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Male, female, young, old-- it doesn’t matter. Whatever and wherever you shave with a razor you’re susceptible to razor burn. In its mildest form, it is an itchy red rash and it can appear immediately or an hour or two after shaving.

Shaving - men and women

Shaving. The history of shaving takes us back around 100,000 B.C. when Neanderthal man first started removing hair from his body. It has been an on-and-off custom since then. Think back, to the photographs of the early 1900’s you’ve seen in history books or portrayed on the screen. Men always had a full head of hair and full beards. Women were hairy too-- hairy legs, hairy arms, even hairy under-arms. Razor burn was never a problem then, because there were no razors.

The earliest known implements for cutting hair and shaving were crude flint arrowheads, broken seashells or shards of shale. When the straight-edge razor came into use, the concern was not getting a skin burn from the razor, but bleeding to death from an accidental nick in the jugular vein. It was not until Gillette popularized the double-edged safety razor to the world did shaving become a safe, refined and manageable everyday practice.

Today, in the executive world, if a man doesn’t sport a short trim beard, he is expected to be clean shaven everyday. And women are so conscious of their “bikini lines”— they are constantly shaving in areas made more visible by the ever-shrinking bikinis. It is unfortunate that this act of shaving the hair, also happens to shave off micro-thin layers of skin as well. And, on a daily basis, unless steps are taken to prevent it— can indeed cause “razor burn.”

Razor burn symptoms

Male, female, young, old-- it doesn’t matter. Whatever and wherever you shave with a razor you’re susceptible to razor burn. In its mildest form, it is an itchy red rash and it can appear immediately or an hour or two after shaving. On closer examination, if there are tiny bumps or the rash is made up of red pimples, it’s a more advanced condition.

These bumps are actually ingrown hairs, often caused by shaving against the grain, or rather pulling the razor in an opposite direction that the hairs are growing. This causes the hair stump to double over, curl up and imbed itself back into the skin.

It only sounds gruesome. It doesn’t lead to anything more serious and there has never been a fatal case of razor burn yet. But it is a nuisance, irritating, and embarrassing in some places that it appears-- so no matter how minor, it is a condition that can be easily prevented.

Prevention of razor burns

We all know the phrase: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Well, here in this case, there are so many things that can be done to prevent razor burn, there should be nothing that needs to be cured!

Soften the hair by shaving right after a hot shower. Hot water and a steamy shower will prime the skin and make hair softer. And soft hair can be taken off more easily than hair that feels like velcro. To enhance the softening effect even more, rub in a dab of hair conditioner and let it remain during the length of your shower.

Exfoliate

Just a fancy word for getting rid of dead skin cells and exposing premature ingrown hairs. Skin cells, like many other organ tissues, are in a constant state of replenishment. The old cells die off, the new ones take their place. Get rid of that old skin with one of those loofah sponges, or any bath aid that has some tooth to it. Dead skin will only clog your razor. And clogged razors don’t produce smooth, friction-free shaves.

Use a single-blade razor

Science has really outdid itself this time. In an effort to cut shaving time, they’ve come up with multi-bladed razors. It seems every time you turn on the TV, they’ve added another blade. Conceptually, it sounds like a good idea—more blades, more hair cut. But, each one of those blades is cutting your hair (and the skin under it) at a slightly different angle. And that can result in a lot more friction between blade and skin. Let’s go back to basics on this one— good old single-bladed razors, or the ones with re-fillable blades. Remember push, pull, click click? Yes, they still make them.

Go with the flow

Always shave in the direction the hairs grow. If the hairs grow down, shave down. Sure, you can get a closer shave by going against the grain, but it’s more irritating, produces more ingrown hair bumps, and more likely the major cause of razor burn. If you really must have a closer shave, lather up again and shave twice. Remember, two shaves going with the flow is better for the skin than one shave against.

Sharp blades only

Why do they make disposable razors? Well, we all know the reason— so they could sell more razors. Let’s face it, that’s their reason, but your reason should be so you can shave every time with a sharp blade. There’s nothing more irritating then trying to cut something with a dull blade. Especially the hair on your face, or your uh, private areas. If you find yourself wincing on the first stroke, and the hair still there--it’s time for a new disposable or to replace the blade.

Blade care

Blades are a great place for bacteria they’ve picked up from the skin to grow. Be sure to kill the little buggers by dipping your razor head in alcohol before shaving. Rinse blade with water after every stroke. After shaving, rinse with water and use your hair dryer blower to dry the blade and prevent rusting.

After shave 

This final step is just as important as the shave itself. No matter how meticulous and cautious you were, you’ve just inflicted a trauma to the skin with the act of shaving— a minor form of skin surgery. So you might say, now it needs post-op care. After you splash on cold water to close the pores, pat dry and apply a refreshing balm or moisturizer. After that, if there’s still a touch of razor burn, use an after shave with aloe vera gel or over-the-counter cortisone cream. If none of the above worked and you’re a male, consider growing a beard.

  • artofmanliness.com/2009/07/16/how-to-prevent-razor-burn/
  • www.getridofthings.com/get-rid-of-razor-burn.htm
  • menshair.about.com/od/shavingadvice/a/razorburn.htm