If you’ve been scouring the internet for ways to soothe a sunburn, you may have come across the theory that shaving creams can offer relief. According to Snehal Amin, MD, a dermatologist, surgical director, and co-founder of MDCS Dermatology, and Jodi LoGerfo, DNP, a doctor of nursing practice at Orentreich Medical Group in New York City, shaving creams are not recommended as a go-to method for sunburn relief — but “creams with certain ingredients are more favorable in treating sunburns,” LoGerfo tells Bustle. Just like traditional sunburn relief creams, the best shaving creams for sunburns contain soothing and hydrating ingredients such as aloe, vitamin E, and shea butter. But there are some ingredients that could irritate your sunburned skin, so there are a few guidelines to keep in mind while shopping.
Snehal Amin, MD, is the co-founder and surgical director of MDCS Dermatology. He is a board-certified dermatologic surgeon and currently serves as the Clinical Assistant Professor of Dermatology at Weill-Cornell Medical College.
Jodi LoGerfo, DNP, is a doctor of nursing practice and a family nurse practitioner certified in family medicine and dermatology. She has over two decades of experience in treating skin disorders.
What To Look For When Choosing A Shaving Cream For Sunburns
Two of the best ways to treat a sunburn involve moisturizing the area and using anti-inflammatory products, and most shaving cream formulas include moisturizing oils, such as coconut oil which has antimicrobial and hydrating properties. LoGerfo also suggests these ingredients to look for:
- Vitamin E: “Has anti-inflammatory and moisturizing properties. It also may help wound-healing and aid in the repair of sun-damaged skin.”
- Aloe vera: “Has wonderful humectant properties, which attracts water and adds hydration to skin. A moisturizer with aloe vera can be very soothing to sunburn.”
- Shea butter: “Can moisturize and soothe irritated and sunburned skin.”
- Chamomile: “Has great anti-inflammatory properties. It is helpful for eczema and inflammation, which may also provide relief to sunburn.”
- Green tea: “Contains polyphenols (certain chemicals that occur naturally in plants) and antioxidants. Polyphenols may protect the skin from sunburn and photodamage from the sun.”
- Menthol: “Can have a cooling effect which can be very soothing to help the discomfort and pain associated with a sunburn. Menthol does have anti-inflammatory properties, so it can be helpful.”
Ingredients To Avoid
While shaving creams are often packed with skin-loving ingredients, there are a few not-so-friendly ingredients I avoided for this roundup because they may irritate sunburns. Dr. Amin tells Bustle: “Petroleum-based moisturizers should be avoided since they can actually trap heat in.” Additionally, LoGerfo says synthetic fragrances “can cause irritation or contact dermatitis to already compromised skin,” adding that you should avoid “products with benzocaine or lidocaine because they can cause additional tenderness and sensitivity.”
Another consideration to keep in mind: Many shaving creams contain surfactants (such as stearic acid or palmitic acid) “that can aggravate sunburned skin,” according to LoGerfo. “Shaving cream is usually washed off the skin, so leaving it on to treat your sunburn [...] can cause inflammation, itchiness, tenderness, redness, and pain,” LoGerfo adds. (In a Women’s Health story, dermatologist Susan Massick, MD, suggests washing it off after 20 to 30 minutes.)
And according to Amin, the shaving cream method is not recommended for severe sunburns. “The menthol and other ingredients in the shaving cream may actually further irritate sensitive skin, which could lead to allergies, exacerbation of blistering, and even potential skin infections. If you have blistering sunburn, it is important to see a dermatologist for proper care.”
Shop The Best Shaving Creams For Sunburns
In a hurry? These are the best shaving creams for sunburns:
1. The Overall Best: Pacific Shaving Company Natural Shave Cream
2. The Best Shaving Gel: Fieldworks Shave Gel
3. The Best Budget Cream: Alba Botanica Very Emollient Cream
4. An Unscented Cream With Soothing Ingredients: Paula’s Choice Unscented Shaving Cream
5. The Best Shave Oil: The Vintage Grooming Co. Shave Oil
6. The Best Cooling Shaving Cream: Burt’s Bees Cooling Shave Cream
The experts offered tried-and-true methods of avoiding and treating sunburns (scroll to the end for a few options), but if you want to give this unconventional method a try, I’ve rounded up some of the best shaving creams, gels, and oils that feature a bunch of soothing ingredients in one formula. Plus, when your sunburn has finally healed, you can keep using the shaving cream for its originally intended purpose.
1. The Overall Best Shaving Cream For Sunburns
Why It’s Great:
- Organic aloe leaf juice is the first ingredient
- Also contains shea butter, green tea extract, and vitamin E
- Vegan formula
Made with plant-derived ingredients, this shaving cream doesn’t contain petroleum, alcohol, or synthetic fragrances, which might irritate sunburned skin. The concentrated formula boasts soothing ingredients such as organic aloe leaf juice, shea butter, green tea extract, and vitamin E, and many reviewers love the light citrus scent. The 3.4-ounce size is TSA-approved, and it’s also available in a two-pack, four-pack, and six-pack.
A promising review: “This is the BEST shaving cream I have ever used. And let me tell you, they mean it when they say a little goes a long way. I use a pea sized amount for each leg and that's enough! It lathers wonderfully and moisturizes. Most shaving creams I've used have left my legs feeling dry and itchy. Not this one! My legs feel smooth and soft, and I don't have to put lotion on afterward! I've had no nicks and no razor bumps either!”
2. The Best Shaving Gel
Why It’s Great:
- Contains aloe, coconut oil, and shea butter
This silky shave gel spreads effortlessly across the skin (helpful when applying on sunburns) and contains an arsenal of naturally soothing ingredients such as aloe, coconut oil, and shea butter that help soothe irritation and moisturize the skin. It contains rosemary, which, according to the brand, helps increase circulation and aids in skin healing, as well as vetiver (a natural antiseptic) and anti-inflammatory witch hazel — just note that these ingredients may irritate sensitive skin. In addition, the formula uses bentonite clay to help soothe sunburns and promote oil absorption into the skin, and it’s free from synthetic fragrances and alcohol.
A promising review: “I've been using this stuff for years now, but can have trouble finding it in stores. So thankful that it's available online because it is unquestionably the best shaving gel I've ever used. It's all natural, has a nice mild scent, and most importantly provides a great shave that leaves my skin feeling moisturized and refreshed!”
3. The Best Budget Cream
Why It’s Great:
- Contains aloe, chamomile, vitamin E, and jojoba seed oil
For a budget-friendly way to try relieving your sunburn, this plant-based shaving cream is a great option. It contains soothing ingredients such as aloe, chamomile, vitamin E, and jojoba seed oil, and it’s made without parabens or sulfates. Also great: The hypoallergenic formula is unscented to reduce the chance of irritation. However, it does contain alcohol which may cause dryness.
A promising review: “Love! This shave cream :) Kind of thick-which I like because it feel protective to my skin...also softening/moisturizing effect.”
4. An Unscented Cream With Soothing Ingredients
Why It’s Great:
- Contains aloe, coconut oil, and licorice root extract, which has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties
This light and spreadable shaving cream is specially formulated with allantoin and licorice root extract to soothe skin, reduce irritation, and provide antioxidant benefits. The unscented, alcohol-free formula also contains aloe and coconut oil to help hydrate the skin. Reviewers love how the rich cream transforms into a protective barrier while in use.
A promising review: “This is one of the best shaving creams I've used to date. It goes on thick and leaves the skin feeling very smooth.”
5. The Best Shave Oil
Why It’s Great:
- Contains just five ingredients
- An easy-to-spread oil formula
This shave oil uses just five ingredients — jojoba, apricot, grape seed, vitamin E, and tea tree oils — to provide soothing and nourishing benefits. The smooth-gliding formula is alcohol-free and provides a protective barrier packed with antioxidants. Because it doesn’t contain any fragrances or soap ingredients, this formula is easy on the skin and can even be used as an after-shave or beard oil.
A promising review: “This is easily among the best shave oils I've tried. [...] Virtually no irritation or bumps at all and very moisturized feeling after. Excellent unique scent as well!”
6. The Best Cooling Shaving Cream
Why It’s Great:
- Contains aloe and coconut oil
- Uses menthyl lactate to produce a soothing, cooling sensation
For cooling relief, check out this shaving cream from Burt’s Bees. It contains menthyl lactate (a menthol derivative) to provide cooling relief from the hot pain of sunburn. Plus, it uses aloe, coconut oil, and hemp seed oil to moisturize and nourish the skin. Just note that this has a naturally derived fragrance if that’s a sensitivity. It’s available as a three-pack in a variety of sizes, so you can be sure to have one with you wherever you go.
A promising review: “A nice clean and soothing shave. Feels great afterwards!”
Expert-Recommended Ways To Prevent & Treat Sunburn
“The best way to treat sunburn is to not get it in the first place,” says LoGerfo. If you do get a burn, Amin recommends “cool compresses or a cold shower” and “NSAIDs like ibuprofen not only to reduce pain but to decrease inflammation,” adding, “And don't forget to drink water, staying hydrated is important for recovery.”
For dermatologist-approved ways to protect yourself from the sun’s rays and treat burns, consider adding these products to your cart:
Snehal Amin, MD, a dermatologist, surgical director, and co-founder of MDCS Dermatology in New York City
Jodi LoGerfo, DNP, a doctor of nursing practice at Orentreich Medical Group in New York City