What Is Razor Burn?
Razor burn is a skin irritation caused by shaving the skin. It usually appears as red areas on the skin and can be considered a form of irritant contact dermatitis (skin rash). Its symptoms may include burning, redness, itching, and stinging.
Anyone who shaves can get razor burn. It usually appears on the legs, armpits, or face soon after you shave those parts of your body. To minimize the frequency of razor burn on your skin, be cautious about how you shave.
Razor burn vs. razor bumps
Razor burn is not quite the same thing as razor bumps, although the two terms are often used interchangeably. Razor bumps are ingrown hairs that result from hair removal; the hair curls into the skin as it grows back.
Both conditions can result in red and irritated skin, but razor bumps are characterized by telltale bumps, which may look like small pimples. Razor burn, on the other hand, looks more like streaks or blotches across the skin.
Razor bumps are more common in people with darker skin and those assigned male at birth.
Razor burn vs. herpes
If you shave around your genitals, you can get razor burn there. It looks like a rash and will usually clear up on its own within a few days. Infections caused by the herpes virus will lead to fluid-filled sores that look like blisters. You'll typically find them in clusters. You might have other symptoms, such as fever or a headache. Herpes sores can go away on their own, too, but they usually come back. If you're not sure whether you're looking at razor burn or herpes, see a doctor.
What Causes Razor Burn?
When you shave, the blade can open up little cracks in the top layer of your skin. This sets the stage for your skin to become irritated.
Other factors that can make razor burn more likely include:
- Shaving without water, lotion, shaving cream, or gel (This is called "dry shaving.")
- Shaving too fast.
- Using a blade that is old and not sharp enough.
- Shaving against the direction of hair growth
- Having sensitive skin
- Using shaving products that irritate your skin
Common Razor Burn Locations
You can get razor burn anywhere you shave. Those spots include your:
- Pubic area
Razor burn in pubic area
The skin in your pubic area is especially sensitive. It's also difficult to know which direction to shave, as pubic hair can grow in many directions. These factors make bikini line razor burn more likely.
Razor burn on neck
Compared to hair on other parts of your body, beard hairs come out of your skin at a lower angle, which makes them harder to shave. This is especially true on your neck.
What Does Razor Burn Look Like?
If you have razor burn, you'll have a spot of red, irritated skin where you shaved. The rash can also look streaky.
The area with razor burn might itch or sting. It might be painful to the touch, and you could see swelling.
Razor Burn Diagnosis
Razor burn is usually easy to diagnose on your own. If you've shaved an area recently, and then a rash develops, you've probably got razor burn.
If the redness and irritation don't clear up within a few days, and you're not sure it's razor burn, check with your doctor.
How to Get Rid of Razor Burn
Razor burn can be painful and unattractive. It will usually go away on its own, but there are some steps you can take to help skin heal more quickly.
A cool washcloth placed on the affected area can give you some immediate relief from razor burn.
To relieve uncomfortable razor burn and speed up the healing process, apply soothing products that protect the skin and keep it moist. Many grocery stores and drugstores sell different products to ease razor burn symptoms. Look at the labels of skin products to choose one with the right ingredients.
Perhaps, the best product or ingredient for razor burn is the one that’s easiest to find: aloe vera. Aloe vera is a gel found in the aloe vera plant. It acts as a moisturizer, soother, antiseptic, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory substance. Many people use it to treat sunburn, but its effects can also help ease razor burn symptoms. Grocery stores, drug stores, and plant stores sell the aloe vera plant or products with aloe vera in it.
In addition, aloe vera contains glucomannan and gibberellin (a plant hormone), which increase the synthesis of collagen (protein for skin and bones). As a result, aloe vera helps in wound healing and can help prevent scarring.
These ingredients may help protect the skin’s outer layer, which is most vulnerable to razor burn, and combat redness and peeling:
- Wheat germ has many ingredients that are good for your skin, including vitamin E and squalene
- Vitamin E is popular in skin care products because of its antioxidant properties
- Yeast extract also has antioxidant properties
- Jojoba seed oil contains vitamin E and has antioxidant and antimicrobial properties
- Shea butter is a good moisturizer with anti-inflammatory properties, which means it can ease redness and irritation
- Evening primrose oil is rich in gamma-linolenic acid, which encourages skin growth and may reduce inflammation
These ingredients can also help with razor burn, calming the skin and promoting repair:
- Licorice has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory effects
- Green tea stimulates keratinocytes, which help rebuild skin cells
- White tea has substances that help protect the skin
- Chamomile has been found to promote wound healing
- Panthenol is a skin moisturizer that helps in wound healing
- Caffeine contains antioxidants
- Bisabolol is a liquid used in many skin products
- Comfrey is a plant that reduces inflammation
- Allantoin is a skin moisturizer
Tea tree oil, which should always be heavily watered down before use, can also play a role in soothing inflammation and keeping razor burn from becoming infected. It has well-known antimicrobial (stops microorganisms from growing) and anti-inflammatory properties. Apple cider vinegar and witch hazel have a similar effect. For a larger area, you might also try an oatmeal bath. You can use natural oils such as avocado, coconut, or olive oil to moisturize the affected area. Avoid commercial moisturizers that have alcohol or fragrances, because they might irritate your skin. And hold off on shaving until your razor burn has healed.
How to treat razor burn in the pubic area
If you wear cotton underwear and avoid tight clothes, that might help ease the irritation. An over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream or topical antibiotic cream can help your razor burn in this especially sensitive area heal faster. Be aware that exercise such as walking or running might make your razor burn worse. If your rash appears to be infected, see your doctor.
How long does razor burn last?
Aloe vera might clear up your razor burn in an hour. Usually, the irritation will stop within a couple of days.
Razor Burn Prevention
The most important thing that you can do to prevent razor burn and other shaving irritations is to practice good shaving techniques. Some recommendations include:
- Shave when your skin is clean, wet, and warm.
- Apply a shaving gel or cream to the area. Look for a gentle product that won’t irritate your skin.
- Don't rush.
- Shave in the direction of hair growth. It can be tempting to go against the grain for a closer shave, but shaving in the right direction is a crucial part of preventing razor burn and bumps. Keep razor strokes light.
- Rinse your razor after each stroke to remove buildup.
- Store razors in a dry area and replace them often. Razors should stay sharp and clear of rust or buildup.
Choose a high-quality razor, and after shaving, apply a fragrance-free, moisturizing cream to restore the skin’s natural barriers. If you have razor bumps, avoid facial products that contain alcohol. Alcohol on razor bumps will only irritate your skin more. If you nick yourself, press tissue to the spot until the bleeding stops.
If you're shaving your body, avoid wearing tight clothes that will rub against newly shaven areas, which can irritate the skin.
When to See a Doctor
Although razor burn is rarely serious, you should consult your doctor if:
- Discomfort causes you to lose sleep or results in difficulty performing ordinary activity
- The rash continues for weeks
- There is any sign of infection such as pus
- You see blisters
Razor burn is an irritation caused by shaving, and it can happen anywhere you shave: your face, neck, armpits, legs, or pubic area. It usually clears up within a day or two. You can help speed the healing by applying topical treatments that moisturize your skin and reduce inflammation.
Razor Burns FAQs
How do you treat razor burn?
Start by applying a cool washcloth to the area. Then apply something that will moisturize the affected area and soothe the irritation. Avoid shaving there until the rash clears up.
What does razor burn feel like?
Razor burn might itch, sting, or feel tender. Your skin might swell.
How long does it take for razor burn to go away?
It should clear up in a day or two. If it doesn't, call your doctor.
Does putting Vaseline on razor burn help?
Petroleum jelly (Vaseline) can help keep any kind of minor skin injury moist, which promotes healing.