Shaving can irritate the skin, which may lead to itchy and painful red bumps. Itching after shaving may be a sign of razor burn or folliculitis. Shaving incorrectly, using a dull razor, or shaving a sensitive area of skin can all cause skin irritation.
Using shaving products that contain artificial scents and harsh chemicals, such as alcohol, can irritate the skin and contribute to itchiness.
People may shave for aesthetic, hygienic, or personal reasons. Regardless of the motivation, shaving provides an effective and efficient means of removing body hair.
This article explains why the skin itches after shaving and how to prevent it.
Shaving with a razor can irritate the skin or cause ingrown hairs, which may lead to razor burn or folliculitis:
Razor burn and bumps
Razor burn is a type of skin irritation that develops immediately after shaving. Improper shaving techniques can irritate the skin, causing patches of red, itchy bumps.
Razor burn does not necessarily mean the skin is infected. It can happen when people dry shave, which is shaving without using creams or gels.
Razor bumps also develop after shaving. However, these occur as the result of ingrown hairs.
Itching after shaving could also be a sign of folliculitis. This is a skin condition that results from a bacterial, fungal, or rarely, a viral infection of the hair follicle under the skin. It often results in red, acne-like spots and itchy, painful skin.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus often causes folliculitis.
Some people are more prone to folliculitis than others. Shaving in the opposite direction to the way the hairs grow may increase a person's risk of folliculitis.
How to avoid
Shaving can irritate hair follicles. Shaving with an unclean razor and against the grain can introduce bacteria into the hair follicles, which can lead to an infection.
Razor burn, razor bumps, and folliculitis can technically affect any part of the body. However, they usually develop on areas of skin that people frequently shave, such as the legs, pubic area, and face.
Highly sensitive areas, such as the pubic region and face, may get irritated more often than the legs and chest.
This section discusses the effects of shaving and how to treat skin irritation in different areas of the body.
The skin on the legs is less sensitive than some other areas, such as the pubic region.
However, people may develop razor burn on their legs if they:
- shave too fast or too often
- use an old razor
- shave against the grain of the hair or too close to the skin
- use shaving products that contain harsh chemicals
People can resolve razor burn on their legs by:
- applying a cool compress immediately after shaving to relieve irritation and reduce inflammation
- avoiding shaving the legs until the skin heals
- using a soothing moisturizer, such as one that contains aloe vera or shea butter
- soothing inflammation with topical ointments, such as hydrocortisone cream and antibiotics, if a doctor has diagnosed folliculitis
People should never shave their legs when they are dry. Using gentle shaving creams and gels keeps the skin hydrated.
The skin around the pubic area is very sensitive, so people should use caution when shaving in this area. There are many reasons why the skin on the pubic region is prone to irritation.
The groin area is prone to excessive moisture and chafing, which can lead to skin irritation. This is especially problematic in warmer weather.
The hair that grows in this area is thicker, curlier, and coarser than most other body hair, which may make it more susceptible to growing inward.
People may also shave this area often because pubic hair tends to grow rapidly. Shaving too frequently can irritate the skin.
People can use the following guidelines to prevent skin irritation when shaving pubic hair:
- Carefully use a pair of scissors or a clipper to trim as much hair as possible before shaving.
- Soak the area in warm water to soften the skin and hair.
- Apply a soothing shaving cream or gel.
- Gently hold the skin tight with one hand.
- Slowly shave in the same direction that the hair grows — pubic hair grows toward the genitals.
- When finished, rinse the area with warm water and pat dry with a clean towel.
- Apply a fragrance free moisturizer, such as CeraVe or Vanicream, to avoid irritation.
People with sensitive skin may want to consider using an electric trimmer because the blade is further away from the skin than traditional razor blades.
Testicles and scrotum
Less hair grows on the scrotum than the pubic region but shaving this area can cause irritation because the skin of the scrotum is delicate. Some men may find using a trimmer a better option.
When shaving the scrotum, follow the same steps as for shaving pubic hair. However, a person should always remember to:
- hold the skin as tight as possible without causing pain
- apply gentle pressure to avoid cutting the skin
- shave in the same direction that the hair grows
- avoid using a dull razor
Male facial hairs tend to grow at a low angle close to the skin, which can raise the risk of ingrown hairs and skin irritation.
Pseudofolliculitis barbae is a condition where the beard hair curls back inward and penetrates the skin, resulting in inflammation. While this condition usually affects the face and neck, it can appear in other areas.
Having curly hair can increase a person's chances of developing pseudofolliculitis.
One dermatologist, Robert Anolik, MD, FAAD, shares the following tips for shaving facial hair in a press release from the AAD:
- Soften the skin and hair with water.
- Apply shaving cream and let it sit on the skin for 2–3 minutes.
- Shave in the direction that the hair grows.
- Rinse the razor after each stroke.
- After shaving, rinse the face with cold water.
- Apply a moisturizer and sunscreen.
The dermatologist also recommends that people store their razors in a dry place. Leaving a razor on a wet surface, such as in the shower or next to the sink, can allow bacteria to grow on the blades. This may lead to a higher risk of bacteria entering the skin and causing irritation.
Shaving may cause skin irritation if people:
- shave against the grain of their hair
- use dull or unclean razors
- shave too often
- shave without applying shaving cream or gel first
- apply too much force when shaving
Shaving with a razor is a quick and easy way to remove body hair. However, shaving can irritate the skin and lead to razor burn or folliculitis.
Some of the home remedies listed in this article are available for purchase online.