha hydroxy acids, such as glycolic acid, that gently and thoroughly remove the dead cells without you having to do the manual rubbing and scrubbing.
Use a shaving gel
First soften your hair with warm water by showering before or during shaving. Then apply moisturizing shaving gel or shaving oil. Shaving foam is okay – sometimes, and then sometimes not. It’s product specific, but too often, foam doesn’t provide enough of a barrier between the razor and your skin.
Baby oil works well. You’ll get a smooth, close shave, and, since it’s translucent, you can see better what and where you’re shaving. It’s also a lot less expensive than products designated for shaving.
Whichever lubricant you use, leave it on the skin for a minute or two before beginning to shave. That gives it time to “set” to soften and wet your hair and protect your skin.
For the skin in the bikini area, use a shaving gel specially formulated for sensitive skin. There are products available that are specifically for shaving the bikini zone.
Never shave with only water. And that bar of soap that’s so handy will not cushion your skin adequately.
With the grain. Shaving against the grain will undoubtedly give you the closest shave, but it also puts you in the greatest danger of razor burn. However, ladies, our legs are an exception to that rule. They can take shaving against the grain.
With one pass over an area. Of course, with the sharp, clean razor you’re using, that should not be a problem. The fewer strokes the better, especially if your skin is prone to razor burn. If you really must go back over, please, no more than twice, and reapply the shaving gel to that area before going back at it.
With short strokes. Long strokes make you press too hard into your skin. Let the razor do the work.
Finish up by rinsing the shaved area with cool or cold water.
Soothe your skin
You can apply aloe vera gel on the shaved area, leave on for ten minutes and rinse off with cool water. You can also use “leave-on” products. Moisturizers that contain glycerin help restore the skin’s natural protective barrier that the razor blade has disturbed.
Coconut oil hydrates and is an anti-inflammatory agent. Marshmallow extract (yes, you read that right) softens the skin and soothes irritation. Leave those fluffy marshmallows in the cupboard for making S’mores – the extract is from the roots and stems of the marshmallow plant; they secrete mucilage that has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties.
‘Til next time
You’ve been rinsing the razor after every pass so it’s in pretty clean. Right? Now you just have to give it a final rinse in hot water. Shake the razor dry. Drying it with a towel or tissues will shorten the blade’s life. Swish it around in rubbing alcohol to remove the water and the minerals that water contains. Alcohol evaporates without leaving a residue, and you’ll start off next time with a fresh, clean blade.
There are antiseptics made specifically for razor blades. Rubbing alcohol from the drugstore is just as good.
Oh, and don’t let your razor live in the shower – the exposure to humidity can breed rust and not-so-friendly bacteria.
These directions might sound like a lot to do, but once you get into the routine, it won’t be. It takes longer to describe them than to do them. And well worth being rid of razor burn forever.