All is not so effortless about shaving; the process of getting clean, smooth and hairless skin. Shaving is a form of physical exfoliation which imposes constant stress on the skin. One of its most common fall-outs is razor burn.
Razor burn is inflammation of the skin and includes any cuts, nicks, scratches and irritation associated with shaving. It can be a rash or a scratch that remains inflamed for days or it can be just a few hours of mild discomfort and redness. Burning, redness, itching and stinging are some of the common symptoms of razor burns. There are serious chances of this irritation getting aggravated, thereby leading to blisters or painful breakouts.
To prevent razor burn, the first step is to know what might lead to this painful, unappealing skin condition. A number of reasons can compound to cause razor burns:
- Sensitive skin
- Inadequate lubrication during shaving
- Reaction from certain creams, substances or ingredients
- Shaving too closely and/or too quickly
- Shaving with a blunt blade (a sharp blade will require less pressure)
- Applying too much pressure during shaving (which only facilitates the removal of skin cells, resulting in excess friction and irritation)
- Shaving against the grain of the hair (against the direction of the hair growth).
- Shaving over already irritated or sensitized areas.
Razor burns can be prevented by following some simple, but careful steps while shaving. It becomes all the more important for people who have sensitive skin as they are more prone to develop irritation or allergy.
Following prevention tips can help avert the pains of razor burn, making the daily process of shaving a not so irksome task.
Soften the hair before shaving: Apply a generous layer of good quality shaving foam or gel in a circular motion, back and forth over the skin and against the grain of the hair. This allows for a less irritating and closer shave as it smoothes the skin and also lifts and softens the hair. Applying warm water or steam before shave can also help in the same.
Shave at the right time: There is a point in allocating the task of shaving in the early part of daily routine. In the morning, the skin is free of resting all night. It is relaxed and softer. As the skin grapples with sun, dirt and humidity during the long hours of the day, the pores get clogged. It also leads to decreased skin elasticity and harder facial hair. All this can lead to shaving discomfort and razor burn.
[Read: Razor Burns can be Painful and Unsightly; Know How to Treat them Effectively]
Also, the best time to shave is just after showering because then the skin is clean, elastic and pores are open. Clean the skin with soap-free cleaning lotion before shaving. It not only minimises irritation, but also provides easy and convenient shave.
Exfoliate: Using a good scrub or loofa helps in removing dead skin cells and also brings out potential ingrown hair (curly hair which turn in on themselves and go under the skin).
Shave with the grain (in direction of hair growth): This is one of the most common mistakes committed by people while shaving which leads to razor burns. In order to get a baby smooth skin they are tempted to shave against the grain, something which greatly increases the chances of razor burns. One should shave with the grain, even if it takes multiple passes to clear the hair. It also reduces the chances of cuts or slices.
[Read: Home remedies for razor burn]
Use safety razor: Now-a-days, many razors come with multiple blades. This overdoes the shaving exercise and might lead to severe irritation and razor burns. Single-blade safety razors are a very good substitute which can help one avoid razor burns and also provide a clean nice shave without cuts.
Use light and short strokes: The weight of the razor is enough to cut the hair. More pressure you exert, the more are the chances of suffering razor burns. To ward-off this risk, light and short strokes should be applied while shaving.
Don’t use blunt razors: Using a blunt blade is for shave is definitely not a good idea. It creates a lot of drag on the skin and ends up tearing it. This increases the chance of getting razor burns. Using safety razor is beneficial here as it is easy to change blades without coming too heavy on the pocket.
Clean the blade, possibly after every stroke: Bacteria on the blade are one of the prime causes of razor burns. Wiping the blade with some rubbing alcohol before you begin to shave and cleaning it intermittently between the shave strokes can help avoid razor burns.
Rinse face with cold water: Splashing your face with cold water after shaving. It relieves the burning sensation typical to shaving and also helps to close up pores and retard the chances of forming ingrown hair.
Apply moisturiser: A good quality, alcohol-free refreshing after-shave lotion can also be helpful in preventing razor burns. If your skin is sensitive, try using an aloe vera-based cortisone cream.
Curing razor burns – medical way
• Dermatologists suggest that one should stop shaving for a few days in case of razor burns. Shaving an already inflamed skin can worsen it.
• 1% hydro-cortisone cream can also be used to treat burn, redness and inflammation. If you have a very sensitive skin or have acnes, consult your doctor before using it on face.
• Use medicated antibacterial washes and topical antibiotics.
• Products with glycolic acid and salicylic acid (generally used for acne treatment) can also prove effective in curing razor burns.
• Over-the-counter products: A whole line of razor burn treatment products are on offer by skin care market. For example, A shaving gel which contains rosemary and sage to fight infection and a non-oily formula that moisturizes the skin without clogging it can be helpful. Products which have glycolic acid to remove dead skin particles along with tea tree oil to combat bacteria and Vitamin E for skin hydration are also very effective.
• If razor burn is a frequent problem for you and it gets aggravated into other skin problems, alternate methods of hair removal can be considered as its treatment.
• Laser: Controlled studies have shown positive results for using laser to treat razor burns. Talk to your dermatologist about Yttrium-Aluminum-Garnet laser treatment.
• Electrolysis: It is a part of advanced treatment procedure. It uses a device which destroys the growth center of the hair. The treatment however should be undertaken only under the supervision and prescription of a dermatologist.
• Electric shaver: If the blades of the razor are causing the irritation, then one can turn to electric shaver.
Curing razor burns – natural way
Natural or home remedies are resorted to by a majority of people who suffer razor burns. They are simple, safe and offer good results.
•Aloe-vera: It has a cooling effect and facilitates healing process. Split a natural aloe leaf and rub its fluid on the skin or use lotions with high percentage of aloe to relieve razor burns.
•Aspirin paste: Mix 2 uncoated aspirins with 1 teaspoon of warm water and make a fine paste, then apply to skin for 10-15 minutes. Given its analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties, it has been widely followed as a remedy for razor burns.
•Apple cider vinegar: Mix apple cider vinegar and water and place on the affected area. It may sting a little at first but it will help to heal the razor burn fast.
•Tea tree oil: It has medicinal properties that have been proved to treat skin infections. The American Cancer Society has credited it with antiseptic and anti-fungal properties. It soothes the skin and eases those pimply rashes. Simply mix it with water or olive oil and apply on the infected area.
•Oatmeal bath: If you have razor burns on legs or hands, oatmeal bath can be helpful to cure it. It is an effective way to soothe the skin. Grind up real oatmeal and mix it into your bath, preferably in warm water, then soak for 20 minutes.
•Apply Calendula cream for antiseptic protection.
•Green tea: It encourages healing and can be effective in easing the sting of the burn. Make a cup of green tea, cool it in the refrigerator and then apply to the affected skin with a soft cloth or cotton.
•Fresh avocado: Squash some fresh avocado and smooth it over the burned area. It moisturizes the skin well.
•Witch hazel: The extract of this flowering plant reduces the swelling and the signs of redness. It is soothing and also helps prevent infections.
•Almond oil: It is an excellent moisturizer. Applying it on razor burn skin helps to soothe it. Coconut oil can also be used, given its moisturizing properties.
•Strawberries and sour cream: This is a very effective home remedy for those painful razor rashes. Mash up some juicy strawberries with some sour cream. Make a paste and apply to the skin for 10-15 minutes. Strawberries help reduce swelling and redness while sour cream has a nice cooling effect.