What Causes Razor Burn? 5 Reasons Why
Almost all of us have been there: you’re trying to shave your (facial) hair, all goes well, but shortly after you’re done, you notice your skin is irritated. Razor burn!
Razor burn happens to the best of us, and is one of the most common issues you might deal with other than nicking yourself when shaving.
While in many cases it’s impossible to completely get rid of razor burn, there are some steps you can take to reduce how often you might end up with irritated skin after shaving.
What is Razor Burn?
Credit: The Guardian
Before we explain what are the reasons for razor burn, it’s important to note that it’s not the same as razor bumps!
Just a quick reminder: Razor bumps are ingrown hairs, which happens when your hair curls into the skin as it starts to grow back.
Meanwhile, razor burn is when your skin gets irritated due to shaving it, and may not only cause a burning sensation, but could also feel itchy.
So what does cauze razor burn? Here are the top 5 reasons why your skin might get irritated after shaving!
Reason 1: Shaving Without a Lubricant
Whether you try to dry shave to save time or simply because you’re out of shaving gel or cream, this is a huge no-no when it comes to avoiding razor burn!
Without a proper lubricant, your skin can end up being far too dry and lead to serious irritation while shaving.
If your product doesn't have emollients, this could also cause razor burn, as they layer your skin and help lock in moisture, minimizing irritation.
Don’t have a proper lubricant on hand? Best to skip that shave if you can!
Reason 2: Using an Old Razor
Another common reason that causes razor burn is overusing your razor until it’s far too dull. But why is that an issue?
Dull blades won’t cut hair as well as a sharp blade, meaning that you’ll need to shave many times, which could lead to more irritation.
Besides also spending more time and effort than needed, you’ll also have more bacteria and dead skin cells piling up under your razor. If you already have sensitive skin, this can make it worse!
Even worse, old blades can lead to tiny tears on your skin, which can increase your risk of (viral) infections!
So how often should you use your razor? YMMV, but usually between 3-6 times is enough.
Once you notice the blade is tugging, swap it out for a new one. Your skin will thank you!
Reason 3: Shaving Against the Opposite Direction of Your Hair
You might be familiar with the expression of shaving “against the grain,” but does that really cause razor burn? Surprisingly, yes.
Many people shave against the grain to get a closer shave, since the blade tugs against your hair before cutting it.
Unfortunately, doing this leads to increased irritation, especially if you have sensitive skin.
On top of razor burn, this can also cause ingrown hair and razor bumps, making for an even more painful experience!
Instead, shave with the grain, following the direction your hair grows, if you want to avoid razor burn.
Reason 4: Shaving an Area Too Many Times
Tying into using an old razor, shaving over a certain spot can also cause irritation. Now, you might be doing this because your razor is dull, or simply to get a closer shave. Either way, don’t!
Going over the same area more than once or twice increases your risk of razor burn, and can lead to itchy and burning results. So what if you’ve really missed a spot?
Add some extra shaving cream or gel, then go in for a final pass, but keep it to a minimum. Less really is more here!
Reason 5: Your Shaving Products Irritate Your Skin
In some cases, it might not even be your shaving technique that’s the issue, but rather your products!
For some people, using products with sodium lauryl sulphate, alcohol, or artificial colors or fragrances can lead to irritation and razor burn, while also drying out your skin.
Check the label before you purchase your next shaving cream, and opt for a more natural product that’s good for sensitive skin!
While completely eliminating razor burn may not be possible, you can significantly reduce the risk of getting razor burn if you follow these steps.
And if you still have a flare-up, be sure to check out our tips to see what you can put on razor burn when it pops up. Good luck!
NHS. (2020). “Emollients.” NHS UK. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/emollients/
Vilibert, D. (2017). “5 Gross Things That Happen When You Don’t Change Your Razor.” Redbook. https://www.redbookmag.com/body/healthy-eating/news/a48089/gross-things-that-happen-when-you-dont-change-your-razor/