Razor burn is a type of skin irritation that not only looks unsightly but can also be a source of pain and discomfort.
Keep reading to discover the many treatment options available for razor burn and learn how to prevent this common skin complaint.
What is razor burn?
Razor burn symptoms may include redness, itchiness, swelling, and small red bumps.
Razor burn can affect any part of the body that is subject to shaving, including the face, pubic area, legs, and underarms. Signs and symptoms of razor burn include:
- burning sensation
- small red bumps
Razor burn vs. razor bumps
Razor burn and razor bumps are often mistaken for one another. However, they are considered to be two separate conditions.
While razor burn is a skin irritation caused by shaving, razor bumps are the result of ingrown hairs.
Ingrown hair occurs when hair that has been shaved or removed by other means, such as plucking or waxing, grows back at an angle. This causes it to turn into the skin.
People with coarse or curly hair tend to be most affected by ingrown hair, although it can affect people of any hair type.
Symptoms of ingrown hair include:
- red bumps
In some cases, ingrown hairs can cause the hair follicle to become infected, which is a condition known as folliculitis.
A version of razor bumps called pseudofolliculitis barbae affects up to 60 percent of African American men and many other people whose hair is curly. Severe cases of pseudofolliculitis barbae can require medical treatment.
Treating razor burn
Razor burn is an uncomfortable and annoying condition, but it usually resolves itself with time.
However, there are a number of treatments available to ease the symptoms of razor burn, ranging from over-the-counter products to at-home remedies. Options include:
1. Avoid shaving or touching the area
By leaving the skin alone, it gives the area time to heal and can reduce the risk of further inflammation, irritation, or infection.
2. Cool compresses
Placing a cool, wet compress on the affected area can help to reduce itching and inflammation.
To make a cold compress, simply place a clean washcloth under a stream of cold water. Wring off the excess and apply to the skin for up to 20 minutes. This can be repeated as often as needed.
3. Astringent liquids
One of the most popular home remedies for razor burn is the application of a natural astringent liquid. These help to reduce the inflammation and redness associated with both razor bumps and razor burn.
Examples of popular natural astringents include:
- apple cider vinegar
- chilled, brewed black tea
- tea tree oil (a few drops mixed with water)
- witch hazel extract
These can be applied directly to the face or added to a cold compress.
4. Natural oils
Avocado oil may be used to soften and hydrate the skin.
Several natural oils can be used to soften and hydrate the skin, which can reduce the sensations of itching, tenderness, and burning.
Some of the most popular oils include:
- avocado oil
- coconut oil
- olive oil
- sweet almond oil
Other emollients, including unscented lotions, aftershaves, and moisturizers, can also be applied to dry skin. People should not use products that contain alcohol because it is a known skin irritant.
5. Aloe vera
Aloe vera gel, taken from the aloe vera plant, is often used for burns, cuts, and scrapes. Anecdotal evidence reports its soothing abilities in cases of razor burn.
In addition, research shows that certain enzymes in the aloe vera plant reduce inflammation when applied to the skin.
People wishing to use aloe vera can squeeze the gel directly from the plant onto the affected area, or use a commercially available aloe vera product for sensitive or damaged skin.
6. Oatmeal bath
Oatmeal is often used to treat a variety of skin issues, particularly inflammatory conditions. According to some research, it possesses antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which may explain its effectiveness as a natural remedy for razor burn.
Adding either regular or colloidal oatmeal, or an oatmeal-based bath product, to a tub of lukewarm water can help to provide symptom relief. This can be especially helpful for razor burn on the pubic area or legs.
7. Baking soda
Baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate, is a natural salt that is mainly used in baking. However, it is a popular natural treatment for a variety of ailments, including razor burn and razor bumps.
Mix a cup of water with 1 tablespoon of baking soda and apply to the skin using a cotton pad. Once the mixture dries, rinse it off. Repeat up to twice daily until symptoms resolve.
Alternatively, 1 cup of baking soda can be added to a lukewarm bath to alleviate symptoms.
8. Over-the-counter lotions
Several over-the-counter products are available to treat razor burn. Aftershave lotion for both men and women may provide benefits, while baby products such as baby oil or diaper rash creams are both gentle and soothing for irritated skin.
Products containing hydrocortisone can reduce swelling and redness. Salicylic acid, a product typically used to treat acne, may also be beneficial for those with razor burn.
Those with razor bumps in addition to razor burn may benefit from lotions containing glycolic acid, which has been shown to reduce lesions by 60 percent. This could allow people to resume a daily shaving routine.
Specially formulated razor bump creams are also available to prevent ingrown hairs, including Bump Stopper and Tend Skin.
9. Antibiotics for infection
Razor burn is often accompanied by bumps. While these generally resolve without complication, there is the possibility of infection.
If the bumps appear to be infected, show white or pus-filled heads, or become tender or painful to the touch, those affected should consult a doctor. Antibiotic treatment may be required.
Preventing razor burn
With proper shaving tools and techniques, the risk of developing razor burn can be kept to a minimum.
The following tips may help people to prevent razor burn from occurring:
Razor burn may be prevented by not shaving too quickly, shaving in the direction of the hair growth, and shaving after showering.
- shaving after showering, when hair is softest
- always using a lubricant such as a cream, gel, or oil
- exfoliating the skin to help prevent ingrown hairs
- using a shaving brush to apply shaving gel or cream to the area, which ensures a more thorough and even distribution than applying by hand
- choosing a high-quality, sharp razor blade that is clean and free from debris such as a buildup of soap or hair
- shaving in the direction of the hair growth
- not leaning too heavily on the blade, instead using light, short strokes, as well as only using as many strokes as necessary; over-shaving an area is a significant cause of razor burn
- not shaving too quickly
- rinsing the blade after every stroke
- cleaning and drying shaving tools after use to reduce the risk of bacterial growth, making sure to use rubbing alcohol on the blade if necessary
- rinsing freshly shaven skin with cold water and applying a gentle lotion, gel, or moisturizer, making sure to avoid products containing colors, fragrances, alcohol, or other skin irritants
- avoiding wearing tight clothing or tight underwear after shaving, as this can irritate newly shaved skin