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Razor burn on your bikini line will usually heal on its own. But you can help prevent it by shaving with a fresh razor blade in the direction of your hair, and keeping the area moisturized.
Whether you’re team smooth-as-a-Sphinx or all about that bush, your bikini line sitch is up to you. But if you shave, you’ve likely run into the dreaded bumps, redness, itching, and burning of razor burn.
Basically, razor burn happens when your skin rebels against the irritation of shaving. It’s technically considered a form of irritation contact dermatitis (basically a fancy way of saying skin rash).
Even though it usually goes away on its own, you may want to know what to do when you get it and how to prevent it from happening next time.
For all your burning bikini line questions, we talked to a trio of experts about the root of the razor burn and how to prevent it with a fool-proof shaving routine.
It’s true what they say about prevention being the best medicine. Fortunately, there *are* ways to shave down there without causing razor burn. Here’s what the experts recommend:
1. Choose your razor wisely
As anyone who has used a disposable razor way past its prime can tell you, razors are not created equal. Dermatologist Erum N. Ilyas recommends cartridge razors, specifically, since these usually give you a little buffer between your delicate skin and the blade with added padding. (The Gillette Venus Deluxe is a good example.)
She also recommends safety razors, which can get you an ultra-close crop with fewer passes. And even though pricier doesn’t always equal better, that dollar store razor should be tossed as soon as it’s getting a little suss.
If you do accidentally cut yourself, clinical pharmacist and skin care specialist Allyson Brennan says to make sure to use antibacterial soap to cleanse the affected area and keep bacteria from causing more probs.
2. Clean your razor
Brennan adds that using a clean razor is key. To make sure yours is good to go, sanitize it periodically with some rubbing alcohol and warm water. Since bacteria buildup can lead to ingrown hairs and razor burn, this step is important.
Pro tip: Store your blades in a clean and dry place instead of the moist, bacteria-laden environment of your shower. And if your razor’s looking a little rusty, toss it.
3. Wait until your skin is hydrated
Hold off on breaking out the razor until the end of your shower. According to dermatologist Debra Jaliman, this is “when the hair is hydrated and less prone to irritation.”
By the time you’ve conditioned your locks, your skin should be moist and warm enough for some smoother swipes of the blade.
4. Maybe skip the fragranced products
Even if you really love your lime-scented foamy shaving cream, that signature scent might be the root of your razor burn woes.
“Fragrances are one of the leading causes of skin irritation,” Brennan explains. So check out any soaps, cleansers, or creams that you may use around the area to ensure they’re at least free of synthetic smells.
If you really want an olfactory experience, try adding a few drops of natural essential oils like lavender or rose to your shower.
5. But still use shaving cream
Don’t skip that shaving cream, though! It’s not just for commercials full of airbrushed-smooth legs — it’s to protect your skin.
“Make certain to use a shaving foam to moisturize the skin and to hydrate the skin and hair,” Jaliman says. This provides a lubricant so that you can make a smooth pass on the hair, and not scrape the skin.
And whatever you do, do NOT shave on dry skin or just use soap. Jaliman notes dry shaving or soap doesn’t allow the razor to glide over your skin.
So, what shaving cream should you use? Jaliman recommends Aveeno Positively Smooth Shave Gel for ingredients like anti-inflammatory aloe, hydrating glycerin, and skin discoloration-evening soy.
She also recommends EOS Sensitive Skin Cream due to similar hydrating, soothing ingredients like oats, Shea butter, and glycerin.
6. Go with the grain
This is one sitch where you def don’t want to go against the grain, says Jaliman. Shaving in a downward motion, or with the natural direction of your hair growth, is the smoothest route to razor burn-free skin.
You should also avoid going over the same area repeatedly. When you start doing donuts with your razor, you’re more likely to cut your skin. This can lead to ingrown hairs or other irritation.
If your hair is on the longer side, Jaliman also recommends using a shaving brush with your shaving cream product “to help lift the hair off the surface of the skin.”
7. Replace the blade often
From razor blades to personalities, dullness is rarely a good thing. You might be tempted to push that ragged old cartridge for another week, but it won’t do your bikini line any favors.
Brennan recommends swapping out your razors or cartridges regularly — “after 4 to 5 uses” in order to “minimize harboring bacteria and tugging on hair follicles due to the dullness.”
Brennan notes that razor burn is also called pseudofolliculitis barbae (aka razor bumps). This happens when “the hair follicle becomes damaged during the shaving process.” This leads to that not-so-fun inflammation, pain, and redness on bumpy skin.
Ilyas also explains that razor burn is pretty much a catch-all term for a few potential triggers after shaving. These may include:
- The razor scraping your skin. A too-close shave can cut both the hair and your skin’s surface, she explains. Basically, you accidentally shave off keratin and the surface of the epidermis, leaving raw skin similar to a superficial burn.
- Dry skin getting flaky under the razor blade. “Dry skin can often have a flaky or scaly surface. Shaving over dry skin can erode the surface of the skin leaving behind razor burn,” she explains.
- A tendency for ingrown hairs. Even though ingrown hairs aren’t exactly the same as razor burn, these probs often go together. “With a close shave that leaves the cut of the end of the hair under the surface of the skin, as the hairs grow out they may course under the surface of the skin, creating bumps.” Repeated shaving can then scrape these raised spots, making matters worse. When you add bacteria to the mix, you have the perf recipe for inflamed, angry follicles.
- Sweating it out. Ah, sweat: Good for your fitness and letting your pheromones loose — but bad for an already-present razor burn. “Sweating can irritate and break down sensitive skin, leading
to worsening razor burn,” Brennan explains.
That’s why if you already have razor burn, it’s a good idea to lay off the razor until you heal up. Even though shaving down there isn’t necessarily bad, it also might not be the best option for those prone to ingrown hairs or who otherwise have sensitive skin.
Already feeling the burn? Don’t touch that razor — we gotchu. Here’s what to do:
1. Hop in an oatmeal bath
If your burn’s got you squirming, you might want to run an oatmeal bath. Add about 1 to 1 1/2 cups to your bath, sit back and relax. “Colloidal oatmeal is very soothing to the skin,” Jaliman explains.
Keep your bath to about 15 mins to soothe your skin without it getting dry.
2. Slather on a hydrating moisturizer
A hydrating, fragrance-free moisturizer can help soothe your tender bikini line without clogging pores, Jaliman says.
Most bare-bones formulas will do the trick, like Cetaphil.
3. Pick up some hydrocortisone cream
“If your skin is irritated you can use OTC hydrocortisone cream to get rid of the irritation,” Jaliman advises. This anti-inflammatory will specifically help with itching.
A solid, cheap option is Cortizone 10 Maximum Strength.
4. Use aloe FTW
It might be time to finally put your aloe plant to good use. “You can also use aloe vera gel,” Jaliman says, “which you can get directly from the plant or you can buy a product.” If you do opt to buy some gel, Jaliman advises getting something fragrance-free so it doesn’t irritate your skin.
Look for a 100 percent pure aloe option like this Seven Minerals Organic Aloe Vera Gel.
5. Treat yourself to tea tree
Brennan also recommends tea tree oil for razor burn, due to its” antimicrobial, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory properties.” Just note, she’s not talking about just putting tea tree essential oil on your pubic area. You’ll want to blend it with a carrier oil and make sure you do a patch test first.
Even easier, use a tea tree oil blend designed specifically for your nether regions. A fan fave is Fur Oil.
6. Use a cool compress
A good ol’ fashioned cool compress can help reduce swelling and soothe your tender burn. If you can handle it, taking a bath on the cooler side can also lend some relief.
Shaving making your skin (and maybe your temper) a little fiery? Admittedly, shaving your pubes can be tricky business, which is why some advise against it.
Even though it *is* possible to do it right with proper care, Jaliman also recommends the following hair removal substitutes:
- Laser hair removal. It usually takes “6 to 8 treatments 1 month apart,” she says, and is a pretty solid option for banishing hair for good.
- Waxing. You’re less likely to get ingrown hairs or other issues from waxing than shaving, especially if you head to a pro.
- Depilatories. Chemical depilatories like the OG Nairare still a pretty solid option for stripping hair down there without probs.
Sugaring is another increasingly popular (and Greatist-approved!) option.
Razor burn is a pretty common prob, but there are ways to prevent and treat it.
Most of the time, it goes away on its own. But in the meantime, you can soothe the issue with colloidal oatmeal, aloe vera, or other moisturizing, fragrance-free ingredients.
In the future, things like replacing your razor often, keeping it clean, and shaving with the grain can help prevent issues.