Shaving is a great way to get rid of unwanted hair. But if done improperly, it can lead to razor burn.
Razor burn, or pseudofolliculitis barbae, is patches of inflamed skin. These patches often sting or, as their common name implies, burn. Other signs and symptoms of razor burn include swelling, tenderness, and small, red bumps.
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What causes razor burn?
For shavers, razor burn can be a common occurrence — but what is razor burn caused by exactly?
Razor burn happens when your hair becomes ingrown. When you shave, some of the hairs may curl and turn inward instead of being cut off. As new skin cells grow over the hair, it becomes trapped and a bump forms. This can occur if you use a dull razor, if you have skin that’s sensitive to friction, or if you do not properly lubricate your skin with cream or lotion before shaving.
How long does it take for a razor burn to go away?
The length of time it takes for razor burn to go away depends on severity and skin type. Ingrown hairs typically take a month to resume normal growth, so even without treatment, razor burn will usually go away on its own; however, there are ways to improve the symptoms more quickly.
How to help razor burn
Here’s what to put on razor burn to help ease any irritation:
- Warm and cool compresses. Applying a warm, wet washcloth will help soften the skin and draw the ingrown hair out. Follow up with an ice pack for 20 minutes to help with the burn.
- Natural astringents. Apple cider vinegar, chilled black tea, and witch hazel extract are all known to soothe inflamed skin. Use whichever works best for your skin type.
- Natural oils. Coconut oil, almond oil, and tea tree oil have anti-inflammatory properties that help treat irritation. Just be sure to mix the drops of tea tree oil with water or a carrier oil before applying it to your skin.
- Aloe vera. Harvested from the aloe plant, aloe vera gel is known for cooling and healing burns. Smooth the gel over any skin affected by razor burn.
- Baking soda. Like aloe vera, baking soda has a cooling effect on the skin. Apply a baking soda paste to the affected area, leave on until it dries, and then rinse it off thoroughly.
- Oatmeal. Oats contain phenols that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. If you get a rash after shaving, soak in an oatmeal bath for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Cucumbers and milk. In a blender, add one peeled cucumber and ¼ cup of milk. Blend, then apply to skin. Not only do cucumbers also have that cooling effect, they contain vitamin C, which aids in skin restoration. Meanwhile, the fat and protein content in milk works to soothe the skin.
How do you prevent razor burn?
Here’s how you can prevent razor burn from occurring post-shave:
- Exfoliate skin before shaving. Exfoliating removes dead skin cells from the top layer of skin. Not only does this allow you to get a closer shave, but it also helps to prevent the formation of ingrown hairs.
- Only shave when skin is wet. When the skin is hydrated, your razor can easily glide through your hair because the skin swells and softens. But when the skin is dry and tight, your razor tugs, pulls, and scapes your skin as it tries to cut the hair, causing razor burns.
- Use a sharp blade. Dull razor blades irritate the skin, so be sure to replace the blade regularly.
- Shave in the correct direction. Move the razor in the direction your hair grows to avoid irritation.
- Dry skin and moisturize after shaving. To prevent future razor burns, always pat your skin dry after shaving, then smooth on hydrating cream to refresh your skin and replenish any moisture that may have been stripped.
If your razor burn is more painful or inflamed than usual, or it becomes tender or painful to the touch, you should consult your doctor or a dermatologist.