This morning, you may have felt accomplished because you actually remembered to shave. (Good for you!) However, that elated feeling usually comes crashing down two hours later when you feel an itch creeping up your armpits. That, my friends, is razor burn, and we are not exaggerating when we say it can ruin any day.
But don't fret, as there are some solutions out there that will help you cure that burning sensation. We asked a dermatologist and shaving guru to explain the ins and outs of preventing razor burn -- from pre-shave rituals to natural remedies -- so your skin will get the relief it deserves.
Prevention starts before the blade even meets your skin.
"Some of the most important habits to develop include washing and exfoliating the skin before you shave," says Anthony Sosnick, founder and CEO of men's grooming and skincare brand Anthony Brands. These rituals help "to remove dead skin and oil that clog the blade," since a dirty razor calls for a nasty burn.
There are different ways to exfoliate your sensitive areas, including loofahs which could work in between shaves. "Many pre-shaving scrubs and exfoliants containing alpha-hydroxy acids such as glycolic acid gently remove dead skin and combat ingrown hairs early on," says board-certified dermatologist Dr. Jennifer Chwalek.
Surprise, surprise, your razor is probably the culprit.
Whether you like disposable or fancy kinds, finding the perfect razor isn't always easy, but it's definitely important. "There are many razors on the market and each razor works well with different people and different hair types," Sosnick explains. But your personal preference isn't the only thing you should consider.
If you've noticed an association between not-so-close shaves and itchy skin, your razor is getting weak. "Dull blades require more pressure to cut the hair and results in uneven cutting, which can contribute to razor burn," says Dr. Chwalek. Cleaning your blade will also help, because you'll remove gross buildup from the last shave.
On that note, you should try to switch out your blade often -- after three to 10 shaves -- or when you notice it's looking dull.
Both store-bought and home products have great skin-calming properties.
Sosnick suggests aloe vera, but he also mentions an interesting remedy: "Marshmallow extract is a great skin-soother for post-shave skin." Who knew?
Dr. Chwalek explains that store-bought remedies containing "moisturizers with glycerin help to restore the barrier function of the skin," which is broken by the shave itself. While she also mentions aloe vera's role in tackling burns, she recommends the holy grail of essential oils: Coconut oil. "Coconut oil also hydrates irritated skin and has demonstrated anti-inflammatory activity," she adds.
But, be careful with aftershave and antiseptic formulas.
A quick Internet search for ways to ease razor burn will no doubt bring up aftershaves, tea tree oil and witch hazel. But while their cleansing and clarifying properties may seem like a good treatment idea, these items will REALLY make you feel the burn. "Because shaving can cause knicks in the skin and lead to infection, post-treating with an antiseptic is sometimes recommended. With that said, they can sometimes be irritating to the skin," Dr. Chwalek explains.
But what about aftershaves that are marketed to prevent razor burn? For areas other than your face, Sosnick is wary. "Be sure that the ingredients in particular products are not too strong as they may burn-- though I would stay away from these products altogether," he says.
If you think you might react to a specific formula, Sosnick suggests conducting a patch test on your inner arm, and if oils aren't exactly doing the trick, Dr. Chwalek advises applying hydrocortisone.
Finally, maintaining your skin in-between shaves is crucial.
"Use non-fragranced moisturizers regularly to prevent dryness," Dr. Chwalek says. And in the future, both professionals suggest using hydrating shaving gel, as it "reduces the friction between the skin and the razor."
If you still have problems down the road, visit your doctor or dermatologist to ease the pain.
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