Razor Burn: What Causes It, How To Treat It, And More! 

By  Emily Konatella

LAST UPDATED - December 11, 2023

Shaving is often considered the fastest and simplest method for removing unwanted hair. As far as hair removal is concerned, it's affordable, straightforward, and takes hardly any time at all! However, it is no surprise that sometimes, using a razor close to the skin can result in skin irritation. Razor burn occurs when the skin barrier gets irritated and damaged during shaving. It's not a major health concern, but the razor burn rash is uncomfortable - and unsightly. Keep reading to learn how to heal razor burn when it happens to you and how to prevent razor burn in the first place!

What Is Razor Burn?

Razor burn refers to skin irritation that the act of shaving can cause. It can occur anywhere where shaving is used to remove unwanted hair growth, although it tends to appear most often in places with coarse or curly hair. Razor burn symptoms can include a rash, redness, itchiness, slight swelling, tenderness to the touch, a burning sensation, and sometimes small red bumps.

Because razor burn sometimes presents with small bumps, it is often confused with another skin irritation caused by shaving - razor bumps. However, razor bumps are essentially another name for ingrown hairs. Razor burn specifically addresses irritated skin, with or without the appearance of bumps.

What Causes Razor Burn?

Razor burn can occur in a regular shaving routine, but it typically appears after dry shaving, using dull razor blades, or not properly moisturizing. It tends to occur most often in people with sensitive skin or particularly coarse hair, which sometimes leads to improper shaving techniques to achieve a smoother shave.

How To Treat Razor Burn

Like most types of mild skin irritation, razor burns, and razor bumps will resolve themselves over time. However, they are uncomfortable and somewhat unsightly. Thankfully, there are methods of treating razor burn that will help the skin heal more quickly.

Avoid Touching

Skin afflicted with razor burn is often painful to the touch. It may feel hot, swollen, itchy, or burn slightly when the salts and oils of your hands come into contact with it. We naturally tend to want to touch irritating areas of our bodies, but touching razor-burned skin will only further inflame it.

Cool Compresses

A cool, wet compress is one of the best ways to calm inflamed skin. You can always start by splashing cold water on the razor burn. If it helps, soak a clean washcloth in cold water, wring out the excess, and lay it on the razor burn for 20 minutes.


We often associate astringents with a burning sensation, but mild astringents can actually help soothe razor burn. It reduces inflammation and redness. Some natural, mild astringents include apple cider vinegar, tea tree oil, witch hazel extract, and brewed black tea - but let it cool down first!

Natural Oils

Adding oils to the skin's surface can hydrate dry skin and reduce the itching sensation. Avocado oil, coconut oil, olive oil, and sweet almond oil closely mimic the natural oils of the skin barrier and are well suited for soothing razor burns.

Aloe Vera

Aloe vera has a longstanding reputation for soothing burned skin, and razor burn resembles skin irritation. Aloe vera works because it contains an enzyme that helps reduce inflammation. You can acquire aloe vera gel from a store or apply it directly from the leaves of an aloe vera plant.

Colloidal Oatmeal

Oatmeal has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, making it a perfect natural remedy for razor burns. Both regular or special colloidal oatmeal are helpful. The best way to apply the benefits of oatmeal to your skin is by taking an oatmeal bath. Include a cup of oatmeal in a lukewarm water bath and soak for 30 minutes.

Baking Soda

Baking soda is very soothing for all kinds of skin ailments, including razor burns and razor bumps. A baking soda paste of water and baking soda can be made and applied to the skin using a cotton ball. Allow the paste to dry, and subsequently rinse it off. You can also incorporate baking soda into your bath, which can be paired with oatmeal for added benefits.


Many lotions and aftershave products are available over-the-counter to treat razor bumps and razor burns. Look for hydrocortisone cream or gel products to reduce redness and calm swelling. Salicylic acid and glycolic acid are also known for their soothing properties.


Antibiotics alone are not a direct treatment for razor burn, but they may be prescribed if razor burn is complicated by ingrown hairs and razor bumps, which can become infected. These bumps frequently resolve independently, but they can lead to infection if they persist or are poked and popped.

How To Prevent Razor Burn From Occurring

It's one thing to know how to soothe razor burn, but it's better to know how to prevent razor burn from developing in the first place! The tips below for a proper shaving technique will help you in preventing razor burn.

Use Warm Water

Warm water softens the skin and opens the hair follicles, helping you remove dead skin cells and get a close shave easily without damaging the skin itself. If possible, shave after showing. This is when your skin and hair are the softest.

Use A Sharp Razor

Razor burn most frequently occurs from using a dull razor. It's advised to use a fresh blade each time you shave, but expert advice and realistic practice are not always the same thing! At the very least, change out your razor blade when you notice your body hair requiring multiple passes to shave well or if the hair starts to get caught in the blade.

Use Shaving Gel Or Cream

Using a shaving gel or moisturizing shaving cream will help you to get a close shave on the first pass, helping you to avoid razor burn.

Shave With The Grain

We are typically told to shave against the direction of hair growth to get a smooth shave, but this is more likely to result in razor burn. Shaving slowly toward hair growth can provide an equally close shave. It may require a second pass, but if you use shaving gel (and you should!), there won't be a problem.

What is the difference between Razor burn and razor bumps?

Razor burn and razor bumps are two common skin irritations that can occur after shaving, particularly in individuals with sensitive skin. They share similarities but result from different processes involving ingrown hair, hair follicles, and the potential to irritate sensitive skin.

Razor Burn

Cause: The primary cause of razor burn is friction and irritation that occurs during the shaving process. When the razor blade scrapes across the skin's surface, it can remove the top layer of skin cells, exposing the sensitive layers beneath. This friction can irritate sensitive skin, causing redness, burning, and discomfort.

Symptoms: Typical symptoms of razor burn encompass redness, tenderness, and a burning sensation on the skin. It can resemble a mild rash or sunburn.

Hair Follicles: Razor burn typically does not involve ingrown hairs or hair follicles. Instead, it results from surface irritation and removing the skin's protective layer.

Treatment: For relief from razor burn, it's recommended to apply a soothing, alcohol-free aftershave or moisturizer. Additionally, using a clean, sharp razor and shaving toward hair growth is crucial to minimize friction and irritation.

Razor Bumps (Pseudofolliculitis Barbae)

Cause: Razor bumps, also known as pseudofolliculitis barbae (PFB), primarily occur when hair follicles become irritated and inflamed. This condition is more prevalent in individuals with curly or coarse hair. Following the shaving process, the sharp tips of hair can sometimes bend and re-enter the skin, leading to inflammation.

Symptoms: Razor bumps manifest as small, red, and sometimes pus-filled bumps around hair follicles. They can be itchy and uncomfortable.

Ingrown Hair: Razor bumps are frequently linked to ingrown hairs, which occur when the hair curls back into the hair follicle instead of growing outward. This can result in additional irritation and inflammation.

Hair Follicles: Unlike razor burn, razor bumps are directly related to hair follicles and the hair's re-entry into the skin. Inflamed follicles characterize the condition.

Treatment: To manage razor bumps, it's essential to exfoliate the affected area regularly to prevent ingrown hairs. Using a warm compress can help open pores, and topical treatments with salicylic acid or glycolic acid can aid in reducing inflammation. Avoiding close shaving and opting for electric razors or depilatory creams may also help prevent further irritation.

About the author

Emily is a fashion consultant, designer and creative director with more than 15 years experience creating, designing and developing clothing & jewelry. From managing pageant shows to turning concepts into actual designs, she has experience with almost all fabric types and jewelry designs and is in touch with the latest fashion trends.


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