Why Do I Get Razor Burn?

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Itsy-Bitsy Bikini, but Not So Teenie-Weenie Case of Razor Burn?

You finally found it! The perfect bikini; the one you scoured the mall for since the first day you could leave the house without mittens. The fit is incredible, the designer is oh, so chic, and thanks to a flash sale, the price wasn’t too shabby either. Sunscreen in hand, you’re ready to hit the beach. But wait! What is this? Oh, no! Razor burn!

Who hasn’t had their beach-ready look marred by unsightly bikini rash at some time or other? We’ve all been through it and resigned ourselves to keep the board shorts on until that uncomfortable redness disappeared. Razor bumps, razor burn, bikini rash, whatever you call it, we call it annoying.

How Did I Get This?
Razor burn happens when the skin is traumatized by shaving through either poor skin prep, inadequate tools, or improper technique. Often times, particularly with individuals who have coarse, curly hair, the hair itself will bend and curve back into the skin causing unsightly bumps known as pseudofolliculitis barbae. Allergic reactions to shaving products and bacteria on shaving tools also contribute to razor burn.
The bikini area is one of your most sensitive skin areas. Say you were in a rush this morning and didn’t take the time to prepare that delicate skin for a shave. A few passes of the razor on unprepped or too-dry skin and you’ve got razor burn. Make sure you start with clean, fresh skin that has been gently exfoliated to remove dead cells and oils and lift the hairs from the follicle.

In an article in the Huffington Post, Dr. Jennifer Chwalek, a Clinical Instructor of Dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical Center and a board-certified dermatologist recommends glycolic acid as one agent for removing dead skin and keeping ingrown hairs at bay. The skin should also be thoroughly moisturized with warm water to soften the hair and covered with a shaving agent such as a cream or oil which serves to hold in moisture and protect the skin.

Be sure and do a patch test whenever you try a new shaving product to avoid allergic reactions.
Inadequate tools are also a culprit in razor burn. Dull razors may save you money, but they will leave your skin with a pallet of red, itchy bumps. Dr. Chwalek says a dull blade results in more pressure during the shave and an uneven cut.

Your skin responds with redness and irritation which can last a few days to a few weeks. According to Gillette, manufacturer of Venus, a line of women’s razors, swap out blades every five to ten shaves at a minimum, or whenever you experience discomfort or notice a dull blade.

Make sure you clean your razors well, too, between shaves and between strokes while shaving. Dead skin, oils and shaving products clog even fresh razors making it difficult to get a smooth, knick-free shave. Bacteria on razors can also get beneath your skin causing infection.

Using the proper technique while shaving those unusual angles is also key to avoiding razor burn. Always shave in the direction of hair growth first. If you need a closer shave, you can make a second pass in the reverse direction. Just make sure your skin is still moist.

Clean, exfoliated skin, sharp razors and good technique are your first defense against razor burn. Too late for that, you say? Don’t panic. Here are some things you can do if the damage has already been done.

Getting Rid of Razor Burn
Bummed about missing another day at the pool? Try these remedies for helping to heal that razor burn quickly.

Go Razor Free Until You Heal
First and foremost, stop shaving with a razor until the burn has healed. This may take a few days to a few weeks, depending on the condition. If you simply must shave the affected area, try using an electric razor designed for women.
Aloe Vera
The gel from an aloe vera plant is commonly used to sooth and treat skin irritations including those of razor burn. The natural, active compounds in aloe speed up the healing process and promote new skin growth. If you have an aloe plant at home, snip the tip of a leaf and squeeze the clear gel onto the affected area. If you don’t have an aloe plant, look for 100 percent pure aloe gel in your pharmacy or health outlet. Avoid any products with dyes, perfumes or preservatives added.
Coconut Oil
The natural antibacterial and antifungal properties of coconut oil make it an excellent choice for razor burn. While lauric acid works to kill some bacteria which may be present on your skin, the oil’s natural moisturizing properties will keep your skin supple and provide a protective barrier helping your skin to heal faster.
If you have a serious case of razor burn and you need relief fast from the itching and redness, try an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream. Smooth a thin layer of cream on the affected area for up to seven days to reduce inflammation. Remember, hydrocortisone contains a mild steroid, so avoid overuse.
Witch Hazel
The antiseptic properties of witch hazel can fight bacteria which has invaded your skin causing inflammation. Though it does a good job of cleansing, it may sting or burn when applied to already irritated skin, so use it sparingly and see how your skin will react.
Hot Compress
Nothing feels more soothing than a nice, warm soak. A warm compress will sooth the skin, soften it, and open your pores so ingrown hairs are released from beneath.
Tea Tree Oil
Another natural astringent similar to witch hazel, tea tree oil can be applied to irritated skin to aid in healing. Apply gently with a cotton ball and use sparingly.
Benzoyl Peroxide
An over-the-counter medication containing benzoyl peroxide may also be used to help heal razor burn. Wash the affected area with warm water and apply a small amount of benzoyl peroxide to the area. The antibacterial properties of benzoyl peroxide will kill the bacteria which may be causing your inflammation. Benzoyl peroxide can be drying to the skin, so use sparingly.
Topical Antibiotic Creams
According to The Skin Center, a dermatology clinic in Laguna Beach, California, topical antibiotics may be applied to the affected area after washing. Look for bacitracin, neomycin or triple antibiotic ointments at your local pharmacy and follow the usage directions.
Tackle Razor Burn Before The Shave
Razor burn is a pretty common occurrence, one that most women will encounter at some time or other, so rest assured you’re not alone. The best way to keep your bikini area in tip-top shape is to get a smooth, clean shave. So, the next time you pick up a razor remember these three key components: Proper skin prep; a clean, sharp razor; and good technique. With just a little shaving know-how, you and that new bikini won’t miss another day in the sun.

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