Razor burn is easy to hide under pants and long sleeves when it's cold outside, but when the weather warms up, those ugly red bumps can get in the way of wearing your favorite swimsuits, sleeveless tops and short skirts. Skin that becomes red and irritated after shaving is commonly caused by ingrown hairs that can easily be treated and prevented. Show off smooth skin and beat the burn with some close shave tips and techniques.
Razor burn appears as inflamed red bumps in areas where you shave. The bikini line is often a problem area for women, but you may also get razor bumps under your arms or on your legs. They may be painful and itchy and they can be embarrassing, but they aren't a serious health risk, explains Debra Wattenberg, assistant professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, in "O, The Oprah Magazine."
Ingrown hairs occur when the point of a sharp hair burrows back into the hair follicle where it forms a hard bump, explains Manhattan cosmetic dermatologist Howard Sobel in "Marie Claire" magazine. If your razor isn't disinfected, it may contain bacteria that can inflame and irritate your skin in that area even more, says Nanette Silverberg, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Columbia University, in "Good Housekeeping" magazine.
The most effective way to deal with razor bumps is to prevent them before they appear, says Sobel. Do this by using a moisturizing shaving gel every time you shave to soften hairs without clogging your pores, keeping your razor clean and sharp and always shaving in the direction your hair grows. Follow your shave with a moisturizing lotion to reduce your risk of infection and keep hair soft so that it doesn't stab back into your skin, recommends Silverberg. Resist the urge to press too hard with your razor, which can push bacteria into your skin, warns Wattenberg.
If you do end up with razor bumps, dab on a little hydrocortisone cream to soothe irritation and redness, recommends Wattenberg. Use a hot compress to release hairs and any discharge, and use an exfoliating scrub twice a week to help speed up removal of the skin cells trapping hair beneath your skin, recommends Silverberg. If you can, skip shaving for a few days while your razor bumps heal.
Shaving in the morning or before you participate in physical activities may increase your likelihood of developing razor bumps, says Wattenberg. That's because sweating on freshly shaved skin can increase your risk for irritation. Try shaving before bedtime instead. Wearing tight clothes can also exacerbate razor bumps, so loose clothes may help reduce your risk.