Even the best shavers have stumbled: Every so often, after what seems like a routine stubble shave, your skin breaks out into a painful, red rash. Maybe there are bumps, maybe just irritated skin. Either way, it’s unsightly, and no more enjoyable to wear.
So what comes next? You need to recover from this razor burn, and fast. And how can it be treated immediately, as to minimize agony over the next few days? For this intel, we sought the expertise of Jason Bauers, barber at Blind Barber in NYC. Here is Bauers’ advice on how to treat, calm and even prevent razor burn.
First and foremost, if you are recovering from razor burn, you need to avoid shaving the area again, until the skin has fully recovered. It might seem obvious to avoid, but Bauers still sees it done. You need to also avoid harsh ingredients in skin care products and soaps, opting for natural, gentle cleansers and soothing moisturizers. (Aloe and chamomile are good pals of yours for the next few days.)
You should also avoid picking at it, or itching it. And, when picking the products for your recovery plan, the most important thing to note is your skin type, says Bauers. “For example, witch hazel is a great natural astringent and anti-inflammatory if you have excessively oily skin,” he notes. “But may not be as effective if your skin is already dry or flaky. Dry skin calls for a product that moisturizes and hydrates, not one that removes oils.”
Gentle Products for Dry, Irritated Skin
Toleriane Hydrating Gentle Cleanser by LaRoche-Posay $15
Camellia Nut Hydrating Cream by Aesop $50
Gentle Products for Oily, Irritated Skin
Redness Relief Cleanser by Paula’s Choice $18
Moisture Cream by Pyunkang Yul $32
While you incorporate the appropriate products into your daily cleansing and hydrating regimen, you should also add a step to your post-shower regimen each day of recovery. “Regularly apply some kind of aftershave lotion or balm after a hot shower,” says Bauers. “The heat will open your pores, which maximizes the effectiveness of the product and helps you heal.”
And there’s one general rule of thumb for picking a balm: It needs to be alcohol-free. “These will feel the most comfortable on your skin as it heals, as it avoids the burning sensation that is often associated with aftershave products,” Bauers says.
After Shave Balm by Proraso $16
If you’re wondering what went wrong and why you got razor burn, it could be because you shaved against the grain, or you simply shaved your entire face in one uniform direction. Next time you shave, pay closer attention to the direction your hairs grow—and they often change direction from one part of your face to the next. “Shaving against the grain will get the closest shave, but is also the most irritating, and can lead to ingrown hairs and inflammation if not done carefully,” says Bauers. “Shaving with the grain won’t get quite as close of a shave, but is far less irritating and much easier on your skin.”
Bauers also stresses that you invest in a good razor, and consider even switching to a single-blade safety razor: “They give you the most control as far as following the grain of your facial hair,” he says. “And they have a much more forgiving learning curve than a straight razor (although those can be great too if you are willing to put in some practice).”
6S Adjustable Stainless Steel Safety Razor by Rockwell Razors $100
He also says to keep warming your face prior to a shave, so as to open the pores and relax both skin and whiskers. And keep applying aftershave lotion or balm once you finish.
Additionally, he says that a pre-shave oil can also make shaving more comfortable and minimize irritation.
Ultra Gliding Shave Oil by American Crew $13
His last advice: Keep your barber close, but your dermatologist closer: “If there is a persistent problem with your skin, it could be something more than a just a result of poor shaving habits, and should be checked out by a dermatologist.”