Razor burn is one of the biggest frustrations among men.
Even if you manage to get a nice, close shave early in the morning, if razor burn is the toll you paid for it, you can bet you’ll feel it through those 2:00 PM meetings and on the way home.
It varies depending on your skin type and sensitivities, but we’re going to cover all of that. If you’ve ever wondered just how much razor burn can affect you, and want to know how to treat it as fast as possible, this guide was written for you.
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What is Razor Burn?
Razor burn is a stingy, sharp feeling on your skin that happens directly after you use a steel razor to shave your face. This can occur from either using a straight razor or disposable razors, regardless of the number of blades.
You can still get razor burn if you use shaving cream, though it is less likely to happen when you use shaving gel. Dry shaving (no water) will cause razor burn immediately.
Using shave gel properly will help prevent moisture loss and add an additional layer of protection to avoid any nicks, cuts and hair pulls while you shave, and thus cut down on itchy razor bumps. Bro Insider recommends Aveeno Therapeutic Shave Gel.
Simply using water, even if your disposable razor has integrated gel strips, will result in razor burn more often than not.
Razor burn can have many feelings, though most of them interject with one another. These include:
- Red bumps on the surface of your skin
- Facial skin being tender to the touch
- A hot, sunburn-type feeling on your skin
- Itching directly after shaving
- Visible reddening of the skin persisting for a long while after your shave
- Inflammation of the skin
Discomfort and a disruption to your male grooming pattern are what razor burn really does to you. It can lead to less-close shaves and potentially nicking yourself if those bumps remain an issue.
Inflammation of the skin can persist and give a swollen effect, and when you shave, the last thing you want is negative attention.
How do You Get Razor Burn?
There are a few ways that you can get razor burn, some more common than others. Let’s go over them for electric, disposable, and straight razor shavers.
- Old Blade Head: Your hair may not seem it, but it’s relatively tough, and when you drag a disposable razor head through all that hair over and over again, you end up dulling the blade. A dull blade pulls on skin more than it cuts it, which is going to feel pretty painful.
- Doubling Back: You notice you missed a small patch of hair while shaving. You drag your razor back over it, and now that the hair is gone, you’re good to go. Problem is, the areas around that patch were already grazed with a razor, and the skin will be sensitive. Instead of dealing with that, be sure to take your time while shaving.
- Not Using Shaving Gel or Cream: Shaving cream has its own problems with how it can irritate your skin, but shaving gel is usually the smoother, better option. Shaving gel allows you to see your hair (provided that the gel is clear and not bright blue), so you can be sure to get over every individual area without having to double back.
- Skin Sensitivities: Sometimes, you use what everyone is recommending, and it still doesn’t work. Everyone has different sensitivities, and it might not be apparent right from the start. It might take a little while to say, “Hey, my skin isn’t feeling so great right now.”
- Bad Equipment: Simply using dollar store razors or single-blade gas station razor packs is, well, not a good idea to say the least. If you use bad equipment and still get a good shave with no razor burn, you’re a God amongst men. Most people will get razor burn from cheap equipment, and that goes for shaving cream, razors, the aftershave and everything in between.
How Long Does a Razor Burn Last?
I don’t want to make this uncomfortable or anything, but razor burn can easily last up to 72 hours.
It depends on the situation, the experience of the shaver, and the equipment. Sometimes you only have it last from nine to five, around the time you’re done with work for the day. It all depends.
I would say that the number one factor in razor burn longevity isn’t the amount of blades you used, but the quality of the blades. I’ve used two-blade razors while on vacation (didn’t have much of a choice as I’d forgotten mine) and I had zero razor burn
Then I shaved at home with my preferred shaving equipment, and still got razor burn.
The difference is, I was determined to get a good shave while on vacation, but tired as hell when I shaved at my home in the morning. I was behaving like an inexperienced shaver.
It all comes down to how well you can do with your razor, if you use aftershave or not, and some lottery-based factors like your skin sensitivity.
If all goes well and you end up with a bit of razor burn, it hopefully won’t last for more than a few hours before you’re feeling like yourself again. We have some tips below on how to avoid razor burn, and to treat it when it happens.
How to Treat Razor Burn?
Letting it just fade away isn’t good enough.
It’s bothersome, it’s itchy, and your skin might still appear red, making you feel like an amateur shaver and less confident. Let’s look at some quick, tried-and-true ways to alleviate razor burn faster.
Aloe Vera: Keep an aloe plant in the house; you’ll thank me later. Fresh, untampered with aloe vera is like pouring a magical potion on your skin to get it to clear up faster. Not only will it aid in healing, but it also soothes your skin the second it makes contact with it.
Tea Tree Oil: This is common in beard oils. Apply this directly to the skin, and you should feel loads better. It’s antiinflammatory, and antimicrobial, so it will protect your skin while helping to remove the inflammation that’s plaguing you. This isn’t for everyone, so apply some to your arm first and wait a minute to see how your skin reacts. We wouldn’t want more inflammation, would we?
Baking Soda Mixture: This isn’t a long-term solution, but if you don’t have anything else we’ve mentioned in the house, it’ll work. Use baking soda, add a tiny bit of water, and turn it into a paste. Apply to the affected area. It will feel soothing and stop the itching, but may not expedite the healing process.
Witch Hazel: It can sting at first, but witch hazel is antiinflammatory, which is what makes it so useful. Apply some of this to the skin, usually in pre-medicated cloth pads available at the drugstore, and you’ll be good to go.
Tips and Tricks to Avoid Razor Burn
Still encountering razor burn from time to time? It happens, and it sucks, so here are some tips to try your best to avoid it.
- Hot Towel: We don’t really go to the barbers for a good shave anymore. Why? We were sold on at-home products, but still can’t get the same level of shave that we’ve seen in the past. Hot towels help open up your pores and temporarily and minorly loosen up your facial skin. The warmth helps it relax and not bunch up so much, allowing you to get a close shave without those little goosebumps getting nicked.
- Nightly Facial Scrub: It’s possible to nick your skin in the morning because it’s coated in a little layer of dead skin cells. This can make the razor glide unevenly, eventually snagging that bit of facial skin. Use a facial scrub specifically designed for men, right before you go to bed. Pat yourself dry (do not rub the towel on your face), and sleep. It should be easier to shave in the morning and cut down on razor burn.
- Wait Until You Can Read: If you shave right when you get up in the morning, you’re doing it wrong. Give yourself a few minutes. If you notice, you’re far less dexterous in the early AM. Wait until your eyes are behaving enough for you to be able to read a full paragraph—any paragraph of your choosing—from top to bottom with no vision blur. That, and maybe a cup of coffee before you start shaving.
Razor Burn is (Usually) Preventable
To sum it up, don’t rush shaving in the morning, do it after you’ve woken up (had your coffee, your eyes aren’t shutting on their own anymore, etc.), and make sure you’re using the best shaving equipment possible.
Even for those of you who don’t have sensitive skin, you shouldn’t treat your skin harsher than anyone else. TLC, the tips we’ve given you, and hopefully, you’ll avoid that itchy, scratchy burn throughout the day.