Shaving can be pretty darn annoying, but that silky smooth feeling is often worth the effort. That is, unless, something goes awry and you end up with razor burn. When that happens, it can leave you wondering why you even bothered.
As someone who alters between not giving AF and indulging in a pretty strict shaving schedule, I'll be the first to say that razor burn is the worst. When I actually make the effort, it sucks to have my handiwork masked by red bumps and ingrown hairs. If you also shave your legs, your armpits, your bikini line (or anywhere else) then you'd likely agree. It's not cute, not smooth, and the stinging itchiness of it all is definitely not comfortable.
So let's talk about what, exactly, causes razor burn to happen. As board-certified dermatologist Tsippora Shainhouse, MD, FAAD says, "[razor burn] ... can be due to tugging of the hairs while shaving, or due to irritation and over-exfoliation of the skin by the razor." It can happen to all skin types and can even lead to infection. Not cool.
While you're more than welcome to chuck your razor our the window and never look back, there are a few things to consider if you might like to keep shaving. Read on for some shaving mistakes that can lead to pesky razor burn and ingrown hairs, as well as what to do about them.
1. Wearing Underwear That's Too Tight
If your bikini line is constantly riddled with razor burn and ingrown hairs, it may have something to do with your shaving technique. But it might also be caused by your tight underwear. As Dr. Jeremy Fenton of Schweiger Dermatology Group in NYC tells me, tight underwear can rub against your skin and lead to irritation and razor burn. To avoid it, go for soft, 100 percent cotton undies with no elastic — especially on the days your shave.
2. Not Properly Hydrating Yourself
Hydration has a lot to do with skin health, so it makes sense that dehydration can lead to problems like razor burn. As Dr. Scott Schreiber tells me, dehydration can affect your skin's elasticity, thus leading to more bumps when you shave. So drink up.
3. Sharing Your Razor With Friends
If you're swapping razors with roommates or your SO, stop it right now. Sharing your razor not only dulls the blade faster, but it can lead to infections and more bumps, Shainhouse tells me. And while you're at it, don't ever shave over open sores. If you do, "you risk dragging the bacteria into the other follicles, which gets slightly cut and opened every time your shave off a layer of skin when you shave your legs," she says. Not good.
4. Using Cheap Shaving Cream
It's tempting to buy the cheapest shaving cream at the store, but if you can, go for more natural brands. "These are less abrasive and less irritating," Schreiber says. "In addition, women's shaving cream has more moisturizers than men's cream." So, while often pricier, they might be a better choice.
5. Shaving In The Morning
If you're a morning shower person, then you probably do your shaving then, too. If so, and if you notice a problem with razor burn, it might be time to start shaving at night. As board-certified gynecologist Dr. Ronald D. Blatt says, "Our bodies regroup and heal during sleep." Waking up to bump-free skin. That'd be nice, right?
6. Keeping Your Razor In The Shower
Keeping your razor in the shower makes sense for the sake of convenience, but it can make razor burn more likely. "Sitting it in a damp environment will allow it to breed bacteria, making an infection more likely," Fenton says. Instead, store it in a dry place between uses — like in your medicine cabinet — and you should be good.
7. Not Using Moisturizer Post Shave
While the whole idea of "after shave" might sound like something reserved for your grandpa, it is important to moisturize your skin post shave. "Try one with aloe, chamomile or rosehip oil," says Shainhouse. "If you get pink, try hydrocortisone lotion as an ‘aftershave’."
8. Trying To Shave Long Hair
Have you ever tried to tackle particularly long hair with a razor? It almost never works, and often leads to horrible ingrown hairs. This is due to the long hairs clogging your razor, Fenton tells me, so do yourself a favor and trim things up with scissors first.
9. Using Soap As A Shaving Cream
I am so guilty of using soap as a shaving cream, even though it almost always leads to razor burn. This is all thanks to the drying effects of soap, Fenton tells me, which is kind of the opposite of what you want. A better option, if you don't have a shaving gel handy, is hair conditioner. "Some argue this even works better than shave cream/gel," he says.
10. Shaving Way Too Often
It might be tempting to shave every single day. You know, to get rid of those early signs of spiky, hairy legs. And yet, dragging a razor blade across your skin every day isn't a great idea. As Fenton says, "Every other day may give your skin a chance to rest."
11. Rushing The Process
Jumping into the shower and immediately shaving is a recipe for red bumpy disaster. As Fenton tells me, it's much better to let the shower steam work its magic before picking up a razor. And if you're not showering, it's important to let shave gel sink in for a few minute first. Try swiping it on, brushing your teeth, and then shaving.
Do any of these shaving mistakes sound familiar? If so, it may explain why you always end up with irritated, red skin.
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