With the coldest season of the year approaching, and many of us spending much more time at home than we did pre-COVID, it's possible that you might be, let's just say, shaving less often. And while we're all for keeping it natural, this can actually present a double-edged sword whenever you do decide to pick that razor back up: Skin that's become more sensitive to a blade and consequentially, a bit more prone to razor burn.
Though it's not necessarily a burn in the literal sense of the word, razor burn is really just an umbrella term for any type of irritation that ensues after using a razor, whether it's actual cuts and scrapes or little hive-like bumps.
"This [term] can encompass redness, irritation, bumps, skin scrapes, or folliculitis (inflamed hair follicles)," explains Jennifer MacGregor, a board-certified in New York City. Basically, she says, it describes any rash, irritation, or even infection that occurs after shaving."
It's not the same thing as an ingrown hair, though those pesky bumps are also often a byproduct of shaving improperly. Ultimately though, "Razor burn is due to friction of the razor against the skin," explains board-certified dermatologist Charlotte Birnbaum in New York City. (This happens when the hair follicles, which may already be bumpy or dry, become nicked by the passage of a razor blade.) Though specific symptoms vary, the most classic type of razor burn is red, irritated skin that itches and — you guessed it — burns.
To help make it a smoother experience — pun intended — we tapped into the know-how of three skin experts. Below, you'll find dermatologists' top tips for soothing the sting of razor burn, as well as how to prevent it in the first place.
First things first: prevention. The good news is that there are plenty of dermatologist-backed tips to incorporate into your shaving routine that can help prevent razor burn from developing.
Some important things not to do: shaving on dry skin, using a dull razor, or shaving against the grain. Instead, apply a shaving gel or cream onto wet skin (or, if you're out, a moisturizing body wash) and use a clean, sharp blade to shave in gentle strokes that follow the direction of hair growth.