Razor Burn. The itching, the redness, the burn! To conquer this shaving enemy you must know it. Here are some 7 possible causes of razor burn and–more importantly–what to do about it
What Causes Razor Burn?
There are a number of possible causes of razor burn:
- Not enough preparation
- Inadequate lather
- Too many blades
- Dull blade(s)
- Blade(s) with too steep of an angle
- Not understanding the direction the stubble grows toward
- Skin reaction from shaving product (gel, cream, soap, foam)
How To Fix It
Preparation is an often overlooked aspect of shaving and a cause of razor burn. You need to be sure the skin in area to be shaved is properly cleaned and hydrated, and the stubble is softened. This means lots of warm water and a cleanser that is specifically made for the face (even if you’re not shaving the face): a “body bar” or deodorant soap will strip away too much of the natural skin oils needed for lubrication. Doctors say this process can take up to three minutes.
A lather with too much air inside is another cause of razor burn. Particularly if you’re using a product from a pressurized can: the propellant will create tiny pockets of air which can dry the skin. Use the water from preparation as a foundation for a good lather: something from a squeeze tube, or better yet, a lathering cream or soap applied with a shaving brush.
There are a number of ways to get razor burn from the blade edge(s):
The blade itself can be a cause of irritation. If you’re using a multi-blade cartridge try to use as few blades as necessary to get the job done. More blades does not necessarily make a better shave.
Don’t try to squeeze one more day out of a cartridge—change it when the shave starts to degrade.
The angle the blade is set to in a cartridge razor can definitely have an effect on razor burn. One four-bladed cartridge made a few years ago was notorious for causing razor burn because the blades were set at too steep of an angle for many people. So…try using a different cartridge system. Or avoid the “razor blade wars” altogether by going with a single blade “old school” safety razor. You will have to maintain the blade angle yourself instead of having the pivot and cartridge do it for you but the learning curve is not too difficult. Luckily you’re in the right place to learn how.
Even if you have properly prepared the face and have a good razor, you need to understand how your stubble grows. If you lightly run your fingers across the stubble from different directions you will notice some directions feel rougher and some directions feel smoother. The smoothest direction is the “grain” of the stubble. The direction may change in different areas, too. To best avoid razor burn you should first shave in the same direction as the grain. If you want to get a closer shave relather and shave across the grain (90 degrees away). Shaving against the grain is a common cause of razor burn.
Finally, your razor burn might not be caused by the razor at all but some ingredient in your shaving “software” (gel, cream, foam, etc.) reacting with your skin. Try swapping out your shaving lather for something different (note the ingredients in each) and observe the result.
What are some other razor burn remedies? Leave a comment below!
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Also published on Medium.