How To Prevent Razor Burn

If shaving the body, avoid wearing tight clothes that will rub against newly shaven areas, which can irritate the skin.

How to Get Rid of or Prevent Razor Burn and Ingrown Hairs

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

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

Coconut oil is used in cooking, but it’s also great for your skin.

Research from 2008 has found that coconut oil could be a safe and effective therapy for healing burns. Researchers believe coconut oil has anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties.

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

Research from 2006 suggested that tea tree oil is anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial. It’s used as a natural remedy to heal minor wounds and soothe burns.

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

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.

Research from 2007 notes that oats contain phenols with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Colloidal oatmeal can help soothe, cleanse, and moisturize the skin.

For razor burn relief, soak in a colloidal oatmeal bath once daily for 10 to 15 minutes.

Calendula cream

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.

Exfoliants

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.

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Benzoyl peroxide

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

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.

Razor Burn

Razor burn is a common skin condition that can develop after you shave. Causes include dry shaving, shaving too fast, shaving with an old razor or shaving against the direction of your hair growth. Treatment for razor burn includes cold compresses, emollients, aloe vera and home remedies such as apple cider vinegar or oatmeal baths.

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Overview

A blotchy red skin rash on a person’s face and neck caused by razor burn.

What is razor burn?

Razor burn is a skin irritation you can develop after shaving. It can happen on any part of your body you shave. Razor burns can affect your face, neck, legs, armpits or pubic area. Dry shaving, shaving too quickly or shaving with a dull blade can all cause razor burn. The skin irritation usually shows up a few minutes after shaving, and it usually lasts from a few hours to a few days.

Razor burn is different than razor bumps (pseudofolliculitis barbae). Pseudofolliculitis barbae is a condition that can occur due to ingrown hairs. Ingrown hairs can occur after shaving when your hair curls into your skin as it grows back. Razor burn and razor bumps both cause red, irritated skin. But razor bumps look like small pimples. Razor burn looks like a blotchy skin rash.

Who does razor burn affect?

Razor burn can affect anyone who shaves unwanted hair off their body. The condition is slightly more common in people with acne. If you have sensitive skin, razor burn may affect you more frequently as well.

Razor bumps (pseudofolliculitis barbae) are more common in Black people assigned male at birth (AMAB). As many as 83% of Black people AMAB may experience razor bumps.

Symptoms and Causes

What causes razor burn?

Razor burn occurs due to the interaction between your razor blade, your hair and your skin. Tiny cracks in your top layer of skin (epidermis), along with a loss of hydration and inflammation can occur when a blade moves across your skin. Other common causes of razor burn may include:

  • Dry shaving, which means shaving without any water, soap or shaving cream or gel.
  • Shaving too fast.
  • Shaving with an old (dull) razor blade.
  • Shaving against the direction of hair growth.
  • Sensitive skin, or using products that irritate your skin.

What does razor burn look like?

Razor burn looks like a red, irritated patch of skin or a streaky red rash. Other symptoms of razor burn may include:

  • Pain or discomfort.
  • Burning or stinging sensation.
  • Itchiness.
  • Tenderness and swelling.

If you have small, pimple-like bumps, you may have razor bumps (pseudofolliculitis barbae).

Diagnosis and Tests

How is razor burn diagnosed?

If you develop a red, blotchy skin rash after shaving, you can probably self-diagnose that you have razor burn. If the rash doesn’t go away on its own within a few days, call your healthcare provider. They can help diagnose and treat your condition.

Management and Treatment

How can I treat razor burn?

There are many razor burn treatment options. You may find razor burn relief by putting a cool washcloth or moisturizer on the affected area. This will help soothe and heal your skin.

To get rid of razor burn fast, aloe vera gel may work. You may have used aloe vera to treat a sunburn, but it can also help get rid of razor burn in an hour or less. Aloe vera moisturizes and soothes your skin while healing it at the same time.

Home remedies such as apple cider vinegar, witch hazel extract or tea tree oil mixed with water can help stop inflammation from razor burn. You can also try an oatmeal bath or put on an over-the-counter (OTC) hydrocortisone cream.

If your skin is dry and irritated, apply an emollient such as an aftershave or a moisturizing lotion. Avoid products that contain fragrances, alcohol or other irritants. Natural oils such as avocado oil, coconut oil and olive oil can also help moisturize your skin. Avoid shaving the area of razor burn to help it heal.

If OTC or home remedies don’t clear up the condition within a few days, call your healthcare provider. You may have developed a condition that requires further treatment, such as an antibiotic.

Prevention

How can I prevent razor burn?

To avoid razor burn, make sure your skin is moist and soft before shaving. You may want to shave immediately after showering when your skin is clear of dead skin cells and excess oil that can clog up your razor blade. Also, use a lubricant such as soap, shaving cream or shaving gel to create a barrier between your skin and the razor blade. This will also help the blade glide over your skin easier. Other tips to prevent razor burn include:

  • Shave in the direction of your hair growth: Shaving in the opposite direction of hair growth can lead to inflammation.
  • Use light, short strokes: Don’t shave too quickly, and avoid shaving over the same section more than once.
  • Clean your razor blade often: After every few strokes, rinse your razor to get rid of the hair and soap that collects between the blades.
  • Rinse your skin: Rinse with cold water after shaving, or apply a damp, washcloth to your skin.
  • Moisturize your skin: After shaving, use a hydrating lotion or gel to help soothe and heal your skin’s barriers. Avoid products that contain fragrances or other skin irritants.
  • Store your razor in a dry place: Clean and dry your razor, and then store it in a dry place to prevent bacteria growth.
  • Replace your razor blade frequently: Razor blades should always be sharp and free of rust. Toss your razor blade after five to seven uses.
  • Avoid tight clothing: After shaving, avoid wearing tight clothing or underwear. This will help prevent skin irritation.
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If you’re very prone to razor burn, you may want to consider waxing instead. This may help prevent recurrent skin irritation.

Outlook / Prognosis

How long does razor burn last?

Razor burn is a very common condition that can last from a few hours to a few days. It usually clears up on its own without any treatment. For quicker healing, avoid shaving on the affected area until it clears up.

What complications can occur due to razor burn?

Razor burn is a very common condition that usually clears up on its own. Razor bumps (pseudofolliculitis barbae) are another condition that can occur due to shaving. Ingrown hairs can cause a condition called pseudofolliculitis barbae, which is a type of folliculitis. Folliculitis occurs when a hair follicle becomes infected or inflamed.

Pseudofolliculitis barbae is common in people with curly hair and Black people assigned male at birth. The condition usually occurs in your beard and neck areas. After you shave your beard or neck hairs, they become sharp like spears. These tiny little spears can turn back and penetrate your skin. This can irritate your skin, and pimple-like bumps can form. You can treat pseudofolliculitis barbae with the same methods you would for a razor burn. But severe cases may require medical care from your healthcare provider.

How can I tell the difference between razor burn and herpes?

Razor burn causes a blotchy red skin rash. Ingrown hairs may cause small, red razor bumps. Razor burn and razor bumps can affect your vaginal area, but they’ll typically clear up on their own within a few days.

Herpes simplex viruses cause bumps that look more like fluid-filled sores or blisters near your penis or vagina. They develop in clusters. You may have additional symptoms such as fever and headache. Herpes bumps may go away on their own too, but they usually come back.

If you’re not sure if you have harmless razor bumps or a more serious condition such as herpes, be sure to see your healthcare provider.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Razor burn is a common condition that can occur after shaving unwanted hair anywhere on your body. While it can cause an irritating skin rash, it should clear up on its own within a few days. If the condition doesn’t go away with home treatment or it looks infected, see your healthcare provider. They can help diagnose the condition and suggest appropriate treatment.

Remedies for Razor Burn

Razor burn is a skin irritation caused by shaving the skin. It usually appears as red areas on the skin and can be considered a form of irritant contact dermatitis (skin rash). Its symptoms may include burning, redness, itching, and stinging.

Anyone who shaves can get razor burn. It usually appears on the legs, armpits, or face soon after you shave those parts of your body. If you shave, take care in how you do it to help reduce the frequency of razor burn on your skin.

Razor burn is not quite the same thing as razor bumps, although the two terms are often used interchangeably. Razor bumps are ingrown hairs that result from hair removal, with the hair curling into the skin as it grows back.

Both conditions can result in red and irritated skin, but razor bumps are characterized by the tell-tale bumps, which may look like small pimples. Razor burn, on the other hand, looks more like red streaks or blotches across the skin.

Remedies and Treatments for Razor Burn

Razor burn can be painful and unattractive. It will usually go away on its own, but there are some steps you can take to help skin heal more quickly and prevent future incidents.

Razor Burn Treatment

In order to relieve uncomfortable razor burn and speed up the healing process, you want to apply soothing products that also protect the skin and keep it moist. Many grocery stores and drugstores sell different products to ease razor burn symptoms. Look at the labels of skin products at your preferred place in order to choose one with the right ingredients.

The following ingredients may help protect the skin’s outer layer, which is most vulnerable to razor burn, and combat redness and peeling:

These ingredients can also help with razor burn, calming the skin and promoting repair:

  • Licorice
  • Green tea
  • White tea
  • Chamomile
  • Panthenol (skin moisturizer that helps to heal wounds)
  • Caffeine
  • Bisabolol (liquid used in many skin products)
  • Comfrey (plant that reduces inflammation)
  • Allantoin (skin moisturizer)

Perhaps the best product or ingredient for razor burn is the one that’s easiest to find: aloe vera. Aloe vera is a gel found in the aloe vera plant. It acts as a moisturizer, soother, antiseptic, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory substance. Many people use it to treat sunburn, but its effects can also help ease razor burn symptoms. Grocery stores, drug stores, and plant stores sell products with aloe vera in it or the aloe vera plant.

In addition, aloe vera contains glucomannan and gibberellin (a plant hormone), which increase the synthesis of collagen (protein for skin and bones). As a result, aloe vera helps wounds to heal and can help prevent scarring.

Tea tree oil, which should always be heavily diluted (watered down) before use, can also play a role in soothing inflammation and keeping razor burn from becoming infected. It has well-known antimicrobial (stops microorganisms from growing) and anti-inflammatory properties.

Razor Burn Prevention

The most important thing that you can do to prevent razor burn and other shaving irritations is to practice good shaving techniques. Some recommendations include:

  1. Shave when your skin is clean, wet, and warm.
  2. Apply a shaving gel or cream to the area. Look for a gentle product that won’t irritate your skin.
  3. Shave in the direction that hair grows. It can be tempting to go against the grain for a closer shave, but shaving in the right direction is a crucial part of preventing razor burn and bumps. Keep strokes light.
  4. Rinse your razor after each application to remove buildup.
  5. Store razors in a dry area and replace often. Razors should stay sharp and clear of rust or buildup.

Choose a high-quality razor, and after shaving, apply a fragrance-free, moisturizing cream to restore the skin’s natural barriers.

If shaving the body, avoid wearing tight clothes that will rub against newly shaven areas, which can irritate the skin.

When to See a Doctor

While razor burn is rarely serious, you should consult your doctor in the following cases.

  • Discomfort causes you to lose sleep or results in difficulty performing ordinary activity
  • The rash continues for weeks
  • There is any sign of infection such as pus

It is severe enough to blister

Show Sources

American Academy of Dermatology: “HAIR REMOVAL: HOW TO SHAVE.”

Clinical Microbiology Reviews: “Melaleuca alternifolia (Tea Tree) Oil: a Review of Antimicrobial and Other Medicinal Properties.”

Indian Journal of Dermatology: “ALOE VERA: A SHORT REVIEW.”

The International Dermal Institute: “When Razor Meets Skin: A Scientific Approach to Shaving.”

Mayo Clinic: “Contact dermatitis.”

Yale Medicine: “Growing a Pandemic Beard? Solve Skin Problems Caused by Your Facial Hair.”

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Alex Koliada, PhD

Alex Koliada, PhD

Alex Koliada, PhD, is a well-known doctor. He is famous for his studies of ageing, genetics and other medical conditions. He works at the Institute of Food Biotechnology and Genomics NAS of Ukraine. His scientific researches are printed by the most reputable international magazines. Some of his works are: Differences in the gut Firmicutes to Bacteroidetes ratio across age groups in healthy Ukrainian population [BiomedCentral.com]; Mating status affects Drosophila lifespan, metabolism and antioxidant system [Science Direct]; Anise Hyssop Agastache foeniculum Increases Lifespan, Stress Resistance, and Metabolism by Affecting Free Radical Processes in Drosophila [Frontiersin].
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