Shaving Rash – What Is It, How To Prevent It, And How To Cure It?

Posted by Bradley Jones on

man suffering from razor burn using cartridgeShaving rash is one of the most common skin complaints in the world – with the majority of men, and many women experiencing it at least once in their lifetime, if not several times. But with so many of us experiencing it, very few know what it actually is, and what causes it.

That’s where we come in – as shaving experts, we work to understand hair and grooming, so we’ve done the research so you don’t have to. Let’s take a closer look:

What Is Shaving Rash?

Shaving rash is irritation to the top layers of the skin caused by shaving. Within the medical field, it is described as a form of irritant contact dermatitis caused by your razor moving over and damaging the top layer of your skin.

The symptom most commonly experienced with shaving rash is a stinging/burning sensation, which can also include a rash and redness to the affected area. In more extreme cases, you may also find bruising or inflammation.

Shaving rashes can occur in any part of the body that a person shaves – they are most common on the face, armpits or legs, and appear shortly after shaving.

Shaving rashes are temporary and should not leave any lasting effects. Instead, you will find that they often resolve themselves over time, with little to no treatment.

Is razor burn different to shaving rash?

Razor burn, shaving burn, and razor rash are all commonly used interchangeable terms for shaving rash. However, “burn” in this context is usually referring to the specific symptom of stinging/burning that’s sometimes felt after a less than perfect shave. Whereas “rash” usually refers to the full range of symptoms, and is more often used when there is visible redness.

Are ingrown hairs different to shaving rash?

Many people get mixed up between a shaving rash and ingrown hairs caused by poor shaving practice. Shaving rash is where the surface of the skin is irritated, shaving bumps caused by ingrown hairs are caused by hair getting stuck in the hair follicle, leading to inflammation and hair bumps.

What Causes Shaving Rash?

Think of a shaving rash as trauma to the skin from the way that you are shaving – as you are pushing the razor against your skin to cut the hair, it can put pressure on the top layer of the skin – taking away hydration, causing inflammation and leading to tiny microscopic tears in that top layer – all of which can lead to a nasty shaving rash.

There are a number of different factors that can cause a shaving rash in an individual.

1. Lack of lubrication

One of the most common causes of shaving rash is dry shaving – where a person does not properly prepare the skin before using their razor, causing irritation.

2. Too much contact

Going over the same spot multiple times, such as occasions when a rogue hair has been missed, adds to the pressure your skin is under. For this reason, using a razor that has multiple blades can irritate the skin, leaving it inflamed.

3. Poor shaving technique

This can include shaving too quickly and putting too much pressure on the skin through the razor.

4. Poorly maintained equipment

Additionally, using a razor that is no longer sharp can cause shaving rash – due to dull blades scraping across the surface of the skin.

Why Should I Avoid Shaving Rash At All Costs?

Shaving rash can be incredibly uncomfortable and can cause pain and discomfort from the time that you shave until it has healed.

On top of this pain, there is potential for more long-lasting negative effects. If you experience razor burn regularly, it can lead to increased levels of inflammation and sensitivity that can have a negative impact on skin ageing - meaning that you may appear older quicker!

How Do I Prevent Shaving Rash?

As previously mentioned, shaving rashes most often occur due to poor shaving techniques. Therefore, there are many small changes that you can make to your shaving routine to help prevent razor burn from developing again.

1. Prepare the Skin

First and foremost, it is important to prepare the skin before you begin shaving through 3 main areas:

A. Create a clean and smooth surface to shave.

Always wash your skin before shaving or use a mild exfoliating scrub to get rid of any dirt and dead skin cells, as this will make it easier to get a close shave.

B. Ensure your skin is sufficiently lubricated.

Preferably, use warm water when shaving and apply a shaving lather, gel or oil to the surface of the skin to minimise friction, allowing your razor to better move across the surface without pulling or tearing the upper layer. The lather generated from shaving cream/soap is specifically designed for this use and includes a number of different ingredients that act as lubricants on the skin.

C. Use a shaving brush.

A shaving brush allows for better coverage of the skin and coating of the hairs but most importantly it will lift up the hairs so that they are not stuck flat against the skin, making it easier to cut the hairs on the first pass and minimise razor-blade contact.

2. Use A Single-Blade Razor

One of the best ways to prevent shaving rash is the use of a single-blade razor as this minimises the amount of razor blade contact with your skin.

Using a single-blade razor also gives you more control over your shave and the angle that the blade is at. When shaving, ensure that the angle is shallow, as this will cut through the hairs cleanly and less likely to scrape too harshly on the skin surface.

3. Good Shaving Technique

Now your skin is prepped, it is time to start shaving. To ensure a comfortable shave that avoids shaving rash, there are a few key points to keep in mind:

A. Apply minimal pressure

When using your razor, use gentle stokes to avoid putting too much pressure on the surface of the skin.

B. Shave with the grain

Move the razor only in the direction that the hair grows. This can be counter-intuitive as many usually shave against the grain of the hair; however, this is far more likely to cause shaving rash. On top of this, try not to pull your skin tightly with your other hand, as this can increase the risk of damage to the shaved area.

C. Use a clean blade

Between strokes, run your razor under warm water in order to remove loose hairs and build-up that could be stopping it from shaving your skin effectively.

D. Slow methodical strokes

When you shave too quickly you increase the risk of razor burn. Move your razor slowly across your skin for better comfort.

4. Ensure Proper Aftercare

While many will stop their routine after shaving, appropriate aftercare is essential in avoiding shaving rash. 

Always follow up every shave with a post-shave balm or moisturiser to soothe the skin, aid in the healing process, and keep it hydrated.

5. Replace Your Razor Blades

Dull razor blades are one of the main causes of shaving rashes, therefore, it is important to replace your blades often and store them in a dry space.

You should replace your blades more often than you think – after every five to seven shaves as this means they will not tug and irritate your skin.

How Do I Get Rid Of Shaving Rash?

But what if you already have a shaving rash? Well, usually you will find that most razor burn clears up quickly by itself – although it can be uncomfortable while this is happening.

There are a few techniques and tips that you can try to help soothe the skin during the healing process – allowing the skin time to repair itself while giving you some relief.

1. Avoid Shaving

Firstly, and arguably most importantly do not shave the affected area again until the rash has cleared up. This will ensure that the top layer of the skin does not become even more irritated, as this can slow down the healing process.

2. Cool The Area Down

For immediate relief, after a shaving rash begins to appear, take a washcloth and dunk it into cool water, before placing it over the affected area. The change in temperature can help calm your skin, while the water can aid hydration.

3. Use Soothing, Moisturising Products

One way to speed up the healing process of a shaving rash is to add creams and lotions on to the surface of the skin that will reduce inflammation and moisturise the top layer. Look specifically for products designed to soothe shaving rash such as post-shave balms and treatments.

Avoid products with high concentrations of alcohol (ethanol, ethyl alcohol, alcohol denat, isopropyl, methanol) as this can dry out your skin and inhibit the healing process. ideally, these alcohols shouldn’t be listed in the ingredients at all, but if they are they should be right down at the bottom.

Less is more. Whilst it can be tempting to cover the area with creams when irritation is strong, this can exacerbate the problem by overloading your skin. Only use a thin layer for maximum effect, and give it time to heal.

How Long Does It Take For Shaving Rash To Go Away?

The time that it takes your shaving rash to go away will depend on its severity. Generally, shaving rashes can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days to die down without any treatment, meaning that your skin should return to normal quickly.

When Should I Be Worried About My Shaving Rash?

In more extreme cases, if you feel like your shaving rash is becoming angrier looking, or is weeping any liquid, this may be a sign that it is infected. If this is the case, it is important to get it checked with your doctor just to make sure. If the doctor confirms that the area is indeed infected, they may prescribe you antibiotics to help the skin recover.

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