Many of my patients come to me with what seems like a very common problem…razor burn. You too may have experienced that irritating rash that appears after shaving. It can be slightly itchy, with a noticeable rash on your face and neck. Sometimes it creates “razor bumps” that result from ingrown hairs that is not only uncomfortable but unsightly as well.
Everyone wants to look their best and a nice, clean shave is the way to start the day off right. You may associate razor burn with men who have to shave on a daily basis but I can tell you women have the problem too. It’s just that most women don’t come to their dermatologist with a problem rash due to improper shaving techniques. Men are more willing to open up and ask the proverbial question, “how can I prevent razor burn?’
There are a few general guidelines I recommend to my patients that will make a huge difference in the way they shave:
• When you are using a razor, you need something between you and the object. Moisturizing gels do just that by creating a barrier of film between your skin and the razor. Make it a habit to use a gel rather than soap. You will see a big difference in how your razor glides and the smoothness of your shave.
• Always shave in the same direction of hair growth. I know most people believe that shaving in the opposite direction is the thing to do but you will find more ingrown hairs, infected cuts, and sensitive skin areas by doing it this way.
• Don’t apply too much pressure just because you want a close shave. It could spell disaster instead of the clean shave you are looking to achieve.
• Perfumes in aftershaves can irritate your skin so try using lotion with aloe vera instead.
• Don’t forget to clean your razor with alcohol. You may not be aware of the bacteria that are left on your razor after you finish shaving. One knick or cut can open you up to infection so be mindful and dip your razor in rubbing alcohol before you shave the next time.
What To Do When Razor Burns Persist
When general tips aren’t enough I recommend a step by step procedure to shaving that prevents sensitive skin from becoming inflamed.
1. Soften the beard – when the hair is soft it is more easily removed so the best time to shave is after a shower. Hot steam softens your beard but to get really soft, try using some hair conditioner and leave it on while you wash. When you rinse off you will find your beard to be soft and ready to shave.
2. Exfoliate – this is a term used to describe a process to remove dead skin cells and bring potential ingrown hairs out of hiding. You can use a facial scrub or loofa whichever is easier on your skin type.
3. Lubricate – look for a cream or gel rich in glycerin and coconut oil and free of alcohol. Avoid products with menthol, which can numb the skin and make it hard to feel razor drag. I recommend pre-shave oil for sensitive skin.
4. Keep blades sharp – a dull blade is one of the leading causes of razor burn so replace it every 5 to 7 days. Make sure you rinse your blade often using cool water to remove creams, oils, and whiskers.
5. Keep it light – don’t apply too much pressure; the weight of the razor is enough. Use short strokes instead of long which help cut down on the amount of pressure.
6. Once is enough – avoid passing the blade over the same area more than once because every time the blade passes it shaves off a small layer of skin.
7. Moisturize – look for balms that contain aloe, shea butter, and glycerin. Lavender also has healing properties besides having a great fragrance.
8. Cold water rinse – cold water helps close up your pores and reduces the probability of forming ingrown hairs.
9. Say no to aftershaves – for some people an aftershave feels refreshing but if you have sensitive skin it can be irritating. Try applying a soothing balm or aloe vera based cortisone cream to reduce redness.
10. Razor bumps cream – if you are susceptible to ingrown hairs, there are products available that help prevent them from forming. Ask your dermatologist for creams that are best for your skin type.
11. Finish the job – dry off the blade with a towel and keep it dry for the next time you shave. Wetness leads to a dull blade which will make shaving more difficult in the future.
If you shave on a regular basis you know how uncomfortable and inconvenient a razor burn can be. No one wants to be seen with red, unsightly bumps on their face and neck. Razor burn is something you can prevent by making a few changes in the way you shave. If your condition persists, see your dermatologist for advice. Shaving every day doesn’t have to be a chore when you follow a few easy techniques; start today for a smoother shave!