Razor burn: we’ve all had it, and we all hate it. Good news, though: it’s not inevitable. Sometimes, you just have to get a little creative. You might need to try something completely new, like a new shaving balm or even petroleum jelly, or you might need to embrace something you’d previously brushed off, like a natural remedy. But aren’t natural remedies hokum, and isn’t petroleum jelly bad for you? Well, not necessarily, and no – and while we’re at it, there are some great razor burn treatments you can put together with just a few ingredients from the drugstore. So keep an open mind, and read on for a few helpful suggestions.
Adapt to your environment
Humidity and temperature affect your skin and hair, making it drier or oilier and altering how prone it is to breakouts and irritation. This might not be something you think about too often, especially if you live somewhere with a pretty stable climate, but it can be worth changing up your shaving routine for the season.
If your skin gets dry when it’s cold, for example, make sure your shaving products are as moisturizing as they can be. Choose a light moisturizing shaving balm for after your morning shave, and something more heavy duty for overnight. If you’re really suffering, go for a petroleum jelly product that also shields broken skin from bacteria. Don’t let that spook you – word on the street might be that Vaseline is bad for you, but the truth is that many eczema suffers swear by it.
Know your skin type
This might sound a little vain, but knowing your skin type will be helpful to you in the long run for all kinds of reasons. Broadly speaking, skin falls into four “types” – normal, oily, dry and combination. Combination skin, which blends the characteristics of the other three skin types, is the most common – this means your skin will be oily in some places (usually around the nose and forehead, or “T-zone”) and either dry or normal in others. Taking the time to get properly acquainted with your skin will ensure that you get the best shaving experience you can. It’ll make it easier for you to find your ideal products, and to iron out any kinks in your routine.
So, how can you figure out your skin type? Well, there are online quizzes you can take (aren’t there always?), or you could really commit and head to a day spa or the beauty department of a department store to ask a professional. To figure it out yourself, though, you just need to pay attention to the way your skin behaves. Do you get pimples? Flaky skin? Where, and how often? If you’re prone to breakouts and your skin feels greasy if you don’t wash it, you’ve probably got oily skin; if it’s dry and tight and you find yourself needing moisturizer, it’s probably dry. A mix of the two points to combination skin. And if your skin just seems to wander through life, unconcerned with time or tide? Congratulations – you’ve got normal skin! Pity the rest of us, and try not to be too smug.
Take a break
Turns out, dragging a sharpened piece of metal over your skin does take its toll. Sure, there are plenty of shaving hacks that can make your routine easier on the skin, and by now, most of you will be experienced enough that you’re not routinely cutting yourselves shaving, but even the best shaving routine will cause friction that can eventually lead to razor burn.
If you have a day off from work, or you don’t mind keeping a five o’clock shadow a little while longer, go razor-free for a day or two. Your skin will thank you later.
OK, this won’t be new advice to most of you, but it’s important enough that it bears repeating. Exfoliation helps to get rid of the dead skin cells that build up and trap bacteria and hair follicles, causing razor burn.
There’s a huge variety of exfoliators out there, so this is where knowing your skin type comes into play. Those of you with drier skin will want a gentle exfoliator with soothing ingredients like raw honey or coconut oil; oilier skins will need a more aggressive approach.
Whatever you do, though, be sure to moisturize afterwards. There are plenty of moisturizing shave balms on the market. For sensitive skin, it’s best to keep it simple – look for fragrance-free products, or keep it simple by using something like petroleum jelly. Any petroleum jelly product marketed for cosmetic use is perfectly skin-safe, so don’t be put off by questions over whether or not petroleum jelly is toxic – it’s fine for you to use if you wish.
Experimentation is the soul of creativity. Shave time is you time, so make the best of it and find what really works for you. If you’re bored with your current routine, change it up – switch from a shave cream to a shaving soap, maybe, or you could even treat yourself to an entirely new shaving set. If your existing routine stops working and the bumps are back, try something new. Your skin changes as you age, too, so pay attention.
Keep it clean
Razor burn is caused by bacterial build-up, so it follows that you need to get rid of the bacteria and keep the area as germ-free as possible (and don’t forget to keep your razor clean, too). As soon as you notice razor burn starting to form, wash your face with an antibacterial face wash and consider using a barrier, like petroleum jelly, overnight.
You might have heard some scare stories about this but skin-safe petroleum jelly is actually designed to be safe for cosmetic use. Next time you find yourself wondering ‘is petroleum jelly bad for you?’ just remember that tattoo artists use it to prevent fresh tattoos from becoming infected, and to reduce the initial bleeding. If it’s good enough for tender, freshly-tattooed skin, it’s good enough for your face, right?
Embrace tea time
Did you know the tannic acid in black, white, and green tea can help to reduce inflammation? Next time razor burn is getting you down, enjoy a cup of tea and keep the used tea bag to use as a compress.
Remember to let it cool down before you use it on your skin, or you’ll add a new item to your list of burn troubles.
Go back to nature…
If tea isn’t your thing, there are plenty of other natural antibacterials you can use to help reduce the inflammation and irritation of razor burn. We’ve already mentioned raw honey but there’s also our good friend aloe vera (good for sunburn and razor burn alike). Diluted lemon juice, tea tree oil, and witch hazel also deserve a place in your bathroom cabinet.
…But don’t shun the drugstore
All razor burn is not created equal – if you’ve been shaving a little too enthusiastically, or you’ve switched from dry to wet shaving or vice versa, you might find yourself with a more stubborn case of the dreaded burn. Natural remedies might work for some, but others will need a little extra help. If your razor burn just won’t quit, look for products containing salicylic or glycolic acid; these are specifically designed to reduce inflammation, so they should take care of your razor burn with ease.
Combine the natural and drugstore approaches by crushing up two or three aspirin tablets and using a little water to make a paste. Apply the paste to your razor bumps, let it dry, and then rinse it off with lukewarm water. It might take a few applications for this to work, but it’s worth the wait!
So, there you have it: 10 ways to prevent and cure razor burn that you might not have thought about. Happy shaving!
John is a writer and shaving enthusiast. When he’s not trying to perfectly replicate the latest popular shaving hack, he’s writing about skin health or traveling.