Underarm razor burn ranks high on our list of painful hair removal side effects, right up there with bikini wax stinging. It seems as though no matter how careful we are about shaving our armpits, that throbbing pain inevitably kicks in.
To find out the most common underarm shaving mistakes, we went straight to Dr. Ellen Marmur, a board-certified dermatologist and Dove deodorant spokesperson. Read on for her top five tips to prevent razor burn and bumps.
1. Exfoliate before you shave to prevent ingrown hairs and razor burn.
Everyone's skin is different, so yes, there are some people who experience ingrown hairs more than others, according to Marmur. However, she believes it's also a matter of making sure you thoroughly exfoliate the underarm area before you shave, to prevent the hair from curling under the skin and resulting in an ingrown. This also ensures that flaky skin and oil build-up don't cause your razor blade to stumble as you're shaving, a major cause of razor burn.
2. Toss out your razor after 1-3 uses of shaving your underarms.
Using a dull razor, which requires you to apply more pressure when pressing the blade edge against the skin, often results in irritated skin. Always rinse your razor under warm water in-between shaves, then switch out the blades or grab a new razor as soon as you notice that it's worn down.
3. Stop shaving against the direction of your underarm hair growth.
Instead, Marmur recommends shaving in an "X" motion, as the hair on the underarms grows in a swirl pattern. This will ensure a close shave, without the razor burn, bumps or skin irritation.
4. Keep your underarms hydrated with oils and moisturizing deodorants.
In case you didn't know: the skin under your arm is very similar to the fine skin on your neck, so making sure that area stays hydrated is essential. "Don't be afraid to incorporate oil-based products into your underarm routine. For example, using coconut oil at night before bed will soften the skin and offer a smoother shave in the morning," says Marmur.
Deodorants are also important to apply to ensure underarm skin remains healthy, soft and smooth. "Underarms contain more sweat glands than other areas of your body, and because of this most people experience what I call 'bad moisture,' such as excess perspiration in the underarm region of their body. This kind of bad moisture causes salt, enzymes and other caustic things to disrupt your skin," Marmur says. So she recommends using a deodorant like Dove Advanced Care that protects against sweat and adds "good moisturizers" like humectants and sunflower seed oil to the skin.
5. Visit your doctor if your razor burn and bumps won't go away.
More serious bumps tend to be red and painful, and may actually be a condition known as hidradenitis suppurativa that requires a dermatologist to prescribe antibiotics.