Here's Exactly How To Prevent Razor Burn From Happening

Plus, the products that can help to treat it.

Experts share tips for how to prevent razor burn and prevent it from happening in the first place.

Whether you shave your face, legs, armpits, and/or somewhere else on your body, you’ve likely experienced the dreaded post-shaving rash — otherwise known as razor burn — at least once in your life. If this is something you’re regularly experiencing, you might want to reconsider your shaving regimen or techniques — because there are ways to protect your skin from shave-induced irritation, which is what razor burn really is.

As Dr. Peter Young, M.D., board-certified dermatologist and medical director at Facet, explains, “Razor burn is a form of irritant contact dermatitis caused by shaving.” Symptoms often include redness, itching, and/or burning of the affected skin. If you’re looking for intel on how to prevent razor burn, the upside is that it’s relatively easy — you just have to know best practices for hair removal. “There are multiple things one can do to prevent razor burn, including using proper shaving technique, preparing your skin for shaving, and using products that help prevent it,” adds Dr. Jaimie DeRosa, M.D., double board-certified facial plastic and reconstructive surgeon at the DeRosa Center Plastic Surgery & Med Spa. When you shave without any soap or shaving cream, go against the direction of your hair, or use an old razor, on the other hand, you can “pretty much guarantee” subsequent razor burn, says DeRosa.

Ready to say goodbye to razor burn? Read on for 12 expert-backed tips and products for prepping, soothing, and treating your skin before, during, and after shaving.

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The Experts

Dr. Brendan Camp, M.D., is a double board-certified dermatologist at MDCS Dermatology in New York City. He is one of few dermatologists to be board certified in both dermatology and dermatopathology, giving him a unique understanding of skin disease that allows him to approach patient care from both a clinical and cellular perspective.

Dr. Peter Young, M.D., is a board-certified dermatologist in Boston. He is the medical director of the clinical skin health platform Facet.

Dr. Jaimie DeRosa, M.D., is a double board-certified facial plastic and reconstructive surgeon at the DeRosa Center Plastic Surgery & Med Spa in Boston. She is an assistant professor of surgery at Harvard Medical School.

Joshua Ross is a celebrity aesthetician and facialist. He is the founder of the Los Angeles beauty and skin care boutique SkinLab.


Exfoliate Often (But Not Right Before Shaving)

According to celebrity aesthetician Joshua Ross, consistent exfoliation is key for preventing razor burn. “Just make sure not to exfoliate on the same day as shaving, as that could lead to irritation and potentially razor burn,” he clarifies.

DeRosa concurs, telling Bustle that while having some dead skin cells on the surface of the skin is normal, failing to exfoliate regularly can lead to their excessive build-up. “This can cause skin irritation while shaving, so make sure you regularly exfoliate your skin to get rid of them,” she tells Bustle. Her go-to? A robust yet gentle body exfoliating polish like Dove’s, as it’s gentle on the skin.

Pros: Gentle, non-irritating, on the more affordable side

Cons: One reviewer claims the packaging isn’t convenient for the shower

Review: “I love to exfoliate, and I've tried virtually every product out there for face and body,” writes one reviewer. “Honestly, I wasn't expecting much due to the price of this body scrub, but let me tell you — it is fantastic!! It has a perfect consistency, washes off easily, smells nice, and leaves your entire body baby smooth.”

Active Ingredients: Macadamia, Rice Milk, Glycerin


Use Body Wash With Salicylic Acid

Dr. Brendan Camp, M.D., double board-certified dermatologist at MDCS Dermatology, tells Bustle that using a cleanser containing chemical exfoliants such as salicylic acid can help prevent razor burn. “These ingredients can help remove dead skin cells atop pores that may otherwise block them and trap hairs under the skin,” he says.

Pros: Hydrates and smooths skin, helps treat razor bumps and ingrown hairs

Cons: Can be drying on more sensitive skin

Review: “Works in days to get rid of the ingrown hair bumps I get on my bottom, backs of my thighs, and backs of my arms,” says one review. “My skin is extremely sensitive. I carefully followed the instructions and this did not irritate my skin.”

Star Ingredients: Salicylic Acid


Hydrate & Clean Skin Before Shaving

DeRosa strongly suggests thoroughly lubricating your body and the area you plan to shave with a hydrating body wash before you grab your razor. “It will help to smooth and soften the hair so that it gets shaved off easier,” she says. Plus, according to Young, it’s best to shave when your skin is clean and wet.

Pros: Moisturizing, smooths the skin, gentle formula

Cons: One reviewer said the bottle is prone to leakage

Review: “The luxuriousness of this body wash is hard to understand unless you try it,” writes one reviewer. “It is so thick and soft and silky, rinses clean, leaves your skin so soft, and smells really fresh — it's like a spa experience.”

Star Ingredients: Oatmeal, Glycerin


Shave With Fragrance-Free Gel

Experts universally reiterate the importance of sharing with a moisturizing gel and/or cream. “For sensitive skin, a fragrance-free formula is a good option since most shaving creams are heavily fragranced,” Ross tells Bustle, explaining that fragrance can lead to irritation. Young also specifically suggests shaving gels formulated without alcohol. “Since shaving gels are more highly concentrated than shaving creams or foams, their rich, creamy lather creates a moisturizing barrier and enhanced lubrication for a dragging razor blade,” he says, noting that jojoba oil is an excellent ingredient for the job.

Pros: Nourishes and protects skin

Cons: One reviewer said water drips into the cap

Review: “I wish I tried this product sooner! I no longer have those ugly shave bumps. I will never use another shave gel again,” said one reviewer.

Star Ingredients: Jojoba Oil, Aloe Vera


Shave In The Direction Your Hair Grows

Once your skin is prepped, DeRosa reiterates the importance of technique. “When shaving, try to avoid stretching the skin as it can cause irritation,” she explains. Ross and Camp also encourage shaving in the direction of hair growth. “Shaving ‘against the grain’ may result in a close shave, but it increases the risk of ingrown hair formation,” Camp tells Bustle. “If the blunted end of the shaved hair is unable to pierce the skin surface when growing back it results in a foreign body reaction, which leads to redness around the follicle.”

Pros: Pivots to contour to your body allowing a close shave, comes with moisturizing strips

Cons: The moisture strips can get sticky if left in the shower

Review: “I have sensitive, dry skin and thick hair,” writes one reviewer. “This razor gives me a good shave and moisturizes my skin — with no flakes when I dry off.”


Close Pores With Cold Water Or Ice

Pro tip: Seal your pores after shaving with this hack. “After you are done shaving, make sure to rinse the skin with cold water,” DeRosa suggests. “That will get rid of excessive soap and/or shaving lotion that might have remained on the skin, as well as pieces of unwanted hair that have just been shaved off but not yet removed from the area.” She also notes that using cold water will help close the pores in the skin. Don’t want to get your whole body cold? According to DeRosa, you can use a cold, moist washcloth to close your pores. Or you could use an ice roller all over your body for the same effect.

Pros: Cools and soothes the skin, helps to close pores

Cons: One reviewer said it doesn’t stay cold as she would like

Review: “I love love love this roller! It helps with shrinking my pores after a hot shower and cooling me off after a hot summer bike ride,” writes one reviewer.


Finish With Body Lotion

After you’ve finished shaving and dried off, Young suggests applying a gentle, moisturizing body lotion to help restore the skin’s natural protective outer layer. He suggests looking for something formulated with vitamin E and/or shea butter, as these ingredients help to nourish and protect the skin.

Pros: Hydrates, nourishes, protects, and softens skin

Cons: Some reviewers would prefer if it came in a jar

Review: “This is the best lotion I’ve ever used and I’ve used many, many different lotions and creams,” writes one reviwer. “I live in an extremely dry area and have suffered from dry, itchy skin for years. Along with cooler showers, this product has made my skin smooth and silky.”

Star Ingredients: Shea Butter, Vitamin E, Oat Bran Extract, Aloe Vera


Keep Skin Consistently Hydrated

Experts also suggest keeping your skin consistently hydrated — so be sure to consistently apply lotion, not just after you shave. “Look for [moisturizing] products containing natural ingredients which help to soothe and protect the outer layer of your skin while keeping it moist,” Young suggests, pointing to glycerin and vitamin E as superstar ingredients to consider, as well as jojoba and other nourishing plant oils.

Pros: Lightweight and non-greasy formula, hydrates dry skin

Cons: Oils have the potential to stain clothing

Review: “I have extremely dry skin so I decided to try this after reading a product review. It doesn't take much at all and goes on smoothly,” writes one reviewer. “Initially, my skin looked like it had oil on it, but it did absorb very quickly and then my skin just felt soft.”

Star Ingredients: Vitamin E, Shea Oil, Jojoba Oil, Rosehip Oil, Hyaluronic Acid


Prevent Ingrown Hairs With Exfoliating Moisturizer

If you specifically suffer from ingrown hairs, Camp suggests using a fragrance-free moisturizer formulated with keratolytic (aka exfoliating) agents, such as lactic acid. “[Keratolytic] ingredients help break apart dead skin cells and remove them from the skin, which can help prevent ingrown hair formation,” he explains, clarifying that while lactic acid can help prevent ingrown hair formation, it’s still gentle on the skin.

Pros: Fragrance-free, treats dry and bumpy patches of skin

Cons: Some reviewers don’t love the smell

Review: “Before and after results are amazing,” according to one reviewer. “I have suffered from keratosis pilaris since I was a child. This product has been a life-changer.”

Star Ingredients: 12% Lactic Acid, Cactus Extract, Vitamin E, Allantoin


Treat Existing Razor Burn With Hydrocortisone

Even if you take every precaution in the world, you can still end up with razor burn — and that’s OK! Should this be the case for you, Ross suggests using a gentle, fragrance-free moisturizer and/or a product with 1% hydrocortisone on the inflamed area. You could also snag a body lotion like this one that acts as both. “This can help expedite the healing process,” he says.

Pros: Relieves itching, soothes inflamed skin and rashes

Cons: Some reviewers dislike the smell

Review: “I have been dealing with eczema since I was a child,” writes one reviewer. “This heals my skin quickly and painlessly. It's like a miracle.”

Star Ingredients: 1% Hydrocortisone, Vitamins A, C, and E


Regularly Rinse & Replace Razorheads

Another pro-tip for preventing razor burn? Rinse your blade frequently, DeRosa tells Bustle. “This will prevent buildup of material around the working edge of the blade, which will cause the same issues as if the blade were old and dull,” she says. For the same reason, you need to replace your blades every month or so, she advises. Her go=to is the Schick Skintimate HydroSilk Sensitive Skin Razor.

Pros: Features hypoallergenic moisturizing strips, curve-sensing blades

Cons: One reviewer said the razor head falls off occasionally

Review: “I have been trying different razors for years with no luck — that is until I bought this razor,” writes one reviewer. “They have a very smooth shave and no skin irritation at all. You'll love the way your legs feel after shaving!”

Studies referenced:

Statescu, L. (2011). Contact Dermatitis – Epidemiological Study. Maedica.