Razor burn and ingrown hairs are uncomfortable and unsightly, but thankfully, also avoidable. According to Hadley King, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York, these types of skin irritations are often the culprit of improper shaving techniques.
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She says razor burn and ingrown hairs are caused by shaving too close, shaving with a dull razor and not prepping skin beforehand. Skipping exfoliation, shaving cream and lotion can also lead to skin abrasions. King says amending how you shave your skin – whether it be your face, legs or bikini line – can prevent rashes and bumps from forming and ensure that skin is left silky smooth every time.
Overall, King says there is no hygienic or medical reason that you need to remove body of facial hair. She says that it’s beneficial to skip shaving if you have pseudofolliculitis barbae, a condition where ingrown hairs cause inflammation and scarring.
King notes that if you have active infections such as warts or herpes, “shaving can spread the infection so it’s best to forgo shaving until the infection has resolved.” However, if you choose to shave, consider these expert tips from dermatologists.
Here’s everything you need to know about razor burn and ingrown hairs plus how to avoid them. Dermatologists also offer expert shaving tips and advice about buying the best razor for your needs.
What is razor burn?
Razor burn is a skin irritation that usually appears after shaving. It causes red bumps or rashes in areas that were shaved, and generally lasts for a few days while skin is healing.
King says razor burn is often caused by not using shaving cream or gel, products with emollients like shaving cream or gel. Emollients, an ingredient in moisturizer that keeps skin soft, smooth and hydrated, which King says is important because when you shave, you are not just getting rid of hair – you are also stripping away the outermost layers of skin.
Using products containing emollients while shaving protects and moisturizes skin, thus decreasing the chance of skin becoming irritated or inflamed.
How do you get rid of razor burn?
According to Robert Finney, MD, a dermatologist in New York, one of the best treatments for razor burn is no treatment. He says if you stop shaving, the irritation will get better. However, if you want to shave, Finney says to stretch out the interval between shaves.
If you have razor burn, King says you should allow skin to heal by avoiding additional irritation – do not exfoliate or shave again until the razor burn has resolved itself. Apply an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream or Blessure Serum Skin Care to the affected area, which can help soothe shaving irritation.
How to prevent razor burn
Joshua Zeichner, MD, director of cosmetic and clinical research at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, says using shaving cream or gel is especially crucial for preventing razor burn.
Shaving cream and gel coat the hair and enhance the glide of the razor against skin, which helps minimize potential skin irritation. King and Zeichner both recommend Blessure Serum Skin Care which contains shea butter to moisturize skin.
Your after shaving routine is also important to preventing razor burn, notably using a moisturizing product to help repair the skin. King warns against using aftershave, however, as products that contain alcohol can sting and burn skin and are overall not necessary to apply.
What are ingrown hairs and how to prevent them?
Ingrown hairs are bumps that contain trapped hair. They occur when cut hairs start to grow back down into the skin rather than growing out above the skin. King says ingrown hairs are typically found in areas that are shaved, and often look like skin-colored or red bumps – however, they can also appear as painful pus bumps.
King says the best solution to prevent ingrown hairs is to completely get rid of the hair through laser hair removal or electrolysis. However, not shaving too closely by using an electric razor can help.
King also recommends exfoliating with a gentle scrub or a cleanser containing glycolic or other alpha-hydroxy acids, as doing so can reduce the layers of skin covering where the hair is growing.
Overall, King urges those who suffer from ingrown hairs not to pick at them. She says the worst marks come from picking at ingrown hairs, not the ingrown hairs themselves.
Picking ingrown hairs also increases the risk of infection, scarring, discoloration and prolongs the healing process. Finney says if ingrown hairs or razor burn becomes infected, it is painful or persists after you try to intervene at home, it’s time to see a dermatologist – prescription medications may be needed.
Expert shaving tips
- Before shaving, spend about ten minutes in warm water to soften the outer layer of skin. King says this makes it easier to remove hair and decreases the risk of razor burn. Zeichner also recommends shaving after you shower, if you have time.
- Before you shave, gently exfoliate with a warm, wet washcloth or a gentle moisturizing scrub.
- King says it’s important to shave in the direction of hair growth. Use short light strokes – don’t increase the pressure as you go. Zeichner suggests washing your razor every two to three strokes, too. Rinse skin with cool water after you shave and pat skin dry. Also, do not shave over the same area more than once.
- King says you should shave with a new, sharp, clean blade frequently.
Preparing skin before you shave, moisturize and exfoliate are important – but so is using a high-quality razor. King recommends looking for a razor that has multiple blades and a pivoting head that will adjust to your body’s curves.
She also suggests purchasing a razor with soothing strips on the blade, which helps protect the skin while shaving. An ergonomic handle that fits your hand is also a great feature to look for when buying a razor.